Until 1970, the Indiana General Assembly met every two years on odd-numbered years. Then in 1970, a short session was added, which was to meet for only 30 days on even numbered years to deal with emergency legislation. The short session must be adjourned before March 15.
Even though this is the year for a "short" session of the legislature, over 400 bills have been filed in the Indiana Senate and another 400 in the House of Representatives. We certainly have a lot of "emergencies" to be addressed by the Legislature during this session. Among the proliferation of bills are several involving Township Government, which still are pending as I am writing this Column.
Eliminating or changing Township Government has come up at the Legislature every year since I have been Trustee. Governor Daniels made eliminating Townships a priority of his administration in the past, but he seems to have backed off some this year giving his attention to other issues. However, that does not mean that we can let our guard down.
We must carefully monitor the rest of the legislative session to make sure that Township Government is able to continue to meet the needs of our residents. As in past years, the bills that have been introduced run the gamut from giving Township responsibilities to Cities, to Counties, to placing the question of Townships on the ballot. One of the craziest bills would place the question of Townships on the ballot in each County other than Marion. If you vote yes, Township Government would be eliminated; and if you vote no, Township Government still basically would be eliminated with the Trustee being retained to administer assistance only.
The bills that are more seriously being considered would eliminate Township Boards, and turn over their duties to the County Council. Contrary to what you normally hear in the media, Township Boards are not "Advisory" Boards. The word "Advisory" was dropped by law several years ago when Township Boards were given statutory duties.
Among the duties of Township Boards are budget approval and approval of the Township's Annual Report. The Township Board makes appropriations, establishes tax rates and levies and serves as an advisor to the Trustee concerning Township matters. The Board also approves the Township Eligibility Standards.
In Allen County, that would mean the County Council would have the fiscal and legislative responsibility for 20 Townships, which are very different. The Townships range from ours, Wayne, which is large and urban, to several which are quite small and rural. I think sometimes that legislators who draft these bills don't consider all the ramifications of their bills on areas other than their own.
I have always believed that Townships, as the smallest unit of government, can provide the best and most efficient service delivery for our residents. That is why the continued assault on Township Government by some in our legislature concerns me so much. In this often impersonal and uncaring world, Township Government is one of the few entities that offers personal attention to everyone who walks in our door.
We at Wayne Township pride ourselves in being able to address the individual needs of our residents swiftly, while avoiding the bureaucracy and red tape often involved in dealing with larger entities. In addition to providing assistance to those in need, we offer special programs such as job training and our representative payee program. So, please consider contacting your Senators and Representatives and ask them to support retaining our Township Government.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee