The following county Farm Bureau is scheduled to visit the Statehouse next week.
Tuesday, January 10: Tipton
SHORT SESSION STARTS WITH PARTISAN ANIMOSITY; HOUSE DENIED QUORUM TO DO BUSINESS The Indiana General Assembly returned for its 2012 short session on Wednesday, January 4. The Republicans retain a strong majority in both houses: In the Senate they hold a 67 to 13 super majority; in the House, their advantage is 60 to 40. Leaders of both houses, Senate President pro tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) and Speaker of the House Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis), as well as Gov. Mitch Daniels have all made passage of right-to-work legislation their top priority for this session. This issue, which sparked the House Democrats’ walk out in 2011, remains highly controversial, and rumors continue to fly around the Statehouse as to how the House Democrats will react this year. Although they have not left the state and remain visible in the Statehouse, the Democrats have stayed off the floor of the House and denied it the quorum needed to conduct business. While the Senate Democrats share the concerns of their House counterparts, they hold only 13 of the 50 seats, not a sufficient number to deny the Senate the quorum of two-thirds needed to conduct business.
HUGE CROWDS OCCUPY STATEHOUSE To demonstrate opposition to the proposed right-to-work legislation, organized labor showed up at the Statehouse in large numbers throughout the week. Hundreds of labor union members from all parts of the state filed their way through security checkpoints and clogged the halls of the Statehouse.
EFFORT TO LIMIT ACCESS TO STATEHOUSE RESCINDED Over the New Year's weekend, the state imposed very strict limits on the number of individuals who would be allowed in the Statehouse at any one time. This announcement was precipitated by the huge number of labor union members who are expected to visit the Statehouse and concern for the safety of individuals in the building. The announcement was immediately criticized by a number of individuals and groups including – as might be expected – labor unions, who saw it as an effort to limit their effectiveness in the Statehouse. Shortly before the General Assembly was scheduled to convene on Wednesday, Gov. Daniels announced that the numerical limit had been rescinded. However, anyone not holding a Statehouse pass will be subject to a very thorough search before being allowed into the building. At times, this is sure to result in long lines forming outside the Capitol building.
LEGISLATIVE SCHEDULE WILL ACCOMMODATE SUPER BOWL Because Indianapolis will host the Super Bowl on February 5, the General Assembly plans to leave town for several days in late January and early February. To accommodate these days off, the legislature has for the first time in a number of years adjusted its schedule in January to include Friday sessions. The deadline for bills to pass the house in which they were introduced is the end of January. Legislators will then take a short recess for the Super Bowl and return for the second half of the session on February 6. The statutory adjournment deadline for the short session is March 14.
WHITE PICKED TO REPLACE TYLER Delaware County Democrats have chosen Mike White of Muncie to replace former Rep. Dennis Tyler who was recently sworn in as mayor of Muncie following his election in November. Rep. White, a long-time active member of the party and a labor union official, has reportedly indicated that he will not seek re-election to the seat later this year.
BILLS STILL BEING FILED As this first edition of Farm Bureau’s Public Policy Dispatch goes to press, bills are still being introduced and assigned to committees. As of late Thursday, about 105 House bills and 321 Senate bills had been posted on the General Assembly’s public website (http://www.in.gov/legislative/). A number of additional bills have already been filed in each house and more are expected before the Friday filing deadline. It will be impossible to hear all of these bills in the short session, so the discretionary authority of individual committee chairmen to hear bills becomes even more important than usual.
VISITS ENCOURAGED Even though access may be restricted at the Statehouse, county Farm Bureaus are encouraged to make every effort to visit the General Assembly while the legislators are in Indianapolis. Please coordinate your visits with Pete Hanebutt of the Farm Bureau staff (317-692-7811 or email@example.com) and make sure you let your elected representatives know you will be visiting the Capitol before you head to Indy.
FARM BUREAU LOBBYING TEAM Farm Bureau’s lobbying team this year will include a lot of old faces and one new one. Bob Kraft will still head up state lobbying efforts and be joined by Katrina Hall and Wayne Dillman on a full-time basis at the Statehouse. Also on the lobbying team this year are Kent Yeager, Pete Hanebutt, Justin Schneider, Mark Thornburg, and President Don Villwock. Joining the team this year will be Megan Ritter. Support for the lobbying effort will be provided by Wanda Hunter and B.J. Fields.
RIGHT-TO-WORK SET FOR JOINT COMMITTEE HEARING The two bills that would make Indiana a right-to-work state will be heard in a rare joint House-Senate committee hearing on Friday morning. The House Employment, Labor & Pensions Committee and the Senate Labor & Pensions Committee will meet together in the House chamber to hear testimony on both HB 1001, authored by Rep. Jerry Torr (R-Carmel), and SB 269, authored by Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury). Both bills are titled “Employee’s Right-to-Work” and make it against the law to require someone to belong to a union or pay dues to a union. The outcome of this hearing will probably set the tone for the remainder of the session and could well affect the progress of other bills this year.
OTHER HIGH PROFILE ISSUES EXPECTED TO BE CONSIDERED While right-to-work is expected to be the polarizing issue and therefore get the most media attention, there are a number of issues of general interest that are listed below.
- Smoking Ban – Last year a statewide restriction on smoking in public places passed the House only to die in a Senate Committee. This year, Gov. Daniels has leant his support to the effort so its chances look better. There is some hope among its advocates that it can be accomplished in time for the Super Bowl.
- Local Government Reform – The long-standing effort to reorganize and reform local government will continue this year. The Governor will continue his push to achieve more efficiency in local government through reorganization, consolidations and a reduction in the number of public officials in the state.
- Taxes - As usual, there will be a number of tax and fiscal issues presented to the General Assembly. There is growing interest in phasing-out the state’s inheritance tax, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) has suggested that the revenue the state would lose from such a phase-out could be replaced by collecting the state’s sales tax on online purchases from vendors who do not have a physical presence in Indiana.
- Education – Following the comprehensive overhaul of K-12 education accomplished last session, sweeping changes are not expected this session. A couple of issues that may be considered are a prohibition against starting school before Labor Day and a requirement that all public schools must teach cursive handwriting.
- Sunday Sale of Alcohol – Like the effort to ban smoking, this is a subject that returns to the legislature year after year. It pits the state’s liquor stores who want to remain closed on Sunday against grocery stores and other liquor outlets that are open anyway and want to sell alcohol on Sunday.
CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS Indiana’s legislators listen to their constituents. Let yourself be heard on issues that are important to you. You can write to your senator or representative at the Statehouse, Indianapolis, IN 46204. Call House members at 317-232-9600 or 1-800-382-9842. Senators can be reached at 317-232-9400 or 1-800-382-9467. You can email your legislator from the Public Policy tab on the Farm Bureau website at www.infarmbureau.org. This is part of the General Assembly homepage at Access Indiana. Personal contact when legislators are home on weekends or at third-house or cracker-barrel sessions remains the most effective way to communicate your ideas to .