Archive for February, 2006

Bomb threat instruction card

Evidently in response to the recent “white powder” scare at the Statehouse, the Indiana State Police has distributed “Bomb threat instruction cards” to members and staff of the General Assembly (click to enlarge):

bomb threat card

While the cards are probably a good idea, some Members couldn’t help having some fun with them. The “questions to ask” section conjures up an interesting potential phone conversation, and the choices to pick describing a caller’s characteristics almost invite a game of Mad Libs.

Of course, we all really hope the cards never see any use. However, I really have to wonder what kind of threatening caller will be willing to helpfully provide their name and address…

Add comment February 28th, 2006

Only two weeks to go

There are now officially only two weeks left in the 2006 “short” legislative session. The House is working to finish consideration of Senate bills, and we have been making steady progress. Masson’s Blog has a summary of some of the bills that passed the House on third reading yesterday.

One of the bills that passed was SB 247, the bill I discussed in my last post that establishes the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center. On second reading for the bill, the House accepted an amendment I drafted that removed some potentially dangerous language. Essentially, as drafted, the Fusion Center could have begun “collecting individual intelligence” on Indiana citizens.

The Indianapolis Star provided some coverage here:

Rep. Ryan Dvorak, D-South Bend, who successfully amended the bill, said it went too far by allowing the state to collect information that could be shared with private organizations without judicial oversight.

After the amendment passed I was able to sit down with the bill’s sponsors, Senator Tom Wyss (R-Fort Wayne), and Representative Bill Ruppel (R-North Manchester), as well as Eric Dietz, Director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. Together we worked out a way to allow the Fusion Center to share information with other law enforcement agencies, accept public input, and allow warnings to be given to threatened private organizations – all without endangering the privacy of law-abiding citizens.

The result was a third reading amendment that reinstated some of the additional language along with clear definitions and safeguards.

Third reading amendments may be offered just before the bill is up for final passage. They are fairly rare, and require a two-thirds majority for passage. Thanks to the cooperation of all the parties involved – the amendment passed unanimously, and the bill went on to pass overwhelmingly.

News coverage of the legislative session often focuses on the stalemates and conflict that inevitably arise. But much of the behind-the-scenes work is accomplished quietly by Members who are genuinely interested in crafting sound public policy. Most of us get along fairly well, and are able to reach compromises for the sake of good government.

Of course, the last two weeks of session are normally the most contentious. Bills reach their final stages and negotiations can escalate to a fever pitch. I am sure the coming days will be both interesting and intense.

Add comment February 28th, 2006

“Intelligence Fusion Center” amendment

IDHSToday I offered an amendment to SB 247, a bill dealing with various homeland security provisions. The portion of the bill that was problematic was in the section establishing an “Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has encouraged states to establish these centers as clearinghouses for the analysis and sharing of data collected by local law enforcement, first responders, and federal agencies.

SB 247, however deviated from the authorizing language that has passed in other states. Specifically, it allowed the fusion center, at the behest of the Governor, to collect “individual intelligence information” on individuals “reasonably” involved with “possible” criminal or terrorist activity.

Further, any information collected by the center could be shared with any “private organization.”

The problem here is that a fusion center is designed to act as an information clearinghouse – a place that can receive reports from various agencies and help connect the dots in the larger homeland security picture. The center is not supposed to be an active intelligence “collection” agency. Collecting “individual intelligence” could mean searches, surveillance, or wiretaps – it is not very clear.

In order to preserve the functionality of the fusion center as an important part of our homeland security apparatus, but remove any potential for warrantless spying on Indiana citizens I offered the following amendment (link to actual amendment, mark-up of what it does below):

Chapter 10. Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center
Sec. 1. The Indiana intelligence fusion center is established to:
(1) collect;
(2) integrate;
(3) evaluate;
(4) analyze;
(5) disseminate; and
(6) maintain;
intelligence information and other information to support law enforcement agencies, other governmental agencies, and private organizations in detecting, preventing, investigating, and responding to criminal and terrorist activity.
Sec. 2. (a) The department shall operate the Indiana intelligence fusion center under the direction of the governor.
(b) The department shall cooperate with:
(1) the state police department; and
(2) upon direction by the governor, any other agency or organization, including an any agency of local, state, or federal government, or a private organization.
Sec. 3. The Indiana intelligence fusion center may collect individual intelligence information only if:
(1) the individual who is the subject of the individual intelligence information reasonably appears to be involved with or have knowledge of possible terrorist or criminal activity; and
(2) the individual intelligence information is relevant to the terrorist or criminal activity.

This amendment removes the possibility of fusion center employees conducting searches or wiretaps on Hoosiers. That type of intelligence collection should be left to prosecutors and state and federal law enforcement agencies that must follow proper statutory procedures and file detailed affidavits to receive judicial search warrants.

The amendment was approved on second reading by a vote of 49-45. I believe this change helps preserve the intent behind the fusion center concept as prescribed by the federal government, while keeping sensitive information in the government’s possession, and removing the potential for any abuse or violation of our constitutional rights.

9 comments February 21st, 2006

Macquarie on the Toll Road

An interesting source of information on the proposed lease of the Indiana Toll Road can be found on the website for the Macquarie Infrastructure Group (Macquarie and Cintra are the consortium whose bid was selected by the Governor).

Macquarie’s announcement of their selection as “preferred bidder” states:

“The Indiana Toll Road will be an attractive addition to the MIG portfolio of roads businesses. Significantly, it has a long operating history with solid prospects for revenue growth over the 75 year concession. Traffic has grown over 3.9% per annum since opening. In addition, an attractive toll schedule has been set in place until 2010 after which tolls will increase at the greater of 2 per cent, CPI and nominal GDP per capita growth.

“This acquisition will increase the average concession term, internal rate of return and equity risk premium of the MIG portfolio,“ Mr Allen said.

The press release contains a link to a presentation (pdf 1.8 MB) and a conference call (mp3 1.9 MB) that accompanies the slides.

There is some interesting information contained in the document, including specifics on the economic performance of the road. While the Governor continues to claim that the Toll Road “loses money,” Macquarie shows a net profitability of over $60 million a year.

performance

The slides also clearly indicate the projected increase in toll rates – especially increasing after 2010.

tolling

In the conference call, the Toll Road is described as “an attractive asset at an attractive price.” The audio is 30 minutes long, but worth the time if you are interested in the Toll Road proposal.

1 comment February 20th, 2006

Upward Bound students visit the Statehouse

Yesterday I was able to host a great group of high school students from South Bend who were visiting the Statehouse.

upward bound

The freshmen and sophomores represented most of our area high schools, and are participating in the University of Notre Dame Upward Bound program:

The program serves all students who meet the first-generation (no one in the immediate family has gone to college) and low-income student in the South Bend community.

Typically, students enter the program in their freshman year of high school and during their three years with the program they participate in the programs’ academic tutoring program and Summer Residential Program where they take college prep courses and live on Notre Dame’s campus for six weeks.

Students travel to visit colleges across the nation and are provided with the necessary resources and information, both educationally and culturally, to be successful in college.

Notre Dame’s participation in Upward Bound dates back to 1966, and has helped to prepare over 5000 students for enrollment in college.

I was able to introduce the students on the floor of the House, and their program director, Alyssia Coates, was given a few minutes to talk about the program to the assembled House members.

If you have a group that is planning on visiting the Statehouse, feel free to let me know if I can help arrange a tour or provide any information.

Add comment February 17th, 2006

Toll Road lease full of holes

toll roadYesterday, the South Bend Tribune printed a guest column I wrote regarding my concern with provisions in the proposed contract to lease the Indiana Toll Road:

Contract to lease the Indiana Toll Road is full of holes
MICHIANA POINT OF VIEW
STATE REP. RYAN DVORAK

Governor Daniels’ plan to lease the Indiana Toll Road as part of his “Major Moves” road funding proposal has been greeted with a great deal of public concern. Many of my constituents have expressed their disapproval of the idea, and have asked for the details to be explained more clearly.

After dealing with the plan in the Legislature, I also have serious concerns. Now that we have been able to read the Toll Road contract, many potential problems have become obvious.

First, one section of the contract specifically refers to the deal as a “sale.” This designation is necessary for Cintra-Maquarie* to take advantage of tax breaks they will receive as part of the deal. Cintra-Maquarie is the Spanish/Australian financial consortium that has bid to operate the Toll Road. No one knows how much these breaks will cost taxpayers in the end.

Second, the Governor has stated that Cintra-Maquarie will be required to spend $4.4 billion in maintenance over the course of the 75-year contract. That is not true. The contract says that Cintra-Maquarie is responsible for maintenance, but nowhere is the $4.4 billion figure mentioned. In fact, no dollar amount is set forth in the contract.

Third, the Governor has stated that the operator will be held to strict maintenance standards, and even the amount of time in which a dead squirrel must be removed is spelled out. But that is not true either. The contract does spell out criteria for maintenance, but there are no provisions for monitoring maintenance quality, and no penalties for failing to meet the standards.

Fourth, the Governor has stated that he personally put a provision in the contract that would require a 90% “Buy Indiana” guarantee from the operator. But that is also not true. The contract only refers to a 90% Buy Indiana “goal” on the part of the operator. There is no provision for monitoring that goal, and no penalties for non-compliance.

The financial payout from the contract is $3.8 billion dollars. That is unquestionably a huge sum of money. However, it needs to be weighed against the potential revenue the Toll Road could generate over the course of 75 years.

The Governor has already committed to doubling tolls – whether or not the contract is signed. That means the annual income from tolls will be about $160 million.

The contract allows the operator independently to increase tolls even further every year. Assuming a potential annual increase of 5% - which is allowable under the contract – the Toll Road would generate $121 billion over the course of the 75-year deal.

That means we are being asked to sell $121 billion over the long term for $3.8 billion up front.

The problem is, we have no objective way to determine if that is even close to a good deal. Cintra-Maquarie has spent months analyzing their proposal. They have had teams of accountants and actuaries poring over the Toll Road and our financial records. They know that they will be getting a good deal.

Indiana has paid at least $20 million to Goldman Sachs to serve as “advisors” in this process, and millions more to out-of-state law firms. Unfortunately, whatever recommendations or analysis the Governor received is unavailable to the public. It is even unavailable to the legislators who have been asked to vote on the legislation.

The legislation itself is another problem all together. HB 1008 not only allows the Governor broad authority to sell the Toll Road, but also to potentially create new private toll roads all across the state.

The public and the Legislature have only had a few weeks to examine this proposal, and almost no access to any of the financial information.

In Harris County Texas, the local government there is considering a similar privatization plan for their roads. However, that one county alone has set aside a million dollars and six months for a public study of the proposal.

Indiana residents deserve the same level of transparency, and the same financial responsibility.

Most people would agree that raising money for infrastructure improvements is critically important for our state. However, we should also be able to agree that such a long-term, potentially risky program deserves more scrutiny.

* “Cintra-Maquarie” is spelled correctly here - it was misspelled in the Tribune.

3 comments February 16th, 2006

Scare at the Statehouse

Right now the Statehouse is under some sort of quarantine.

The entire building seems to be shut down because of an unknown powder that was mailed to the Speaker’s office and came in contact with an employee there.

The Indianapolis Star now has a small update here.

From what I can gather, people inside the building aren’t being allowed to leave, and those outside aren’t being allowed in.

Update (1:38pm): People are now being allowed back into the Statehouse.

Update (4:45pm): The Star article has been updated as of 3:00pm to reflect that a second envelope with powder was found in the Statehouse mail system, but it had not been delivered. Test results on both envelopes indicated neither contained any hazardous substances. The rest of the day at the Statehouse has proceeded with business as usual.

I was working in Washington, D.C. for former Congressman Tim Roemer at the time of the anthrax attacks there. Speaking from experience, I can say that having your building shut down, sealed off, and entered by troops of men in bubble suits while you are walking out is not a fun experience. For that matter, neither is process of being tested for anthrax exposure - which involves a very long nasal swab and lots of jabbing.

I am very glad that today’s events were not harmful. However it is worth noting that Indianapolis does have a direct link to the anthrax attacks that followed Spetember 11th. This article talks about anthrax spores that were found at the time at the Indianapolis International Airport, and a postal facility in Idianapolis.

2 comments February 15th, 2006

Continuing committee work on Senate bills

Most business in the House this week is taking place in the committees, as bills that have been sent over from the Senate are being considered.

Yesterday, the Environmental Affairs Committee unanimously passed two bills. SB 22 applies pipeline safety laws to hazardous liquids and carbon dioxide fluid, and SB 146 deals with property transfer disclosure forms.

environmental committeeA third bill, SB 234, was held over for a vote at the next committee meeting. The bill deals with several aspects of environmental rulemaking, but it needs a few technical amendments, and Chairman David Wolkins (R – Winona Lake) indicated he would like time to consider more possible amendments for the bill.

Today I will be working in two more committees. The Committee on Courts and Criminal Code has the following bills on the calendar:

    SB 5 – Makes disorderly conduct within 500 feet of a funeral a Class D felony.
    SB 6 – Modifies several sex offense provisions, including lifetime parole and GPS monitoring for some offenders.
    SB 83 – Creates a mandatory D Felony for some classes of resisting law enforcement with a deadly weapon and some motor vehicle offenses resulting in death or injury.
    SB 168 – Allows a county prosecutor to refer some Medicaid related crimes to the Attorney General for prosecution.
    SB 246 – Expands definition of “sexually violent predator” among other issues. (This bill has been carried over from the last committee meeting and will be amended.)

Later in the afternoon, the Committee on Utilities and Energy will be considering these bills:

    SB 69 – Changes governance provisions of rural telephone cooperatives.
    SB 72 – Allows the IURC to meet in executive session in some instances.
    SB 353 – Creates several incentives and deductions for biodiesel and ethanol.

Some of the bills listed above may end up being held over for additional consideration, pending the outcome of committee discussion.

Add comment February 15th, 2006

O’Bannon bust placed outside the Senate

obannon bustA bronze bust of former Governor Frank O’Bannon was officially dedicated today. It was placed in an alcove outside the Senate chamber on the thrid floor of the Statehouse.

O’Bannon, who passed away in 2003 midway through his second term in office, served eighteen years in the Senate, and then presided over the Senate chamber as Lieutenant Governor for eight years. His father Robert served in the Senate for twenty years before Frank.

The Indianapolis Star has a brief biography of the Governor available here.

Add comment February 13th, 2006

Déjà vu all over again

If you get the chance, take a minute to read Governor Daniels’ statement on the acceptance of Cintra-Maquerie’s bid to buy the Indiana Toll Road. Putting aside the substance of his remarks, the Governor’s exuberant tone and use of superlative is interesting:

After closing, we will deposit this astonishing sum, equaling more than a decade of new construction funding at the current level, into a new trust fund, to be invested as fast as legally and humanly possible in the biggest building program in state history. The Hoosier Heartland Corridor, a non-stop US 31, new Ohio River bridges, I-69, the Fort to Port highway, the Gary-Chicago Airport, and hundreds more projects will all change overnight from wishes to certainties. The money will be in the bank. At last, we can stop dreaming and start digging…

Today marks an extraordinary moment in state history. A breakthrough like this may come but once in a public service lifetime…

That speech reminded me of a much earlier period in Indiana history about which I recently read in the book, The Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly¹. The book notes the dawn of a long-past era that began with a similar tone:

In March, 1827, Congress donated land (to Indiana) for a road from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River…

The gift led Governor James Brown Ray to try to inspire the 11th General Assembly with a sense of the momentousness of the opportunity. Ray… estimated the total worth of the land grant at $1.8 million. He told lawmakers in his message to the 1827-1828 session that not for another fifty years, “perhaps never,” would Indiana have such a chance to construct internal improvements on a scale capable of producing “a revenue that shall relieve our fellow citizens from taxation…” Lawmakers, sure to be interested in any scheme with such magical properties as to make taxes obsolete, accepted the grants… and committed to building the road…

According to the history, the General Assembly then helpfully proceeded with “three years of bitter debate,” which, of course, bled over into the political arena:

While no majority could be achieved regarding specifics until 1832, there was near unanimity that internal improvement projects should be undertaken. The mood that gripped citizens and politicians was reflected in a couplet used by the successful candidate for a House seat from Franklin County in 1828:

If internal improvements you’d wish to go on
You’ll be safe in electing old Daniel St. John.

Unfortunately, despite the bold plans and campaign promises, the “improvements mania” era did not end well for Indiana:

…Speaker of the House Samuel Judah delivered the System’s epitaph in 1841: “Here then is the end of our golden dreams. Here the consummation of all those visionary schemes… developed in the Wabash and Erie Canal, expanded in the system of 1836, and… terminated in bankruptcy, dishonor, and disgrace.

Historical perspective can always be helpful when considering the issues of the present day.

The Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly is no longer in print, but my wonderful wife managed to track down a copy for me as a gift. I am not finished reading it yet, but I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Indiana history.

¹Justin E. Walsh, The Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly, 1816-1978 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1987), 28-35.

2 comments February 8th, 2006

More Toll Road talk on TV

steve heimI had the opportunity to appear with my fellow blogger State Representative Steve Heim (R-Culver) on the television show “Politically Speaking” this past Sunday.

The WNIT show is hosted by veteran South Bend Tribune columnist Jack Colwell, who spent all of Sunday’s episode discussing the “Major Moves” transportation plan with us.

Representative Heim and I disagree on the merits of the proposal, but I was glad to have a spirited discussion, and I think we both enjoyed the experience.

heim and dvorak

Meanwhile, the South Bend Tribune continues to weigh in on the controversial proposal:

It is hard to understand state Rep. Jackie Walorski’s explanation for why St. Joseph County was left out of the economic development area created by her amendment to House Bill 1008.

The Lakeville Republican blamed county officials for failing to engage her in discussions about joining an economic development area. County officials countered that there was no development area to discuss until Walorski introduced her amendment…

We continue to believe that authorization to lease the Toll Road should not be passed in this General Assembly session. More time is needed to properly understand this proposal. Walorski, who represents a portion of St. Joseph County in addition to a portion of Elkhart County, first had vowed that she would not vote for HB 1008. She was right to oppose the measure. But then she announced that she had changed her mind. We are sure that a great deal of pressure was applied in order to persuade her to vote for giving the governor authority to lease the Toll Road.

While the exclusion of St. Joseph County from an effort to make the switch more palatable was bad, one thing would be worse: leaving St. Joseph County out of the final version of the Toll Road bill.

Add comment February 7th, 2006

First half of session comes to a close

Thursday night was the deadline for final passage of House bills.

The next step in the legislative process is for Senate bills to be assigned to House committees, and House bills to be assigned to Senate committees.

Each chamber can choose to amend, pass or simply disregard the other chamber’s legislation. Typically, many bills are modified from their original form, and many never receive a hearing in the other chamber. Very few bills will move through the process unchanged.

The bill moving to the Senate with the most financial impact on our state is HB 1008, the authorizing legislation for the Governor’s “Major Moves” plan to sell the Indiana Toll Road, build the new I-69 as a private toll road, and authorization for even more as-yet-unknown privatization projects.

The House floor debate on the measure was said to be one of the longest in decades. However, the four hours spent on Wednesday was not nearly enough time.

As pointed out by the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, not even the bill’s author knows all the potential implications of the proposal:

Borror had trouble answering some of the questions during the debate and at one point had to concede he hadn’t read the entire operator’s contract.

I will provide a more detailed examination of the Toll Road contract and the authorizing legislation in a few days. Until then, you can read the latest news on the issue at www.tollroadforsale.com.

Add comment February 3rd, 2006


Calendar

February 2006
S M T W T F S
« Jan   Mar »
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728  

Posts by Month

Posts by Category