Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, December 11, 2018 2:23 pm

Verbatim: County Legislative Priorities for 2019 Outlined to Lawmakers

The following was released on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018 by Allen County:

(December 11, 2018) — Allen County government’s major legislative priorities for the 2019 session of the Indiana General Assembly include several criminal justice funding initiatives, a change in the over 65 housing deduction threshold, and flexibility for licensed trades.

The priorities were developed by the Board of Commissioners and Government Affairs Director Beth Lock following discussions with various county elected officials. They include:

INCREASE IN LEVEL 6 FELONY DAILY REIMBURSEMENT

The state currently reimburses counties $35 a day for individuals serving a level 6 felony sentence in the local jail. However, that reimbursement rate has not been increased in more than 20 years. Allen County favors the state raising the per diem rate to $55 which would cover the current daily cost of housing each level 6 offender in the county jail. This would increase funding in Allen County by approximately $700,000 to $900,000 to provide appropriate services and potentially eliminate jail overcrowding.

INCREASE IN RECOVERY WORKS FUNDING

Recovery Works is a funding program administered by the Indiana Department of Mental Health and Addiction. The program offers funding to counties and community mental health centers to felony offenders under court supervision for such services as residential recovery, mental health and substance use treatment, and skills training. Because the revenue continues to be stretched, Allen County supports an increase in overall program funding in the 2019 state budget. In addition, there should be increased oversight and accountability for the administrative decisions affecting this program.

PUBLIC DEFENDER REIMBURSEMENT

Public Defender costs for felony cases are currently reimbursed by the state at a rate of 40 percent. Allen County encourages the rate be increased to 50 percent and expanded to include misdemeanor cases. This would provide an additional $100,000 toward defense services.

OVER 65 HOUSING DEDUCTION THRESHOLD

The state provides property tax deductions for those over the age of 65 if the assessed value of their home is less than $182,500. But with assessed values continuing to increase in Indiana, individuals who have qualified for the deduction for years are caught off guard with the unexpected increase on their annual tax bill. The Allen County Auditor supports increasing the assessed value quotient and providing a cost of living increase each year. Additionally, legislation should provide that once an individual qualifies for the deduction they cannot have it removed.

FLEXIBILITY FOR TRADE APPRENTICES

The state currently requires that trade apprentices have to be enrolled in apprentice training before any of their work can be performed under a journeyman and any of their work is counted toward the number of hours needed to obtain journeyman licensure. However, there is currently a shortage of skilled labor to perform work as well as a backlog in apprenticeship training programs. The county building department proposes creating an exception for apprentices to continue to work under a journeyman if they are enrolled and on a waiting list for the appropriate classes. The exception would last for only two years.

LONG-TERM SUSTAINABLE HIGHWAY FUNDING/BRIDGE FUNDING

The Board of Commissioners encourages policies that will continue long-term, stable funding for road and transportation project initiatives and opposes any changes that would place an administrative burden on local units as a requirement to receive state infrastructure funding. The board supports reversion to the 2015 formula for distribution of the gasoline tax and eliminating continued changes and barriers to the Community Crossings program. The commissioners also oppose any change in the current major or cumulative bridge statutes that would force the county to maintain all bridges in Allen County. Alternative and community-wide solutions should be sought prior to any legislative change.