Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Garton Begins Deception Game On Health Care Perk

Oh, what a web we weave when at first we practice to deceive. Senate President Pro Tem Garton, while being grilled by reporters today, feigned any involvement in writing the generous health insurance for life benefit for retired lawmakers according to the Howey Political Report. HPR writes:

Garton said he did not instigate or write the luxurious perk. “The vote on the law that had been sent to us by the House, there were three votes against it,” Garton explained. “The Senate amended it and sent it back to the House. They didn't like our amendments because we designated who would be the employer. I believe there were 10 House votes against it."

HPR’s reporting indicates that former House Speaker John Gregg and Garton, along with former Rep. Mike Smith, were the prime movers behind the original legislation granting the legislative perk. Also, as the Indiana Law Blog has reported at length, the perk came about as a culmination of several bills and not just one as Garton suggested. When reporters asked Garton about this discrepancy, he conceded:

"There were a couple of bills that were involved." Long said that one was vetoed by then Gov. Frank O'Bannon. "That was a funding source for the program itself and there was misunderstanding and confusion through the conference committee report and the governor vetoed it for whatever reason and the Senate sustained the governor's veto," Garton said.

HPR and other news media sources have reported that the legislative maneuvers were handled in a very secretive manner without public input. HPR reports that no State House reporters have a recollection of any public hearings, but Sen. Garton contested that point:

Garton responded, "Absolutely wrong. Flat false. The Rules Committee I chaired,
we had a full hearing. We must have had an hour, hour and a half, two hour hearing. I can't remember. We had a full hearing on it."

Garton’s disingenuousness didn’t end there. When asked why he helped pass a plan that insured even ex-spouses of lawmakers, HPR reports that Garton said, “I was not involved with the drafting. You’ll have to ask the sponsors.” Who were the sponsors Garton was asked? He responded, “Rep. Mike Smith [who is no longer in the legislature], Rep. Craig Fry [Garton’s co-worker at Ivy Tech], by golly . . . That’s five years ago.”

So what does the Senate plan to do about the legislative perk House Speaker Brian Bosma says he will take away from former lawmakers prospectively? Senate Majority Leader David Long (R-Ft. Wayne) responded:

We're going to look at an answer based on changing times and the fact that we feel, just like the House leadership does that we need to review this plan and make some modifications. Whether we have the exact same solution of the House, we probably won't. We're working with the Senate Democrats here. We'll have that imminently, maybe in the next few weeks. We were working with older legislators when they left. That was a concern for senior members of the delegation. I think that changed and we're reviewing this to put something together that matches modern times. Changes will be made.

When HPR asked Sen. Long if it “wouldn’t be prudent on your part to get the entire record out as to how this whole thing occurred?”, Long said: “What I’m trying to focus on is to modernize the plan and make the changes. That is definitely going to happen.”

Of course they’re not going to reveal the entire record. Everyone in the know is well aware that Sen. Garton helped hatch this ill-conceived, self-serving perk for lawmakers. For him first to refuse to take any action to eliminate the perk once it became apparent that it was going to impose a huge ongoing liability on the state’s taxpayers, and then to pretend that he had nothing to with the enactment when he alone decides what legislation is considered in the Senate as he has done for the past three decades, demonstrates just how out of touch and unresponsive he has become. His arrogance is only outdone by his deception.

It is time for Sen. Garton to go. Would someone please show him the door?


Lori said...

I would really like to know who voted against it also. They should be recognized and applauded.

Advance Indiana said...

I'm sure we will be hearing more about that soon enough. Those roll call votes are more than likely to surface in this election year--or at least that's what many incumbent members fear.

Anonymous said...

Since Pat Bauer was equally involved, I'll await your scathing critcism of him as well...

Advance Indiana said...

We're not letting anyone off the hook. As soon as I get the roll call votes, I will post them on this site. Pat Bauer was not the Speaker at the time; it was John Gregg. That's why we haven't focused on him. He's in the minority now and cannot act administratively. But he certainly needs to be held accountable to the extent he did nothing to end the benefit while he was Speaker.