Enough is Enough! Get Back to Work, Folks

It’s time for the rhetoric and political theater to stop. It’s time for members of the Indiana House to return to work and do the job – helping to govern our state – they were elected to do.

Over 250 pieces of legislation have come to a standstill because of the House Democrats’ walkout. Important proposals to grow our state’s economy, to create jobs, to keep the state fiscally sound – and to even pass a budget – are all in jeopardy.

The legislative proposals that led to the House shutdown:

  • Education reforms to improve teacher evaluations, introduce performance pay, limit collective bargaining to wages and benefits, and increase accountability. These should not be partisan issues at all.  In fact, President Obama and leading groups like Democrats for Education Reform actually support these efforts.
  • Funding schools based on a per-pupil formula, not guaranteed funding levels at shrinking school districts.
  • School choice vouchers and expanded public charter school options, so Hoosier families can have more access to quality schools for their kids.
  • Protecting the rights of workers to secret ballot votes in union elections, a core democratic principle.
  • Open and fair competition for public construction projects. Just as public projects shouldn’t be forced to be non-union, they shouldn’t be forced to be "union only."
  • Right-to-work (which is now off the table this year), even though it’s the single most effective step Indiana could take to attract jobs and 70% of Hoosiers support it.
  • In other words, the House has been brought to a standstill to protect the status quo in K-12 education and to preserve special privileges and powers of organized labor. It’s as simple as that.

These are important issues and good and honorable people can disagree about them. However, the democratic process cannot work if elected officials refuse to participate in the process. 

Call to action: Please take a moment to contact state representatives to tell them it is time to end this destructive walkout and get back to work. You can send a quick e-mail via our online grassroots system or call (800) 382-9842.

Vote Update Comes With Lofty Price Tag

The August recess in Congress seems like a good time to replace the voting display board that dates back more than 30 years.

A statement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office explained: "The implementation of the new main displays will provide the House of Representatives with a more dependable voting display that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as it will ensure increased clarity and readability."

No mention of the cost there, although some digging back into testimony to House appropriators a year earlier reveals a $6 million price tag House Clerk Lorraine Miller said at that time that with the old board lawmakers’ names still needed to be physically rearranged whenever there was a change in membership, which she called a time-consuming process.

I’m all for saving time for clerks and making it easier to read votes (although if you know a representative’s party these days you can pretty much guess which way he or she is voting), but $6 million to get the job done? Wow!

Blame the Constitution for Capping House Size

I admit it. I’ve never given much thought to the number of people serving in the House of Representatives. I have no idea why there are 435, but that’s the way it’s been for the last century since Congress capped the size following the 1910 census. It all goes back to the Constitution, which specifies a maximum – but no minimum – total count.

As you can imagine, that’s caused some controversy over the years. Check out some of the details from Congress.org :

"The Constitution states that the number of representatives is one for every 30,000 people. How is it now limited to 435?" 

You’re right. The Constitution states that "the Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one representative."

With a current U.S. population of over 300 million, that would work out to about 10,000 representatives – not to mention the chiefs of staff, legislative analysts and spokesmen for each of them.

Until the 20th century, the size of the House increased after each census to reflect the growth in the country’s population. Over time, the growth in new states and the country’s population threatened to make the House too large to be a workable legislative body (insert your own joke here) in the views of many in D.C.

After the 1910 census, Congress fixed the size of the House at 435, where it remains today. Congress later made the cap official when it passed the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929, which also established a procedure for automatically reapportioning seats after every census.

Under reapportionment, California’s delegation has grown from 11 members in the 1920s to 53 today. Florida, Texas and Arizona have also seen similar exponential jumps. Ohio, on the other hand, has gone from a high of 24 representatives to 18, while Pennsylvania has dropped from 36 to 19.

Help Stop This Health Care Train Wreck

There is no question that health care reform is needed. Is the answer the legislation that is scheduled to be voted on Saturday by the U.S. House of Representatives? Absolutely not.

If you disagree and support the mandates, fees and costs that will add $1.2 trillion (that’s "t" as in trillion) in debt, stop reading. If you don’t think those items should be part of the solution, let your congressional representative know today. The Indiana Prosperity Project has the details.

Why not H.R. 3962? The victims would include small business and their employees (both those who would lose their jobs as well as the ones remaining), insurers, health care providers, manufacturers of medical devices and more. Can we really deliver another devastating blow to companies that are still trying to recover from the recession?

Gov. Mitch Daniels wrote to Indiana’s delegation, saying, "The current House bill is the worst version yet, with truly awful consequences for Indiana." The Wall Street Journal calls the legislation "the worst bill ever."

If this is bad, what is good? Here’s a partial roadmap that should be followed:

The Indiana Chamber believes that, with a few simple reforms and changes in incentives for providers, that market forces will succeed in introducing more competition to the marketplace and ultimately driving down costs.  The Chamber supports an approach where widely accepted reforms are passed first, instead of the "all or none" approach that attempts to force passage of controversial legislation (such as a public option).  If, as President Obama has asserted, 80 percent of reform can be agreed upon, then it is these incremental, common-sense measures that should be pursued. 

The Chamber supports reform that seeks: to foster and preserve efficient private insurance markets; to realign economic incentives from fee-for-service to outcome-based compensation for providers; to enhance the use of medical information technology; and to standardize insurance procedures, as well as introduce more competition between private insurers (e.g., selling health insurance across state lines).  Decisions on treatment and coverage levels should be made cooperatively among patients, providers and insurers. Insurer scrutiny should ensure provider pricing transparency, best practices and the use of evidence-based medicine. Additionally, any real reform of the U.S. health care system must acknowledge and address abusive lawsuits and the rising costs of medical malpractice insurance.

The first step is to stop a very bad piece of legislation from emerging from the U.S. House. You can make a difference.

Auto Bailout Passes House

The auto bailout for the Big 3 (Chrysler, Ford, GM), worth $14 billion of assistance, passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 237-170. Here’s how Indiana’s Congressmen voted:

Andre Carson (D)
Joe Donnelly (D)
Brad Ellsworth (D)
Baron Hill (D)
Pete Visclosky (D)
Steve Buyer (R)
Mark Souder (R)

Dan Burton (R)
Mike Pence (R)

The bill now heads to the Senate. Indiana’s junior Senator Evan Bayh (D) has this to say:

“We’re faced with trying to choose the best among unpalatable alternatives. Nobody wanted to give money to the banks or to the insurance companies, and nobody wants to give money to the auto industry. I don’t. But if the alternative is losing hundreds of thousands of jobs and having automakers, dealerships, part suppliers, and other retailers in local communities go down, we have to make a hard choice here.

“People think the economy is bad now, but if we let all these companies go belly up, and all those folks get laid off, I’m afraid it would be much worse.

“Indiana has a huge stake in this debate. If the big auto companies go down and thousands of jobs are lost, it’s going to hit us a lot harder than almost any place else in the country."