Sierran Masthead

Highlights, Low Points of 1998 Legislature

by Bill Hayden
Hoosier Chapter Lobbyist

The 1998 session of the Indiana General Assembly eliminated the most controversial environmental issues from consideration for passage.

Some bad legislation, such as SB 445 (see below), passed because it did not become controversial enough. Some good legislation, such as HB 1021 (also see below), passed because compromises were made to keep it from being killed in the final hours.

"Some bad legislation passed because it did not become controversial enough."

The worst legislation

The worst bill to pass was SB 445, Nonconforming Agricultural Uses. This was authored by Senators Katie Wolf, D-Monticello, and Johnny Nugent, R-Lawrenceburg, and sponsored by Representatives Claire Leuck, D-Fowler, and Bill Freund, R-Macy.

This bill was the Indiana Farm Bureau priority. It passed both chambers with large majorities. The Farm Bureau claims that this bill protects small farmers from being driven out of agriculture by nonconforming-use zoning ordinances. The bureau never provided data showing that farmers had been driven out because of this.

I believe it is a way to keep local governments and neighbors from preventing the development of small confined feeding farms into industrial-size farms. Cities, town, and counties with planning and zoning lose the power to regulate existing agricultural uses. The Governor has signed the bill.

Don't buy a house in the country that has pigs in the neighborhood unless you like the smell of concentrated hog manure.

The best legislation

The best bill to pass was HB 1021, the Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Suits Against Public Participation) bill authored by Sen. Bill Alexa, D-Valparaiso, and sponsored by Rep. Tom Alevizos, D-Michigan City. It attempts to discourage SLAPP suits against citizens who speak out on public issues up for decision making by a government body.

This bill started out in SB 260, which passed the Senate 49-1. When it came to the House, Rep. Jesse Villapando, D-East Chicago, got the Speaker to move it to the Rules Committee.

In the House Rules Committee, Chair and Speaker John Gregg, D-Sanborn, heard it, and the committee passed out a weakened version.

Powerful House Democrats, Pat Bauer, South Bend, and Tom Kromkowski, South Bend, adamantly opposed it. House sponsor Mark Kruzan, D, did not call it for second reading and killed it.

Rep. Alevizos let Sen. Alexa insert the anti-SLAPP language in HB 1021 in conference. The House passed it 99-1; the Senate 49-0.

Other important legislation

SB 18 on Water Quality Designations was authored by Sen. Kent Adams, R, for the Indiana Manufacturers Association. Fortunately, after passing the Senate 47-1, this bill was killed by the Chairman of the House Natural Resources, Markt Lytle, D-Madison.

This bill would have prohibited the water pollution control board from adopting a proposed designation of a body of water without a finding that the designation has received either the approval of local governments or that the environmental benefits of the designation outweigh its social and economic impacts.

HB 1263 became the Environmental Omnibus Bill. This bill started out updating Indiana code to bring it in line with EPA regulations.

However in conference committee it became a vehicle bill for many provisions in other killed bills. This bill ended up with some bad parts.

Perhaps the worst provision is that it allows the air pollution control board to adopt rules that allow the commissionerıs actions on permits and permit modifications to become effective immediately.

The board must be kept from adopting a rule that lets it modify permits that allow pollution without public input. The conference committee report was adopted by both houses.

Parts of the bill become effective on July 1, and other sections upon passage.

HB 1074 became the Natural Resources Omnibus Bill. This bill started out doubling snowmobile registration fees and was not overly popular. In conference, the bill was stripped of its original language and ended up as an omnibus bill for other natural resource bills that died during the legislative process.

The conference committee report on this bill was adopted by both chambers without dissenting votes.

Among its many provisions, the conference committee report for HB 1074 amended the general recreational user statute (which provides that a person who goes through the premises of another for a recreational purpose does not have an assurance that the premises are safe for that purpose) to create provisions applying to an individual who enters a premises for hunting, fishing, trapping.

The bill makes the provisions for hunting, fishing, and trapping substantively identical to the general recreational user statute.

It makes the law on the regulation of dams, dikes, and levees inapplicable to dams, dikes, flood walls, or levees regulated under the Indiana Surface Mining Act.

It allows an incidental mining boundary revision to occur without applying for a new permit.

Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[6/28/02]efp

Summer 1998