It became obvious that the Indiana Legislature does not operate the way you learned in high school civics class.
The Legislature may have 150 members, but they don’t always get to vote on the issues. A few leaders pull the strings and sometimes undercut the whole idea of democracy.
Exhibit A is a bill that would have raised the legal age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21.
There are good reasons to support this bill and other significant reasons to oppose it.
After weighing those pros and cons, the House Public Health Committee approved the bill by a 9-0 vote. The committee includes both Republicans and Democrats.
A committee’s approval is supposed to send the bill to the full House of Representatives for a vote by all 100 members.
Instead, the speaker of the House, Rep. Brian Bosma, a Republican from Indianapolis, decided to send the bill to a second committee. The problem is, it was already too late for that committee to approve the bill this year.
A bill that had unanimous support in its original committee died by a 1-0 vote. Call it Bosma 1, democracy 0.
Bosma absorbed a tongue-lashing for his slick maneuver from the president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which usually is friendly with Republicans.
“The Indiana Chamber is extremely disappointed in the decision by the House Republican caucus to kill legislation aimed at reducing the state’s high smoking rate and the costs associated with that,” chamber President Kevin Brinegar said last week.
Bosma said in killing the bill, he was “actually following our rules.” Maybe those rules deserve a rethinking.
In a move that attracted less attention, Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, buried a bill sponsored by Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn.
Kruse’s bill said Indiana schools should start no earlier than the last Monday in August. Many schools open well before that date.
Taking the decision away from local school boards is controversial. Last year, a similar bill failed on a 50-50 vote in the full House.
This year, however, the vote will be 0-0. Long used his power to assign the bill to the Senate committee on Rules and Legislative Procedure. You might ask what that has to do with school starting dates. The answer is nothing. Except Long happens to be the chairman of that committee, and that’s what he’s doing with Kruse’s bill — nothing. Another bill dies on a 1-0 vote.
Kruse’s bill belonged in the Senate committee on Education and Career Development. Except Kruse chairs that committee, and he would have allowed a vote, and Long couldn’t risk that.
Then there’s a bill to outlaw hate crimes in Indiana, sponsored by another local legislator, Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange.
Glick’s bill stirs up controversy, too. It’s gone down to defeat in the past, but it looked like this might be her year. A Ball State University poll recently found 65 percent of Hoosiers support a hate crimes law. More importantly, Bosma, Long and Gov. Eric Holcomb all said they were warming to the idea.
Pay attention to what they do, not what they say. Long declared there will be no vote on a hate crimes bill this year.
In two of these cases, Bosma and Long torpedoed bills sponsored by their fellow Republicans. So don’t feel sorry for the legislators, because Republicans elected Bosma and Long to lead them, and they could make a change if they get tired of these antics.
The rest of us Hoosiers did not elect Bosma and Long to govern our state by 1-0 votes. We ought to let our legislators know that even if they’re willing to put up with it, we aren’t.