Region’s leaders want state help

January 4, 2019

Home rule expansion, increased funding for transportation and financial support for public health and safety initiatives are priorities that northeast Indiana mayors and other officials would like to see state legislative support for this year.

The Mayors and Commissioners Caucus of Northeast Indiana on Thursday released its 2019 legislative agenda, which supports the expansion of home rule and local decision authority in multiple areas, including tax increment financing, business personal property tax, 911 fees, and food and beverage tax.

The agenda, based on input from officials in 11 area counties, identifies initiatives important to local elected officials to encourage legislative support at the state level.

Nelson Peters, Allen County commissioner and president of the Mayors and Commissioners Caucus, said advancement of the caucus agenda is critical to the growth and success of northeast Indiana.

“Mayors and commissioners in northeast Indiana are working together to create alignment around common issues and to increase our influence at the Statehouse,” Peters said in a statement.

The caucus supports several initiatives to increase transportation and bridge funding, including restoring the local motor vehicle highway and local road and street distribution to 2016 levels, and increasing thresholds for and relaxing application restrictions for Community Crossings, a state matching grant program. It also supports increasing the maximum threshold on the wheel tax and surtax.

The caucus supports initiatives that contribute to the safety, health and welfare of residents. These include putting an end to requiring level 6 felony offenders to stay in local communities if sentenced to jail, and increasing funding for criminal justice.

Other initiatives the caucus would like to see include the increase in approved opioid treatment locations in the state and the authorizing of legislation and funding for development of regional mental health facilities.

“This agenda will help expand our region’s strong economic climate, build upon our region’s existing infrastructure, and invest in the health and safety of our residents,” Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel said in a statement.

The caucus includes elected officials from each of the 11 counties in northeast Indiana. The group meets regularly to address economic development issues, legislative advocacy and other matters of common concern within the region. Key focuses include improving the region’s interstate accessibility, permitting and zoning processes.

“The caucus’ 2019 legislative agenda is a great example of how northeast Indiana’s elected officials are speaking with one voice to represent the best interests of their communities, residents and the region,” Rep. Dennis Zent said in a statement.

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