Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Long Punishing Leising For Voting Against Budget?

Jim Shella has a blog item that is turning heads at the State House because of what some say is an attempt by Senate President Pro Tempore David Long to damage one of his own Republican senators, who was one of three Republican members who voted against the state budget deal yesterday:

State lawmakers are gone from the Statehouse but a couple of issues remain. State Senate Democrats are upset that majority Republicans forbid them from videotaping the final budget debate. They had videotaped only the Democratic speeches throughout the Special Session, or so they say.

Republicans, meantime, are upset with one of their own. Senator Jean Leising voted against the budget (one of 3 Republicans to do so) but sent a memo to President Pro Tem David Long asking why Senators didn’t get per diem payments on days during the Special Session when the Senate didn’t convene. Whether Senators deserve the pay is a point that is unclear in the law.

Absolutely clear is the fact that fellow Senators leaked the memo to make Leising look bad.
Did Long's office leak an edited version of Leising's e-mail that allowed it to be interpreted out of context? That's what some are saying. His office says no. See the update below.

UPDATE: Senate Republican spokesman Scott Minier has sent me the full text of Sen. Leising's e-mail, which you can view below. Minier assures us the leak of the e-mail did not come from anyone within Senate President Pro Tempore David Long's office, "nor to his knowledge, from anyone else in the Senate Majority Caucus or its staff." "If the memo was provided to a member of the media, it could have come from any number of sources, since it was widely distributed by Sen. Leising personally," Minier writes. "As for Sen. Leising’s vote, while it may have been disappointing to Senate leadership, Sen. Leising is an independently elected legislator and is entitled to vote as she chooses," he continued. "If there is to be any discussion between Sen. Leising and Sen. Long, it will be handled in private and not through the mainstream media or blogs." "That is how Sen. Long has always managed the Senate in the past and there has been no change in that approach or policy," Minier concluded.

Here's the text of Leising's June 30 memo to Sen. Long:

Can you please clarify for me the law on Special Session per diem? After reading two articles in the Indianapolis Star stating that we are receiving per diem, I took the time to research the attached copies from the Indiana Acts.

It would appear to me that we are to be paid per diem during the Special Session.

Thanks for your attention to this matter.

Minier forwarded a memo that Sen. Long directed Senate staff to send to all senators on June 8 before Leising sent her memo to Long that stated the following policy for payment of per diem during the special session:

Per Senator Long, June’s Per Diem will be handled in the following manner:

The Interim Per Diem will still be limited to two (2) days for the month but once Special Session has convened on June 11, 2009 there will be no additional Interim Per Diem and travel sign-ins allowed until Sine Die.

Session Per Diem will be paid for the following:

1) Each day the Senate actually meets in Session and you are present on the roll call;
2) Each day you attend a “special” committee meeting, of which you are a member, that has been approved in advance by Senator Long, to address issues pertaining to Special Session; and
3) Other individual cases approved in advance by the President Pro Tem. Included in the definition of special cases would be a caucus meeting called by leadership.

Once Special Session has convened there will be no sign-ins allowed for Interim Per Diem and travel until after Sine Die. Mileage will be paid a maximum of one round trip per week in any week a senator receives session per diem under one of the three circumstances above. On any day a senator does not qualify for session per diem, he/she will continue to receive the normal $55.20 as if we were not in session.

We anticipate the House of Representatives will be following essentially the same protocol. Interim committee meetings will still be handled through LSA as they normally are during the Interim.
It would appear to me that Sen. Leising had a misapprehension about the per diem policy, which can get complicated as you can see from the staff member's description of how it was to handled during the special session. It doesn't appear to me that she was asking for anything the June 8 memo didn't say would be covered. WISH-TV reporter Jim Shella interpreted the leaking of the Leising memo as a slight by Long's leadership, and the same message was communicated to me as well. I can't read into Leising's memo that she thought members were entitled to a session per diem payment on days they weren't actually in session, although the Senate memo clearly allows the per diem on days when they were attending a committee on which they served as a member or a caucus meeting, in addition to actual session days.

A big thanks to Minier for sending the information to clear it up. Whoever leaked her memo to the media put a negative spin on it from Leising's standpoint. I understand why she and her supporters believed it was being interpreted out of context. Clearly, the memo was not edited by anyone though as had been suggested by some.

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