Monday, January 27, 2014

Truitt-Proposed Change to HJR-3 Passes; House Passes Amendment

A bipartisan majority in the Indiana House voted for an amendment proposed by Rep. Randy Truitt to strip the controversial second sentence from HJR-3, the proposed constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in Indiana.  Twenty-three Republicans joined 29 Democrats to pass Truitt's amendment, 52-43.  By changing the amendment, it effectively becomes a new bill and will have to be voted on twice by different sessions of the General Assembly before it can be passed to the voters in a referendum.

This delay does more than kick the can down the road.  Public sentiment is swinging away from measures like HJR-3.  Even in our own state, 30 of the Republican representatives who voted for the amendment in 2011 have said they would vote against it or were wavering now.  By 2016, the earliest the amendment could be on the ballot, even more voters will have changed their minds.  It is also thought that Gov. Pence does not want that referendum on the ballot when he is trying to get himself re-elected!

Today the House passed the modified HJR-3 57-40.  The 57 were all Republicans.  Eleven Republicans--including Randy Truitt--voted no, as did  all 29 Democrats.  Read more about the vote here.

Read about the change to HJR-3 from Indiana Public Media here. You can read Dave Bangert's analysis of the political impact of the change to the amendment here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Truitt Will Vote Against HJR-3

Journal and Courier columnist Dave Bangert reports that Republican Representative Randy Truitt, whose district includes most of West Lafayette, will vote against the same sex marriage amendment because of reservation about the second sentence of the amendment. It reads "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized." The concern, widespread even among Republicans, is that this provision will revoke benefits already provided to same sex couples by Indiana businesses and institutions. Truitt calls the sentence "a red-hot poker" and doesn't think it is appropriate in the constitution. Truitt had voted for the amendment in 2011. The article notes that Attica Representative Sharon Negele has voiced similar concerns, but hasn't indicated how she will vote. A vote may come to the House floor as early as Monday. Read the J&C article here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Committee Gets Bosma His Vote on HJR-3 in Less than 24 Hours

Yesterday House Speaker Brian Bosma moved HJR-3, the same sex marriage amendment, from the consideration of the House Judiciary Committee, with its three wavering Republicans, to the Elections and Apportionment Committee. The amendment certainly seems outside the committee's scope, but it did exactly what Speaker Bosma wanted: after a quick four-hour hearing, it approved the amendment for consideration by the full House on a partisan 9 to 3 vote. No waverers there! You can read more about Bosma's maneuvers here.

In an impassioned op-ed, Indianapolis Star columnist Erika Smith, voiced her anger at Speaker Bosma's action:
"Betrayal and disgust. There’s really no other way to feel about his decision to rig the results of the vote by moving HJR-3 from the Judiciary Committee to the Elections Committee. His decision was a stomach-churning display of misplaced power, pride and pigheadedness."
Smith argues that after the passions that were expressed by voters at last week's hearing and after it became clear that he would not get vote he wanted from his own party members, moving the bill to another committee cynically circumvented the legislative process:
"Instead of allowing the legislative process to run its course and accepting that opponents of the amendment had prevailed, Bosma changed the rules. Instead of allowing the Judiciary Committee to make the decision, he ordered a committee with members more likely to vote the way he wanted them to vote to handle the amendment instead. Bosma’s decision not only covered up his gross miscalculation of how lawmakers in his own party would vote, it also tarnished the entire legislative process."
You can read Smith entire column here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bosma Considers Replacing Republican Wavering Judiciary Committee Members

House Speaker Brian Bosma has indicated that he might replace three Republican Judiciary Committee members who appear to be wavering on voting for HJR-3, the same sex marriage amendment, so that he can get the amendment through the committee and to a vote on the floor. Bosma says the House rules allow him to replace committee members at will, though he concedes that he's only seen it done once in his 28-years in the House. Opponents consider the committee their best opportunity to untrack the amendment. A vote is expected by Wednesday. Read more here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Freedom Indiana Blasts the "Companion Bill"

Freedom Indiana, the bipartisan group opposing the constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage, issued a statement on the so-called "companion bill" offered by House Republicans to clarify the meaning of the amendment. Freedom Indiana observes that "the amendment is 12 lines. The companion bill is 73 lines. Explaining the amendment shouldn’t take six times as many words as the amendment itself."

They feel the bill is a recognition that "the language they want to permanently insert into our state’s founding document is deeply flawed." But instead of addressing the amendment's problems, "they’re trying to sidestep and obfuscate the process by introducing a bill they think explains away the potential harm to Hoosier families."

The solution Freedom Indiana supports? "Either scrap the current language and start over, or better yet, admit that our Constitution is not the proper place to have this debate."

You can read the entire statement from Freedom Indiana here. The Evansville Courier Press has a good article on the politics of the companion bill here.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Republicans Propose "Companion Bill" to Explain the Intent of Marriage Amendment

The latest wrinkle in the unfolding drama of HJR-3 is the addition of a "companion" bill (House Bill 1153) that will accompany the proposed constitutional amendment to the House Judiciary Committee on Monday. The proposed bill is to "clarify" the amendment by stating that its intent "is not to deny employer health benefits to same-sex couples or to circumvent local ordinances that forbid discrimination."

Republicans have claimed that the amendment would not affect the benefits already being provided by many Indiana institutions and businesses, but that would seem to beg the question of why the companion bill is necessary. It would seem to make more sense to modify the amendment, but that would reset the clock and force the amendment to be voted on by the legislature again in two separate sessions. That, in turn, would delay the public referendum vote by years, and Republicans know public opinion is swinging away from their position quickly.

IU law professor Jennifer Drobac says, "This is bad lawmaking. These lawmakers should know what they’re doing." Republican lawmakers might concede that no decently written amendment should need a companion bill to explain it, but they think their inelegant solution may get them what they want: to lock their ideology into the state's constitution before it is inevitably overtaken by more progressive views.

Read more from the J&C here.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Republicans Make Marriage Amendment the First Bill Considered; Freedom Indiana Plans Rallies

Freedom Indiana informs us that House Republicans have pushed HJR-3 (HJR-6 as of yesterday) to the front of the Judiciary Committee's agenda--on Monday at 10 a.m. it will become the first bill considered. Slating it this way is a clear indication of its central place in the Republican agenda, but also hints that they think they need a vote fast because momentum is building against the amendment.

Freedom Indiana is planning to demonstrate Hoosier opposition to the amendment at 10 a.m. on Monday at the Capitol and at a rally at 6 p.m. If you can attend, please RSVP to Freedom Indiana for the 10 a.m event here and for the 6 p.m event here.

Rokita Backs Aid for Tornado-Struck Indiana Counties After Opposing Hurricane Sandy Aid

You would expect Rep. Todd Rokita to support Governor Pence's request for emergency support for Indiana counties affected by November's tornadoes. After all, he represents some of the included counties (Boone, Daviess, Fountain, Grant, Howard, and Tippecanoe). And, in fact, he signed a letter to the President supporting the Governor's request, along with other Indiana legislators.

That is all expected and proper, except for the fact that Rokita pointedly did not extend that same compassion to the victims of Hurricane Sandy just a year ago, voting against the aid on the principle that it was wrong to "pass an unpaid-for disaster bill, further victimizing the children of tomorrow," as he explained in a statement. If it comes to a vote in the House, will Rep. Rokita would apply the heartless logic to his own constituents that he applied to East Coast victims of Sandy?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Some Republican Legislators Look Iffy on the Pence Agenda

After a day's delay for the snowstorm, the Indiana General Assembly got underway today. The J&C interviewed some local legislators about some of the major issues that are part of the Governor's agenda for this session. HJR-6, the constitutional amendment that declares "Only a marriage between (1) one man and (1) one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana," gets most of the attention, which largely revolves around Republicans hedging their bets.

The strongest favorable argument presented (by Rep. Tim Brown of Crawfordsville and Sen. Brandt Hershman) was "letting the people decide" through the referendum that would occur if the amendment passes both houses for a second time. Randy Truitt of West Lafayette and Sharon Negele of Attica voice concern about the amendment's second sentence: "A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized." They note that this provision potentially conflicts with the same sex partnership benefits provided by many Indiana institutions (like Purdue) and companies. Sheila Klinker, who has opposed HJR-6 all along, also notes that discrepancy.

The other two issues covered are pre-K vouchers and the Governor's proposed elimination of business personal property taxes. The tax change is difficult because already strained local governments have relied on its revenues, and, as Republican Tim Brown puts it "it’s hard to say to a county that has its budget in place that we’re going to pull the rug out from under them." Likewise, the expense of pre-K vouchers would be a stretch in current economic conditions; Klinker and Brown expect funding would be limited.

Looks Gov. Pence's agenda might be an uphill push. Stay tuned. Read the J&C article here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

100 Join Lafayette's Freedom Indiana Rally

About 100 area residents joined a Freedom Indiana rally at Sylvia's Brick Oven on Saturday. The bi-partisan gathering was to support the defeat of HJR-6, the proposed constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in Indiana. It was one 25 such rallies in cities of all sizes across the state. You can read the J&C's coverage here.

Journal Courier Editorial on HJR-6: "Back Away"

Regarding House Joint Resolution 6, the proposed marriage amendment to Indiana's constitution, Sunday's op-ed by the Journal and Courier's editorial board advised the General Assembly to "Put the amendment down. Slowly back away." The editors note that public opinion on same sex marriage has changed substantially since 2011 when the amendment was introduced, but the real reason is that "HJR-6 is just wrong." You can read the editorial here.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Rep. Andy Jacobs, Jr. Memorialized

The funeral for former Democratic representative Andy Jacobs, Jr. will be held in the Statehouse Rotunda at noon tomorrow with remarks by Gov. Mike Pence and Congressman Andre Carson. Jacobs was an early opponent of the Vietnam war and a supporter of public financing for elections, a balanced federal budget, voting rights and civil rights, closing tax breaks and loopholes. He is beautifully eulogized by other Indiana political leaders in this tribute in the Star. Nationally known, Jacobs was profiled in the Washington Post here.

New York Times: "Indiana Finds It’s Not So Easy to Buck Gay Marriage Trend"

On Christmas Eve the New York Times published a lengthy article on our state's struggle with a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage, focusing on the resistance to the amendment that has put its passage in some doubt:
So suddenly Indiana, where lawmakers in the coming weeks are expected to call for the second vote needed to put a ban before voters in the fall elections, is now in a far more tense, unpredictable and closely watched spot than anyone here had imagined — a test case in whether a state will impose new limits on same-sex marriage in this fast-moving political and legal environment.
The article is an excellent summary of what has transpired on this issue and provides perspective how Indiana's drama plays on the national stage. You can read it here.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Klinker Sees Big Issues for Upcoming Legislature

The state's General Assembly kicks off on Monday, January 6, and Rep. Sheila Klinker anticipates discussions (and votes) on several major issues. She told WLFI that the state's $300 million shortfall of tax revenue will be on legislators' minds; because of it "the spending will have to be really watched." Gov. Pence's proposal to eliminate business property tax on equipment and machinery (which generates about $1 billion of revenues for the state) will be high on the agenda. Klinker expects something to pass, perhaps in a "phase-out" approach over several years. The same-sex marriage constitutional amendment will also be a priority; the possibility of elimnating the amendment's second sentence which would eliminate domestic partner benefits that are already in place at state universities and many businesses such as Eli Lilly." Changes would require a delay of two more years before a public referendum could occur. See the complete WLFI story here.