The Brutal Republican Power Grab of Indiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)

This is an Indiana Senate Bill targeted at Indianapolis and designed to take away a great deal of political voting power of Indianapolis residents. If you are a resident of Indianapolis proper, READ THE TEXT of this bill and see the direct impact this bill has on you. Hell, even if you’re not an Indianapolis resident (Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville) you should be opposing this bill. The bill has passed the Indiana Senate and is poised to go through the Indiana House of Representatives, so contact your Representative. Contact info for your legislators is at the bottom of this post.

I’ve mentioned this bill before in another post, but let me break it down more completely.

It does several really heinous things:

1) removes “at large” city county council seats
The goal of this is clear – to reduce Democratic representation on the city-county council. Indianapolis’ city council districts are gerrrymandered like CRAZY. There are far more Democrats than Republicans in Indianapolis, but Republicans have rigged the districts so well (?) that they keep council seats election season after election season. The only way that Democrats get on the city-county council is through “at large” seats where voters can finally put the people they actually want to represent them in office. Eliminating these “at large” seats is terrible for both parties and serves no justifiable purpose from a pure government point of view, but it definitely helps the Republicans continue to have unfair respresentation in Indianapolis city government. (And a side note – there’s also some serious homophobia driving this. Zach Adamson getting elected to an At-Large City Council seat in Indianapolis really terrifies Republicans, so much so that they are trying to eliminate his seat altogether.)

2) makes changes to the Indianapolis goverment roles
The paragraphs about county treasurer, county auditor, and county assessor and controllers are hard to parse – essentially it gives the mayor a lot more power and removes power from other officials and from the city-county council, which means you have less representation.

3) reduces the amount of time someone must reside in Indianapolis before running for elected office.
There’s never good justification for reducing the amount of time someone should live somewhere before running for political office there. In Indianapolis we have a carpetbagger problem with Republicans who don’t live in Indianapolis moving into the city (sometimes from Hamilton County and other surrounding wealthier counties, but also from outside central Indiana) specificallly to try to get elected office in Indianapolis, where they can try to influence politics for Democrats who have been living in Indianapolis all of their lives. It’s a “have your cake and eat it too” win for Republicans, who don’t want to actually live in Indianapolis, but who want to control the politics here.

4) makes counting absentee ballots more difficult in key counties and eliminates ballots from being counted after polls are closed.
Those three counties in the last paragraph are listed for a reason – they’re heavily Democratic. Forcing absentee ballots to be counted in a central location makes it more likely that ballots will be eliminated, and helps the Republican party.

Indiana Senate Bill 621 (SB 621)

Here is the full text of the bill:

Local government issues.

Provides that the consolidated law enforcement department of a county having a consolidated city is a division of the department of public safety under the direction and control of the director of public safety.

Eliminates the requirement that the city-county council approve the director and deputy appointments of the mayor of the consolidated city.

Eliminates provisions that allow the city-county council to require the capital improvement board of managers to make payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTS) for deposit in the consolidated county fund.

Allows the mayor of a consolidated city to appoint two additional members to the metropolitan development commission, and eliminates the appointments of the county board of commissioners (consisting of the county treasurer, county auditor, and county assessor).

Allows the controller of the consolidated city and county to allot amounts appropriated to an office, department, or agency of the consolidated city or county.

Effective January 1, 2016, reduces the membership of the city-county council from 29 to 25 members by eliminating the members elected at large.

Requires a candidate for mayor of the consolidated city to reside in the city for at least one year (instead of five years) before taking office.

Requires a candidate for member of the city-county council to reside within the council district for at least one year (instead of two years) before taking office.

Provides that if the division of the county into city-county council districts is reviewed by a panel of judges, the clerk of the court must keep a record of the method and process of selecting the panel and make the record available for public inspection and copying.

Provides that in Marion County, a township board consists of five (instead of seven) members. Provides that members of the initial five member township board are elected at the November 2016 general election.

Requires absentee ballots in Marion, Lake, and Allen counties to be counted at a central location unless the county election board unanimously adopts a resolution that: (1) requires absentee ballots to be counted at individual precincts; and (2) states the county election board’s basis for adopting the requirement.

1) To figure out your district and state legislators visit this link: District Look Up and enter your address. Contact information – usually a phone number and the legislator’s website – is listed. Call their 1-800 number, or visit their website and find contact information for an email.

2013 Update: This bill was passed by the Indiana State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Mike Pence.

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