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General Assembly

Hunting, fishing shields advance

Passage a 2nd time makes it official

– Constitutional protections for hunting, fishing and farming are one step closer to reality after a key committee vote Monday.

The amendment has already passed one General Assembly and if both the House and Senate approve it again, Hoosiers will vote on the constitutional resolution in the 2014 fall election.

“Fishing and hunting and farming are part of our heritage in Indiana and are under attack,” said Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford.

Steele is author of Senate Joint Resolution 7, which says people have a right to hunt, fish, harvest game, or engage in the agricultural or commercial production of meat, fish, poultry, or dairy products, which is a valued part of our heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good.

The rights are subject to laws passed by the Indiana legislature, and the constitutional amendment doesn’t limit laws on trespassing or property rights.

Steele said 17 states now have enacted similar constitutional amendments.

He specifically called out the Humane Society of the United States for trying to stamp out all sport hunting and severely limit livestock production.

Bob Kraft, director of state government relations for the Indiana Farm Bureau, said some people want to remove meat from the American diet and this constitutional amendment is an insurance policy.

Kim Ferraro, staff attorney for the Hoosier Environmental Council objected to the legislature elevating one industry over others, and noted that some people have legitimate pollution concerns related to large livestock facilities.

Senate Joint Resolution 7 passed unanimously and now heads to the full Senate floor.

Tax on online sales passes House easily

The Indiana House voted 79-18 Monday to require online retailers with a physical presence in Indiana to begin collecting sales taxes in July.

The bill is largely aimed at Amazon but could affect some smaller entities.

“I cannot see any reason to continue this price advantage over our brick-and-mortar retailers,” said. Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte. “They aren’t asking for special treatment.”

House Bill 1007 says if a company has a physical nexus in Indiana – such as stores or distribution facilities – it has to collect the 7 percent tax on in-state purchases.

Amazon has five Indiana warehouses and former Gov. Mitch Daniels initially promised not to require them to remit the sales taxes. Then he cut an agreement to start doing so in 2014. In the meantime, Amazon has begun collecting in other states but not in Indiana.

The bill would kick up the timeline of collection six months. It is estimated Amazon could start remitting an additional $25 million in state sales tax annually.

Indiana’s brick-and-mortar retailers have long complained that it builds in a 7 percent disadvantage on cost because people can buy online and not pay the sales tax.

“Nobody’s mad at Amazon. They are a good corporate citizen,” said Rep. Eric Turner, R-Marion. “This is about fairness. We gave this company a long time.”

Rep. Dave Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, said the state made an agreement with Amazon and is now changing the rules and breaking that promise.

Amazon’s latest facility opened last week, providing 1,050 new jobs, he said.

“We are changing the deal,” Wolkins said, adding that the law really only helps big-box retailers like Wal-Mart compete with Amazon.

He and Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, were the only two area House members to vote against the measure.

Key senators have similar qualms about the bill, which now moves to that chamber.