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Indiana House narrowly passes scaled-back bill to limit some school referendums to fall elections

Bob Behning speaks into a microphone while standing on the House floor. Behning is a White man with white hair, wearing a suit and tie.
Brandon Smith
IPB News
Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) called his bill to limit school capital referendums to general elections "taxpayer friendly."

The Indiana House narrowly approved a bill Thursday that will limit when some school tax referendums can be presented to voters.

There are three types of school referendums: capital referendums, for specific building projects; operating referendums, which help overall school funding; and school safety referendums.

Rep. Bob Behning’s (R-Indianapolis) bill, HB 1376, originally required that all three types could only be offered in general elections. But a change on the House floor means the bill now only limits capital referendums to the fall. The others can go before the voters in primary elections, too.

Behning said many more people vote in general elections.

“I think all would advocate, especially when it comes to raising taxes, that we need the greatest number of people possible,” Behning said.

READ MORE: How do I follow Indiana’s legislative session? Here’s your guide to demystify the process

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Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute) said local school districts should get to decide when to put up a referendum.

“Some pass in the primary; some pass in the general,” Pfaff said. “Either way, the system works.”

The bill passed the House 52-42 and now heads to the Senate.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.