Apr 1, 2008

Partisan Legislature? Or No Difference?

One must wonder how we claim to have partisan races in a general election when the end result really doesn't matter.

Take a look at the rough vote count in just the bills covered to date:

House: 1739 - YES; 44 - NO
Senate: 851 - YES; 25 - NO

What would be most interesting at this point is to find out why some of the few "No" votes actually voted "No". That, to me, is almost worth calling the legislators and asking.

HEA 1227 - Shoreline Development Commission

Shoreline development commission. Adds the following two members to the shoreline development commission: (1) A representative of a public utility that owns real property that is located in counties contiguous to Lake Michigan and that has a total assessed value that exceeds the total assessed value of the real property owned by any other public utility owning real property in the counties contiguous to Lake Michigan. (2) The port director of the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor. States a preference for the member of the commission appointed by the lieutenant governor being from a visitor and tourism business. Makes a technical correction.

Let's see...a public utility owning real property in the counties....blah blah.... Why not just say NIPSCO gets a representative on this very populated committee? If for some reason NIPSCO discontinues being NIPSCO, I imagine legislators would have plenty opportunity to alter this. Nothing really wrong with adding two more bodies to this board. The size of this committee isn't a problem. What they can do, however, could always be a problem.

House passes 94-0; Senate passes 47-0.

HEA 1220 - Regional Development (South Shore Rail extension)

Synopsis: Regional development. Requires the commission on state tax and financing policy to study state and local funding alternatives for the South Shore West Lake extension.

Each word of this legislation stands to be worth tens of millions dollars each. What appears rather innocuous represents the first step in formalizing a move toward expansion of the South Shore Railway in Lake and Porter Counties.

The few sentences that authorize the House Tax and Finance Committee to study ways to finance this project comes with an emergency order and a report due by November 1, 2008.

As bad as it is, it could have been worse. The original House Bill:

Regional development. Establishes a transportation tax area for the territory within Lake County and Porter County. Provides for an allocation to the transportation tax area from the state gross retail and use taxes collected from the counties. Requires the development board of the northwest Indiana regional development authority to use the allocation for projects related to the West Lake line. Establishes a transportation tax area for the territory within LaPorte County and St. Joseph County. Provides for an allocation to the transportation tax area from the state gross retail and use taxes collected from the counties. Requires the board of trustees of the Northwest Indiana Commuter Transportation District to use the tax allocation for certain rail improvement projects in South Bend and Michigan City. Requires a city or county that participates in the northwest Indiana Regional development authority to remain a member for at least 10 years. Prescribes the terms for withdrawing from the development authority. Makes an appropriation.

In the end, it was trimmed down to authorizing a study. The rest of this will come next year. House passed 97-1; Senate passed 47-0. The lone dissent was Rep. Fry.

Read what the Chesterton Tribune writes on the subject.

SEA 118 - DOC Superintendent Qualifications

Synopsis: DOC superintendent qualifications. Allows a person who does not hold at least a bachelor's degree to serve as a superintendent in the department of correction (DOC) if the person has specified levels of experience. (The introduced version of this bill was prepared by the sentencing policy study committee.)

We're not sure if this was intended for a particular person or not. It would appear so. And, we're torn. Our legislators constantly tell us the importance of a good education and throw millions upon millions of dollars at every level. If we are to believe them, we should be demanding our leadership positions are filled with properly trained managers. For hypocrisy, we score our legislators low for this.

However, it's long been a libertarian perspective that experience rivals education and we should be promoting the most capable and prepared individuals into management regardless of formal education. For doing the right thing with this legislation, we score our legislators high.

House passes 97-2; Senate passes 47-1. Voting "no" -- Sen. Drozda and Reps. Micon and Murphy.
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