Gov. Mitch Daniels' hopes of eliminating townships and otherwise restructuring local government suffered multiple blows Wednesday, as several bills he supported were gutted or defeated in Indiana Senate committees.
Advocates of the reforms blamed the setbacks on an entrenched political network in which lawmakers protect their friends in township government. Critics hailed the legislative defeats as a victory for maintaining decentralized government that is closest to the public.
Among the victims:
Bills to do away with township government, including one focused on Marion County. But senators passed amendments that would ban the future hiring of township officials' relatives and would require township budgets -- typically fat with reserves that vastly exceed the budgets -- to be reviewed by county councils.
A bill to consolidate smaller school districts was pulled from consideration without a vote.
A proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate some county offices as constitutionally required was voted down.
Daniels didn't hide his anger towards Republican senators. "I'll make no comment about Democrats all voting against reform, but when it comes to two members of my party, I'm disappointed in them and embarrassed for them. We'll try again next year," Daniels said in a statement. Daniels was referring to Sen. Jim Buck (R-Kokomo) and Sen. Sue Landske (R-Cedar Lake) according to Schneider. Sen. Connie Lawson (R), who thinks township government is indispensable, and Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis), who doesn't want to consolidate fire departments, are equally to blame for the defeats suffered yesterday. What's left in the reforms pushed by Gov. Daniels, with the support of former Gov. Joe Kernan and Chief Justice Randy Shepard, is pretty much useless dribble that won't save taxpayers any money or appreciably improve government.
It looks like the only thing things this legislature is interested in doing is finding pork barrel projects on which to blow the state's reserves and the state's share of federal stimulus dollars, providing tax breaks for hard up casino owners, raising taxes on the little people to subsidize billionaire sports team owners, making sure Gitmo detainees don't wind up in Terre Haute's federal prison and designating sugar cream pie as the state's official pie. Yeah, Ullman had it just about right. This is the nation's worst legislature.