Speak up, don’t be shy
Each year, as Hoosier lawmakers converge on Indianapolis to begin their legislative work, we urge the public to engage in the policy debate and share their views on issues of the day.
More than ever in 2013, that message must be reaffirmed. There are Republican super majorities in both the House and Senate, and the governor’s office is also held by a Republican. While voters chose this course in the fall 2012 elections, it’s important for those with this unrestricted political power to understand and act in a way that ensures that all voices are being heard, not just the loudest voices in their own party.
The only way to do that is for citizens, no matter what party philosophy they prefer or how they come down on issues, to stay in touch with their legislators and let them know they expect them to be fair to all sides and to serve the interests of the entire state.
The opening session of the 118th General Assembly began last week. The primary legislative business this year — adopting a biennial budget — will be completed in this session, which will last 60 session days spanning about four months.
But other important policy matters will be considered as well in areas such as economic development, job creation, education and a host of other issues. Where you stand on these issues can only be gauged if you speak out and let your lawmakers know your opinions.
We expect all sectors of the political spectrum to be aggressive, but we also expect them to remain cooperative and civil. If that occurs, Indiana can be an example of what’s right in the public sphere rather than emulating the broken system we see operating in the U.S. Congress these days.
Public input remains an important ingredient for the Legislature. Special interests spend mountains of money to influence lawmakers. But individual citizens need not be intimidated. It’s easy to contact legislators. We encourage you to do so. Here’s how:
— Members of the Indiana House of Representatives can be reached by phone at 1-800-382-9842.
— Members of the Indiana Senate can be reached at 1-800-382-9467.
— The mailing address for representatives and senators is 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204.
— If you have online access, there is a wealth of information, including email addresses, about the General Assembly and related services at www.IN.gov/legislative.
Lawmakers work for you. Don’t be shy about letting them know your opinions.
— Tribune-Star, Terre Haute
Might let the courts finish first on gay marriage, school vouchers
We detect some ants in the pants down at the Statehouse.
Some legislators seem determined to press forward on two controversial issues — a gay marriage ban and Indiana’s school voucher program — even as the high courts weigh matters that could change the landscape on both.
This week, state Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, made it clear that he would file a measure proposing a statewide ballot question about whether to put the state’s ban on same-sex marriage into the Indiana Constitution.
The Legislature, actually, is halfway home on this one. Constitutional questions must be approved in consecutive General Assemblies. The same-sex marriage ban question was approved in 2011, the first year of the previous two-year General Assembly. That leaves 2013 or 2014 for the second vote in this edition of the General Assembly. If it is approved by the House and the Senate, voters would get the question on a November ballot.
We’ve contended that the constitutional amendment is overkill, at best. Indiana already has a law that prevents same-sex marriage. Planting that law in the Constitution does little except to show that Hoosiers can be vindictive, as well as intolerant.
Beyond that, it only makes sense for the state to wait at least for the U.S. Supreme Court, which has promised to take up two cases dealing with gay marriage in 2013. What sense does it make to force referendums on something that could be ruled unconstitutional in the meantime?
Turner seems undeterred: “... Frankly, some of us would like to put it behind us and let the public weigh in.”
(Hats off to House Speaker Brian Bosma, who had this to say about the gay marriage measure on Monday: “Why is everybody focusing on this issue? ... We’re here to talk about jobs, the budget, and workforce development and education.”)
A similar situation is playing out on Indiana’s school voucher program. A bill looks to expand the voucher system by ditching a requirement related to a waiting period before applying.
That expansion could wind up having merit. But wouldn’t it make sense to wait for a ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court, which heard arguments in November about the constitutionality of the entire system?
Take a breath, legislators. And slow yourselves down on these two.
— Journal & Courier, Lafayette