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Group asks governor to veto Calumet Township bill

Updated: May 24, 2013 6:15AM



INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus spoke out against House Bill 1585 Monday, saying the policy is bad for the state, and disproportionately affects minority communities. They hope to convince Gov. Mike Pence to consider vetoing the bill.

The caucus held a press conference to address concerns regarding the bill, which would require Calumet Township to reduce its township assistance tax for poor relief programs down to 12 times the state average. The current rate is at 22 times the state average.

The bill, which already passed through the General Assembly, will give the township a year to lower the rate, or else the state Distressed Unit Appeals Board will step in.

If the rate is still above the threshold, Griffith can begin a process of seceding from the township to join another.

Gary legislators State. Sen. Earline Rogers and State Reps. Charlie Brown and Vernon Smith, said Monday that the bill is special legislation targeting communities with large minority populations.

Rogers voiced concern about the state board forcing its way into Calumet Township, instead of the regular process where a governing body petitions for help.

“This is different, this calls for no asking by a unit of government,” Rogers said. “But that the board shall come to Calumet Township. It sets up an adversarial relationship between the local government and the state.”

Brown said the General Assembly continues to place unnecessary burdens on Lake County, ranging from the tax levy freeze to not having the ability to appoint its own judges.

“Out of all the township trustees there may be one other one in the state of color,” Brown said, “Why is there so much attention given to this particular township? Is it even constitutional for this to be directed at this one township?”

Smith went so far as to say the legislation is discrimination in state policy.

“I don’t believe they will be able to do it because of the need of the community,” Smith said. “They’ve been set up for failure, set up for state takeover, and I believe it’s discriminatory in nature.”

State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Hammond, is a member of the caucus, but supports the bill, saying that responsible, efficient government helps everyone.

“This is all about good government,” Reardon said, “It’s not about race or socioeconomic status. That’s what this is about, helping more people. If you run things more efficiently, you can help more people.

“Until Calumet Township makes some serious changes to the way they operate, it’s not fair to anybody. Not the economically challenged, or the citizens of Griffith.”

The black caucus also spoke out against Senate Bill 621, which would restructure the Marion County and Indianapolis governing structure, placing more power in the hands of the mayor.



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