Senate Bill #528, the bill in the Indiana Legislature that could have a devastating impact on how much casino revenue continues to come into Switzerland County and other communities; passed the State Senate on Monday night by a vote of 32-18.
Although the bill was expected to pass, legislative observers said that it didn’t pass with as big a margin as the bill’s authors had hoped, but it now heads to the House for another fight.
The vote on the bill was expected to come down to casino-revenue receiving counties and those counties that currently do not receive casino revenues – but in an interesting twist, nine State Senators who represent areas that receive riverboat revenues still voted in favor of the bill.
Had those Senators voted against the bill, it would have failed by a 23-27 vote.
Among those Senators who voted for the bill were Senator Jean Leising, who represents the community of Oldenburg, which is a revenue sharing recipient from Lawrenceburg; Senator Allen Paul, who represents the city of Richmond, which is a revenue sharing recipient from Lawrenceburg; Senator Brent Steele, who represented the city of Bedford, which is a revenue sharing recipient from Lawrenceburg; and Senator Ron Grooms of New Albany, which is a revenue sharing recipient from Harrison County.
The other five Senators represent Northern Indiana districts.
State Senator Jim Smith, who represents Switzerland County; and State Senator Johnny Nugent, who represents Lawrenceburg, both voted against the bill.
Supporters of the bill say that changes in how riverboat revenues are distributed are necessary in order to keep Indiana riverboats competitive; but those opposing the legislation say that the bill goes back on a promise by the state to those communities with riverboats, and that provisions in the bill will reduce how much casino tax revenue is distributed to local governments.
Some negotiated changes in the bill have lessened the financial impact, but experts say that if the bill in its present form passes the House of Representatives, it could reduce riverboat revenues in Switzerland County by $1.4 million per year; and would also reduce the amount of money going directly to the Switzerland County Convention and Tourism Commission. Reductions in revenues going to the county would then mean reductions to a wide variety of agencies inside the county which receive money from the county on a percentage basis.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where it could be passed as is; voted down; or passed with changes, which would then send the matter to a conference committee to work out a final version of the bill.
State Representatives Randy Frye and Jud McMillin are already on record as opposing this legislation, and will be working on behalf of Switzerland County and other riverboat counties to see that this bill doesn’t pass.
Another option for the bill is that it could also be vetoed by Governor Mike Pence if it is passed and sent to his desk to be signed.
Switzerland County residents are urged to contact the governor’s office and tell them that you are against Senate Bill #528 becoming law.
The phone number for Governor Pence’s office is (317) 232-4567. Those concerned can also mail those concerns to: Office of the Governor, Statehouse, Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2797; and there is an online e-mail submission form at http://www.in.gov/gov/2333.htm.