Sierran Masthead

General Assembly Brings Bills That Need Your Action

by Bill Hayden and Tim Maloney

As this issue goes to press, the first half of the 1999 Indiana General Assembly is in full swing. Bills are moving through committees and going to the full chambers for second reading amendments and then third reading recorded votes. More controversial or complicated bills are usually held for further amendment in committee or occasionally allowed by the committee chairs to die.

The Internet has made it possible to get legislative information much more easily than in the past. Go to the Indiana General Assembly’s Web site at www.ai.org/legislative/, click on Session Information and then on bills. If you would like Sierra Club updates on current legislation, send an e-mail message to Bill Hayden at haydenb@bloomington.in.us or Glenn Pratt at pratt @netdirect.net.

Summary of Priorities

One Sierra Club environmental priority is House Bill 1976, which requires notice to parents for application of pesticides in schools and day-care facilities and establishes a committee to develop a program for integrated pest management in schools and day-care centers.

Another priority is HB 1952, a smart growth bill drafted by the Hoosier Environmental Council. This bill would restrict state subsidies for extending urban infrastructure such as water and sewer lines beyond urban growth areas. Other priorities are additional appropriations for Non-Game Wildlife Management, the Heritage Trust, and the Clean Manufacturing Institute. Personal contact with legislators is the only effective way to counteract the power of large campaign contributors. Meetings with legislators are the most effective contacts. Most legislators participate in weekend forums with the public. Contact your local newspaper for details on these events.

This article is provided for archival purposes. Information was current at the time of original publication. In some cases specific, outdated contact information has been removed.     -Webmaster

Pesticides in Schools

At the request of the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations, Sen. Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington) and Rep. Dennis Avery (D-Evansville) have introduced a bill requiring schools to inform parents and teachers before pesticides are used in public schools, preschools, or day-care facilities. The bill will call for a legislative study committee to develop integrated pest management programs for schools.

The Senate bill is SB 524; the House bill is HB 1976. We hope that HB 1976 will still be alive as this reaches readers. If it is, it will be in the Senate. Sen. Gard, Chair of Senate Environmental Affairs, will be the likely person to contact to urge that it be heard and passed by her committee. Request your legislators’ support for these bills.

Smart Growth

Rep. Vanessa Summers (D-Indy) has introduced HB 1952, a smart growth bill to discourage sprawl and loss of farmland and forests. This bill directs agencies to spend economic development, highway, or other project funds in urban communities rather than undeveloped rural areas. It provides incentives for investments in urban areas and sets up a smart growth council. About 88,000 acres of land is converted to subdivisions and other developments each year in Indiana.

HB 1952 has been assigned to the House Ways & Means Committee, which is very busy with the budget bill. It is very important that the Chair, Rep. Pat Bauer (D-South Bend), be convinced to give it a hearing. Ask your legislators to cosponsor and support HB 1952.

Budget Issues

Budget appropriation for the Clean Materials and Safe Manufacturing Institute, which promotes industrial pollution prevention, needs to be increased to $2.3 million to reach smaller companies that are often unable to take advantage of clean manufacturing technology.

The budget bill, HB 1001, was introduced without appropriations for the Indiana Heritage Trust, the program that purchases state parks, forests, and public lands. Contact Gov. O’Bannon, House Ways & Means Committee Chair Pat Bauer, and your representative. Request that $25 million be included for the Heritage Trust.

Some property has been lost because the land acquisition staff of the Department of Natural Resources is grossly understaffed. The DNR budget line for land acquisition staff needs increasing.

The DNR budget also needs a line item to provide money for the Non-Game Wildlife Program. Now its only funding comes from the income tax check off.

Water Quality

Sen. Gard’s SB 343 will limit the state’s ability to protect water quality. This bill will make it virtually impossible for IDEM to protect Indiana’s highest quality waters by designation as an outstanding state resource water. It will prevent IDEM from improving antidegradation provisions of current standards.

This bill passed Senate Environmental Affairs 8-0 and will probably pass the Senate. Contact your senator and Sen. Gard in opposition to SB 343. Urge Rep. Dale Sturtz, Chair of the House Environmental Affairs Committee, to kill it when it gets to the House.

Oil industry lobbyists are supporting SB 349 (Sen. Gard), which will limit the positive effect of an Indiana Supreme Court decision in favor of West Point, Ind., citizens whose well water was contaminated by leaking underground gasoline tanks. The Court found Shell liable for damages caused by the leaking tanks because it had operational responsibility as fillers of the gas station tanks, even though the station was independently owned.

This court decision is a victory for the state’s ability to hold gasoline marketers and suppliers liable for contamination. Ask legislators to oppose SB 349.

Senators Becky Skillman and Jim Lewis (D-Charlestown) have introduced SB 392, which would revise the definition of “karst” in landfill rules. Karst is “a landform characterized by the presence of limestone or other soluble rocks, where drainage has been largely diverted into subterranean routes. The topography of such areas is dominated by sinkholes, sinking streams, large springs, and caves” (from the Indiana Karst Conservancy). The bill would require IDEM to narrow its definition of features found in karst.

By redefining these features, the bill’s authors hope the state will no longer consider the Washington County landfill to be sited in karst terrain and therefore allow the landfill to remain open. Landfills should not be sited in karst because leachate can easily contaminate groundwater. Ask your legislators and Committee Chair Gard to oppose this bill.


Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[11/12/02]efp

Spring 1999