Dems campaigning on DST & Toll Road

Mary Beth Schneider has an article in the Indy Star on the Democrats’ efforts to retake control of the state House of Representatives. Time & the Toll Road are two major themes of that effort. In particular, Troy “I’ll Never Vote for It” Woodruff is in jeopardy.

Two years ago, the Vincennes resident’s vote for Republican Troy A. Woodruff helped him eke out a victory over the Democratic incumbent state representative by fewer than 200 votes.

But the 70-year-old Barnes said she won’t do that again. Woodruff switched his vote in 2005 to put Indiana on daylight-saving time. She said that’s all she needs to know.

When Woodruff’s Democratic challenger, Kreg Battles, showed up at her doorstep last week asking if she had any questions about his candidacy, she said:

“No, because I’m going to vote for you. You’d do as well or better as the one we have now.”

. . .
At the Mouzin Barber Shop in Vincennes, a state map on the wall is marked with the time zones to help customers. Nearby Illinois is on Central Time, and the adoption of daylight-saving time is changing all the rules residents have used to tell time, whether they’re in Indiana or Illinois.

Barber Larry Mouzin, asked whom he will support for state representative said bluntly: “Not Woodruff.”

“He said he wouldn’t vote for it. Then, whammo!” Mouzin said.

The article goes on to discuss the fact that immigration is also on people’s minds, but that the issue cuts both ways for the political parties. For example, Republican Don Eaton doesn’t think Republicans in Washington have done enough to secure the border and he doesn’t like handing over the Indiana Toll Road to foreign management. When asked about his views on Daniels, Eaton said, “How much time do you have?”

Eaton intends to vote for Dave Crooks, a Democrat who vigorously opposed the time change and the Toll Road privatization in Republican dominated Daviess County; and apparently a great number of others intend to vote for him as well.

Republicans have targeted Crooks, a Democrat in Republican-dominated Daviess County, who aggressively opposed the time change and the Toll Road lease. But there are hundreds of Crooks yard signs in the district, and it’s difficult to find one for his Republican opponent, local economic development official Ron Arnold.
While Crooks was out campaigning last week, Arnold was on vacation.

Toll Road: Elections may hinge on toll road deal

Steve Walsh, writing for the Gary Post Tribune has a story on the effect privatizing the toll road may have on elections this November. (I seem to recall Gary Post Tribune links going stale pretty quickly, fwiw.)

With Republicans fighting to keep their narrow control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the 2nd District has been featured in recent articles in the New York Times and the Times of London as the poster child for voter discontent in America.

Gov. Mitch Daniels’ popularity remains low, especially in the seven counties along the Toll Road. A recent poll by Indianapolis’ WISH-TV shows a majority of Indiana citizens believe the lucrative Toll Road deal was a mistake, even though it is funding a record-breaking amount of road construction projects, known collectively as Major Moves. The plans call for spending $11.8 billion on road upgrades over 10 years.

. . .

At the Oasis Family Restaurant in Westville, the lunch crowd included truckers who fear rising tolls under the private company, and with less than two months to go before the November election, they said they plan to take out their frustration on Republicans.

The story has two quotes noting the foreignness of the Australian/Spanish consortium as a source of the objection. That’s a mistake. The sale would have been just as objectionable, in my mind, if it had been to Wal-Mart or Halliburton. The loyalties of any large corporation aren’t to their country of origin, but rather to their stockholders and to the bottom line. Indiana’s mistake in this is 1) transferring transportation infrastructure to a private, for-profit entity; and 2) setting up a scheme whereby the motorists of Northern Indiana are taxed to pay for road construction throughout the state.

It’s Costly to be Small

An installment of Capital Comments written by everybody’s favorite economist, Larry DeBoer, ran in the July 26, Carroll County Comet. Professor DeBoer’s commentary concerns a report (PDF) by the Department of Local Government Finance on 2005 expenditures per capita by local governments. (Senator Kenley had a column in the Indy Star on the report, and I had a blog post.)

Professor DeBoer suggests that the legislature thought it would be a good idea to make comparisons of expenditures per capita by local jurisdiction available so that citizens might be able to ask questions about why some are spending more and others are spending less. However, he says, it’s difficult to know what to make of the reported numbers. First, DLGF says that there are inconsistencies in how jurisdictions report their numbers. Second, operating costs and infrastructure costs are combined. Third, the numbers reported by DLGF don’t seem to reflect patterns seen in previous research such as wealthy jurisdictions spending more per person and jurisdictions with more homeowner property spending less.

Prof. DeBoer notes that at least one pattern that shows up, however. Small jurisdictions spend more per person. Of the 11 counties in the state with fewer than 15,000 people, 9 of them spend more per person than the typical county. The smallest counties averaged $1,570 per person compared to a $1,090 average for all counties. He suggests that this might be a symptom of “economies of size” which I take to mean that there are certain fixed costs for a county which have to be incurred regardless of how many citizens the county has. The bigger counties get to spread these costs over more people.

Last year the General Assembly passed HEA 1362 which might provide some assistance for the smaller counties. It provides a mechanism by which political subdivisions, including the small counties with high overhead, can use cooperative agreements with cities, towns, other counties, or other jurisdictions to deliver services, share equipment and employees, or buy services from one another. Through such cooperative agreements, the small counties might generate the sorts of economies of size currently enjoyed by the larger counties.

IN-02: Donnelly leading Chocola

(Via Kos) A South Bend Tribune/WSBT-TV poll indicates that Democratic challenger Joe Donnelly has a slight lead over Chris Chocola in Indiana’s Second Congressional District race, according to a report by James Wensits in the South Bend Tribune.

According to the poll, Donnelly had 46%, Chocola had 41%, 13% were undecided, and there was a 5% margin for error. Considering this was supposed to be something of a “second tier” race in Indiana, taking a back seat to the supposedly more hotly contested races in the 8th and 9th Districts, this might be really bad news for Congressional Republicans.

The South Bend Tribune article seems to confirm the suspicions of Rep. Chocola voiced by Tribune Columnist Jack Colwell back in February that local issues could be dangerous for Chocola:

Also, Chocola has a point about things in which he was not involved being a potential source of trouble.

The congressman was thinking of matters such as the leasing of the Toll Road, the daylight-saving time squabble[.]

According to the Tribune article on the recent poll:

[Pollster Delair Ali] said he was also surprised at the number of people who brought up the Toll Road (7 percent) and time zone change (5 percent) as campaign issues.

Ali now looks for Chocola to go really negative against Donnelly.

“He’s in deep and serious trouble,” Ali said of Chocola. “The good news for him is the election is in November.”

Ali predicted that a nasty race is in the offing because Chocola needs to raise Donnelly’s negatives.

To do that, Ali said, Chocola must go on the attack against Donnelly.

Toll Road: Argument against using tolls for general purposes

An Illinois Republican state senator argues against privatization of Illinois toll roads, at least if the privatization is done without serious study and if the proceeds will be used for the benefit of the State generally rather than the areas served by the toll roads specifically.

Illinois has a toll road privatization effort similar to that under way in Indiana, but the parties rolls are different with the Democrats in control favoring privatization and the Republicans in opposition.

Illinois State Senator Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) writes  that suburban businesses have the largest stake – and the most to lose- in a proposal to lease the Illinois State Toll Highway authority because the region’s toll highway system is the economic lifeline and the way employees and products move about. Tolls shot up, he says, when the Chicago Skyway and the Indiana Toll Road were leased, making it more expensive to get to work or move goods.

Any leasing idea, he contends, should be explored in a thorough process that includes world-class economists, transportation experts and leaders from the areas affected by the toll road leases. Tollway proceeds should be used only for transportation infrastructure in the areas served by the toll roads, not for general purposes or in other parts of the state.

Along with these main points, Sen. Dillard includes plenty of invective against Illinois Democrats, but, aside from that, his position seems remarkably similar to that of Indiana Democrats, particularly those in the northern part of the state.

Toll Road: Trial Court upheld 4-0

Via the Indiana Law Blog:

From the docket in the toll road case, BONNEY, STEVE ET AL.-V- INDIANA FINANCE AUTHORITY, ET AL:

6/20/06 ISSUED THE ENCLOSED OPINION:
6/20/06 2006 TERM
THE ORDER OF THE TRIAL COURT IS AFFIRMED. — BOEHM, J.
SHEPARD, C.J., AND SULLIVAN AND RUCKER, JJ., CONCUR
DICKSON, J., NOT PARTICIPATING.
19 PAGES MS

Opinion available here.

The Court found that the Indiana Finance Authority is a “municipal corporation,” despite its statewide scope because of the General Assembly’s Humpty-Dumpty powers of defining words to mean what they wish them to mean. IC 34-6-2-86(1)(B) requires only that the IFA be a public instrumentality or public corporate body created by state law to be regarded as a “municipal corporation.”

The Supreme Court further determined that the Plaintiffs did not raise any substantial issues to be tried. I’m generalizing (and paraphrasing), but the Supreme Court essentially concluded that appropriations are not special legislation and so throwing pork at particular counties to get the Toll Road legislation passed didn’t constitute special legislation.

The Supreme Court further concluded that the State no longer has “public debt” under Article X, Section 2 of the Indiana Constitution. In a footnote, the Court notes that it does not believe that the question of whether the Toll Road transaction is a lease or a sale is dispositive to the Plaintiff’s contention that the statute violates Art. X, Sec. 2; rather it’s the fact that the State no longer has any public debt.

Because state law has set up entities like the Indiana Finance Authority to issue debt secured by money controlled by the State rather than having the State incur the debt directly, there is no public debt, says the Court. The Court also noted that debts of local government do not constitute public debt — a point that makes a lot of sense to me. I did not see how the Court addressed unfunded retirement obligations of the State under PERF and TRF.

The Court appears to have avoided a major confrontation with the Governor and the General Assembly primarily through two definitional maneuvers: “muncipal corporation” doesn’t have to have anything to do with a municipality; and “public debt” doesn’t refer to debt for which the public is ultimately responsible.

Anti-choice advocates line up against Garton

Mike Smith, writing for the AP, has an article on Indiana Right To Life’s endorsement of Senator Garton’s primary opponent, Greg Walker. They blame Senator Garton, President pro tem of the Senate, for failing to ensure a floor vote on the anti-science, anti-doctor, pro-meddling government wingnut legislation (fair and balanced, that’s me) that would have forced doctors to tell their patients that life begins at conception (legislated into fact by the same legislation, apparently) and that a fetus might feel pain.

HB 1025: Innkeeper’s taxes

HB 1025 extends some deadlines for innkeeper’s taxes. Howard County’s innkeeper’s tax was supposed to decrease from 5% to 4% on June 30, 2007. With passage of this bill, the decrease date is extended for 7 years. It extends the expiration date of the Nashville food and beverage tax from July 1, 2007 to July 1, 20012. And, it extends the period of time during which a nonprofit corporation (Prophetstown?) in Tippecanoe County gets a cut of Tippecanoe County’s innkeeper’s tax.

Legislating Pi: Abortion Style

The Indiana General Assembly never gets tired of trying to legislate scientific facts. Last year, they legislated a fetus into viability at 20 weeks. In 1897 they legislated pi as equal to 3.2. This year, by legislative decree, fetuses feel pain and human life begins at conception. So saith House Bill 1172 (as amended).

House Bill 1172, authored by Representative Harris and co-authored by Representatives Woodruff (of course), Turner and Bischoff would further dictate to a physician on the best way to treat his or her patient before performing an abortion. The physician is required to tell a woman who requires an abortion, among other things, that adoption is an alternative, that a fetus feels pain, and that human life begins at conception.

Let’s go down that list:
1) Adoption is an alternative. Gee, really? How stupid do these guys think Indiana women are?

2) The fetus feels pain. Is this the consensus of the scientific community that studies fetal development or are we just legislating that fact into being? Surely it matters how far along in the pregnancy you are. At 40 weeks – sure (but, obviously abortion is illegal at that point.) At 2 weeks – No. Sometimes real life is messy. Pi equals 3.14159265 etc, not 3.2 — even though 3.2 is much neater. So, even though 3.2 is easier, it was wrong of the legislature to try to legislate the facts of the world into something they’re not.

3) Human life begins at conception. This is a twofer — now we’re legislating science and theology. I’ll grant you that life begins at conception. But a blastocyst is not a fully human life. At that point it’s just a clump of cells with potential. At some level, the right-to-lifers surely know this. If they truly believed that an abortion terminated a fully human life, they would be using all necessary force, including killing anyone and everyone who stood in their way, to put an end to the practice. At least I think that’s what I would do if, to use the Holocaust as an example, I thought they were gassing Jews in the clinic down the street. At any rate, our citizen legislators have no business telling physicians — men and women of science — that they have to represent this assertion as scientific fact and gospel truth to their patients.

Another bass ackward aspect of this bill is that it was placed in and passed by the House Public Policy and Veterans Affairs Committee, not the House Public Health Committee or even the House Family, Children, and Human Affairs Committee, as you would expect.

Hat tip to Lawgeekgurl for the heads up and the excellent post on the topic.

SB 245 Telecommunications Restructuring

SB 245 which restructures the telecommunications industry passed the Senate 40 to 6. It’s a lengthy, opaque bill, and I do not pretend to be certain as to whether it’s good or bad for Indiana. I’m skittish because electricity restructuring almost bankrupted California and caused political chaos when Enron and other energy companies took advantage of weak government oversight to gouge the state. My recollection is that other states that have tried deregulating the telephone industry saw their rates for basic telephone service going up.

My suspicion is that this bill will ultimately be good for me, personally. I’m a high-end user of telecommunications services. High-speed Internet, cell phones, etc. I suspect competition to provide those sorts of services will increase. However, I also suspect that there will be no additional competition to provide plain vanilla local telephone service and that, absent regulation, those rates will increase quite a bit. I wouldn’t want to be the legislator who voted to increase telephone bills in my district.

Molly Lin, writing for the Indy Star, has a story here.

A couple of quotes:

The telephone industry has been trying for several years to win deregulation to better compete with cable and Internet providers of voice, video and data services.

To address the concerns of some critics, SB 245 also was amended to ban local pay-per-minute measured service and would decrease the requirements for local municipalities that want to provide broadband access to their communities on their own.