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1/4/2019 12:39:00 PM
New Indiana State Rep. Stephen Bartels hopes to incentivize public-service volunteers

Candy Neal, Herald Staff Writer

State Rep. Stephen Bartels, R-Eckerty, plans to submit legislation during the Indiana General Assembly’s session, which started Thursday.

One bill is a resubmission from the last session, in which he was attempting to get more funding for counties that have large amounts of state- or federally-owned property. The bill would have the state make payments to the county on land that is owned or leased by the state and the federal government and, thus, exempt from property taxes.

Since the bill affected state revenue, it was not up for serious consideration by the Legislature last year. That was fine with Bartels, because, he said then that the goal was to get the legislation in front of legislators to make sure they were familiar with it before he proposed the bill again this year.

The current legislation has one major change from last year’s bill, Bartels explained last month.

“Up to this point, we said that the money would go to the general fund of the county. I’ve changed this,” he said. “It has to be spent on capital expenditures for public safety: police cars, fire engines, ambulances, those kind of things that serve that area.”

Bartels will also submit a bill to give incentives for those that volunteer as firefighters and reserve police officers, which are needed public safety positions.

“About 74 percent of our fire protection in the state of Indiana comes from volunteers,” he said. “What we’re seeing is millennials are not as interested in volunteering as in the past. So we’re trying to figure out a way to incentivize before local units of government will have to go to fire districts, which would raise taxes.”

His bill will offer a tax break for those volunteers. “What we’re hoping to do is a tax incentive based on some criteria,” Bartels said. “Also, if they are receiving some pay, like a per-run pay or a clothing allowance, that would become tax exempt.”

Another bill will assist the North Spencer County School Corporation’s finances specifically.

“Due to some problems with the ending of the TIF with AK Steel, there were some problems with calculations in the district’s capital projects fund,” Bartels said. “It was a weird thing that happened, a screwy thing with the change in assessed valuation.”

Bartels’ bill would help rectify the problem “with an agreement that the state will provide the district with about $700,000,” he said. This money would come directly from the state budget, Bartels added.

The bill is in the House’s Ways and Means Committee. “They are looking at this favorably, so I am hopeful it will get through,” he said.

During the session, Bartels will also work on different committees. He will be vice chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and a member of the Courts and Criminal Code Committee and the Veterans Affairs and Public Safety Committee.

This will be Bartels’ first full term as a state representative, having won the two-year position in November.

Bartels was originally appointed to the seat by caucus in November 2017. He replaced Lloyd Arnold, who resigned to work for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

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