Legislative Tax Commission Studies Farmland Taxation Formula

farmlandThe Indiana Commission on Business Personal Property & Business Taxation released its final report.  The farmland tax burden was a substantial part of the discussion. Four of the 16 recommendations from the commission offer solutions to the tax burden paid by Indiana farmers, she explained.

The commission had three specific recommendations pertaining to farmland taxation. First, agricultural land must be assessed for the March 1, 2015, assessment date using the same base assessment rate used for the March 1, 2014, assessment date. Second, agricultural land must be assessed for the March 2015 assessment date using the same soil productivity factors used in 2011. And third, there must be further study of alternative means of agricultural land assessment.

In its statement of findings, the commission noted that the “statutory formula that establishes the base assessed value for farmland creates an inherent four-year delay between the factors in the formula and the base values used to calculate the property tax bill.”

The commission also recommended eliminating the “double direct” test for the agricultural sales tax exemption. Indiana is the only state that has the “directly used in direct production” test. Moving to a single direct test will improve the determination of when the production process begins and ends.

This study will be sent to the General Assembly to be embodied in legislation this upcoming session.

Today in Indiana History: President Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator” spoke at the Indiana Convention Center in 1983 about excellence in education.

Posted in Agriculture, Indiana General Assembly

US Army Wants to Leave 80 Tons of Depleted Uranium Projectiles at Jefferson Proving Ground

Jefferson proving groundThe US Army has requested permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow it cease environmental monitoring on a 2,080-acre section of the old Jefferson Proving Ground near Madison where ammunition testing was done from World War II until the mid-1990s.  The Army wants to leave an estimated 80 tons of depleted uranium projectiles in place because a cleanup would be too costly and dangerous. Here is IDEM’s JPG page.

Most of the 50,000-acre proving ground site is now encompassed within the Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge operated by US Department of Fish and Wildlife Service. A little less than half of the refuge is restricted because of unexploded ordnance and depleted uranium. Hunters are told to stay in the wooded, perimeter areas. The Army’s radiation safety plan for the site includes fenced areas with padlocked gates and signs warning about the presence of radioactive materials.

Army officials estimate the firing range has about 162,040 pounds of depleted uranium projectiles and thousands of unexploded artillery shells. A study conducted by Materials and Chemistry Laboratory Inc. for the Army last year concluded it will take many decades for those projectiles to corrode completely.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission scheduled a public hearing on the Army’s proposal and is accepting written comments from the public until Dec. 18.

Today in Indiana History: In 1679, Robert LaSalle reached the portage between the St. Joseph and Kankakee Rivers. He is considered the first explorer to reach Indiana.

Posted in Hazardous Waste

The Beige Book on Recent Agriculture and Natural Resources Activity

beige bookHere is the newest ISBA Probate Trust & Real Property Newsletter.

And here is former Justice Frank Sullivan’s Indiana Law Review article on Indiana constitutional law. Professor Joel Schumm also offers his commentary on the article in a recent Indiana Law Blog post.

From the Beige Book published on December 3, prepared by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and based on information collected on or before November 24, 2014. This document summarizes comments received from business and other contacts outside the Federal Reserve.

“Agricultural conditions were mixed. Livestock operations were more profitable than a year ago; but with crop yields generally at above-average to record-high levels, lower crop prices were depressing farm incomes. Livestock producers benefited from lower feed costs, and Chicago and Kansas City noted expansions in cattle herds.

Natural resource activity was strong overall. Oil and natural gas exploration, drilling, and extraction remained at high levels, with expansions in drilling activity. Steady production is anticipated for both deepwater and onshore drilling; Natural gas prices decreased slightly as inventories grew. Coal production was up from a year ago. Mining activity increased. Healthy demand for timber, leading to increased shortages of equipment and skilled loggers.”

In a separate document, the Fed says Midwest growth remained above average in October. The Midwest Economy Index (MEI) was +0.36 in October, down from +0.46 in September.

Today in Indiana History: In 1903, the Indiana High School Athletic Association was organized by high school principals for the purpose of promoting “wholesome, educational sports”.

Posted in Agriculture, Indiana Cases, Real Estate

Gov. Pence Calls the EPA’s Proposed Rules “Ill-Conceived and Poorly Constructed”

energy development logoThe State of Indiana through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Indiana Office of Energy Development, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging the agency to withdraw its proposed carbon dioxide emission rules. The State’s letter can be found in full here.

Indiana has more than 28,000 Hoosiers employed in the coal industry. Governor Mike Pence calls the proposed rules “ill-conceived and poorly constructed” and cites that they exceed the legal authority granted to the agency under the Clean Air Act.  “… Indiana depends heavily on coal-burning power plants for reliable and affordable energy,” said Gov. Pence. “The U.S. EPA proposal does not strike the proper balance to protect the health of the environment with the health of our economy and our position in the global marketplace. It will impede economic growth and prosperity at a time when we need to promote it.”

Recent case worth reading:

Huntington National Bank v. Car-X Associates The Court of Appeals reverses the Porter Superior Court’s denial of a motion to set aside judgment in favor of Car-X Associates. The majority, Judges Elaine Brown and Cale Bradford, concluded that Huntington was entitled to relief from the default judgment due to excusable neglect and a meritorious defense. Dissenting Judge Michael Barnes held that one employee’s maternity leave was not excusable neglect for a large bank, and as such he would defer to the trial court’s discretion.

Today in Indiana History: In 1960, Indiana University opened its new fieldhouse. In the inaugural game, IU defeated Indiana State 80 – 53.

Posted in Clean Air, EPA, IDEM, Renewable Energy

EPA Proposes Stricter Smog Standards – a New Ozone Level

denver smogAs Republicans are preparing plans to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority, the EPA continues to move forward in its ambitious efforts to tackle ozone. On November 25, EPA issued its proposal to reduce the ozone standard.  The EPA is proposing to revise both the primary and secondary standards to a level within the range of 65 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb.  The current (2008) ozone standard is 75 ppb. I’m betting we will end up at 70 ppb.

The New York Times has an analysis of the proposal here. And here is the Environmental News Service analysis. EPA will take comment on the proposal for 90 days after it is published in the Federal Register. It will also hold several public hearings. A final decision is anticipated by Oct. 1.

Recent cases worth reading:

Inman v. Turner  Mitchell appealed the trial Lawrence Circuit Court’s judgment in favor of Walker.  The issue is whether Inman proved each of the elements of adverse possession  by clear and convincing evidence. The Lawrence Circuit Court said he didn’t. The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court.

Yi. v.  Deer Creek Homeowners Assn.  Deer Creek Homeowners told Yi to take his rain barrel/plumbing system  down.   He appealed. The Court of Appeals upheld the homeowners association.

Mitchell vs. Walker  Mitchell and Walker entered into a land contract for real estate in Gas City.  Mitchell defaulted.  Walker provided him with notice of default and opportunity to cure.  Walker took possession of the property without court action. The Court of Appeals upheld the Grant Superior Court  decision.

Today in Indiana HistoryThe Thomas Lincoln family began making their home along Pigeon Creek in Spencer County, Indiana. Abraham Lincoln lived in Spencer County from ages 7 to 21.

Posted in Clean Air, EPA, Indiana Cases, Real Estate

Bear Run Mine – IDEM’s Tepid and Troubling Response

bear run mineSome good reading in several publications today. In the Indianapolis Star, an article on Bear Run Mine – the largest surface coal mine east of the Mississippi. IDEM’s response has been both tepid and troubling to members of the local community. A good article and worth a few minutes.

Paul Krugman has a tough piece on Pollution and Politics in the New York Times. “Polluters and their political friends have a track record of crying wolf. . . .Of course, polluters will defend their right to pollute, but why can they count on Republican support? When and why did the Republican Party become the party of pollution?” You may not agree with him, but he writes it like he believes it.

This one has nothing to do with real estate – unless you bounce your mortgage payment – Todd Zywicki’s article in American Banker on overdraft fees. The article is based on a study concluding that overdraft protection rules could hurt consumers.

Today in Indiana History: James Whitcomb was born in Vermont. He moved to Bloomington in 1824 and later became the state’s 8th Governor in 1843. Also on December 1, Samuel Ralston was born in Ohio in 1857.  He became Indiana’s 28th Governor in 1913 and to the US Senate in 1922.

Posted in Clean Air, Clean Water, IDEM

Only 36% of Americans Can Name the Three Branches of Government

founding fathersAccording to a recent survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, only 36 percent of Americans can actually name the three branches of government created by the US Constitution.

In Annenberg’s 2011 survey, just 15 percent of Americans could correctly identify the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, while 27 percent knew Randy Jackson was a judge on American Idol.

Annenberg released the survey in partnership with the Civics Renewal Network, a group of 25 nonpartisan organizations including the Library of Congress.

Basic civics training  in elementary and high school is lacking. We should return to basics in our schools, including our constitutional history and values. Flag waving and national pride are in vogue – but our citizenry ought to have some idea of what we have pride in, for and about.

Recent case worth reading:

Destination Yachts Inc., and Sheldon Graber v. Jim R. Fine  The Court of Appeals reverses a Daviess Circuit Court denial of a motion to continue case so Graber’s attorney could be present. Fine traveled from Las Vegas for the hearing and returning at a later date may have inconvenienced him, but that is not a reason to justify the denial of a continuance where basic rights of representation and defense against a claim are at issue.

Today in Indiana History: Vincennes University was officially incorporated. It was founded by William Henry Harrison. It is one of only two universities established by Presidents of the United States. The other is the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson.

Posted in Indiana General Assembly

IDEM Restricting Infectious Waste Processing Facilities Because of Ebola Threat

ebolaIDEM is restricting infectious waste processing facilities from accepting and/or processing Category A infectious substances – as a precautionary measure. Category A infectious materials include Ebola waste. Here are the notices to various facilities.

The Indiana Department of Health has issued guidance and information here Ebola Virus Disease – as has the Indiana Department of Homeland Security Ebola Waste Management Guide

Recent cases worth reading:

Crystal Valley Sales Inc., Charles Kline, and Nancy Kline v. Jonathan Anderson, National Sales Company Inc., Rodger Anderson, Camco Manufacturing, and Norm Geible  The Court of Appeals affirmed Elhkart Superior Court’s dismissal of civil conspiracy claims for failure to state a claim. It found that Crystal Valley did not provide sufficient facts to show that the defendants engaged in unlawful actions. It also rejected Crystal Valley’s argument that a civil conspiracy count is sufficient by itself to claim the defendants assisted Anderson to breach his duties.

Sharon Handy v. P.C, Building Materials, Inc., PC Properties, LLC, David A. Stemler, and Karen L. Stemler The Court of Appeals reversed Floyd Circuit Court’s summary judgment in favor of P.C. Building Materials and other defendants on Handy’s negligence claim and remanded for further proceedings. There are genuine issues of material fact that remain for a determination by a jury.

Today in 1948: A fire destroyed the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Boston, killing 492 people. Among the dead was film actor Buck Jones from Knox County, Indiana. Jones starred in over 160 films – mostly westerns.

Posted in IDEM, Indiana Cases

Hallowed Ground: Wrigley Field Undergoes Renovation

bleachers gone 3I am a lifelong Cubs fan. And for me, there are few more hallowed parcels of real estate anywhere than Wrigley Field. But if you’ve been there — and if you haven’t you definitely need to include Wrigley on your bucket list — you know the facilities lack some of the conveniences we have become used to in modern ballparks. So the Ricketts family has decided to spend $575 million for the renovation, historic restoration, and expansion of Wrigley Field. SB Nation Bleed Cubbie Blue.

The photos shows a portion of the outfield bleachers being removed – the brick wall remains – looking from the street into the ballpark.  And an artist’s rendering of left field with the new Jumbotron. “The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field”, as Ernie Banks used to say, will now be a little friendlier.

new scoreboard

Renovations will be completed in four phases during consecutive off-seasons. Increased advertising signage in and around the park will help to fund the four phases of the renovation. Phase 1 includes the complete teardown and restructuring of the left field and right field bleachers, the introduction of a 4,000-square foot videoboard in left field. The completed project, including a Sheraton Hotel across from Wrigley on Clark and a plaza south of Clark and Waveland Avenue, is expected to be finished by the opening of the 2018 season.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Posted in Baseball, Real Estate

US Supreme Court to Decide EPA’s Authority to Regulate Mercury at Electric Power Plants

US Supreme CourtIn its recent conference, the US Supreme Court agreed to rule on the EPA’s authority to regulate mercury pollution from electric power plants. This case continues the recent pattern of the SCOTUS’ willingness to hear challenges to EPA’s regulatory actions.   The Court consolidated three cases for its decision.  The cases are Michigan v. EPAUtility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, and National Mining Association v. EPA.

In granting review, the Court rewrote the question it will answer: “Whether the Environmental Protection Agency unreasonably refused to consider costs in determining whether it is appropriate to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities.” Each of the petitions had phrased the cost question in slightly different ways, so the Court clarified what it will be reviewing. A decision is expected in June 2015.

Recent cases worth reading:

City of Greenfield and the Greenfield Fire Protection Territory v. DLGF.  This Tax Court decision reverses a reduction by the Department of Local Government Finance of the Greenfield Fire Protection Territory’s general fund levy for the 2012 budget year. The Court holds that Public Law 172-2011 at §164 contravenes the special legislation provisions set forth in Article 4, §23 of the Indiana Constitution.

Posted in Clean Air, EPA, Federal Cases

Kicking the Can Down the Road: EPA Delays Renewable Fuel Mandate

Renewable-Fuels-StandardThe EPA will delay the final rule for renewable fuel standards related to blending requirements for ethanol and other biofuels.

The White House Office of Management and Budget did not meet the 90-day requirement for the EPA’s proposed standards. EPA then issued a notice announcing that it will not be finalizing 2014 volume standards under the Renewable Fuel Standard program before the end of 2014. The agency intends to take action on the 2014 standards rule in 2015.

Oil industry interest groups have argued that increasing biofuel harms equipment and cars. However, earlier this year the White House indicated that it intended to revise the numbers — to the benefit of biofuel producers.

The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers filed a notice of intent to sue the agency on Friday for not releasing a final rule.

Posted in Climate Change, EPA, Renewable Energy

As Hoosiers, We Should Be Ashamed of Our Recent Voter Turnout

Congressional districtsThe United States Elections Project tells us that the November 2014 midterm election voter turnout was the lowest it has been since 1942. Unfortunately, Indiana had a 28 percent turnout and was 50th among the states in voter turnout in the November 4 General Election.

A major concern across the state is that gerrymandered General Assembly and Congressional seats have resulted in few competitive districts. Democrats are the permanent minority in the Indiana Senate. And nearly so in the Indiana House — although the House is slightly more competitive. Only the 1st and 7th Congressional districts are held by Democrats — and none of the other districts are likely to change given the maps drawn by the Indiana General Assembly in 2012.

Districts that are absolutely safe for one party or the other encouraged voter apathy and a sense that elections don’t matter and have proven to increase citizen cynicism and disillusionment. And we have an abundance of safe districts in Indiana.

The General Assembly will have a resolution offered in the next session for a blue ribbon commission to study redistricting. There is a coalition of a number of organizations including the League of Women Voters of Indiana, Common Cause/Indiana, ACLU, NAACP, Environmental Coalition, Jobs for Justice , and others, all urging the Indiana General Assembly create a commission to study redistricting. Values emphasized for redistricting include compactness, contiguity, “incumbent blind” (appropriately competitive), maintenance of communities of interest, protection of voting rights and ensuring “one person one vote” representation.

While redistricting is not the only solution to voter apathy, it is one step in the right direction — creating districts that reflect the diversity and pluralism that exists within our Indiana communities. While is seems a long way off, the 2015 General Assembly needs to act this session to start the process in time for the next redistricting effort following the 2020 Census.  Don’t hold your breath.

Posted in Indiana General Assembly