Twelve years ago, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels convened a bipartisan commission to study Indiana’s system of local government and make recommendations for improvements.

The commission, led by former Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard and former Gov. Joe Kernan, concluded that, among other findings, the state’s system of township government was outdated, inefficient and prone to nepotism and other problems.

The panel recommended townships be abolished and their services taken over by another unit of government, such as counties.

In the years since the Kernan-Shepard Report, the Indiana Legislature has had ample opportunities to do something about it. But year after year, legislators have kicked the can down the road.

The only major change: Property assessment duties were taken out of townships and moved to counties.

This year, state Rep. Cindy Ziemke, R-Batesville, is doing her best to keep township reform on the agenda, but the General Assembly isn’t exactly tackling the issue head-on.

Most other legislators seem OK with the status quo.

One of Ziemke’s township bills, House Bill 1650, has already met an inglorious demise, trounced by a 75-18 vote on the House floor.

The bill would have dissolved elected township advisory boards, which seldom meet and provide little oversight of township budgets and trustees. Township boards comprise nearly 3,000 members statewide.

“We have more elected officials per capita than any state in the United States,” Ziemke noted in arguing for the bill.

The House’s “no” vote also assured that no summer committee would be convened to study township boards.

That leaves one other Ziemke bill on townships alive in the General Assembly. House Bill 1177 would require townships to adopt a capital improvement plan if their surplus exceeds 150 percent of their annual budget. Without such a plan, townships would be barred from collecting property taxes.

Indiana townships, you see, are famous for hoarding taxpayer money and then using it to do ... nothing.

At the end of 2017, the state’s 1,005 townships, collectively, had surpluses totaling $454 million.

In part because it has the support of the Indiana Township Association, this bill actually has a chance of passing and would be a move in the right direction for better oversight.

But that would just be one step toward what really needs to happen to townships in Indiana. They should be abolished altogether and their services — providing poor relief, fire protection and maintenance of abandoned cemeteries — turned over to counties.

A special investigative report by CNHI News Indiana in late 2018 showed that townships — just as the governor’s commission reported a dozen years ago — are still outdated, difficult to engage and ineffective.

When will our state legislators come to grips with this problem and do the right thing for Hoosiers?

Apparently, not any time soon.

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