The Herald Bulletin

May 14, 2014

Annexation, gaming to be discussed in-depth

Legislative study committees get summer assignments

By Zach Osowski
The Herald Bulletin

---- — INDIANAPOLIS — Possible changes to annexation laws and casino gaming will be studied this summer by interim study committees at the Statehouse.

Leaders of the Indiana General Assembly met at the Statehouse on Wednesday to announce summer study committee topics. Two of the 37 topics picked by the Legislative Council Committee are annexation and gaming, which could have a big impact on Madison County.

Annexation boomed during 2013 and the beginning of 2014 with Anderson, Lapel, Ingalls and Pendleton all taking stabs at land in southwest Madison County near exit 214. In addition, towns like Alexandria and Elwood are also completing or discussing annexations of smaller tracts near the town boundaries.

The Interim Study Committee on Government will look at several issues regarding annexation, including reasons town annex, contiguity requirements and involuntary annexations.

Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, was heavily involved in getting the annexation issue before a study committee. She wrote a letter to Statehouse leaders petitioning for several things including considering a moratorium on annexation that would extend to next year.

Austin brought that idea before the House during the 2014 session but it failed to pass. While the study committee can only make recommendations, the legislators will discuss a possible moratorium on annexations.

Austin said she became involved with the annexation issues after Madison County's numerous annexation issues.

"I felt like we've had some very heated and high-profile discussions on annexation," Austin said. "It has really become a hot topic and I think we need to take some time and really look at this."

Austin said more protection needs to be given to landowners during annexation discussions. She said too often property owners aren't considered when two towns are looking to annex a piece of property.

Gaming will be studied by the Interim Study Committee on Public Policy. The committee will specifically look at the competition posed to Indiana casinos and what kind of impact changes to Indiana's gaming policy could have.

Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said he was very excited that gaming made the list of study topics.

"We've got to take a look at how we can up our game," Lanane said. "What is the most effective way to get new customers and keep our existing customers?"

Lanane, who is confident he will be on the study committee, said he was in favor of adding live gaming to racinos like Hoosier Park in Anderson. That topic will be discussed by the committee.

"It's not an expansion of gaming, in my opinion," Lanane said. "They've already got the tables there, it's just a matter of having a dealer there."

Brand-new casinos in Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo have put a serious dent in the number of customers coming to Indiana casinos, especially those in southern Indiana.

Study committees allow lawmakers and industry experts time to look at the key issues in Indiana. The committees can only make recommendations on how the legislative body should proceed with a certain issue.

On Wednesday, lawmakers also announced that June 17 would be correction day at the Statehouse. Two bills dealing with criminal code and taxation need to be voted on again due to mistakes in the writing.

Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB, or call 640-4847.

What's next The Legislative Council Committee will meet again on June 17 at 10 a.m. to discuss corrections to House Bills 1006 and 1180. The full Legislature will also vote on the changes to the bills June 17.