Mary Beth Schneider and Michele McNeil have an article in today’s Indy Star entitled Fall election to loom over Statehouse. It provides an overview of the upcoming session. The major theme, according to the article, is that House seats are up for grabs in November, and legislators will seek to “get right” with the voters by the end of the short session. Part of that, at least for lawmakers in the western part of the state, is to get some political cover with respect to Daylight Saving Time. More substantively is to try to grapple with local property tax increases triggered by the 2005 state budget. Selling off the Toll Road is another idea up for discussion during the short session.
Then there is the usual back and forth about how Democrats in the minority who oppose the Republican agenda are “obstructionists” and “playing politics.” The Democrats counter:
“Pat Bauer will be doing nothing more to become speaker than Brian Bosma will be doing to remain speaker,” he said of Bosma, the Indianapolis Republican who is now Speaker of the House.
. . .
“For those who only think politically, they will be staring down a very dark cannon if they vote to throw away this opportunity,” Daniels said. “I think it would be suicidal for Democrats to try to make this a lock-step obstruction campaign.”
Democrats won’t be obstructionists, said Bauer, the House Democratic leader. They’ll be the “party of constructive amendments.”
Although Bauer said they’ll offer amendments to bills to make Republicans’ ideas better, the minority party — both Democrats and Republicans — has used this power in the past to make their opponents cast sometimes embarrassing votes on controversial issues that they’d rather not touch in an election year.
We’ll have to wait and see whether Gov. Daniels calls the Democrats “car bombers” again.
Niki Kelly also has an article in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette entitled “Long agenda on plate for short session.” That article also makes the point that the 2006 election will color everything that’s done during the session. She engages in a bit of editorializing by stating that Daylight Saving Time is something that would be addressed only if legislators are “really bored.” (Then again, I suppose over there on the eastern frontier, Fort Wayne is pretty much where it wants to be with respect to time zones and DST.)
It has an interesting perspective on the proposal to shift responsibility for child welfare costs from the counties to the state:
House Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, has offered House Bill 1001 â€“ an attempt to have the state take over some child welfare levy costs, which would take them off local homeownersâ€™ bills.
But such a plan costs money â€“ about $225 million this biennium â€“ and Daniels and key Senate Republicans have resisted the idea.
After all, while passing the austere budget last year â€“ and giving schools less than desired funding â€“ lawmakers told Hoosiers that was all the state could afford while trying to get back in the black on the ledger sheet.
Rep. Dave Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, also points out that this particular cut would not be shared equally among taxpayers because rural counties generally have low child welfare levies anyway.
â€œIt does absolutely nothing for my county but helps every big-city Democrat around. It blows my mind,â€ he said.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Whitson writes an article for the Evansville Courier Press entitled “Lawmakers gear up for 2006 session” which is the first of a two part series. Rep. Phil Hoy has an interesting angle on opposing the plan to privatize the Toll Road:
“There are a lot of pitfalls there,” said Rep. Phil Hoy, D-Evansville. He said he’s concerned about the state using eminent domain to take land, then leasing it to a private company to make a profit.
After the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision, there has been a lot of hysteria over the use of eminent domain to benefit private organizations. Politically, I think that’s a good angle for opponents to take even if I don’t think all of the anti-Kelo reaction is warranted.
I do sort of like this idea:
This year, House Speaker Brian Bosma said House Republicans will propose allowing vouchers for children with autism, and they cited an Ohio program that allots $15,000 per student.
My opposition to vouchers is that they will tend to allow private schools to cherry pick the children who are inexpensive to educate and leave the public schools to deal with the kids who cost more to educate. I think, if we’re going to have vouchers, it would be a good idea to make sure the more difficult to educate children are taken care of first and, only if we can make that happen, move on to the general population.
Lesley Stedman Weidenbrenner has an article entitled “General Assembly faces key hurdles: they include taxes, school spending.”