INDIANAPOLIS — Controversial legislation designed to thwart Jeffersonville’s Promise cleared the Indiana House of Representatives on Monday afternoon after its third reading by a vote of 55-41.
Originally introduced on Jan. 22, House Bill 1596 survived a change of authors, two separate House committee hearings, three amendments and intense opposition each step along the way — from local officials to mayors from across the state.
The legislation now moves forward to the state Senate.
According to information posted on the Indiana General Assembly’s website, Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, will be the Senate sponsor for the bill. As of press time, Grooms was unavailable for comment, stating via text that he was in session on the Senate floor.
Rep. Rita Fleming, D-Jeffersonville, originally introduced the legislation. However, the freshman state legislator removed herself as the bill’s author early in the process after hearing from members of the community about their support of Jeffersonville’s Promise.
Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, took over as the bill’s author.
He and co-authors’ Karen Engleman, R-Corydon, and Rep. Jeffrey Thompson, R-Lizton — along with Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, who joined in as a co-author late in the process — designed the bill to prevent the use of TIF dollars for Jeffersonville’s Promise and similar programs that may be inspired by the educational initiative, which is the first of its kind in the state.
Clere has been outspoken about his desire to tighten up existing legislation.
Jeffersonville’s Promise is a city initiative that was introduced by Mayor Mike Moore last fall offering free tuition to Ivy Tech for qualified Jeffersonville High School students starting with the class of 2019.
The city of Jeffersonville, through its redevelopment commission, has pledged to commit a total of $750,000 in TIF dollars over the next five years to fund the program.
The city has been collecting TIF dollars for approximately 18 years from new businesses in designated commercial areas of the city.
While the bill’s language changed considerably over the past month, wording was never loosened up enough to allow Jeffersonville’s Promise to stand as it is currently written.
A requirement designed to align educational programs with workforce development was the main sticking point each step of the way as it moved through the House, which included hearings with both the Government and Regulatory Reform Committee and the Ways and Means Committee.
“I don’t see a sticking point,” Clere said Monday. “There’s no reason why Jeffersonville can’t modify [the Promise]” and comply with the legislation.
Clere said the wording was put into the bill specifically to ensure any program — but especially Jeffersonville’s Promise — is designed to fulfill specific workforce needs of employers or prospective employers instead of offering general degrees that may or may not be beneficial to employers.
Moore said Jeffersonville’s Promise does not work directly with employers; it is open to students participating in all programs offered by Ivy Tech.
Moore said he is disappointed and angry the legislation passed “and it’s all because Ed Clere is making a little game out of this.”
Moore said it is a “narrow-minded” way of approaching the use of TIF dollars and it could have long-lasting negative effects on Jeffersonville if it is passed by the Senate.
The mayor said he will continue to fight this legislation and will reach out to both state senators and the governor.
“This makes me more determined than ever to fight it,” he said. “I reckon I got my work cut out for me. But, don’t bet against me.”