Gov. Mike Pence has proposed a lengthy to-do list for Indiana lawmakers, with phasing out the business personal property tax on top of his economic agenda.

On education, Pence has proposed an expansion of Indiana’s voucher program to provide pre-kindergarten for low-income families.

Lawmakers will have to strike a balance during the 10-week session on what proposals to send to Pence’s desk as 2014 is a non-budget writing year. Generally, lawmakers have opposed reopening the state’s spending plan during short sessions, and an updated revenue forecast released in December shows Indiana will take in nearly $300 million less than previously thought through fiscal year 2015.

Members of Southwest Indiana’s delegation say they are still exploring Pence’s proposal to phase out the tax businesses pay on personal property, such as machinery and equipment. A complete elimination of the tax would cost Vanderburgh County an estimated $31 million and Warrick County about $10 million based on 2015 projections found in a report released by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency in December.

Democrats have said they expect Pence’s proposal won’t be popular among members of his own party, though House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, named “fair business” taxation as a priority this session when the General Assembly met for Organization Day in November.

State Rep. Ron Bacon, R-Chandler, said he expects Pence is testing the waters on phasing out the business personal property tax.

“I like the concept of what he says because it would be good for business but all it does is shift the burden to taxpayers or takes money away from cities and towns that are struggling now. I don’t think I can go along with it. We’re not going to open the budget to do that for this either,” Bacon said.

Southwest Indiana lawmakers also are preparing a series of bills targeting local issues, including legislation that would enhance scooter regulations and allow Tropicana Evansville to move on land.

Former state Rep. Suzanne Crouch, an Evansville Republican that became State Auditor on Thursday, focused her time transitioning to her new position on finding legislators to carry bills she would have proposed this year. One proposal preserves a portion of Vanderburgh County’s innkeepers’ tax for operations of The Centre, Crouch said. The Centre currently receives 2 percent of the money collected from the tax but its portion of the tax is set to decline at the end of 2014.

Another of Crouch’s proposals is aimed at improving the enforcement of motor scooters. Crouch said she worked extensively on the bill over the summer, meeting with law enforcement officials, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles and prosecuting attorneys, and that state Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, will now carry the legislation.

The bill imposes a $10 per year excise tax on scooters, which is defined as any “motor driven cycle” other than a motorcycle, and requires them to be registered with the BMV. The bill also requires scooter operators who travel in excess of 35 mph to have insurance.

“By registering these vehicles we start to get a handle on how many are out there,” Crouch said. “No one even knows. It allows us to start to get our arms around the issue and to know if we are truly addressing it as we should.”

State Rep. Gail Riecken, D-Evansville, said she may file a bill to clear the way for Tropicana Evansville to move to land. The bill would allow the Indiana Gaming Commission a permit every five years for a casino to move onto land starting with the Evansville casino because it’s the oldest license in the state, Riecken said.

“It’s to provide opportunity but to do it in a metered way, so we don’t have this explosion,” she said.

Bacon said he is filing legislation in response to the sewer dispute between the towns of Newburgh and Chandler. Bacon said the bill’s aim is to avoid disputes in areas where town sewer rights overlap. Bacon said the legislation would bar municipalities from interfering with each other’s operations and would give existing consumers in those areas the choice on which sewer service to use.

Towns are allowed to offer sewer service within four miles of their borders. That area overlaps for Chandler and Newburgh and caused lawsuits when a developer chose Chandler’s service because the town’s rates were lower. In December, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a Newburgh town ordinance claiming jurisdiction of the overlapped area because it was filed before Chandler passed a similar measure.

The General Assembly was still expected to convene at 1:30 p.m. EST Monday for the start of session, however legislative leaders were continuing to review weather forecasts over the weekend.

Here’s a round-up of additional legislation Southwest Indiana lawmakers plan to propose in 2014:

School safety

State Sen. Lindel Hume, D-Princeton, said he’s drafted legislation to require the Indiana State Department of Education to establish suggestions on ways school districts can construct new buildings to maximize student safety.

Tax credits

State Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes, is proposing a tax credit for businesses that send employees back to school. Another tax credit is aimed at helping offset the cost volunteer firefighters, reserve deputies and volunteer EMS pay for gear and training.

State Rep. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, said he will propose a bill to make the existing Hoosier Business Investment tax credit refundable. The corporate income tax credit is aimed at supporting job creation and capital investment, according to the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

Cardiac arrest awareness

State Rep. Ron Bacon, R-Chandler, will file a bill aimed at educating coaches, parents and athletes on cardiac arrest awareness. Bacon said the bill will not force athletes to undergo testing but is meant to inform on the issue.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

State Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Mount Vernon, is working on a bill to help individuals diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following workplace incidents by allowing them to qualify for workers’ compensation insurance.

Bonds for public officials

State Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, said he’s proposing legislation that provides elected officials a 30-day grace period to become bonded once taking office, if the position requires it.

New magistrate for Vanderburgh Circuit Court

State Sen. Vaneta Becker, along with Tomes, will sponsor a bill to allow the Vanderburgh Circuit Court judge to appoint a second, full-time magistrate to help with the court’s caseload. Becker said the recommendation to add a magistrate came out of a summer study committee.

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