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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Environment - A commentary on: Merger of pollution boards worries some

Updating this April 8th ILB entry, this morning the Indianapolis Star has an editorial headed "Sounding environmental alarms." Some quotes:

In the name of simplification and efficiency, the General Assembly this year disbanded a number of state panels and commissions and merged three vital rule-making boards: water pollution control, air pollution control and solid waste management.

As of January, all their complex and critical work will be handled by the new Environmental Rules Board, comprising 16 members appointed by the governor.

The streamlining could cost more in institutional memory than it saves in money. If it is to succeed, the volunteer board must be provided with staff to deal with highly specialized, highly technical research and assessment whose impact on natural resources, public health and the economy will be profound.

Let's stop right there. When there were three separate boards, the technical secretary positions were for the most part vacant. Few, if any, were willing to serve. So the three separate boards had no independent staff.

The editorial concludes with:

Both sides are making a modest request of a legislative summer study committee: Help lawmakers find money for a full-time in-house technical adviser to guide the board through the thicket of state and federal laws and rules affecting the quality of life of every Hoosier. The committee will look into funding, but hopes are not high. Given the size of the task, the price of not investing would be high -- unacceptably so.
Two points here: First, look at the new law's provisions re the tecnhical secretary (advisor). HEA 1002 (see pp. 47-51) provides:
The board shall select, from a list of three (3) qualified individuals recommended by the governor, an independent third party who is not an employee of the state to serve as technical secretary of the board. * * * Provisions of this chapter concerning terms of appointment, vacancies, and compensation of appointed board members apply to the technical secretary. The technical secretary is not a voting member of the board.
The compensation of the technical secretary is set by the new law to be the same as that of the board members. Board members are to be compensated (see top of p. 50) by per diem and milage. So it may be argued that the law would have to be amended to allow the funding "for a full-time in-house technical adviser."

Second, the editorial calls for "a full-time in-house technical adviser to guide the board through the thicket of state and federal laws and rules affecting the quality of life of every Hoosier." So what is the IDEM for? As stated in the April 8th ILB post:

In years past, there has always been a push from some (generally the Chamber) to merge the boards, and perhaps make them full-time, with staff -- a kind of "shadow IDEM." These ideas have never made any progress, until this year when half-a-loaf passed (the merger, but not the staff).
Not only is compensating a qualified person problematic, but perhaps even more so is finding someone to do the job who is trusted by (or at least acceptable to) both industry and the environmentalists, and the governor.

HEA 1002 passed the House 97-0. The Senate amended and passed the bill 44-4. The House then concurred in the Senate amendments 61-36. The Governor signed the bill on March 19th, 2012. Now, only weeks later, many are trying to get the other half of the loaf, the shadow IDEM.

I wrote against the bill during the session, saying it would be a bad idea to eliminate the three individual boards that have operated effectively for over 25 years. But now that they are to be abolished, the answer is not to replace them by providing the new, streamlined environmental rules board with its own staff of full-time, in-house experts. What would come next?

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Posted to Environment | Indiana Government

Vacancy on Supreme Court 2012 - Has the Judicial Nominating Commission ever sent a list of three woman nominees to the Governor?

Today a reader who had attended the McKinney School of Law Law Review Symposium on Judicial Selection this past Thursday wrote to say:

One of the speakers mentioned that he believed Justice Myra Selby was chosen by Governor Bayh from the only panel of all women ever sent to a governor for nomination to the Indiana Supreme Court. I was wondering if this was accurate, as I had never heard that before.
The answer is yes, that is accurate, there was once an all-woman panel sent to the governor by the JNC.

Indiana Court Times published a Sept. 3, 2010 article by Adrienne Meiring, titled "The Role of the Judicial Nominating Commission in Judicial Selection." A side-bar to the article sets out a valuable list headed "Judicial Nomination Commission's Supreme Court Nominees since 1984." Here it is, with some additional information added by the ILB:

Justice Donald Hunter's vacancy - 1985
  • Hon. Raymond Thomas Green
  • Patrick Woods Harrison
  • Hon. Randall T. Shepard [Gov. Orr]
Justice Dixon Prentice's vacancy - 1986
  • Hon. Robert Staton
  • Lila J. Cornell
  • Brent E. Dickson [Gov. Orr]
Justice Alfred Pivarnik's vacancy - 1990
  • Hon. John G. Baker
  • Hon. Joanne M. Jourdan
  • Jon D. Krahulik [Gov. Bayh]
Justice Jon Krahulik's vacancy - 1993
  • Hon. Betty A. Barteau
  • Hon. James S. Kirsch
  • Frank Sullivan, Jr. [Gov. Bayh]
Justice Richard Givan's vacancy - 1994
  • Hon. Betty A. Barteau
  • Anne Marie Sedwick
  • Myra C. Selby [Gov. Bayh]
Justice Roger DeBruler's vacancy - 1996
  • Theodore R. Boehm [Gov. Bayh]
  • Hon. Sanford M. Brook
  • Hon. Edward W. Najam, Jr.
Justice Myra Selby's vacancy - 1999
  • Mary Beth Ramey
  • Hon. Robert D. Rucker [Gov. O'Bannon]
  • Hon. Nancy H. Vaidik
Justice Theodore Boehm's vacancy - 2010
  • Hon. Steven David [Gov. Daniels]
  • Hon. Robyn L. Moberly
  • Karl L. Mulvaney
Justice Randall T. Shepard's vacancy - 2012
  • Hon. Cale Bradford
  • Mark S. Massa [Gov. Daniels]
  • Jane Seigel
Justice Frank Sullivan's vacancy - 2012

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Posted to Vacancy on Supreme Court 2012

Ind. Courts - More on: "Delaware Judges order council to accept budget The mandate would restore pay and give judges control of the budget"

Updating this ILB entry from March 16th, Keith Roysdon of the Muncie Star-Press is reporting, in a story headed "Supreme Court orders county, judges to seek mediation":

MUNCIE -- The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered Delaware County Council and local judges to try to work out their differences.

The state's highest court has ordered the two sets of local officials to mediate their dispute.

In the order, Acting Chief Justice Brent E. Dickson wrote, "This court, being duly advised, now finds that in the interest of judicial economy it is appropriate to order the parties to mediate their dispute prior to the appointment of a special judge." * * *

In its order, the Supreme Court said it "expects the mediation process to begin immediately and to proceed with all due deliberate focus."

The court wants the mediation process, including the mediator's report, to be done "not later than May 31."

The court named attorney John L. Krauss as mediator.

The Supreme Court's Order is not available online at this time.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Posted to Indiana Courts

Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 1 today (and 1 NFP)

For publication opinions today (1):

In Salsbery Pork Producers, Inc., Richard K. Wilson, Tipton Co. Commissioners, Tipton Co. Highway Department, Chad Bergin, State of Indiana, Indiana Department of Transportation v. Latina Booth, an 11-page opinion, Judge Bailey writes:

Latina Booth, a resident of Tipton County, was injured in a motor vehicle accident on County Road 1100 in Tipton County. Booth filed suit against Salsbery Pork Producers, Inc., Richard K. Wilson, the Tipton County Commissioners and the Tipton County Highway Department, Chad Bergin , and the State of Indiana and the Indiana Department of Transportation (“the State”). Salsbery, Wilson, and the County (collectively, “the Tipton County defendants”) moved for transfer of venue from Marion County to Tipton County. The trial court denied the motion, and this interlocutory appeal followed.
We reverse and remand. * * *

The trial court abused its discretion when it did not drop the State from the case in light of uncontested evidence that the County, and not the State, had possession and control over County Road 1100. Because the State was not properly joined, and because the Tipton County defendants moved for transfer of venue under Trial Rule 12(B)(3), Marion County is not a preferred venue for the case, and we remand this case to the trial court for transfer to Tipton County.

NFP civil opinions today (0):

NFP criminal opinions today (1):

Troy Phillips, Jr. v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions

Ind. Law - New law school in Fort Wayne faces questions

Interesting story today by Paul Wyche, although I because confused as to whether I was reading a news story or an editorial. Some quotes:

FORT WAYNE – A proposed $16 million law school that has faced scrutiny over its creation endured a few more critics with neighbors airing concerns over the project’s effect on them.

The Fort Wayne Plan Commission listened to Indiana Tech officials during a public hearing Monday as they tried to convince the panel to approve the three-story, 70,000-square-foot institution that would initially have 100 students and would become the fifth law school in the state next year.

Those against establishing the legal training grounds say a brutal labor market, a glut of attorneys and law students, and the high cost of education are proof that Indiana Tech’s decision is unwise. Locally, Barnes & Thornburg, the largest Indiana firm, and Baker & Daniels, the biggest firm in Fort Wayne, have scaled back summer internship programs.

Students in need of loans probably would end up borrowing more than $85,000. New attorneys just hanging their shingles can expect to earn between $35,000 and $65,000, according to the college’s feasibility study. Even Indiana Tech President Arthur Snyder admitted that it is doubtful that Indiana Tech students will earn six-figure salaries after graduation. * * *

All of that, though, was of no concern to the 10 or so residents attending the public hearing Monday. Traffic, safety, lighting and simply being in the shadow of the law school were the complaints voiced.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Posted to Indiana Law

Ind. Gov't. - "St. Joseph County may spend $132,000 on iPads, other improvements"

From Erin Blasko's report in the South Bend Tribune:

SOUTH BEND -- The county auditor plans to spend $132,000 on improvements and upgrades in his office and the offices of the county council and board of commissioners, including more than $13,000 on iPads, in an effort to save money and make the county more efficient and transparent in its operations.

The iPads will provide elected county officials and support staff remote access to budgets, state and local laws, meeting agendas, and other pertinent information, saving time and money, the auditor, Pete Mullen, said Monday.

The devices will remain the property of the county.

The plan, first presented to county officials in January, is outlined in a trio of bills now under consideration by the county council, which meets at 7 p.m. tonight on the fourth floor of the County-City Building.

The iPad portion is "$13,000 on 23 new iPads, including training and protective covers."

The ILB has had a number of earlier "iPad in government" stories, including:

My favorite, however, was not an iPad story, but a photo that accompanied a story yesterday in the Indianapolis Star, headed "Indiana Republicans eager to swoop up seats in House: Gains in House would empower party to push through agenda," and reported by Chris Sitich.

Here is the photo, captioned "Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, uses her iPad to take video at the back of the Indiana House of Representatives on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, when union workers protested discussion of the "right-to-work" bill.." It gives just of glimpse of the secondary impact that widespread use of iPads, with their audio and video tools, may have in future legislatures.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Posted to Indiana Government

Ind. Gov't. - “This is three times now,” she said. “I can understand once, even twice – but the third time?"

That was a quote from an editorial yesterday in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, headed "Confidence tested by state errors." It puzzled me, I only knew of the two errors, in December and this month. Here was the full quote from that end of that editorial:

Fort Wayne City Controller Pat Roller said the aim is always to put forth the best budget possible, based on the best information. The state’s error had serious repercussions locally.

“It impacts our infrastructure budget – paving streets and roads. We didn’t replace any of our police cars,” she said. “Those are difficult decisions.”

Roller said she’s looking forward to distribution numbers she can rely on when creating a budget.

“This is three times now,” she said. “I can understand once, even twice – but the third time? This wouldn’t happen with the city of Fort Wayne’s accounts. We know where all of our money is.”

The governor has boasted of the administration’s financial acumen, but the disclosure of a second large accounting error sorely tests those claims. The upcoming audit should be conducted with an aim of complete thoroughness. Public confidence depends on it.

Today a FWJG story by Benjamin Lanka clears it up. Some quotes:
Fort Wayne and Allen County governments will each receive millions in unexpected revenue – possibly by today – thanks to a state error reported last week.

State officials on Thursday said a programming error cost local units of government $206 million in local option income tax revenue in 2011 and early 2012, meaning $15.6 million in unexpected revenue will be flowing to governments within Allen County this year. Auditor Tera Klutz on Monday released how that money is expected to be split among the different government units. * * *

The money comes at a needed time for local governments, which had been squeezed by property tax caps and lagging income tax revenue. Klutz called the announcement of the error bittersweet because while the money was good news, many governments across the state made difficult budgeting decisions – including layoffs – based on state revenue information.

“To learn that was inaccurate information was really tough,” she said. * * *

The state error also means local governments owe the state far less than originally projected.

In 2011, state budget officials told cities, towns and counties the state had overpaid them $500 million in local income tax revenue as a result of the recession and the process the state uses to estimate the payments.

After the error, that total debt was dropped to $150 million. Klutz said Allen County’s aggregate debt fell from $30 million to $1.4 million because of the error.

Counties that owe money to the state will see their future revenue remain flat, and the state will be reimbursed for any growth in income tax revenue until the debts are paid.

Klutz said Allen County’s debt should be erased by the end of this year, meaning units will realize any revenue growth starting in 2013.

“It is good news for local governments,” she said. “We won’t have to cut deeper next year. We should be able to sustain our current services.”

The FWJG's Tracy Warner has more in an editorial column today:
Many reports last week about the state failing to forward $206 million in tax revenues to local governments described it as the second recent major financial malfunction in state government. Just months ago, state officials “found” $320 million that had been collected but not tracked.

But as far as some Hoosier local government officials are concerned, last week’s mistake was the third accounting debacle in a little more than a year.

In February 2011, state officials said they had overpaid local governments $610 million over the previous three years. Officials blamed the overpayment on falling income tax revenue; the payments had been based on previous years’ collections.

Together, the three goofs top $1 billion – and no matter how you look at it, we’re talking real money.

One reason some local government officials feel stung: In their pursuit of tax caps a couple of years ago, Daniels and legislative leaders sharply criticized local governments, suggesting their officials were treating taxpayers’ money irresponsibly.

While state officials blame programming errors for the latest flub, let me remind them that just four years ago, the state was on the verge of collecting $6 million from Allen County taxpayers it was not due. Fortunately, the mistake was found – not by state officials but by Tera Klutz, then the chief deputy county auditor and now the auditor.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Posted to Indiana Government