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Indianapolis Star Editorial Lists Net Metering in 5 Top Priorities for Our State January 3, 2010

Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.

January 3, 2010


Our opinion

5 top priorities for our state

Short on money, legislators can still accomplish much during abbreviated session.

The Indiana General Assembly opens its 2010 session this week with virtually no money to spend and little time to act before lawmakers stop work in March. Yet, even while operating under such restrictions, legislators have an opportunity to adopt several important proposals, including ethics reform.

Here is The Star Editorial Board’s legislative agenda for 2010:

More ethical government: Even House Speaker Pat Bauer, a longtime opponent of restrictions on lobbyists’ influence over legislators, now acknowledges that the Statehouse has been compromised.

“It was apparent the level of pressure exerted by special interests put a cloud over the legislature’s ability to respond to the concerns of Hoosiers,” Bauer wrote concerning last year’s session in an op-ed published in The Star in November.

The General Assembly should adopt five common-sense reforms to reduce the level of influence that special interests hold over lawmakers:

Legislators may not accept any gift worth more than $50 in value from registered lobbyists.

Lobbyists must disclose the value of goods and services offered to individual legislators or groups of lawmakers, including meals, tickets to sporting and entertainment events, or other gifts.

Legislators may not accept gifts, including payment of travel-related expenses, from businesses, organizations or individuals that do business with the state.

Legislators may not accept meals, tickets to athletic games or other events, or any other gift valued at more than $50 from state universities or colleges.

Former legislators may not work as registered lobbyists until one year after they leave office.

Better representation for voters: Lawmakers have a prime opportunity to end the discredited practice of gerrymandering ahead of redistricting in 2011. The best means to ensure fairness and impartiality in drawing district maps is to assign the job to an independent commission. It may be possible, according to research by the Brennan Center for Justice, to create such a commission without having to pursue a constitutional amendment. Legislators should create a system for drawing district maps that fosters competitive elections, encourages qualified candidates to seek elected office and protects voters’ ability to make a difference on Election Day.

More efficient local government: Indiana taxpayers continue to pay for far more government than they need. In a year when state and local budgets are squeezed tight, townships are still sitting on more than $200 million in reserves. If they were ready to put the public’s best interests ahead of their political allies’ concerns, lawmakers would finally eliminate township government this year. That’s not likely to happen, however.

Instead, legislators at least need to trim around the edges by adopting three modest reforms:

Township advisory boards should be abolished. It’s a step that would save taxpayers money without sacrificing oversight or transparency.

Poor relief, now dispensed inefficiently and unevenly by 1,008 township trustees, should be consolidated on the county level, a move that likely would improve service and reduce costs.

School board elections should be shifted from the May primary to the general election in November to assure better voter turnout and raise the profile of these important races.

A cleaner environment: In a state where air and water quality rank among the worst in the nation, environmental initiatives deserve far more attention than they have received from the General Assembly and the governor. One measure that could help promote use of wind and solar power involves so-called net metering, which allows consumers to send excess power that they generate back onto the electrical grid. Legislators should increase the current 10-kilowatt cap on net metering to 1,000 kilowatts.

Better schools: Modest steps are again the most likely avenues for progress, in this instance because of a lack of money. One proposal that deserves strong bipartisan support centers on closing loopholes that allow abusive teachers to escape accountability. Lawmakers should ensure that school districts have access to all the information they need about a prospective employee’s background before they make a hire. The legislature also should eliminate off-the-record agreements that allow districts to remove substantiated reports of misconduct from employees’ files without conducting a formal hearing.

Safer children: The General Assembly achieved a welcome advancement last year when it set up an office of ombudsman to make the Department of Child Services more accountable to the public. Now, legislators should give the ombudsman the necessary resources, including sufficient legal authority, to make a real difference.

This article brought to you by the Indiana Renewable Energy Association.



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