Niki Kelly, writing for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette (do these political reporters sleep during session?), has a story entitled Citiesâ€™ anti-bias laws ignite House ruckus which reports on the ruckus during a discussion of HB 1010 amending the law of eminent domain. (My coverage of the introduced version is here.) Basically, the bill is intended to make it harder for government to condemn property generally and, particularly where the condemned property will be used for the benefit of private persons (except in the case of the Governor’s quest to privatize Indiana’s transportation infrastructure.)
The ruckus occurred when Representative Thompson introduced an amendment designed to limit the power of local units to protect gays in the workplace and when renting, leasing, or buying property. Specifically, the law provides that the minimum guarantees provided by the state and federal Constitutions are the maximum protections that a local unit can authorize.
Democrats objected on the obvious grounds that the amendment is irrelevant to the eminent domain bill. House Speaker pro tem, Eric Turner, ruled that the amendment was germane because the amendment “had to do with property rights.” (He should have ruled that since both had to do with “laws” the amendment was germain).
â€œWeâ€™ve been here too long, and we have not accomplished enough for the people of Indiana,â€ said Rep. Trent Van Haaften, D-Evansville. â€œLetâ€™s get rid of this, and letâ€™s get to work â€¦ and not monkey around with ideas like this.â€
The Journal Gazette Story concluded:
Before the debate, Republicans took an extended break, arguing among themselves about the amendment, which threatened to shut down the legislative process.
An angry and red-faced Bosma was overheard asking the amendmentâ€™s author, Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Lizton, to withdraw it because it could cause a meltdown and doom the bill. He also said the Republican caucus wasnâ€™t united behind it.
Thompson refused, and a debate began on the amendment. But after only a few speakers, Bosma ended the discussion, unexpectedly adjourning the chamber for the day. Democrats wanted to continue to fight the amendment, but Republicans quickly left.
Debate will continue on the amendment today.
Update It seemed appropriate to add a new blog category: wingnuttery. I think this move qualifies. It seems motivated by an irrational fear of gays. I suppose I sympathize to a tiny degree. I went to see Brokeback Mountain this weekend at my wife’s urging. And, I’ll admit to being uncomfortable with the homosexual sex scenes (and even moreso, for some reason, by the kissing scenes. Completely digressing here — but I found the fact that the two men were unfaithful to their wives and children once they had commited to them much more distasteful.)
But my being personally and irrationally uncomfortable with certain imagery is a far cry from going out of my way to inject legislation into an unrelated bill in an effort to make sure that gays can’t be afforded equal housing and employment opportunities.
So, congratulations Representative Thompson. You get my first wingnuttery categorization.
Update #2 The Indy Star is reporting that Rep. Thompson has withdrawn the amendment at the urging of Speaker Bosma who said:
“I had a number of discussions with Representative Thompson over the last 20 hours and did ask him to withdraw the amendment,” Bosma said. “While I understand his commitment to this issue and the policy behind it, I believe this is an issue that needs to have more thorough vetting, discussed in a committee, the opportunity for the public to comment on it.”
And, he said, “it was very clear that approaching it in this fashion would be a severe distraction from the important business at hand.”
I suspect there will be more opportunity for a thorough vetting, committee discussion, and public comment on an anti-gay rights bill than on a 75 year lease of 140+ miles of a major artery of Indiana transportation.