Central Indiana transit bill clears one house committee, awaits action in another

Transportation panel approves amended measure

INDIANAPOLIS - The push for a bigger, more modern mass transit system in central Indiana made progress at the Statehouse Wednesday.

The House Roads and Transportation Committee approved a bill to allow a transit referendum in Marion and surrounding counties.

The bill passed the committee 11 to one.

House members still have many questions about how the transit system would be put together, and there are still many hurdles for this bill to clear.

Before committee members approved the bill, they made several changes.

One delays the date of the county referenda from this fall to no earlier than November 2014.

That would eliminate taxpayers having to pay for a special election, since no offices are up for a vote this fall.

"It would delete the potential for a special election in 2013," said Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel. "Cause there were some questions about who would pay for it, because there wouldn't be any other election. It was just a special election for this purpose."

Transit advocates were OK with that, because it gives them more time to sell their idea.

"This question should be presented to the public at an election where more members of the public typically turn out, so that's a general election," said Indy Connect Executive Director Ron Gifford. "So I think it gives us the opportunity to spend 16 to 18 months talking about the issue, answering questions, making sure there's good public feedback into the plan."

Lawmakers did not vote on one other amendment that would have put more specifics about the transit plan into the bill itself.

Supporters of that idea said taxpayers have a right to know what they're voting on and shouldn't have to trust that government leaders will make good decisions.

"I'm trying to remove risks,” said Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis. "And maybe it's acceptable to us to have those risks in this legislation, but it isn't for me."

But others said you can't get too precise in this bill, that most decisions about the specifics of the new system must be left to the transit authority that voters would create.

"What we're doing is setting up a goal, a tax mechanism and a structure,” said Rep. Edward DeLaney, D-Indianapolis. "And that's about all we can do. I understand why you want the public to know this, and I think it's our duty to tell the public that those wonderful drawings that we've seen are just some of the proposals."

This bill has cleared one committee, but before it goes to a vote in the full house, it must pass the Ways and Means Committee , where there will be considerably more discussion about what a transit upgrade will cost.

To read more about the bill, click here

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