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The Journal Gazette

Monday, February 01, 2016 10:48 pm

Senate adds $42 million to Regional Cities

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Senate voted 35-15 Monday to funnel an additional $42 million to Gov. Mike Pence’s Regional Cities program.

The legislature approved $84 million last year to award to two regions that collaborated on a regional plan to attract talent to the areas.

But the Indiana Economic Development Corp. instead awarded three regions the money, including northeast Indiana. 

Senate Bill 302 provides the remaining dollars from revenue raised from a tax amnesty program last year.

Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, said she doesn’t object to any projects but that the IEDC didn’t do what the legislature told it to.

"I don’t think that’s the proper way we should be doing business here," she said.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Nobles­ville, agreed the bill has an appropriation in a non-budget year but said it is a special circumstance using one-time money.

The bill also gives any excess amnesty dollars to capital projects for Indiana’s bicentennial.

Two area senators voted against the bill – Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, and Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne. The bill now moves to the House.

Transportation bill passes Senate

The Senate voted 43-7 Monday to provide a new option for funding school and public transportation costs.

Senate Bill 280, written by Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, would allow a redevelopment commission to provide revenue to school corporations and public transportation corporations from property tax dollars generated in a tax increment financing district.

She said it is a "may" provision that allows the funding to be diverted but the redevelopment commission does not have to approve the request if the money is pledged to other projects.

Last year, Brown wrote similar legislation to help Fort Wayne Community Schools, which had decided to cut bus service to more than 7,000 students. A report showed FWCS would have benefited from about $700,000 in TIF funds for transportation needs if these funds had been available under the law last year.

A news release said there is more than $400 million in TIF districts around the state. Under the bill, schools in the state would be able to use about $30 million for transportation needs.

All northeast Indiana senators supported the measure, which moves to the House.

Senate amends hate-crimes bill

The Senate on Monday accepted a modification to a bill giving Indiana its first-ever hate-crimes bill.

Senate Bill 220 would allow a judge to consider bias in sentencing a person to a longer prison term if the person committed the offense with the intent to harm or intimidate an individual because of the person’s race, religion, color, sex, gender, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, transgender status or status as a veteran or member of the armed forces.

Indiana is not among the 45 states that have hate-crime laws on the books.

Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, offered an amendment adding that the aggravator can be used for any "actual or perceived" bias.

She explained that someone might commit a crime because they believe someone is Jewish, for instance, and later learn that information was wrong.

But the intent is still the same.

The bill goes to the full Senate today or Wednesday.

nkelly@jg.net