With less than two weeks left in the 2012 Indiana General Assembly, a few
area lawmakers were in Chesterton on Saturday to share their knowledge of
bills circulating inside the statehouse impacting constituents.
State Senator Karen Tallian, D- Portage, hosted a forum at Chesterton Town
Hall to an audience of 15 on Saturday afternoon along with State
Representatives Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, and making his first Duneland
appearance, Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City.
Pelath said he was “more than jubilant” to learn in last year’s
redistricting that he would be representing portions of Pine, Jackson and
Westchester townships in Porter County.
“It almost feels like being a new legislator,” said Pelath, who has served
in the assembly since 1998.
All three jumped right into talking about the divisive “right-to-work” bill
which dominated the first half of the General Assembly.
Moseley said he thought 2012 would be a good year to help work on programs
that would bring jobs to the state and improve services since tax revenues
were up this year, but was “dumbfounded” when he heard right-to-work was
going to be brought back this year as the legislature’s number-one priority.
The push had “nothing to do with philosophy,” Moseley said, and was just a
political move by Governor Mitch Daniels and his Republican majority to
catch the eye of the nation proving they had the power to create the first
right-to-work state in the country’s rust belt.
Pelath added that the bill was the most bitter and divisive seen in a
generation and said there is no correlation to proponents’ claims that
right-to-work brings more employment to states with right-to-work laws. He
said higher wages exist in states without right-to-work because businesses
have to compete with companies who have union wages.
Tallian, who serves as ranking minority leader on the Senate’s Pensions and
Labor Committee, said her colleagues wouldn’t give the bill a hearing longer
than six minutes and did so to show they had the power to.
“We (Senate Democrats) tried our best but we couldn’t amend it and we
couldn’t stop it,” said Tallian, “This year has been a train wreck.”
Tallian said once the right-to-work bill passed, she was happy to move on to
more topics but the bills became “weirder,” like Senate Bill 89 that would
allow teachers to teach students various religious viewpoints on creationism
(SB 89 was subsequently voted down in the house), and another bill that
would give the states to ability to opt out of federal Medicare and Medicaid
“You look at this stuff and you can’t believe they’re serious,” Tallian
Mission to Study Child Services
Instead of right-to-work, Moseley said the state should have made its
mission to address a matter in the state’s Department of Child Services.
At the forum, Moseley provided handouts of news articles from South Bend and
Indianapolis news groups raising questions of possible problems in the DCS
after 23 Hoosier children died from abuse or neglect even when concerns
about their treatment were reported to the DCS.
Moseley said state control over child service dollars has reportedly led to
less access to child services and when one of his colleagues, State Rep.
Gail Riecken, D-Evansville, proposed an amendment to study the department
phone system the committee wouldn’t even allow a hearing on the matter.
“We need to ask ourselves could we have prevented this and right now it’s
being swept under the rug,” said Moseley. “This is a moral obligation.”
He urged audience members to contact the governor’s office and legislators
to convince them this study needs to take place.
One piece of legislation lauded was HB 1149, which would ban smoking from
all public places with the exception of a few bars, taverns and gaming
facilities in Indiana. Jane Delligatti, chair of the 2012 Duneland Relay for
Life, thanked the three legislators for the commitment to healthy
environments and invited them to attend the Relay on July 14 at Chesterton
Moseley said many bar owners in his district said they are happy to comply
with the smoking ban even before the 18-month exemption ends.
“It’s something important. It really is for everyone,” he said.
The group also took questions from Liberty Township resident Ed Gutt on the
governor’s effort to reform local government where more voting power would
be given to cities and towns and an attempt to reduce the number of county
commissioners from three to one. Tallian, Pelath and Moseley said they
favored counties having local control. Moseley mentioned he made an effort
to amend the bill that would prevent nepotism in county government by
exempting volunteer firefighters from the ban, but his attempt had been
The “nepotism” bill would also prohibit government employees from running
for public office.
A Change is
Now that the 2012 session is sunsetting at the statehouse (the Assembly is
tentatively scheduled to adjourn on March 9), some have begun to set their
sights on 2013, which could be a “game changer” depending on the outcomes of
the November 2012 elections where all state representative seats and some of
the state senate spots are up for election.
Pelath and Moseley shared with the group their prediction of a larger voter
turnout now that “people have had enough” of political tactics.
“I think you are going to see a shift in the fall. It’s not going to be a
major shift, but you’re going to see some change,” said Moseley.
Pelath said that residents want to see candidates who can promote compromise
between the two political parties and those who did so in the past were
considered to be “great statesmen.” But today, compromise is seen by the
parties to be a sign of weakness.
He added that living in the “information age” has allowed people to pick and
choose what news they want to read or view and they often are not getting a
balanced view of the issues. This, he believes, has increased political
Moseley encouraged the public to talk to their friends and neighbors about
the state issues. Instead of people showing up at the polls to “vote with
their pocketbooks,” Moseley said more people will show up because they
believe they can make a difference.
“It’s been a pretty tough road since January 2011,” he said.
From the audience, Liberty Township resident Herb Read said political labels
have morphed in recent years and the Republicans who give themselves the
label “conservative” don’t follow his definition of someone wanting changes
to be slow or gradual.
“They are not conservative. They are radicals and we should call them
radicals,” said Read.
Education $130 Million
Earlier in the day, the three legislators joined a few more of their peers,
State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, and State Sen. Ed Charbonneau,
R-Valparaiso, at another forum hosted by the Retired Teachers Association in
the auditorium at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Valparaiso where
education was the main topic.
Teachers applauded news that the “thirteenth check” bill, House Bill 1123,
where members of the Indiana state teachers’ retirement fund would be given
a further stipend from the state, has passed the House and the Senate. The
state will appropriate $19 million for pension funds.
“This is a real feel-good bill. You don’t get a lot of that,” said
Charbonneau who is a co-sponsor of HB 1123.
The panel further discussed a move by Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep.
Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, that will put up $80 million for full-day
kindergarten from the “found” $320 million in corporate income tax. The
program will be fully-funded as long as the same amount of students sign up
Schools would also be appropriated $30 million in tuition support through
Charbonneau’s SB 280 which would put school funding on a fiscal year basis
rather than a calendar basis and would make two student counts during the
year for the state’s funding formula. The $30 million would be reimbursed to
charter schools that would lose money in the transition.
The three measures increase the state’s commitment to education by about