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Distressed Utilities and Road/Utility Repair Bills Ready for Full Senate Votes and Other Updates

2018-02-02T13:04:03+00:00February 2nd, 2018|

Distressed Utilities and Road/Utility Repair Bills Ready for Full Senate Votes

Bill # and Title: SB 411 – Distressed Utilities
Author: Sen. Erich Koch (R-Bedford)
Summary: This bill amends a provision in current law concerning the acquisition of distressed water or wastewater utilities to require that, upon filing a petition with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to include the cost differentials of the transaction as part of the acquiring utility company’s rate base, the acquiring utility company must provide notice to its customers that the petition has been filed (current law requires the acquiring utility company to provide notice to its customers if the proposed acquisition will increase the utility’s rates by more than 1% of the utility company’s base annual revenue.). This bill also amends a provision in the law concerning the sale or disposition of a municipally owned utility to provide that in determining whether the sale or disposition according to the parties’ proposed terms and conditions is in the public interest, the IURC shall accept as reasonable the valuation of the property as determined through an appraisal and review made under the procedures set forth in the statute.
Chamber Position: Support
Status: Heard by the Senate Utilities Committee on February 1 and passed 9-0; now eligible for further action on the Senate floor.

Update/Chamber Action: The Chamber testified in support of the bill. It will clarify some issues with current law that have recently been litigated. Specifically, it should reduce litigation costs of water/wastewater utilities going forward that would have been rolled into utility rates.

Bill # and Title: SB 269 – Road and Utility Repair
Author: Sen. Erich Koch (R-Bedford)
Summary: This bill requires the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to consult with the appropriate local government officials whenever a proposed INDOT action adversely affects certain local interests including commerce. After consultation, it requires the commissioner of INDOT to either: (A) approve a proposed INDOT action subject to the concerns of the appropriate local representative; or (B) remand a proposed INDOT action to appropriate department personnel for the purpose of devising a revised action that is less destructive to certain local interests.  It also provides that the hearing officer appointed to conduct a hearing concerning a petition to establish a regional water, sewage, or solid waste district is required to provide notice of the hearing to the executive of a city or town that has a municipal sewage works or public sanitation department having extraterritorial jurisdiction within the boundaries of the area to be included in the proposed district.
Chamber Position: Support
Status: Heard by the Homeland Security and Transportation Committee on January 16, 2018 but no vote was taken. On January 30, it was voted out 7-0; now eligible for further action on the Senate floor.

Update/Chamber Action: The Chamber provided testimony supporting the bill. It requires INDOT to consult with local officials when a road or bridge project may have an adverse impact on business and explore whether there are alternative plans. The notification requirements to establish a regional water, sewage or solid waste district should prevent unnecessary duplication of facilities, which would increase utility costs.

Legislation to Clarify Landowner’s Liability for Property Used for Recreational Purposes Unanimously Passes House

Bill # and Title: HB 1115 – Landowner Immunity for Trail Access
Author: Rep. Carey Hamilton (D-Indianapolis)
Summary: This bill amends an existing law and specifies that with respect to the statute that restricts a landowner’s liability for an injury to a person or property caused by an act or failure to act of another person using the landowner’s premises for certain recreational purposes; those purposes include another person going on or through the premises for the purpose of accessing a trail, a greenway, a park or another similar area used for recreational purposes.
Chamber Position: Support
Status: The bill was heard by the House Judiciary Committee on January 29 and passed unanimously. The bill then passed the full House 94-0 on February 1; it’s now eligible for further action in the Senate.

Update/Chamber Action: The Chamber provided testimony in support of the bill, which clarifies that a property owner is not liable for an injury when a person goes upon or through the owner’s land to access a trail, a greenway, a park or another similar area used for recreational purposes. It insulates business and individual property owners from liability.


Bill to Help Businesses With Natural Resource Development Awaiting Full House Vote

Bill # and Title: HB 1289 – Local Regulation of Natural Resource Development
Author: Rep. Jeff Ellington (R-Bloomington)
Summary: This bill changes the definition of “urban area” for purposes of a land use statute in the area planning law to include any lands or lots used for residential purposes where there are at least 20 residences (currently eight residences) within any quarter mile square area. The bill restricts the power of a unit (a county, city, town or township) to regulate the development of natural resources on private property. It defines “development of natural resources” as the extraction of mineral resources, the sale or removal of merchantable timber or the harvest, sale or removal of other vegetation. It does allow for the enforcement of local ordinances concerning the use of a road or damage to a road.
Chamber Position: Support
Status: Heard by the House Natural Resources Committee on January 29 and passed on a 6-3 vote. It cleared second reading in the House on February 1 and is now eligible for further action on the House floor.

Update/Chamber Action: The Chamber indicated its support for the bill, which will fix past and current problems that Indiana businesses have experienced with local government trying to prevent actions allowed under state permits or Indiana law. Additionally, it should reduce litigation costs.

Resource: Greg Ellis at (317) 264-6881 or email: gellis@indianachamber.com