A Republican caucus selected Rep. Jim Buck to fill the vacancy left by Jeff Drozda’s departure from the Indiana Senate. This seems like an improvement. Sen. Drozda’s social conservative inclinations were a bit strong for my tastes. I’m sure Rep. Buck doesn’t share my views on those issues either, but at the least he always seemed like a decent guy when I had occasion to do work for him back in the mid-90s.
The limits of public discourse
What are the limits on a representative’s duty to speak with a member of the public? How far does the right of the citizen go to question representatives? I don’t know, but there is an article in the Muncie Star Press about a situation that’s probably in the grey area.
Rep. Dennis Tyler (D-Muncie) was out and about and was confronted by Chris Hiatt, a tax repeal activist who was also out and about. Hiatt apparently took exception to something Tyler had said at a candidate forum about Conrad Urban’s candidacy for Delaware county treasurer. Tyler and Hiatt exchanged words, a video camera shows some finger pointing by Tyler; then Tyler attempts to walk away. Hiatt follows him and continues talking. Video shows more talking and finger pointing. Hiatt is claiming that Tyler used some naughty language and that he was waiting for Tyler to “take a swing” at him. Tyler acknowledges that a verbal confrontation took place but denies making any threats against Hiatt.
“That’s just not true,” Tyler said. “Hell, I’m 65 years old. I haven’t been in a fight in 30 years and I’m not looking for any.”
Elected officials have a duty to provide information to citizens and to respond to their concerns, but I’m not sure that extends to a duty to stand around and listen to a citizen’s abuse. An elected official probably has the right to walk away, and the citizen probably has a duty to let him. Just like in any other situation, if a guy tries to walk away and you don’t let him and violence subsequently erupts, you’re going to bear a substantial portion of the blame.
And what the hell is going on in Delaware County? Seems like violence or threats of violence are frequently part of the political equation.
Weinzapfel endorses Obama
To the extent endorsements matter one way or another, this is a good one for Obama. Jonathan Weinzapfel, mayor of Evansville, endorsed Obama. Weinzapfel is a popular mayor, he is considered a real up-and-comer in terms of Indiana Democrats, and Obama is probably weakest in southern Indiana.
Toll Road Privatization Money Dries Up
Well, that didn’t take long. Curt Slyder, writing for the Journal & Courier, has an article entitled “Area’s Major Moves funding dries up“. After getting money from the Major Moves statewide fund in 2006 and 2007, as did all counties, to help with road paving expenses, Tippecanoe County will not be getting money from the fund in 2008.
The article doesn’t indicate whether termination of the Major Moves money was planned after two years or whether it was a matter of the money running low unexpectedly. Either way it seems like poor planning for the money by the State. The Toll Road was
sold leased for 75 years. Seems to me that the State’s allocation of the money should have had similarly long time horizons.
State House Prayer
Rumor has it that the ACLU of Indiana has decided it cannot devote resources to pursuing a Supreme Court review of the State House prayer case. As folks here might remember, Speaker Bosma oversaw some pretty strongly sectarian prayer as the official business of the Indiana House of Representatives. That practice was challenged in court. The District Court judge ruled that kind of sectarian prayer was inappropriate for government speech. (And let’s be clear – the speech was government speech, not individual speech. Different rules apply. Individuals were as free as ever to pray. It was simply harder for particular religious groups to mark their territory at the Indiana General Assembly). On review, the 7th Circuit did not reach the merits of whether the prayer was appropriate as government speech. Rather, it blazed a new trail in the obscure jurisprudence of “standing” and decided that the Plaintiffs were not proper parties to bring the case.
Apparently the thinking is that the chances of the Supreme Court taking the case is slim, and, if they did take the case, the chances for making the law worse are non-trivial.
I certainly appreciate the work of people like Mr. Hinrichs who was the lead plaintiff on the case (and the other plaintiffs as well — I just don’t remember their names off hand). I also appreciate the work of Ken Falk and the folks at the ACLU of Indiana. (And I say this as one currently involved in litigation with Mr. Falk on the other side.) These are the folks who throw a little salt down on the slippery slope so, even if we slide, perhaps we don’t slide so far away from our civil liberties. And they do it with not a great deal of financial reward.
Ballard: Income Tax Hike Not So Bad After All
I’ll admit to not following Indianapolis’s mayoral race too closely. But, my impression was that one of the main reasons for picking Ballard over Peterson was because of Peterson’s push to increase the county option income tax. Turns out, Ballard doesn’t think that tax hike was so bad. Because, he’s going to keep it and isn’t going to try to repeal it. Except maybe “sometime down the road.”
Disillusionment among Ballard supporters sets in.
Daniels fighting for his political life
Via the Indy Star: 50% disapprove of Daniels’ work. His approval rating is 40%.
35% of Hoosiers think Indiana is headed in the right direction; 57% think it’s headed in the wrong direction.
Rising property taxes, their personal finances, the lease of the Indiana Toll Road and the state’s switch to daylight saving time all contributed to Daniels’ disapproval rate, the poll of 600 Hoosiers found.
Holy Melodrama, Batman!
The Hoosiers for Fair Taxation (so called) have announced a funeral march for the General Assembly’s “Organization Day.”
Per their press release, if a politician believes that property taxes are an acceptable part of the tax mix needed to fund government, that politician is not obeying the Rule of Law, is against cutting waste and inefficiency in government.
Citizen activists plan to send a clear message to the General Assembly on Organization Day that property tax repeal is the only acceptable fix to the tax crisis. Decades of legislator apathy, government waste, inefficiency, without regard for the welfare and security of Indiana’s citizens, are not acceptable employment terms for our politicians.
The funeral march symbolizes the political careers which shall come to an untimely end in 2008 should politicians not obey the Rule of Law, slash waste, eliminate inefficiency, and advance the process to permanently abolish property tax.
(Emphasis added) — Got that? Abolishing property taxes is the only legitimate solution. And, if you believe there is room to debate less radical approaches to funding government, you are against the Rule of Law, you are pro-government waste, you are pro-government inefficiency, and your legislative career deserves a funeral. Don’t you see? The logic is inescapable.
Frankly, I’d be a little skeptical of voting for any politician that aligns itself with such an addled, inflexible lobbying group.
Orentlicher proposes higher income and sales taxes, lower property taxes
Mary Beth Schneider has an article entitled Latest tax plan promises deeper cuts which discusses Rep. David Orentlicher’s plan to raise income and sales taxes higher than some other plans in order to further reduce property taxes.
This got me thinking about whether in addition to shifts between businesses and residential property owners whether these proposals might result in regional shifts. I don’t know the system well enough to know how things are collected and then distributed. It’s pretty clear where property is located and, therefore, where the tax revenue for the property should be distributed. Income and sales taxes may be less clear. For example, if an individual owned a lot of property in counties other than where the individual resides, the property taxes go down, and the income taxes go up, would that then result in a shift in revenue from the counties where the individual owned property to the counties where the individual resides? Same issue with sales taxes if the person travels away from the county where he or she owns property to do his or her shopping?
Also – and I fully admit that this might merely be the natural suspicion the rest of the State has toward Indianapolis and Marion County – I can’t help but feeling like these plans will some how result in the good folks of Tippecanoe County (and elsewhere) subsidizing mismanagement and procrastination in Marion County. I know that the property tax increases in Tippecanoe County have not been anywhere near as severe as those in Marion County. And, in fact, for whatever reason, my residential property taxes went *down*. Nevertheless, Tippecanoe County will face as much of an increase in sales and income taxes as the citizens of Marion County.
In any event, I suspect that Orentlicher’s plan makes sense for Orentlicher’s constituents. Hopefully representatives from other areas of the State will be vigilant in making sure that whatever plan is finally adopted makes sense for their constituents as well.
Evansville Courier Press on Legislative Prayer
The Evansville Courier Press had an editorial on legislative prayer. Let’s take a look:
The serial drama of prayer â€” sectarian or not â€” at the Indiana Legislature continues its run through the courts.
It was sectarian. Non-sectarian prayer isn’t and hasn’t been a problem.
To review: All heck broke loose in April 2005 when a minister invited to the Indiana House to give the daily opening prayer crossed the line that some believe separates church and state.
Some, like the Founders and the Supreme Court.
Before it was over, the minister, from the House speaker’s podium, was leading legislators and others in standing, clapping and singing “Just a Little Talk With Jesus.” It prompted some legislators to leave the session.
Good. This kind of revival-style Christian prayer is not appropriate as official business of the Indiana House of Representatives. Instead of announcing to the chamber that the minister would be leading a nice little song, Speaker Bosma should have asked the minister for something a little more ecumenical.
As a result of the controversy started from this event, a group of taxpayers sued to prohibit sectarian prayers from the speaker’s podium.
It was successful.
Federal Judge David Hamilton agreed with them, telling the House it could not open its sessions from the speaker’s podium with prayers that endorse any particular religion.
Again, non-sectarian prayer was fine. Always has been, always will be.
The story continues.
Last month, a federal appeals court dismissed the suit, saying the taxpayers who originally challenged sectarian prayers did not have legal standing to bring the suit.
And now, reports The Associated Press, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has asked the federal appeals court to reconsider this latest decision.
And the beat goes on.
We have a suggestion. We understand that the Legislature is going to be busy with the big property tax issue, beginning in November when it gets organized for the coming session in January.
But why don’t Republican and Democratic leaders or their representatives take just a little time and try to talk this out.
See if there isn’t common ground where they could agree on what does and what does not constitute an acceptable prayer to open legislative session.
This wasn’t such a big issue until that day in April 2005 when lawmakers were brought to their feet with that rousing hymn.
Go back to before that day and find out what worked.
Few Hoosiers would object to a thoughtful prayer that is inclusive to all, and does not cross any lines, constitutional or otherwise.
Work it out, and end the court case.
Right, non-sectarian prayer is fine. Always has been, always will be. Sectarian prayer that isn’t part of the House’s official business is also A-OK. But, when a particular religious sect attempts to mark the House of Representatives as its territory, we have a problem. But this isn’t a matter of House Republicans and House Democrats working it out. Both Republican leadership and Democratic leadership feign ignorance of what was wrong with the sectarian prayer. This is a dispute between citizens of differing faiths and their Representatives, not between Republicans and Democrats.
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