Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Five Suits Challenge Indiana Marriage Laws; Zoeller Prepared to Defend Laws

Five same sex couples have filed suits challenging Indiana's marriage laws; you can read profiles of the couples from the Indy Star here. The Star concludes its article noting that there have been recent successes for such suits: "Since December, federal courts have struck down state laws in Illinois, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas and Utah banning same-sex marriages or prohibiting the recognition of similar unions performed in the more than 15 states where they are legal."

The Times of Northwest Indiana reports that State Attorney General Greg Zoeller is prepared to defend Indiana's laws and views such suits as part of the process: "There ought to be some opportunity to make sure that the Legislature has got it right -- did it violate the Constitution, did it impinge on people's civil liberties? This is part of the process to bring the courts in to review, to make sure the statutes we have in place are constitutional."

In contrast Kentucky's Attorney General Jack Conway has told Talking Points Memo that he will not defend his state's same sex marriage laws:
"I thought long and hard. I thought about the arc of history," he said. "I thought about the fact that at one time in this country we discriminated against women. At one time we discriminated against African-Americans and people of color. At one time we discriminated against those with disabilities. This is the last minority group in this country that a significant portion of our population thinks it's OK to still discriminate against in any way. And I didn't think that was right."
The Washington Post reports that seven state attorneys general have chosen not to defend their state's same sex marriage laws

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pelath Sees Lost Opportunities in Legislative Session

Democratic House leader Scott Pelath analyzes the recently ended General Assembly as one of wsted opportunities in an editorial in the Northwest Indiana Times. Republican leadership, says Pelath, used its supermajoriy to push their usual agenda:
"Our leaders are selling soap we've bought before. Cutting corporate taxes ... again. Cutting bank taxes ... again. And the free toaster in the deal? Forcing Indiana counties to race each other to slash the business personal property tax.

On the other hand, consumers, workers and individual taxpayers — who already bear most of Indiana’s tax burden — are not guaranteed much in return for hundreds of millions in lost revenue. In a state that already has a top 10 business tax climate, there is no evidence these changes will prompt anyone to add a single job or raise a single worker’s wage."

Pelath particularly regrets the drawn-out same-sex marriage debate: "[We] all wish we could forget the one issue that sucked the air out of this session from its start: the continued insistence on putting the people of this state through an ugly, divisive debate on who can marry whom in Indiana."

You can read Pelath's commentary here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Barack-etology

If you're looking for inspiration or guidance in completing your NCAA men's basketball tournament bracket, here is President Obama completing his on ESPN, as he has done every year of his presidency.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Suit Challenges Indiana's Same-Sex Marriage Statute

A suit is being brought against Indiana's statute on same-sex marriage by four couples arguing that the state's law refusing to recognize legally married same sex couples from other states violates the U.S. constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. Their suit says that Indiana “has no rational, legitimate, or compelling state interest in treating same-sex couples any differently from opposite-sex couples.”

It also claims that marriage is a fundamental right and that the U.S. constitution requires it to be recognized across states: “Same-sex spouses who have entered into legal marriages in other jurisdictions have a reasonable expectation that they will continue to be protected by the rights and protections conferred by marriage when they relocate to another state.”

In the past year similar suits have been won in Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Utah. (It's worth noting that an Indiana constitutional amendment could be overturned if it was found to violate the US constitution, as happened in Oklahoma and Utah.) Read more from the Statehouse File here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hershman Bill Prevents Already-Prohibited Joint Tax Filing by Same-Sex Couples

Sen. Brandt Hershman, who represents parts of the Greater Lafayette area, sponsored a bill that deleted a state tax provision that would have inadvertently allowed same-sex couples to file joint state tax returns in Indiana. It passed the Senate 41-6. Indiana code currently prohibits joint filings by gay couples. “This only codifies current practice. This is not piling on or anything like that." So why is additional action needed? Probably for the same reason we need a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex marriages that are already illegal in Indiana by statute. Read more about Hershman's bill from the Indy Star here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Pence Agenda Not Faring Well in General Assembly

With the current session of the Indiana General Assembly drawing to a close, it appears Gov. Mike Pence's legislative agenda has not fared particularly well, even with Republican supermajorities in both the senate and the house. Here's how the Indy Star's political reporters Tony Cook and Barb Berggoetz describe the status of Pence's major initiatives:

With just two weeks left in the session, his preschool voucher program could be headed for a summer study committee, his efforts to phase out a key business tax have received only token support, and Senate Republicans have cut in half his request for $400 million in highway funding.

Other Pence proposals also have encountered problems.

He wanted to offer stipends to teachers willing to work at low-performing schools, but a Senate committee stripped funding from that proposal. He wanted to increase family income tax exemptions with inflation, but that idea is stalled in another Senate committee. And he wanted to create a fund to reward innovative teachers, a proposal that didn't even get an initial hearing.

IPFW political scientist Andy Downs thinks things are not going well for Pence. "You would expect him to have a far better track record. I think it's safe to say he's not having a particularly good year. You might say he took on way too aggressive an agenda and is paying the price now." Downs thinks this lack of major accomplishments will impact Pence's presidential ambitions.

Read the Star's complete analysis of Pence's legislative agenda here.