IN Brief

School operating, safety referenda amended out of election bill

By: - February 1, 2024 6:00 am

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, explains an amendment de-fanging his school corporation referendum bill on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. (Leslie Bonilla Muñiz/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

House lawmakers on Wednesday edited down a controversial proposal to restrict school operating and school safety referenda to general election years, in a major compromise for the legislation’s backers.

“It makes sense for us to provide more flexibility,” author Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said on the floor.

Current law lets school corporations hold referenda to impose levies that go above the state’s property tax caps. They can make those asks during primary and general elections, and can even pay for referenda special elections.

But Republicans have increasingly moved to constrict those levies.

Behning, in authoring House Bill 1376, argued that small percentages of eligible voters are turning out for primary and special elections to vote on public questions worth millions of dollars.

“To me it would make sense to make sure that we put it in an election cycle that most people participate in,” he said in committee.

Opponents from the education field argued the bill limits local choice and budgeting.

And they appear to have won out, with Behning offering an amendment stripping operating and safety questions out of his bill. The move left only large, long-term capital projects — control projects — subject to the proposed general election requirement.

“These are the larger referendums,” Behning said. “These generally tend to be (over) longer periods of time and (have) much bigger impacts to taxpayers.”

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Leslie Bonilla Muñiz
Leslie Bonilla Muñiz

Leslie covers state government for the Indiana Capital Chronicle with emphases on elections, infrastructure and transportation. She previously covered city-county government for the Indianapolis Business Journal. She has also reported on local, national and international news for the Chicago Tribune, Voice of America and more. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from Northwestern University.

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