Two key bills impacting Indiana farmers face a critical deadline for action by the Indiana General Assembly . SB 436, authored by Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek) and sponsored Committee Chair, Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville), passed out of the Ways & Means Committee last week after several amendments. From its introduction, SB 436 has included a variety of property tax provisions. Indiana Farm Bureau has testified in support of the farmland portions of SB 436 that include delaying the soil productivity factors for the fourth session and adjusting the base value to offset the rapid increases that are, in turn, making farmland taxes skyrocket. The House version of SB 436 lowers the base value by applying the lesser of what the current formula says or the average growth quotient, which for 2015 was 2.7 percent. The Senate version of SB 436 freezes the base value for one year. The AGQ method is proposed to apply for two years. Both the House and Senate call for a study of the farmland valuation method.
Indiana Farm Bureau has made suggestions to the House version of SB 436 and will continue to stress how critical relief is for the farming sector. “But now that members are getting their tax bills, they should also be talking to their respective legislators about the oppressive burden that farmland taxes have become,” said IFB in a release on Friday.
SB 436 includes clarification of the definition of farmland, but a new section was added in the Ways & Means Committee to give assessors more flexibility is assessing excess acres. The bill is eligible for amendment on the House floor this week but must pass by the end of the day on Wednesday.
Another bill facing a Wednesday deadline is a measure dealing with annexation of farmland. Last week, SB 330 was amended in the House Local Government Committee and passed out of committee 11-1, with the lone no vote being cast by Rep. Doug Miller (R-Elkhart), who said that he preferred the Senate version of SB 330 over the amended bill. Previously, Rep. Sharon Negele (R-Attica) presented an amendment. Over the past week, she accepted suggestions from various stakeholders and made improvements to the bill. The proposed amendment deletes major portions of the Senate version of SB 330, which was the version that Farm Bureau supported. However, the proposed amendment to SB 330 includes many provisions that IFB supports, including a beefed up fiscal plan, a structured petition process and exempting annexed farmland from municipal taxes. “SB 330 as it passed the committee still needs some refinement, but it does make significant changes to the involuntary annexation process,” according to Farm Bureau.
The Senate version of SB 330 eliminated the current involuntary annexation process, which requires 65 percent of landowners to sign a petition to access a local court, and replaces it with one that turns the tables on a city by making them gather signatures of 51 percent of owners. The proposed amendment reinstates the current statutory process but says that signatures of 65 percent of landowners stops the process without going to court. It also lowers the threshold to access court to 51 percent.