Archive for March 8th, 2006

Conference Committees are underway

In the final week of session, legislators are focused on the conference committee process. Conference committees are comprised of both House and Senate members that meet to resolve differences in bills that have passed both chambers, but in different versions.

For instance, yesterday the conference committee on HB 1010, the eminent domain bill, met to resolve differences between versions of the legislation that passed the House and the Senate. I am one of four conferees that have been appointed to the committee (there are also seven non-voting “advisor” members). All four Conferees must sign the final conference report before it can be sent back to each chamber for final approval.

Below is a picture taken as the meeting adjourned yesterday afternoon.

eminent domain conference committee

In the case of HB 1010, the meeting went smoothly, and few changes were needed to reach a consensus. The report with the amended bill was circulated to the conferees this morning, and once all four signatures have been collected, the bill will be ready for its final vote.

Conference committees can be very contentious at times, but since both chambers and the Governorís office are all controlled by the same party this year, there has not been much conflict or need for compromise. This is because the Majority in each chamber appoints the conference committee members. If a minority party conferee refuses to sign a report, they can simply be replaced with a more cooperative participant by the Speaker of the House or the Senate Majority Leader.

The last day of session is only one week away, so conference committees are busily trying to finish their work. The most interesting conference report will definitely be for HB 1008 - the “Major Moves” legislation. That committee met for the first time yesterday, and has not yet come to any agreement.

5 comments March 8th, 2006

Questions remain unanswered on Toll Road plan

South Bend Tribune columnist Jack Colwell had an excellent piece in this Sundayís paper on the Governorís Major Moves proposal to lease the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years. It was entitled, Any way but the Governorís way is for losers:

The governor has ballyhooed the deal to lease the Toll Road to private investors for seven and a half decades as “the jobs plan of a generation.”

Follow his way or you’re against jobs.

Follow his way or you’re against progress.

Follow his way or you’re against the future.

All of you people who have expressed concerns about the Toll Road deal should be ashamed of yourselves. You must be against jobs, progress and the future.

The governor also has changed that familiar “my way” saying to: “My way or no highway.”

In an Elkhart appearance, he threatened that failure to award the rights to operate the Toll Road to that Spanish-Australian consortium for an up-front $3.85 billion would doom his highway program, and improvement of U.S. 31 would be “the first to go.”

Really? Couldn’t it at least be the second to go?

His way or no highway.

Colwell discusses how the Governor and his supporters dismiss legitimate questions about the plan as mere xenophobia, but still refuse to address the real concerns:

Concern is over who will be paying the huge increases in tolls.

Concern is over whether the big hikes for trucks will hurt development of warehousing and distribution centers along the Toll Rod corridor.

Concern is over whether trucks will seek to avoid the higher tolls by traveling on alternative state roads.

Concern is over where the up-front money will be spent.

Concern is over how the road will be maintained for 75 years. Always by diligent private operators or at some point by Enron-type operators?

Concern is over having no revenue from the Toll Road for 75 years after that initial payment.

Concern is over the future and whether the deal could come to be regarded by future generations as about as one-sided as the sale of Manhattan Island, with this time the seller getting “the beads plan of a generation.”

Concern is over revisionist history, with the Toll Road, such a successful venture, portrayed as a loser. Lease supporters even have spread the misinformation that the bonds for building the road still haven’t been paid off. They were paid off long ago. New bonds were issued to finance tremendous economic developments through additional interchanges and infrastructure improvements.

Perhaps the privatization the governor seeks will turn out to bring everything from Ohio River bridges in the south to an interstate-quality U.S. 31 in the north, with a billion dollars for Indianapolis in between. And jobs, jobs, jobs, with prosperity and progress.

There’s another familiar saying: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Update: TDW has put together a similar analysis here.

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