Sunday, September 17, 2006

Feigenbaum Update On Senate President Pro Tem Race

The Indiana Legislative Insight's Ed Feigenbaum has some inside poop on the Senate Republican race to succeed Robert Garton as Senate President Pro Tempore. The word from Feigenbaum: "Steele yourself for what will be a Long Weatherwax run." That's Feigenbaum's way of saying Bedford's Brent Steele is out of contention, and the race will be fought between Fort Wayne's David Long and Logansport's Tom Weatherwax. That may come as a surprise to many who thought the more ideologically conservative senators would coalesce behind Steele. Feigenbaum explains:

While Sen Steele initially offered himself as an alternative to the status quo as the Senate has come to know it over the past generation, some 23-25 GOP senators by one key senator's internal count favor principles of continuity, comity, stability, and moderation in a new leader. Responsibility and predictability--especially in terms of following the time-honored Senate rules--seem to be favored by many. Caucus unity needs to be an important component of the new regime, we're told, and one senator says that the "we go as a team" precept is important to the operations of the Senate. At least one senator also suggests to us that seniority should be respected.

All of this matters because, as another veteran senator tells us, while Sen. Steele is respected and liked by his colleagues, his brief tenure in the chamber and sometimes off-the-wall promises for reform simply "don't sit well" with many who have a full term or more under their respective belts."

Feigenbaum does not mention in his analysis that Steele is also a trial lawyer who sides more with the plaintiff's bar than the business community on tort-related matters. The Indiana Manufacturers Association and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce hold sway over many Senate Republicans and would be fearful that he might seek to bring Indiana's anti-plaintiff tort laws in line with the rest of the country. Sen. Garton used to occasionally flirt with pro-plaintiff legislation because of his close friendship to a lobbyist for the trial lawyers, which did not sit well with the pro-business lobby.

Feigenbaum provides this interesting tidbit about the Senate's resident, Christian right hypocrites, Brent Waltz and Jeff Drozda. A promise of a key leadership position for one of them has caused the two to throw their support for Weatherwax. I guess that leaves me hoping that Long comes out on top. You may recall that I predicted Long would be the likely choice to replace Garton months ago.


Anonymous said...

Doesn't the President Pro Tempore automatically get a job at Ivy Tech? That's a nice perk.

Oh yeah...and you get to charge people nice money to give speeches, too...cause your profession can change to
"motivational speaker"

Anonymous said...

No, I thought the automatic Ivy Tech post went to the House Minority Leader.

Any hope that this shameful hiring of legislators will be ended now that Gerald Lamkin is on his way out the door?

Anonymous said...

Garton had a no-show job long, long before Bauer did. It started as a motovational speaking job. Seriously. Bauer taught school before Ivy, and teaches there now, I think.

And I could be wrong, but I don't think Garton even has a college degree. So he was basically teaching life skills or some such nonsense.

Whenever Common Cause or someone raises this shameful job issue with the legislature, they always respond with the limp "But a citizen legislature has to work" defense.

The legislature polices lobbyists itself, and allows this kind of job to go on without any shame whatsoever.

America's Worst State Legislature.

Chris Douglas said...

In my opinion, the primary answer to the problem is increasing pay and benefits to legislators.... The legislature is a full time job (practically) masquerading as part time... Only people who are hired by companies or organizations with business before the legislature, or the independently wealthy, can afford to serve without deep, often impossible, sacrifice. Eliminating no-show or highly conflicted jobs is not inappropriate... that will result mainly in the independently wealthy as the only ones able to wield power in this state... which doesn't solve the problem.

Pay and benefits that enable average citizens to serve... that is the answer to the problem of legislative representation and quality.... With regard to legislative pay and benefits, we are penny-wise and pound-foolish....

Chris Douglas said...

And, by the way, it is the conflicted and independently wealthy legislators who are able to grandstand with "I won't accept a pay-raise or benefits" demogoguery.... knowing that it reduces the competition for their seats... They are preserving barriers to office that protect their own power.

Anonymous said...

Two sayings come to mind:

You get what you pay for.

The best legislature money can buy.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Chris. Amen. They feign indignation at raising pay, knowing their own nests are being simaltaneously feathered.

Nowhere else could someone like Pat Bauer rise to leadership.

Or, for that matter, Bob Garton. Nice man, and all that, but look at his resume. One of the most-powerful men in Indiana government for over two decades. And his resume is embarrassing.

He presided over a Senate that was basically allowed to draw its own maps (just like the House) to preserve its authority ad naseum. And to continue into perpetuity the lamebrain oversight functions by industry insiders: i.e., Sen. Harrison overseeing manufacturing (he is a manufacturer) and former Sen. Miller overseeing nursing home lesiglation (he owns several homes).

Harrison Ullman was right.

Chris Douglas said...

Anon 9:27, I have a hard time referring to anyone's resume as embarrassing. It seems to me his resume reflects someone who put a priority on public service, in his case a former marine, if I'm not mistaken. My sense of Garton is that in a system lending itself to corruption and conflict of interest, he remained fairly uncorrupted.

I also think he took a political bullet when he tried to improve benefits, which in my opinion was a measure the impact of which was to make legislative service more possible for average citizens.

I'm no admirer of Bauer, but when Bauer defends those benefits against Bosma's "we don't need them", anyone who is interested in a quality legislature should get behind Bauer.

I think the Star's well-intentioned editorial board generally misunderstood the dynamics of the benefit issue, and whipped up popular sentiment on an issue that the population did not understand.

There were ironies in that debate... including the fact that those pressing against public anger to increase benefits were the ones that had the sounder eye on the long term public good that a wider pool of legislative candidates would produce. On the other hand, the ones who "selflessly" declined to support those unpopular benefits were the ones who were most in service to their own needs, maintaining a nice barrier to the entry of average citizens who might otherwise be more able to run for office against the incumbents.

Advance Indiana said...

Let's move on from Garton. Chris, are you encouraged by Feigenbaum's analysis that most Senate Rs are looking for "moderation" in their new leader?

RiShawn Biddle said...

I think the Star's well-intentioned editorial board generally misunderstood the dynamics of the benefit issue, and whipped up popular sentiment on an issue that the population did not understand."

As someone who is on said editorial board and covering the legislature over the past two years, I can tell you there was no misunderstanding over the issue. There is institutional memory behind our position; after all, this institution has been complaining about legislator perks for quite a while. And the overall position hasn't changed: Legislators shouldn't be profiting off the public's business. Why we support that position? Because we hold the principle that politicians serve the public and not profit off the people's business.

As far as your contention that legislative seats in Indiana should be full-time jobs: This New York native has spent time in four states in the last decade or so and there is no evidence that a full-time legislature is any better or less corrupt than one that serves part-time. Each legislator in California for example, is paid $99,000 a year, fully participates in the CALPERS defined-benefit pension plan and gets a myriad of other perks. Yet that hasn't insulated a good number of them from accusations of corruption, including allegations against one state assemblyman who had ties to disgraced Congressman Duke Cunningham.

New York legislators are paid $79,500 annually not including other perks. None of this has stopped scandals such as that involving state sen. Efrain Gonzalez, indicted by a federal grand jury in August for allegedly spending money intended for a Bronx nonprofit. Oddly enough, Gonzalez had taken the seat after succeeding another troubled politician, Israel Ruiz, who was convicted of a similar crime while in office.

The real problem, Chris, is that at the end of the day, government is asked to serve in every role, including in areas such as economic development in which it really has no ability to successfully do the work. This means that the more roles government plays, the more likely that lobbyists of all stripes will hit up on those who have the decision-making roles in governments.

Nor will making a legislature full-time make it more likely that ordinary citizens can serve. History actually suggests that the ordinary citizen has never had much of a chance of gaining office. Even Abe Lincoln, that most common of uncommon men, was a lawyer representing railroads. The realities of campaigning for office even then required deep pockets and a willingness to serve without immediate financial gain.

This doesn't mean that there isn't a case to be made for a full-time legislature, especially when its members are handling complex issues that aren't easily handled in summer committees. And it would, in theory, eliminate the possibility of no-show jobs. But it may be a better question to ask whether governments should be running universities or involved so deeply in areas otherwise better off left to the private sector. After all, Pat Bauer could just as easily used his position to get his child a job at Ivy Tech in his stead

Advance Indiana said...

Well said RiShawn. I could use my experience with the full-time Illinois legislators as well. That was the exact argument made for increasing their pay to allow them to be full-time legislators when I was still a teen-ager in the 1970s. By the time I went to work for the legislature in 1984 there, after their pay and perks had been increased dramatically, the corruption had not subsided in the least bit. It had only gotten worse. There was almost always a legislator under indictment at any given time I worked there.

Anonymous said...

I agree with RiShawn Biddle.

I think, too, that as they say in Texas, whenever the legislature sits in session, all our lives are in danger. A part time legislature would give them less time to focus on nonsense, and perhaps force them to focus on the more important issues.

And, sorry, but about Garton; though a Democrat, I understand him to have been an asset to the Senate, and to the process. He was willing to discuss and debate issues. Little by little, the take over of the Republican Party means we'll see fewer and fewer of his type, and more and more wingnuts, who are replacing them -- all at our peril.

I also agree with Douglas, because I, too, find it hard referring to anyone's resume as embarrassing. The snide remarks about his public speaking background, etc, have no place in a serious discussion about his performance all these years. We may not all agree on whether or not he served too long, but it's clear that Garton grew into his 'job' and became a fine lawmaker. I may not have agreed with his politics, but he was a gentleman, and a credit to the office he held.

Finally, I note AI's question about being encouraged by Feigenbaum's analysis that most Senate Rs are looking for "moderation" in their new leader. I agree with his assessment, and it is encouraging. Only time will tell if we will end up with wingnuts or not.