Tallying the Statehouse Scores

There are not too many games of any type played in which no score is kept. And while one might argue that crafting the laws that apply to Indiana companies, their employees and all Hoosier citizens is no "game" in the traditional sense, the antics that go into that process would suggest otherwise.

No matter the terminology, legislators run for office vowing to serve their constituents. The Indiana Chamber represents nearly 5,000 business organizations with 800,000 employee constituents. The Chamber tells the lawmakers what bills it is tracking, the business community’s positions on those important issues, why specific bills are supported or opposed — and then we keep score on how they vote.

The tallies are contained in the annual Legislative Vote Analysis, released today. It has 2010 and two-year vote scores for all 150 members of the Indiana House and Senate. The goal: let those employers, employees and all Hoosier voters know which legislators are supporting pro-economic development, pro-jobs initiatives. It removes the talk and the posturing from the equation. The vote totals speak loudly.

As the introductory letter asks: Was your legislator part of the solution or part of the problem? Scores range from a low of 33% (a certain long-time legislator from South Bend who doesn’t always vote because of his leadership position in the House) to a high of 93% (from a Fort Wayne-based senator). Overall, the totals are disappointing. Take a look for yourself, share the information with others and use it as a guide as the election process plays out this year for all 100 representatives and a portion of the senators.

Read today’s press release and access the full report.

Governor to Legislators: A Billion is a Billion (in Reserves)

Governor Mitch Daniels presented his revised budget proposal to a special legislative committee this afternoon. He closed with announcing that the special session will begin on June 11 (1 p.m.). Among his key earlier points:

  • The special session is "not something to be regretted, but something to be grateful for."  He made it clear that he would have vetoed the proposed budget (defeated in the House in the last minutes of the regular session) due to the unrealistic revenue forecast that was in place at the time
  • He hopes legislators give serious consideration to an education trigger. If revenues do exceed projections at some point in the next two years, half of the excess would go toward education and the other half to the state’s rainy day fund
  • He indicated flexibility within his parameters to legislative wishes with the following exceptions: no gimmicks, no dipping into pension funds and only using one-time federal stimulus money for one-time purposes. "A billion means a billion (for reserves). It’s not a starting point."

Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) offered a preview of things to come for the committee:

  • State Budget Director Chris Ruhl answering more legislative questions on Thursday. A recommendation from the administration on the CIB funding crisis for Indianapolis sports and convention facilities is expected later that day
  • Testimony Thursday and Friday from proponents for K-12, higher education, Medicaid/social services and economic development/worker training
  • Legislative caucus presentations on Tuesday, June 9, with a focus, according to Kenley, on "major points you would like to see in the budget, not bringing in the additional bills you would like to see addessed in the special session"

Text of the governor’s address to the public on Monday and slides used in his presentation are available here

At the Statehouse: The Deadline is Near

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar discusses the key topics and what needs to happen before tonight’s legislative deadline. Here is video from Inside Indiana Business.

Also, our Twitter feed will feature a few updates throughout the day from the Statehouse, letting you know what’s happening on key bills.

Seeking Prosperity for All

The Indiana Chamber is in business to help create a stronger state business climate. Eight issue experts work each day, and many nights, toward that goal during the General Assembly session.

They, and all of us, need your help. Legislators want to hear from you. If local government reform, for example, is not enacted, one reason given will be that more opponents than supporters spoke up. That should not be the case.

It’s easy. The Indiana Prosperity Project web site has quick updates on critical issues and ways for you to contact your legislators. New topics are featured each week. Bookmark the page and take a few minutes to be involved.

We will thank you in advance.

Topping the Legislative Social Calendar

After nearly 11 years here at the Indiana Chamber, I can honestly say that the organization does more than a few things well. One of the best is throwing a party — whether it’s the November Annual Dinner celebration, the May Best Places to Work in Indiana recognition or, in this case, the Legislative Reception.

Legislators and members of the state administration make it a point to show up and interact with the business and community leaders from around the state. Food, drink and meaningful conversations are aplenty.

Rockin’  the Statehouse 2 is the 2009 theme. The Indianapolis Marriott Downtown is the site for the March 11 event. Don’t miss it. Register today.

Massachusetts to Legislators: If the Voters Grow Tired of You, You Should Make More Money

Things to like about Massachusetts: Well, Salem seems pretty cool. And you’ve got to respect the Celtics. I’ve always wanted to tour the Lizzie Borden House, so that’s a plus. Oh, and they have some very sound governmental policies … ok, maybe three out of four ain’t bad.

I’m going to tell you a story; we’ll call it "The Ballad of J. James Marzilli, Jr." Raise your hand when something sounds askew.

A state senator serves the public for over 20 years. He then resigns and announces he won’t seek re-election after he’s arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and accosting a person of the opposite sex. However, his name remains on the ballot and he loses handily — what with all the alleged accosting and whatnot. Yet, he files to double his pension. In doing so, he cites a state law that allows elected officials under 55 with more than 20 years of "creditable" service to upgrade their pensions if they fail to win re-election.

Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation offers the indignation:

"The whole point of being an elected official is to do such a good job that you don’t get thrown out," she said. "So if there’s an incentive that if you do get thrown out and then get rewarded for that, that just kind of scrambles the entire system, which doesn’t work under the best of circumstances, but this just makes it worse."

And for good measure:

"They get an additional pension if their constituents get sick of them and throw them out? Am I hearing that right? Only in Massachusetts…"

Looks like the pension decision is being withheld until a verdict is reached in his court case.

Egat. One has a feeling voters and the taxpaying public of the Commonwealth might like to let Ms. Borden take 40 whacks at this law.

State Legislators Cope with Email Volume; Texas Congressman Stays in Touch Using Twitter

The Thicket blog recently took a look at how state legislators are dealing with email volume. The writer explains some of the responses were encouraging, while some likely won’t be received too well by constituents.

Some of the legislators who have their own staff had maladroit messages like, "I won’t be able to respond to your message myself, but one of my staff will get back to you" or, perhaps worse, the automated message came from a staff person, not the legislator, in the first place.  Staff may in fact be the ones who respond, but there are more graceful ways to explain this to constituents.  Announcing in advance that staff will respond seems gratuitous at best and patronizing at worst.

While some have been negotiating the world of email, folks like Congressman John Culberson of Texas have been pioneering constituent relations by using Twitter — the latest and greatest way to communicate using "micro-blogging." Check out Culberson’s Twitter feed here.