Adding Up the Legislative Votes

There are three key components whenever our 150 legislators gather for their annual lawmaking duties at the Indiana Statehouse:

  1. LEGISLATIVE session takes place
  2. Senators and reps VOTE on a wide variety of issues
  3. When it’s all over, we do the ANALYSIS

Put it all together and you have the Chamber’s annual Legislative Vote Analysis. For the 27th year, we tell you which legislators voted for the pro-economy, pro-jobs agenda and which attempted to stand in the way. It’s an involved process to compile all the votes on the identified issues for each legislator. But the result is a simple score.

The full analysis has all the individual votes on pages that contain an overload of +/- symbols. Then there are the bill descriptions for those who want to know exactly what each vote meant. But the bottom line is the one-page scoresheet that gives a score for 2011 and a two-year average.

You can also check out our BizVoice magazine story for some analysis. Pay attention! Thank the legislators with the high totals; for those who don’t measure up, insist that they do better.

Credibility Matters in Right-to-Work Studies

In this year of divisive issues at the Indiana Statehouse, right-to-work will undoubtedly lead the way. Scheduling of a House committee hearing for this morning led some to believe a Democrat walkout wouldn’t be far behind. That would be a shame if it took place; let the issue be aired and the people decide through their elected representatives.

It’s also generated competing studies. The Indiana Chamber commissioned its report in 2010 and it was released on the last day of January. Right-to-work and Indiana’s Economic Future found that instituting a RTW law would increase Hoosiers’ per-capita income by nearly $1,000 for a family of four over the next decade. Separate polling also noted that Indiana voters favor RTW by a 3-to-1 margin.

Late last week the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) responded with a paper that asserted that wages are lower in the 22 RTW states than the 28 non-RTW states.

Who should you believe? The Chamber work was produced by Ohio University economists with years of experience and expertise at the national and international levels. EPI is a home for former and current labor union leaders who are desperate to protect their quickly evaporating financial monopoly as union membership continues to dwindle. In the Chamber-released poll conducted by a national firm with a strong national reputation, even 44% of union workers (despite the rhetoric from their leadership) were supporters of RTW.

Here are some of the current members of the EPI board of directors (according to its web site; some of these individuals are no longer union presidents but remain influential leaders):

  • President for the International Association of Machinists union
  • Chair of the Change-to-win labor federation
  • President of the Communications Workers of America union
  • President of the United Steelworkers of America union
  • President of the United Autoworkers Union
  • President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union
  • President of Workers United union
  • President of the Service Employees International Union
  • President of the AFL-CIO union
  • President of the American Federation of Teachers union

Who you going to believe? The Indiana Chamber directly represents the 800,000 employees at nearly 5,000 member companies across the state. If those workers aren’t able to succeed, then Indiana will not succeed. Or you can go with the union leaders clamoring for any way to protect their forced membership livelihood.

RTW does not get rid of unions. It lets the workers decide instead of the union bosses. Sounds fair, doesn’t it?

Statehouse Leaves One Searching for the Right Words

I’ve been doing this writing thing for publication for more than 30 years now (must have started from the crib, right?) and rarely experience trouble expressing myself. The problem here is not the dreaded writer’s block, but what not to say following a long, long day at the Indiana Statehouse on Wednesday.

(Indiana Chamber members can get the full story directly from ICC president Kevin Brinegar on Friday from 9:30-10:30 a.m. ET in our monthly Policy Issue Conference Call. Kevin has just about seen it all in his nearly 30 years around the Statehouse, but Wednesday’s developments had him joining others in shaking his head. Remember, this is for members only. Registration is required).

I’ll try to be brief. First key point: At a time when economic fortunes are low and unemployment is high, legislators pass an unemployment insurance trust fund bill that practically guarantees additional job losses. Figure that one out. Second, a state budget proposal (the lone requirement for the nearly four-month session) fails in the House (71-27) and that is the good news. The "compromise" would have started the steady climb up the "cliff" that everyone said needed to be avoided (in other words, relied too heavily on stimulus funds and set the stage for big tax hikes two years from now or sooner) and took several steps in reverse on education policy.

I’ve come to learn in 11 years at the Chamber that negotiations in the final days of the session produce the ultimate final bills on the major issues. I’m not a big fan of that, but I’ve come to accept it as reality. The products of these conference committees, however, seemed to evolve from one-sided negotiations. House Republicans and Senate Democrats, the minorities, talked of being shut out. Senate Republicans unfortunately seemed to be missing in action based on the conference committee outcomes.

Just a few details. The unemployment "solution" was termed a $685 million tax increase on employers over two years. Econ 101, or maybe freshman common sense, tells you struggling employers faced with monumental tax increases will have to cut costs in other ways — quite likely in personnel. Passionate speeches aside from both caucuses, the bill passed the House 52-47 (party line vote) after 96-3 passage in the Senate.

The budget proposal: Too much spending ($28.1 billion over two years when the state doesn’t have that much money to spend). A message that we’re still not serious about education. No scholarship tax credit. A cap on charter schools at a time when everyone from President Obama on down is calling for more school choice. House Minority Leader Brian Bosma said this move would have jeopardized $275 million in education stimulus funding and disqualified the state from Obama’s $5 billion Race to the Top education grant fund.

I’ll stop there. There will be plenty more to come as those two dreaded words — special session — are now reality.