Posts filed under 'Statehouse'

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

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

Add comment February 3rd, 2006

Hundreds of amendments under consideration

Yesterday was a marathon of second reading amendments in the House. With over 170 amendments on the calendar, the House convened at 10am and, aside from a short lunch break, stayed in session until almost 11pm.

Bills and amendments eligible for consideration are distributed to Members in their mailboxes just off the floor of the House. Below is a picture of a stack of just some of the amendments and bills that were on the calendar for Monday.

amendments in box

The deadline for filing amendments is just two hours before session convenes. So many amendments were being distributed after session had begun. This is one of the problems with the compressed schedule of the “short” session. Digesting all of the provisions in the amendments is a time consuming task, and the individual caucuses usually must recess for up to several hours just to be able to go over all of the provisions before we vote on them.

pizzaAround 7pm, we were able to take a twenty minute dinner break to line up for pizza that was brought in and stacked along the back of the chamber.

The calendar for today is at least as long as yesterday’s, and the Speaker has said we will move on to bills eligible for third reading (final passage) if we finish all of the amendments. So another late night is likely.

One of the most important provisions under consideration will be HB 1008, the Governor’s “Major Moves” plan (which I have discussed earlier here and here). Almost 40 amendments have already been filed for that bill alone. One of those is a controversial amendment that seeks to establish a “Regional Development Authority” in northern Indiana that would exclude St. Joseph County:

“My hope was when I read it, there was a misprint. I really couldn’t believe one could be proposed without St. Joseph County being part of it,” said Mark Egan of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce.

You can watch or listen to the Legislature over the internet while we are in session here.

3 comments January 31st, 2006

Long hours as deadlines loom

The extremely high volume of work during session – especially as we approach deadlines in the House calendar - results in Members spending long hours in close quarters with colleagues.

On Wednesday, committees met to consider bills until around 5:00pm. After that, the caucuses met to go over amendments, and then the House went into session - staying there until midnight.

Below is a picture of Members at their desks eating the box lunches that were ordered in so we would not have to break for dinner.

box dinner

Some of the important bills that were amended on second reading were HB1001 (dealing with many different tax and assessment matters), HB 1010 (eminent domain), and HB1279 (telecommunications).

We also debated and voted on the committee report to HB1008 – the “Major Moves” road privatization bill. The committee report passed by a vote of 50-46, but that was only a preliminary vote. It now moves on to the second reading calendar where it is open to amendment.

The House Democratic caucus also presented an alternative plan to fund highway projects that would raise money without selling off our state assets to foreign investors.

The calendar for Thursday, January 26th is available here.

4 comments January 26th, 2006

Political partisanship can make you irrational

donkey elephantRepresentative Steve Heim (R-Culver) has posted a link to an article that Representative Win Moses (D-Fort Wayne) handed out to everyone on the House floor today.

The article, entitled, “A Shocker: Partisan Thought Is Unconscious,” starts off by stating:

Liberals and conservatives can become equally bug-eyed and irrational when talking politics, especially when they are on the defensive.

Self-identified politically partisan test subjects at Emory University were presented with contradictory statements from candidates they supported and candidates they opposed. MRI brain scans taken of the subjects showed that their evaluations of the statements did not rely on “cold reasoning,” but rather on the centers of the brain associated with emotion, forgiveness, relief, and reward.

It is possible to override these biases, Dr. Westen said, “but you have to engage in ruthless self reflection, to say, ‘All right, I know what I want to believe, but I have to be honest.’ ”

He added, “It speaks to the character of the discourse that this quality is rarely talked about in politics.”

I was glad Representative Moses took the time to pass the article around today, and I am glad Representative Heim reminded me of it.

Add comment January 24th, 2006

State of the State 2006

Last night Governor Mitch Daniels delivered his second State of the State address to the General Assembly.

The text of the Governor’s remarks can be found here, and additional coverage of the speech can be found at:

- Cigarette Tax Increase Part of Daniels’ Agenda (South Bend Tribune)
- Cigarette Tax Hike Proposed by Daniels (Indianapolis Star)
- Cigarettes and Schools Top Agenda (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette)
- Lots of Promises, But Where are the Details? (House Minority Leader Bauer)
- Tax Increase, Tax Increase, Tax Increase (Taking Down Words)
- Running for Governor (Indiana Parley)
- Paying Off the Credit Card (Representative Steve Heim)

Here are some of the moments I captured while attending the State of the State address:

Earlier during the day, the House chamber is shut down to set up broadcasting equipment, run extra wiring, and to give the Governor a chance to practice with the TelePrompTers at the rostrum.

Shortly before the scheduled start time, the Speaker of the House takes his place to introduce the various dignitaries in attendance.

Representative Terri Austin (D – Anderson) applauds guests in the balcony.

The Governor makes his entrance flanked by an “honor guard” of escorts comprised of House and Senate members.

He works his way up the center aisle of the House chamber, shaking hands along the way.

After the speech, members of the General Assembly begin their after-speech chats with the media. Here, the Governor chats with lawmakers while Representative Russ Stilwell (D – Boonville) smiles for the camera.

1 comment January 12th, 2006

The end of the first week

The second day of the new session was about as uneventful as the first day. Bills are still being filed and distributed, and the list will continue to grow. The first week is now behind us, but the pace will quicken as Committees begin to meet and the Senate convenes next week.

I have been working with coauthors of my legislation and talking with committee chairs about ways to approach the upcoming schedule.

The Judiciary Committee did meet this morning. I am not a member of that committee, but it appears they passed a recodification of Title 21, and a technical corrections bill.

burtonCongressman Dan Burton (R – IN05) stopped by the chamber for a vist today and spoke to us briefly from the Speaker’s rostrum. Congressman Burton’s brother is State Representative Woody Burton (R-Greenwood).

As always, feel free to let me know if there is anything I can do to be of assistance during the session.

Add comment January 5th, 2006

Opening day

The first day of session was short on official business. Many bills have not yet been filed, and committees are scheduling their first meetings. Most members are working on all the preliminary work that needs to be done – such as finding co-sponsors for legislation and asking committee chairs to hear their bills.

The only minor excitement was the pre-session prayer circle/media extravaganza that formed behind my desk on the floor of the House. Representative Peggy Welch (D-Bloomington) and Representative Eric Turner (R-Marion) led a prayer in the back of the chamber before session began. As reported in the Indianapolis Star:

…led by Reps. Peggy Welsh and Eric Turner, the small group of lawmakers huddled as Welch prayed in the name of “Great I Am” while Turner prayed in the name of Jesus.

The session then opened with a speech from House Speaker Brian Bosma, who indicated this would be the practice for the days ahead.

A judge’s ruling barred the Indiana House of Representatives from invoking the name Jesus in official prayers.

I was able to explain to a few confused reporters what “I Am” means – so in spite of another reporter’s jibes, Catholics, in fact, do know their Bible.

1 comment January 4th, 2006

The start of a new session and HB 1104

gavelThe House of Representatives convenes tomorrow for the start of the second regular session of the 114th Indiana General Assembly.

Two new members will be sworn in at 11am. Carlene Bottorff will be replacing her late husband, Jim Bottorff, and Dennis Tyler will be replacing the late Tiny Adams. Jim and Tiny passed away last month and will be greatly missed.

The first bill I have filed for the session is HB 1104 (not yet online, but initial draft is available here). The bill would remove from office any elected official who is more than $15,000 behind in child support payments.

Under current law, office-holders can be removed from office as a result of impeachment, felony conviction, various federal offenses (including draft-dodging and sedition), and even for “voluntary intoxication.”

Parents who fail to pay child support in other professions already face the potential penalties of losing their professional licenses, and even their driving licenses. Our elected representatives in government should face the same harsh results.

Elected officials who have failed to meet their obligations to their children have betrayed the public trust and have not lived up to their moral and legal duties. It is inappropriate for such individuals to be entrusted with taxpayer funds and the administration of laws.

The official press release on the legislation is available here.

I have four more bills that will be filed in the coming days, and I will post more about them when they are ready. I look forward to covering developments in the General Assembly this year, and welcome any feedback, comments, or questions.

3 comments January 3rd, 2006

Bill filing and the legislative calendar

legislationThis weekend was the final deadline for House members to submit bills to the Legislative Services Agency (LSA) for drafting.

According to the Rules of the House (pdf), no bills (except budget bills) may be filed until they have been submitted to LSA for the purpose of checking for correct form, subject matter, etc. Once the bills are in official draft form, they can be filed with the Clerk of the House and then must be assigned by the Speaker to a committee within ten days.

The final deadline for filing bills in the House is January 10, 2005, and House Rule 109.2 limits the number of bills filed in the second regular session (the so-called “short” session) to just five per member.

Because the drafting deadline has now passed, the listing of House bills should soon start filling out.

I have submitted my drafts and they are currently being prepared for filing. As they become available, I will make updates here about each of them.

The “short” session can be difficult because all legislative work is compressed into an incredibly tight timeframe. For example, according to this year’s preliminary legislative calendar (pdf), the last day for assigning bills to House committees is January 20th, and the final day for third reading (final passage) in the House is February 2nd. That leaves only two or three weeks for all bills to be heard by committee, amended and passed in one chamber.

Hoosiers deserve a more thoughtful and deliberative process than that. We can keep a part-time citizen Legislature, and still give adequate consideration to new legislation and provide oversight of the Executive branch agencies (which is now effectively non-existent).

It might make more sense to allow committees to meet at any time throughout the year to take testimony, and allow bills to be filed year-round. The Legislature could then spend far more time hearing public input and crafting compromise legislation.

The current summer study committee structure is helpful, but most of the members are not elected representatives. The work and policy recommendations they generate can be overlooked because not enough legislators (who actually write the legislation) are involved in the process.

The General Assembly is comprised of dedicated and conscientious public servants that I am proud to serve with. However, spending time ironing out difficult points of law takes time, and the compressed nature of the legislative session does a disservice to the citizens of Indiana. Hopefully, we can make changes in the future to strengthen and improve the branch of government that is the most direct representative of the people.

4 comments December 13th, 2005

State Representative R. “Tiny” Adams

tinyIn what has been a very difficult week for the Indiana Legislature, the House of Representatives has lost another member.

Representative Tiny Adams was another friend of mine. He was an excellent public servant, and a class act who always put his constituents first. He cared deeply for his community, and was a stalwart advocate for working men and women.

I will miss him sitting with me in the back row during caucus meetings, I will miss his passion for the people of Indiana, and I will miss his laugh.

1 comment December 8th, 2005

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