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The week ahead
House Committee on Natural Resources: 10:30 a.m. today, Indiana Statehouse. Watch online at www.in.gov/legislative; click on “Watch Indiana General Assembly live” and select “House Chamber.”
Senate Committee on Corrections & Criminal Law: 10 a.m. Tuesday, Room 130, Statehouse
Fort Wayne City Council: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Citizens Square
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Canned hunting is likely to dominate debate of SB 487 in the House Committee on Natural Resources today.
Editorials

In the hunt for a deal

Wildlife advocates, animal biologists, most hunting organizations and a large swath of the general public vehemently oppose high-fenced hunting in Indiana.

The arguments against the abhorrent practice are convincing. Shooting penned, often tame, animals is contrary to the fundamental hunting ethic of fair chase. It also increases the chances of spreading diseases that could endanger wild herds and, potentially, agricultural herds.

A handful of state legislators are continuing to push for the expansion of high-fenced hunting in Indiana. They claim it will help economic development. The effort is also supported by the Indiana Deer and Elk Farmers’ Association.

The issue is likely to be the focus of a hearing today before the House Committee on Natural Resources.

The committee is scheduled to discuss Senate Bill 487, an unrelated hunting bill. But Rep. Matt Ubelhor, R-Worthington, has indicated he may offer an amendment involving high-fenced hunting.

He authored House Bill 1194 this year; it called for licensing existing operations and allowing new high-fenced hunting preserves. It died in the House.

Former Gov. Mitch Daniels took a clear position opposing canned hunting.

Gov. Mike Pence’s position is not so resolute.

“Governor Pence is concerned with an expansion of high-fence hunting,” his spokeswoman, Kara Brooks, wrote in an email. “But (he) is keeping an open mind about legislative efforts to permit existing facilities to continue to operate.”

Criminal code

Also in the General Assembly, a continuing effort to reform the state’s sentencing laws will get another hearing, this time in the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law.

After several years of debate, this is the year the law should pass. Both reform advocates and prosecutors support a key aspect of the law, which would allow more criminals now sentenced to state prison to serve in county-based alternative sentencing and probation programs, where they are more likely to be reformed than in prison.

The bill would make many other changes in the law, including one tough-on-crime advocates should like: It would require most prisoners to serve at least 75 percent of their sentence rather than being eligible for release after serving 50 percent or less.

City taxes

On Tuesday, City Council members will receive their third and final briefing from the mayor-appointed Fiscal Policy Group, which examined the city’s financial picture. The council will again hear from City Controller Pat Roller; she will be joined by Larry DeBoer, a Purdue University professor and researcher who is one of the state’s foremost independent authorities on tax law.

They are expected to discuss how the city could raise property taxes above the annual percentage amount set under state law because the city has declined in recent years to raise tax rates. Specifically, officials are considering phasing in higher property taxes over six years.

Some council members will likely question the prospect of raising both the local income tax and property taxes, though the income tax hike would include some property tax relief.

The council is also expected to discuss whether to fund the Internal Audit Department for the remainder of the year. Councilman Marty Bender, who is also a deputy police chief, has led a move to abolish the department, but supporters of continuing it have a better case.

FWCS finances

Fort Wayne Community Schools Chief Finance Officer Kathy Friend will explain how the upcoming two-year budget is expected to affect the school district at today’s meeting. Though lawmakers are still discussing the budget, Friend will likely discuss various scenarios as well as how an expanded private voucher program might affect FWCS.

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