Chesterton Tribune


Commentary: Democrat leader grades first half of Indiana Assembly

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by Rep. Scott Pelath, Indiana House Minority Leader

First, I want to thank House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indinapolis, for his willingness to work with House Democrats and his efforts to find a civil tone after the rough sessions weíve had the past couple of years.

It is in that spirit of cooperation that we would like to offer a few grades on how we proceeded on what House Democrats feel are the three major issues we needed to address this session.

When it comes to taking care of the middle class first, I feel that we must give out an incomplete.

The Republican majority denied the House a chanc to vote on the income tax cut offered by the Governor, who is a member of their own party. The Republcians voted down a House Democratic middle class tax cut that would have provided more relief to the people who need it most.

Worst of all, we were denied a chance to vote on what I believe is the biggest jobs of a generation. By expanding affordable health care, we would have a chance to create as many as 30,000 good-paying jobs, according to the Indiana Hospital Association. It would keep more that 400,000 Hoosiers from having to use the emergency room as their primary health care option.

I believe we would have passed the affordable health care expansion if we had been given the chance to vote on it in the House during the first half of this session. It is disappointing we didnít get that chance, but I believe that we will have more chances to embrace this opportunity because it will pay huge dividends for years to come.

Our efforts to reinforce traditional public schools only get a D-minus.

We have not gone far enough to make up the promised investments taken away in past years.

One problem is that we are now funding three school systems: our tradidtional public schoos where most of our kids get their education, this wild west of deregulation that is our charter school system, and the voucher system for our private schools. We are trying to use one pool of money to pay for all of these systems, and itís not working.

Finally, we believe our proposal that the Legislature takes a break from social issues deserves a B-plus.

It is good we have decided to wait at least a year before deciding to amend our constitution to include a ban on gay marriage. We have understood that we need to give the people a break from discussing these highly emotional issues, but we also understand that trouble looms if we begin to deal with matters like trans-vaginal ultrasounds.

In the time we have left in this session, House Democrats feel we must begin to embrace an alternative economic philosophy in this state.

Building this state cannot just be about putting money and power in the hands of a few in the hope that they will do the right by the rest of us. It has to be about empowering the middle class and people trying to get into the middle class.

Letís focus on that ideal: helping the middle class. We may disagree and debate on the means for achieving that goal, but if thatís what weíre working toward, weíll have a better Indiana.

Posted 3/8/2013