Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Worst Legislature

The late Harrison Ullman used to lament that Indiana had the worst legislature in the country. I suspect Gov. Mitch Daniels is thinking that this morning as he sees hope of implementing the local government reform initiatives proposed by the Kernan-Shepard Commission flushed down the toilet by members of his own party. The Star's Mary Beth Schneider sums up what happened yesterday at the State House:

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.


Patriot Paul said...

I recall Governor Daniel's veto last year about the movie industry tax breaks for which the legislature overwhelming voted an override of his veto. His remarks 'what were they thinking' are appropriate again this year.
Shortly after the Star report about the 200 million township hoarding of taxpayer money, Daniels decided to go on a campaign spree to shore up reforms and now a cornerstone of that reform has been deep-sixed, at least for now. Sugar cream pie anyone?

varangianguard said...


The veneer of respectability has slipped and behold!, the majority of the legislature revealed for what it truly is. Something related to a phrase about Babylon, I'm thinking.

Sean Shepard said...

For the most part, I like Governor Daniels and although there is a libertarian dilemma over "less government" versus "less centralization of government", which was a significant topic of discussion at one of our well attended MeetUps since the proposed changes make a trade-off between the two, I felt the proposed changes would be positive.

I think many were struck my the well promoted statistics that show the percentage of U.S. population vs. the percentage of government officials.

And to Paul's point at the end of his message... [sarcasm mode on] at least they got that Sugar Cream Pie thing out of the way.

Rob K said...

Don't forget that the senate passed the red light camera bill. Gotta' generate revenue!

M Theory said...

"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."
This is why it is time for a Revolt at the State House.