INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — House Speaker Brian Bosma used the ceremonial opening of
Indiana’s legislative session Tuesday to call for bipartisanship, even
though Republicans now enjoy a supermajority that largely allows them to
circumvent Democrats to push through their agenda.
The GOP speaker cited his father, Charles Bosma, working across the aisle
with Democratic U.S. Rep. Andre Carson’s grandmother, Julia Carson, and
delivering services for the disabled when they served together in the state
Senate in the late 1970s and 1980s. Those two were known as they “odd
couple,” and Bosma said he’d like to see that concept revived in the current
He then ticked off a list of priorities, including funding early childhood
education, approving performance-based pay for teachers and schools, and
training more science and math teachers.
“Where is the odd couple in this room that will set political differences
aside, and concentrate on giving Hoosier families that want early childhood
education but can’t afford it, the opportunity that most of us in this room
enjoy?” he asked the group.
Lawmakers took care of some official business during the informal opening
known as “organization day,” although the major work won’t begin until they
return on Jan. 7. The Legislature must draw up a new biennial budget, ponder
options with the federal health care law, adjust to a new governor for the
first time in eight years and balance all other issues ranging from
education to gay marriage.
Indiana’s state senators met earlier Tuesday afternoon for a brief session
marked by the swearing in of four new members and the formal re-election of
Fort Wayne Republican David Long as Senate president pro tem.
The 2012 elections dealt House Republicans a powerful hand, granting them
enough seats to push through legislation even if Democrats walk out, as they
did in the last two sessions. Since the election Bosma, and the
newly-elected Democratic House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, have stuck to a
“Politics is a very difficult business, and the best metaphor is family.
Sometimes families bicker, sometimes families argue, sometimes families hurt
each other’s feelings. But we are a family and we share a vision for Indiana
that we’re going to articulate,” Pelath said.
Just below the surface of Tuesday’s celebratory and light-hearted atmosphere
were some signs that more bickering is on its way. Education is likely to be
a flashpoint again, two years after Republicans approved sweeping changes to
the state’s education system.
Bosma’s introduction Tuesday of families sitting in the House gallery which
had received school vouchers prompted hearty applause from Republican
lawmakers sitting on one side of the chamber, and silence from Democrats
sitting on the other side.
Pelath pointed out that Democrat Glenda Ritz’s stunning victory over
Republican Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett was a call from voters to hit
the brakes on school vouchers, merit pay and other changes. But some
Republicans, including Gov.-elect Mike Pence, have argued the decision to
turn Bennett out of office had nothing to do with those policies.
“Certainly we would like from the majority party some reflection on the
changes that have been made, some realization that the public has not been
entirely sold on some of their recent cuts to traditional public schools,”