Commissioners hear update on bills in Indiana legislature

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With the Indiana Legislature having attempted to grab a larger share of riverboat revenues in the past, the Switzerland County Commissioners and County Council continue to monitor legislative activities for bills that may have negative effects on this county, and at Monday’s meeting of the Commissioners, the county’s lobbyist was on hand to provide an update.

Jewell DeBonis of Lewis and Kappes Law Firm in Indianapolis told the commissioners that so far there weren’t any bills proposed to grab riverboat revenues, but that it is still early in the process.

“The good news is, we’re halfway through the session, and they’ve not yet raided your money,” Jewell DeBonis said. “The bad news is – we’re halfway through the session. Right now there’s nothing that’s trying to take your money, but let me assure you that if that changes, we’re prepared to stand and fight for you.”

Jewell DeBonis did point out a few bills that have some gambling issues tied to them, and how those might impact the county.

– House Bill 1166 allows for a sales tax rebate for developing a tourist site. It would authorize the office of tourism development to enter into an agreement for a state sales tax rebate with the operator of a new tourism attraction.

Jewell DeBonis said that with tourism continuing to develop here, this bill could have a positive impact on new tourist-related businesses.

– House Bill 1835 was initially a “vehicle bill”, meaning that it had no language in it at all when it was introduced, but then had language added to it when legislators saw a specific need.

This bill now involves allowing the horse racing tracks in Anderson and Shelbyville to install slot machines, 2,500 machines at each location. Jewell DeBonis said that the bill passed the house by a 54-39 margin, and is now in the senate. She said that the Casino Association did not take a position on the bill; but that Belterra opposed the bill.

Should it pass, it could impact the number of people from Central Indiana who now travel to the Ohio River riverboats.

– House Bill 1837 would change the way that casinos are taxed by the state, but Jewell DeBonis said that it would have no impact on how funds come to the county.

She said that currently the casinos are taxed on their Corporate Gross Income Tax; but the new bill would allow the casinos to deduct the gaming tax and admission tax that they are already paying and then figure the amount of tax that is owed to the state on that amount.

Although riverboat funds seem safe at this point, Jewell DeBonis pointed out that initiatives such as All Day Kindergarten that is being pushed by Governor Daniels currently has no way of being funded, and those funds will have to come from somewhere. Currently she personally believes that those dollars will come from the slot machines being placed at the race tracks, but nothing is certain at this time.

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The commissioners also accepted bids on purchasing stone, sand, gravel, and asphalt from companies to be used on the roads in the county.

Bids were received from Hanson Aggregate from Versailles and Scott County; and also from Dave O’Mara.

Commission president Craig Bond said that traditionally all bids are accepted so that the county can go get the materials where and when they need it.

Highway superintendent Edd Cook told the commissioners that Dave O’Mara had asked for the county’s approval for an unofficial detour on Detour Road while the company works on the Indian Creek Bridge on State Road 129.

This work is supposed to begin on April 1st, and should take about 90 days to complete. This request was approved.