The Indy Star is reporting that a ruling is expected this afternoon from Judge Scopelitis in the toll road privatization case. The issue primarily before him at the moment is whether to require a case-killing bond that would prevent the challenge from being heard on the merits. The judge’s decision will likely be appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court on an expedited basis.
Not politically consequential, but a nice story all the same. The Evansville Courier Press has an article about the (Evansville) Thump Squad, a drum squad, that had gone to D.C. to compete in the Fifth Annual Afterschool for All Challenge. They competed in that event but had apparently planned an encore in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. They were told they could not play inside because it would be too noisy.
Contacted about the problem during his meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Sen. Lugar found the band a new venue in a park. Lugar then showed up for the performance and took pictures and shook hands. A nice bit of politicking by the Senator.
Our very Jimmy Stewartesque Governor went to Washington to answer a few questions about the Toll Road privatization. Sylvia Smith has the article.
The only exchange of consequence appears to have been:
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., demanded to know why, if operating the Toll Road could produce enough money to pay the state a lump sum and still make a profit, Indiana didnâ€™t do it itself.
â€œI like collecting interest better than paying interest,â€ Daniels said after scolding DeFazio for describing Macquarie-Cintraâ€™s anticipated profit as â€œexcess.â€
â€œItâ€™s not a dirty word in our state, congressman,â€ Daniels said.
DeFazio suggested the lease-holder will raise tolls, something the state could have done to generate more income. â€œYouâ€™re saying thereâ€™s no political will to raise the tolls,â€ he said. â€œAre we outsourcing political will to a private entity?â€
â€œI donâ€™t expect you to understand our state,â€ Daniels said. â€œGovernors of both parties declined to raise tolls by one cent since 1985. You make an assumption about human nature that all future governors will be different than all past governors.â€
Translation: Hoosiers won’t like me if I raise their toll taxes directly. If I do it indirectly, the rubes won’t figure it out until after 2008.
Lesley Stedman Weidenbener has an article on the “debate over debates” in Indiana’s 9th District. Democrat Baron Hill is chiding Republican Mike Sodrel over his current reluctance to debate. Meanwhile, Libertarian Eric Schansberg is chiding Hill over his reluctance to debate him. It’s an interesting dynamic.
Says Weidenbener of Schansberg:
[I]t’s likely that neither Sodrel nor Hill will need additional publicity. The race will undoubtedly receive tremendous attention in the local and national media, and both candidates will have deep pockets to pay for whatever advertising they want.
Schansberg, though, will likely be looking for a little attention.
Sodrel’s chief of staff, Cam Savage, said the Republican wants to attend “multiple debates.” And it’s likely Hill and Schansberg will want the same.
The real question will likely be whether any debates that develop will include Schansberg.
After all, his chance of winning the race is slim to none, but his chance of affecting it is quite large.
In 2004, Sodrel had only about 1,400 more votes than Hill. So even if Schansberg takes just 2 percent or 3 percent or 4 percent of the vote, he could determine the outcome of the race.
Also, Schansberg is a professor, economist, prolific writer and articulate speaker. So it’s possible that he could hurt both of his opponents in a debate or at least stir up some issues that neither really wants to address.
I’ll be interested in Schansberg’s reaction when, presumably, the major candidates decline to include him in the debate. Will he argue that it’s in the best interest of society that all candidates be included in debates? Or will he take what I would regard to be a more libertarian approach of cheerfully agreeing that if it’s not in Hill and Sodrel’s personal best interest to debate him that they ought not agree or be compelled to agree to it?
An editorial in the Evansville Courier Press weighs in on the Knox County deliberations as to whether to re-petition the USDOT for a switch back to Eastern Time. They suggest that Knox County give Central Time a chance before filing a new petition. I like that the Courier Press gave us a refresher course on how the counties were dragged into this mess:
That no-win situation – dark in the evening or dark in the morning – is indicative of the time mess that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels stepped into, and then exacerbated, last year when he took office. As a candidate, he pushed for statewide daylight-saving time and for all of the state to be in one zone; he said he preferred Central.
He got his daylight-saving time, but backed off on the time zone issue, leaving multiple counties to fend for themselves with the federal Department of Transportation. It is an unpopular move that Daniels will still be hearing about two years from now, if he runs for re-election.
The Indiana Law Blog has posted the parties’ briefs in the Toll Road lawsuit currently before Judge Scopelitis.
The Plaintiffs’ brief (challenging HB 1008-2006 and toll road privatization) is here.
The Defendant’s brief (defending HB 1008-2006 and toll road privatization) is here.
I’ve only glanced at the plaintiffs’ brief and have not read the defendant’s brief at all, but I had been under the impression that at the heart of the Plaintiffs’ challenge was the Constitutional question of whether toll road lease/sale proceeds could be applied to something other than public debt. And maybe it is. I could have gotten the wrong impression from my quick read of the brief or the main issues may not be emphasized at this stage of the proceedings simply because the main question right now is whether this is a public lawsuit for which a bond should be posted.
But, it seemed like the brief spent a lot more time discussing whether this was prohibited special legislation or not. Article 4, section 22 – 23 of the Indiana Constitution provides:
Section 22. The General Assembly shall not pass local or special laws:
Providing for the punishment of crimes and misdemeanors;
Regulating the practice in courts of justice;
Providing for changing the venue in civil and criminal cases;
Changing the names of persons;
Providing for laying out, opening, and working on, highways, and for the election or appointment of supervisors;
Vacating roads, town plats, streets, alleys, and public squares;
Summoning and empaneling grand and petit juries, and providing for their compensation;
Regulating county and township business;
Regulating the election of county and township officers and their compensation;
Providing for the assessment and collection of taxes for State, county, township, or road purposes;
Providing for the support of common schools, or the preservation of school funds;
Relating to fees or salaries, except that the laws may be so made as to grade the compensation of officers in proportion to the population and the necessary services required;
Relating to interest on money;
Providing for opening and conducting elections of State, county, or township officers, and designating the places of voting;
Providing for the sale of real estate belonging to minors or other persons laboring under legal disabilities, by executors, administrators, guardians, or trustees.
Section 23. In all the cases enumerated in the preceding section, and in all other cases where a general law can be made applicable, all laws shall be general, and of uniform operation throughout the State.
When I got to Legislative Services back in 1996, the new drafters were cautioned that the courts had recently made disapproving noises about the General Assembly’s routine passage of special legislation under a legal fiction but had not yet decided to put a stop to it. The legal fiction is that the General Assembly is not passing special legislation (legislation that applies only to one part of th estate) but is rather passing legislation that applies to any part of the state that happens to fall within a particular population parameter. It sounds reasonable — big cities have different needs than small towns, for example. However, in practice, the parameters are carefully selected so that they apply to a particular city or town or county or whatever. For example, where HB 1008-2006 states “in a township having a population of more than seventy-five thousand (75,000) and less than ninety-three thousan five hundred (93,500),” that means “Perry Township in Marion County, Indiana.” Those sections of the Code are updated when the new census numbers come out.
In 2003, the Supreme Court struck down an annexation statute that applied only to St. Joseph County on the grounds that it was special legislation South Bend v. Kimsey, 781 N.E.2d 683 (Ind. 2003) susceptible of being general legislation. To justify using special legislation, the Supreme Court held that the justifications for the legislation must be inherent in the population range used and/or unique to the specified locality.
The two primary uses of special legislation in HB 1008-2006 were to prevent implementing a toll road through Perry Township and to allocate specific areas where the pork from the privatization was to go. I haven’t read the Defendant’s brief yet, but it should be interesting to see how they argue that general legislation wasn’t possible or how the pork needed to swing the necessary votes miraculously lines up with the specific needs of the particular localities.
David Mann has an article in Jeffersonville/New Albany News-Tribune.Net on Baron Hill’s debate challenge to Mike Sodrel. Hill wants the debate to focus on energy policy.
Standing in front of the gas pumps outside of Kraft Marathon Service Station in Clarksville, Hill said itâ€™s time for he and Sodrel to hold a debate on energy policy issues. The former congressman criticized Sodrel for calling current gas prices anything less than â€œa crisisâ€ situation.
The Hill campaign has been showing off an interview in which Sodrel told Indianapolisâ€™ WTHR-TV that gas prices may not be an issue in November.
â€œHeâ€™s lost touch in no time flat,â€ Hill told reporters Monday.
But Sodrel defended his statement.
â€œFrankly we donâ€™t know that far out,â€ he said. â€œPrices have gone down in some place by 10 to 15 cents per gallon. I donâ€™t know if weâ€™re going to call it a crisis.â€
Personally, I don’t know if I would call the current gas prices a crisis either. But, if it was fair for President Bush to call the state of Social Security a crisis, I guess our gas prices are a super-duper mega crisis. It is, however, telling that Sodrel is only concerned about what the gas situation will be in November. Apparently, he wants to be able to ignore the issue altogether.
John Hood, writing in National Review Online, takes a look at how the parties stack up at the state level. I was surprised at how evenly balanced the parties are:
Hereâ€™s how the numbers stack up as of this writing. There are 99 legislative chambers (Nebraska as a unicameral and nonpartisan legislature). Of the 98 partisan bodies, Republicans hold 49 and Democrats 47. Two chambers, the Iowa senate and Montana house, are tied. As a whole, Republicans control 20 state legislatures and Democrats 19, with 10 legislatures split between the parties. On the other hand, Democrats enjoy a slight edge in the total number of state lawmakers, at 3,663 to the GOPâ€™s 3,643.
His entry on Indiana reads as follows:
Republicans hold a 33-17 margin in the senate, but only a 52-48 edge in the house. One GOP operative told me that he expects Indianaâ€™s races to be â€œclose and competitiveâ€ and that, for the foreseeable future, â€œthey always will be.â€ Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, former budget director for President Bush, had only a 35 percent approval rating in an April poll. This is one instance where a truly local issue may matter a lot: Danielâ€™s controversial and successful push to put Indiana on daylight-saving time. No kidding.
In case you’re interested in very detailed maps of the various Congressional Districts, the Census Bureau provides some handy wall maps. And might I add, Indiana appears to be gerrymandered to hell and back.