Dead Bills. Now What?April's Update on the Public Trust.

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by Natalie Johnson, Executive Director, Save the Dunes

In March and April, you read our call to action and spoke out against SB 581 and spoke in favor of SB 553 - two General Assembly bills that would have had a tremendous impact on the public trust. Today, we come bearing good news. However, we're not completely out of the woods yet...

To quickly recap, 

SB 553, authored by Senator Karen Tallian, set forth the right for the public to use the Lake Michigan shore for recreational activities. It also reinforced the Indiana Supreme Court's definition of the "Lake Michigan shore" as the land along the edge of Lake Michigan between the water's edge and the ordinary high-water mark. We supported this bill.

SB 581, authored by Senator Blake Doriot, threatened to give away state-owned shoreland to a small number of private beachfront landowners along the lake; to allow private construction of walls and other barriers that prevent people from walking on shoreland that the law says rightfully belongs to all Hoosiers; and strip local governments of the authority to protect their own municipal parks and dune property and to apply zoning laws within their jurisdiction. We opposed this bill.

Eventually, both SB 553 and SB 581 made it through the Senate and were assigned to the Indiana House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. On March 21, we delivered over 4800 of your signatures to Judiciary Committee members, stating your support for SB 553 and opposition to SB 581. Both Senate Bills never made it out of committee. Overall, this is good news for all of us. This means that the detrimental language of SB 581 does not advance any further. Yet, it also means that we will need to reintroduce the good language of SB 553 in the next session.

While the outcome of this legislative session regarding these two bills is of little excitement, we now have a taste of what we are up against. We can guarantee these bills, both the good and the bad, will be back next session, and we will need your voice once more.

Please keep in mind that the Indiana Supreme Court ruling is settled law and that you do, in fact, have the right to the Lake Michigan shoreline. This summer, enjoy the beach without worry - just be on the ready to fight for this right once again in the future.

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Save the Dunes wishes to thank the Conservation Law Center of Bloomington, IN for their support and representation in the fight to protect the public trust. Please be sure to check them out online at conservationlawcenter.org.

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