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Committee to focus on local spending

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@chronicle-tribune.com

House District 31 Rep. Kevin Mahan will chair the Interim Study Committee on Government this summer, which will collect information on public works projects and government obligation to publish annual budgets.

Mahan said the committee was formed to observe the current statutes on public works projects that may require some code revision. He said the laws in place “have been around for 70 to 80 years, and may need clarification.”

Additionally, the committee will study the cost to local government entities to publish their annual budgets, according to a press release from the Indiana House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 385, authored by Sen. Susan Glick of District 13, reinstates “certain expired and repealed statutes concerning local government budget notices,” the bill states. Under current provisions, units of government are required to submit their budgets to the Department of Local Government Finance Gateway, an online access point for all public budgets.

However, understanding that not all taxpayers have access to internet, and in turn, no access to the Gateway, Indiana law requires government units to publish their budgets. Mahan said he expects this topic to be the focus in future hearings on the committee.

“The questions is why do we have to spend all this money to buy print ads when papers are starting to dwindle?” he said. “Readership and advertisement is down everywhere.”

In his hometown of Hartford City and the surrounding areas, Mahan said the frequency of print editions has whittled down to weekly newspapers.

He said he expects units of local government to voice their opinions in the public hearings, asking why “they’re forced to buy a print ad.”

“The feeling is that with technology we have today, we are using an antiquated system,” he said.

He added that he doesn’t anticipate lawmakers to force governments to either publish or provide through the Gateway or another website, but offer a choice between the two.

Study committee hearings are open to the public for testimony, and can be viewed live at iga.in.gov, according to the release. 

After the committee concludes, Mahan said they’ll make a recommendation to legislation on both topics for possible code revision or new bills.