Rep. Miller’s HB 1060 has passed out of committee on an 8-5 vote. It says that local government cannot adopt or enforce a law that prohibits or limits the use of a building product, material, or aesthetic method or imposes a construction standard for a building product, material, or aesthetic method so long as the product, material, or method is otherwise permitted under the state building code. This bill would result in local government having no ability to enforce aesthetic methods, allowing developers to build without adhering to locally-set requirements. Some communities don’t particularly want to live in a place with the cheapest available cookie-cutter construction. These kinds of decisions should be made by people who are locally accountable.
Sen. Young has introduced SB 434 which legalizes the weekly poker game. If you want to play craps with your buddies, however, it’s still a crime. And cheating at either would be a new crime.
The legislation defines “private, low stakes card game” as being one played with physical cards, not open to the public, taking place at a particular residence not more than four times per month, and involving individual wagers that do not exceed twenty dollars. Current law provides that “a person who knowingly or intentionally engages in gambling commits unlawful gambling” which is generally a Class B misdemeanor. (Gambling is defined (partially) as “risking money or other property for gain, contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance, or the operation of a gambling device but does not include participating in bona fide contests of skill, speed, strength, or endurance.”) With the new legislation, it would be a defense to a charge of gambling that the game was a private, low stakes card game.
There are probably any number of criticisms and potential tweaks for this legislation or our public policy approach to gambling generally, but making this defense only available to card games and not, say, dice games jumps out at me as arbitrary.
The bill also defines “cheating” as meaning “to alter the selection of criteria that determine (1) the result of gambling; or (2) the amount or frequency of payment in gambling.” It specifically includes the use of marked cards as cheating. The legislation would create the new crime of “cheating at gambling” which is a Class A misdemeanor. It would not be a defense to the crime that the game was a private, low stakes card game. Which makes some sense — if the game is rigged, it’s basically stealing.
Rep. Stutzman has introduced HB 1088 which forbids the Indiana High School Athletic Association from sanctioning a competition where a person born biologically male competes against an individual or individuals who were born biologically female. It imposes the same prohibition on public school intramural and athletic teams (and the private schools who play them) in grades 6 through 12. (There is an exception for “a person who is born with ‘a disorder of sexual development'” and gets a doctor’s note.) On my first read through, I thought maybe this permitted girls to compete on boys’ teams and against boys, but the more I read it, the more I’m seeing it as just simply restricting entirely competitions involving both boys and girls. The relevant language says:
“[A] person born as a male may not participate in or compete: (1) against an athletic team composed of persons born as females; or (2) in an individual sport against a person born as a female.”
Just filtering this through my own experience, we know a family with a daughter who routinely kicks ass in what is primarily a boy’s wrestling team. This language would say that a person born as a male may not compete against her. Why should she be prevented from wrestling against (and beating) these boys?
I suppose what they’re trying to get at is this fear that some big, athletic dude is going to dishonestly announce that he feels like his true gender is as a girl in order to win athletic competitions. Underpinning this is a belief that being transgender or non-binary isn’t a real thing. That it’s essentially made up. And, because we’re abandoning the tried and true genitalia-based definitions of male and female, we’re opening up loopholes that will be exploited for athletic glory and other nefarious purposes.
To the extent this is a real issue causing consternation in Indiana schools, let those schools try to deal with it. If a guy is declaring himself to be a girl as a sham to win competitions, the school can shut him down. If a biological male is a transgender female, won’t that give her biological advantages over biological females? Maybe. But there is already a wide physical variation within the biological male population and within the biological female population. I don’t know that this is so much different. As far as I can tell, this legislation isn’t so much an effort to address a real problem as it is simply a vehicle for expressing unhappiness that society is increasingly recognizing that gender identity is not perfectly correlated with biological sex.
Senator Buck has introduced SB 75 which requires parties to nominate their United States Senate candidates at state conventions rather than via a primary election. This would be consistent with the manner in which Indiana parties nominate their candidates for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor of state, treasurer of state, and attorney general. Someone asked my thoughts on the matter. Upon reflection, my feelings about this aren’t as strong as I would have guessed. As an abstract matter, I don’t like it. Let the people decide! As a practical matter, I’m not sure it’s a bad thing to have nominees chosen at conventions. Certainly I’ve never felt deprived when my primary ballot didn’t include choices for Auditor and Treasurer of state. And, in my mind, having Richard Mourdock as a choice in the general election rather than Richard Lugar was not a positive development for voters. So, I guess I come down in favor of leaving the system for selecting U.S. Senate nominees as it is; but not by an overwhelming margin.
That said, I don’t agree at all with Sen. Buck’s own rationale for this, which seems to arise out of the notion that the 17th Amendment was a bad idea. “Sen. James Buck of Kokomo presented his plan to the Senate Elections Committee last week. He said a bloated federal bureaucracy grew from the movement toward voters — not state lawmakers — electing U.S. senators before adoption of the 17th Amendment in 1913.” The 17th Amendment provides for direct election of Senators. Prior to that, Senators were selected by state legislatures which led to all manner of corruption and shenanigans, including (without limitation) gun fire in the Indiana State House. (See: The Black Day of the Indiana General Assembly.)
The anti-17th Amendment sentiment is not unique to Senator Buck. It has expressed itself in various ways among Republicans in the last several years. In 2014, Sen. Smith introduced SJR 3 which would have purported to rescind Indiana’s ratification of the 17th Amendment. The argument is generally that, if the people elect the Senators, the Senator doesn’t truly represent the State as a sovereign which, in turn, makes the Senator more likely to go along with infringement of state sovereignty and a corresponding expansion of federal power. I think that argument is mostly specious. The fact that federal power expanded quickly after the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913 is mostly a correlation-does-not-equal-causation situation. Industrialization and revolutions in communications and transportation were happening at the same time, we were in the midst of the Progressive Era, and World War I was on the horizon. All of those things were going to trigger an expansion of federal power no matter how Senators were selected. For my part, I’m on record as having the opinion that the selection of Senators by the General Assembly caused a lot more problems than we’ve experienced from direct election (what follows is from a 2014 blog post):
In 1854, the Indiana Democratic Party was led by a man named Jesse Bright, a man described as “hateful and extraordinarily ambitious.” He rose to power as a bully and apparently remained one thereafter. His pugnaciousness was no small part of the series of events that led to a two year period in which Indiana had only one U.S. Senator instead of the customary two. At the time, the General Assembly was responsible for choosing U.S. Senators. However, in 1854, a backlash rose against passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, an act that permitted slavery in states north of the Mason-Dixon line. Bright, himself a slave owner with holdings in Kentucky, pushed a state party platform that endorsed the Act. This was not popular with all Democrats, but Bright and his machinery punished those who opposed it, driving a wedge in the state Democratic party and giving rise to a confederation of former Whigs, Free Soilers, Know-Nothings, and dissident Democrats who joined into a fusion movement that swept the elections that year. They took control of the House of Representatives, but the Democrats narrowly hung on to the state Senate.
The first order of business for the new General Assembly was selecting a United States Senator. However, rather than permitting the choice of a Fusionist, the Democrats refused to caucus. As a consequence, from 1855-1857, Jesse Bright was Indiana’s lone Senator. In 1862, the United States Senate would go on to expel him from the Senate for acknowledging Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States of America and for facilitating the sale of arms to the Confederacy.
Dysfunction and machine politics were not unique to the Indiana Senate selection process. In 1906, Hoosier native and DePauw graduate, David Graham Phillips wrote a series of articles entitled “The Treason of the Senate” which played no small part in the eventual passage of the Seventeenth Amendment providing for the direct election, as opposed to legislative selection, of United States Senators. As the industrial might of the country grew in the post-Civil War era, those with major business interests came to understand that they could best exert their influence on the U.S. Senate by offering financial incentives to the state legislators who selected its members. Phillips documented some of these abuses, for example the close alignment between the Rockefellers and the political machine of Rhode Island’s Nelson Aldrich. Rhode Island’s legislature and, therefore, its two Senate seats could be had at very little expense.
Following popular anger at the dysfunction and abuse of the legislative selection system, the United States passed the Seventeenth Amendment, removing the selection process from frequently corruptible legislatures and providing for direct election of our Senators.
Now, however, Indiana officials, including state senator James Smith (R-Charlestown) and Indiana’s Attorney General, Gregory Zoeller have advocated repealing the Seventeenth Amendment. Earlier this year, Smith introduced legislation proposing to take the legally dubious step of rescinding Indiana’s ratification of that Amendment. Zoeller recently expressed his distaste for popular election of Senators at a meeting of the Federalist Society. The old way, he contends, was better because it made Senators instruments of the State rather than instruments of the people, thereby enhancing our federalist form of government with the States themselves being represented in Congress.
My high school history teacher told us that “today’s reforms are tomorrow’s corruption.” And our current U.S. Senate certainly is not a model organization. However, trading in today’s abuses for yesterday’s corruption is not the way to go about reform. If the state legislatures are at odds with the popular will, the solution is not to neuter the will of the People. More likely the solution is to change the composition of the legislature.
Yesterday marked 100 years since Prohibition went into effect, one year after the 18th Amendment was ratified by the states. Indiana ratified the amendment on January 14, 1919. As Douglas Wissing recounts in “IN Writing: Uncovering the Unexpected Hoosier State,” former baseball player and evangelist Billy Sunday thundered on the radio from Winona Lake, Indiana:
The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon only be a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corn-cribs. Men will walk upright now; women will smile, and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent.
Indiana had already gone dry as a result of statewide legislation passed in 1917. The Indiana Anti-Saloon League had been active in the state for decades and the “dry” legislation was the subject of a massive organizational push by the IASL. Something like 25,000 supporters apparently descended on Indianapolis in January 1917. 175,000 names showed up on petitions delivered to legislators. The measure passed the House 70-28 and passed the Senate 38-11.
The debate about alcohol had been swinging back and forth in Indiana to some extent since the state’s inception. The battle against alcohol was seen as a battle against immorality, crime, and domestic violence. By the 1840s, some counties were using a “local option” to go dry – Carroll and Cass Counties were the first. In the 1850s, the temperance movement was bolstered by the Know Nothing movement. Drinking was characterized as the habit of foreigners – Germans, Irish, Catholics and the like. Statewide prohibition was passed in 1855. The law was declared unconstitutional in 1858 and, by then, the state had other things on its mind. The slavery issue and the Civil War put the temperance movement on hold (as it put so many things on hold). After the Civil War, the temperance movement seems to have returned to the pre-Know Nothing status quo with Republicans generally supporting “local option” measures and Democrats recognizing drinking as a “social evil” but wanting to confine regulation to a licensing system. Among other things, alcohol was big business in the state: “In 1879 Indiana still had seventy large breweries and a number of distilleries producing liquor from locally grown corn and rye.”
In the late 19th century, temperance would get another big boost with the Progressive Movement. The Progressives were a mixed bag. Their impulse was to use regulatory authority to combat poverty and disease. They helped bring about women’s suffrage, push back against political machines, break trusts, clean up the food and water supply, professionalize academics and government service, and strengthen the labor movement. But, with the Progressives, you also get things like eugenics and prohibition. During this period, the Indiana Anti-Saloon League formed. In the early 1900s, they were successful in obtaining passage of increasingly restrictive liquor laws. More than 2,500 saloons closed in Indiana between 1900 and 1910.
World War I allowed the temperance movement to roll anti-German sentiment and austerity needs into their campaign. We needed grain to feed a war-ravaged Europe. Former governor Frank Hanly was active on the lecture circuit, advocating prohibition. In 1918, he railed against the brewers, saying Hoosier Brewers had “the arrogance of the Hun.” As a result of the 1917 state legislation, Indiana went dry on April 2, 1918. On January 14, 1919, Indiana ratified the Eighteenth Amendment. Nationally, Prohibition took effect on January 16, 1920. And, of course, since then, slums have become a memory; prisons have been turned into factories; men walk upright, women smile, and children laugh. We’re still working out the lease details for Hell.
I joke of course. Enforcement was a problem. Breweries closed down but prisons did not. Jails became clogged with Prohibition violators and organized crime spiked. There was a lot of corruption in Indiana, as elsewhere. As Prohibition wore on, the prohibitionists would make common cause with the Ku Klux Klan who shared their conservative politics and would use the machinery of the old White Cap organization, the Horse Thief Detective Association, to enforce the prohibition laws. That said, it’s a mistake to think that Prohibition was the work of some fringe zealots who caught lightning in a bottle, managing to be at the right place at the right time to pass Prohibition against the will of just about everyone else. It was a long term social movement with a significant base of support. It was only hard experience with the failures of Prohibition that was effective in eroding that support.
Sen. Ruckleshaus has introduced SB 390 which would provide some additional degree of oversight and accountability for charter schools. In the wake of recent events, there certainly seems to be some cause for this sort of initiative. Whether it’s sufficient, I couldn’t say. The bill requires two members of the charter’s board to live within the boundaries of the school district in which the charter is located and requires at least 50% of its meetings to take place within those boundaries. The bill requires an annual audit of all public and private funds by the school and the charter school organizer (notwithstanding the rule that says an entity receiving less than 50% or less than $200k in public money will only be audited with respect to matters relevant to the public money received). A charter school organizer would be considered a public agency for purposes of the Access to Public Records Act.
Additionally, the charter school and charter school organizer would be required to post online a copy of the audit, the school’s most recent enrollment count, and a list of the salaries of each individual employed by the organizer. It also creates an enforcement mechanism whereby the Department of Education can issue findings with respect to waste, fraud, abuse, or misrepresentations made by the school or its organizer along with recommendations to the State Board of Education to penalize the charter or revoke its authorization. The bill also provides for creation of a study committee to study the need for additional charters and potentially a moratorium.
If charters are going to work, they require pretty strict oversight. Massachusetts has had some success by, among other things, prohibiting for-profit Education Management Organizations, allowing only the State Board of Education to authorize schools, and imposing rigorous authorization and re-authorization standards. Indiana’s regime is much looser. This would tighten it up somewhat.
Senator Zay has introduced SB 328 which generally tries to promote the instruction of students in “personal financial responsibility.” It creates a grant fund to pay entities to implement teacher professional development programs to teach them how to conduct financial responsibility instruction. The State Board of Education is directed to create guidelines for the grants which include providing evidence-based training to a teacher who has no background in the area. It also directs the State Board to enter into a contract before September 30 “with an organization that provides a nationally recognized training program for professional development in personal financial responsibility education from early learning through secondary education.” Based on this, I strongly suspect such an organization exists, and I would be a little surprised if that organization is not the moving force behind this legislation. (But it could also just be part of a general “personal responsibility” ethos.) A teacher who completes such training would be eligible for supplemental compensation from a school district.
The Department of Education is given some discretion in determining the content of the training, but the legislation requires that it be effective in teaching “personal financial responsibility, entrepreneurship, and economic systems with an emphasis on free market economic systems.” The legislation is frustratingly vague with respect to what it means by “personal financial responsibility.” This American Prospect article discusses the nationwide popularity of “financial literacy” programs and the sketchy foundations on which they rest. Law professor Lauren Willis has emerged as a leading critic of financial literacy education:
She’s since emerged as a leading critic of financial literacy education, which she says is pushed by large financial interests that fight commonsense reforms to help consumers make safer choices. “We don’t ask consumers to fix their own cars,” she says. “People aren’t dumb, they’re just busy, and we should regulate around those things, with the assumption that there are certain things a consumer can do and other things they can’t, and that it would be silly to ask them to do.”
Willis also notes that there’s nothing about financial education that’s designed to teach students how to challenge the economic system. For example, it does not involve teaching people how to organize unions and collectively bargain for defined-benefit retirement plans—even though we know pensions have helped millions lead more financially secure lives. “Financial literacy education sends the message to people that if they’re in financial trouble, then they must have failed to make the right decisions,” she says. “It’s not designed to say, ‘Hey, society is not organized in a way that gives everyone equal opportunity and we want to teach you the skills to challenge that.’”
(SB 328’s emphasis on entrepreneurship and free market economic systems is a give away as to the preferred bias here.) The cost of such education does not seem to be justified by its benefits. John Lynch, director of the University of Colorado’s Center for Research on Consumer Financial Decision Making: “The cause of financial literacy education is so good, and it sounds so plausible, but to me that’s like saying obesity is a major problem so let’s give billions of dollars to some particular fad diet,” Lynch says. “It’s an utter waste of time to be teaching this stuff, the effect sizes are trivial in magnitude.”
I’ve suggested before, and have not been dissuaded that this would be useful, that the State should come up with a model household budget for various levels of income:
This plays somewhat on an idea I’ve had for awhile – that it would be useful for the State to provide a model budget for its citizens based on various income levels. My initial impulse for this was that a lot of citizens are bad with money, and there are often complaints that poor people have enough to live on, but they’re making poor spending choices (e.g. cable, cell phones, tattoos, cigarettes). Perhaps a model budget would help — one for poverty level, one for median income, and maybe model budgets for other income levels. On the other hand, it would be a little uncomfortable if that model budget for median income revealed that the middle class simply could not afford the things we normally associated with “middle class.”
That’s the type of financial literacy I could get behind. But, if financial literacy education is just going to be a talking point that policymakers use when they’re accused of ignoring structural problems with the economy, then it’s probably not worth the effort. This reminds me of the popularity of the “skills gap” myth. There is a deep desire to regard the economy as a morality play where poverty is evidence of sloth and wealth is evidence of moral probity which allows us to complacently let the rich stay rich and absolves us of any duty to the poor. (But, I’m probably getting ahead of myself here — loading up SB 328 with freight that might well not be intended by Sen. Zay.)
Sen. Spartz has introduced SB 261 entitled “school deregulation” which makes discretionary a number of mandatory training provisions imposed on schools and teachers by the State. In particular:
- 1. Recurrent training on alternatives to restraint and seclusion.
- 2. Bullying prevention training.
- 3. Criminal awareness programs and school employee training.
- 4. Training on child abuse and neglect.
- 5. Suicide awareness and prevention training.
- 6. Human trafficking identification and reporting.
- 7. Seizure recognition and response training.
None of these are bad things. They all seem very valuable. None are frivolous. However, this sort of thing adds up. Schools have only so many resources and teachers have only so many hours in the day. Decisions about education policy are usually best the closer they get to the classroom. This legislation would allow local schools to decide what type of training is necessary, beneficial, and within their means.
Rep. Shackleford has introduced HB 1117 which provides for an award of business damages to lessors in eminent domain cases. If I had to guess, this is a reaction to the case of City of Kokomo v. Estate of Audra Newton. The bill defines a “business owner” as someone who owns and operates a business that was established at least five years prior to the eminent domain action. (It does not necessarily require that the business be in operation at the location that is the subject of the action for that long prior.) It requires the governmental entity exercising the power of eminent domain to notify the business owner. It then gives the business owner six months to submit a claim for business damages along with supporting documentation for the claim. Within four months after that, the person exercising eminent domain has to respond or else the counter-offer will be deemed to be $0. In the condemnation proceedings, the business owner is entitled to prospective and consequential damages sustained as a result of the condemnation. The legislation also expands attorney’s fees. Current law says that if the judgment awarded is better than the last offer by the government, the property owner can get attorney’s fees of up to $25,000. The proposed legislation would mandate a percentage of the benefit received be added as attorney’s fees (e.g. 33% of benefits up to $250,000) plus a discretionary (I think) kicker of additional fees on top of that under traditional fee shifting rules.
In the Newton case, the real estate was owned by Audra Newton who passed away. Her son inherited the property. For many years the parcel (“Main Street parcel”) was used by Kokomo Glass along with an adjacent parcel not being taken by the city (“Union Street parcel”). In December 2016, the City of Kokomo filed a condemnation complaint. The appraisers came back with a $100,000 valuation for portion of the Main Street parcel and $43,000 in damages to the residue (in other words, damage to the property owner for property not taken but not as valuable because of the loss of the portion that was taken). The City deposited the $143,000 with the court and received an order from the court entitling it to take possession. Kokomo Glass was no longer able to operate in that location. The Estate filed an objection to that amount, claiming it wasn’t enough. The City increased its offer to $160,000 before trial, but the Estate still declined and the matter went to a jury. The jury awarded $100,000 for the Main Street parcel and $205,600 for damages to the Union Street parcel. The court also entered judgment for the maximum $25,000 in attorney fees. On appeal:
The City contends that the Estate presented no evidence at trial that it had sustained any damages in excess of the $100,000 in damages for the taking of the Main Street parcel. The City points out that each element of additional damages alleged at trial were damages to Kokomo Glass, which is not only a separate entity from the Estate but is not an owner of either parcel. The City maintains that the only damages it owes to the Estate is $100,000, which is the fair market value of the Main Street parcel. We must agree.
Kokomo Glass was an S Corporation owned by the son who paid rent to the mother and then, after her passing, to the Estate. It was never made part of the litigation. The Court of Appeals observed in a footnote that “The holder of an unexpired leasehold interest in land is entitled to just compensation under the Fifth Amendment, for the value of that interest when the land is taken by eminent domain. Tenants are thus entitled to compensation for an unexpired term of a lease terminated by condemnation.” If I had to guess — and this is only a guess — Kokomo Glass’s leasehold interest was probably fairly short. Year-to-year or month-to-month or something. So, while the glass company would want to argue that, basically, the government should be responsible for disruption to the business for years in the future; the government would be arguing that the company only had a remaining lease term of a few months or whatever — they aren’t required to pay for a speculative renewal of the lease. The “business damages” referenced in HB 1117 arguably go beyond the value of the unexpired portion of a lease.
My objection to this is of a general nature where I feel like it’s an attempt to maximize corporate rights while allowing people to continue using the corporate form to minimize liabilities. If the government is taking the real estate, the business is getting more extensive rights to the real estate that the government has to pay for. But, if a creditor was going after the business for unpaid debts, you can rest assured that the creditor can’t get at the underlying real estate. Totally separate entities. The business only has a few months left on its current lease, you see. Not worth very much at all!
When the map opens the Indiana state house districts are displayed with semi-transparent coloring showing the party affiliation of the person holding the seat (red=R, blue=D). The data for the map is hosted on a GIS server operated by the state. I am *assuming* the data is current.
To change the map so it shows the Indiana state senate districts:
Click the basemap button (Next to the “Menu” button)
Look under the “Overlay” heading (mobile users scroll down)
Click the house layers to turn them off
Click the senate “fill” layer and then the senate “boundary” layer.
Seemed like the kind of thing that might interest readers of this site.