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Ban On Local Housing Rules Pushed By Indiana Homebuilder

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Experts say Miller’s involvement in the legislation is a conflict of interest.

A proposed ban on Indiana cities and counties adopting local housing design standards is being pushed by a state lawmaker who owns a homebuilding company.

Ethics experts maintain Republican Rep. Doug Miller’s involvement in the legislation is inappropriate because of his ownership of Elkhart-based Tailor Made Homes and his role on the board of directors for the National Association of Homebuilders, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Miller says the bill he’s sponsoring is aimed at increasing affordable housing options and restraining local government overreach, arguing that simply moving the garage door or changing exterior house materials can generate savings of $15,000.

Miller, chairman of the House government reform committee that endorsed the proposal, said during a hearing that the bill “absolutely strikes a balance between local control and restoring our private property rights, which is critical in maintaining our hard-earned reputation as being one of the most affordable housing markets in the country.”

The state’s leading local government associations oppose the proposal, saying it would block cities and counties from having rules such as minimum house sizes, types of siding, varying distances between houses or garage sizes.

Experts say Miller’s involvement in the legislation is a “pretty obvious” conflict of interest, even if it’s not classified as such under state law.

“Why not have somebody else bring it forward, if it’s that significant of an issue?” asked Abe Schwab, a professor of ethics at Purdue University Fort Wayne.

Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said he didn’t object to Miller taking the lead on the issue. He offered a common refrain used by lawmakers with potential conflicts of interest, saying that the General Assembly is a part-time job.

“I think people in the legislative body bring their level of expertise and the experiences they’ve had,” Huston said. “Representative Miller is using his unique experiences in that field to bring forward legislation that doesn’t directly impact Representative Miller, but the industry and, frankly, communities as a whole.”

The Star reported Miller did not return phone calls seeking comment. The Associated Press sent an email message seeking comment to Miller’s legislative press secretary.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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