The 2010 legislative session might officially begin Tuesday with Organization Day. The discussion started today, however, at the Indiana Chamber’s Central Indiana Legislative Preview. The four caucus leaders had plenty to say during an hour-plus dialogue. Just a few of the highlights:
Plenty of debate and disagreement over the property tax caps. House Speaker Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) tried to insert some ABCs into the 1-2-3 argument, with his main point being that assessment problems still need to be fixed. Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) warned of constitutional challenges (lawsuits) if the caps are not passed. Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington) offered that "we really don’t know if 1-2-3 are the right numbers" and said there should be no exemptions for any counties
State budget: House Minority Leader Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says there are two priorities for his caucus — no new taxes and no additional spending. Long: "Any bill that has spending in it is more than likely dead on arrival."
Party lines were clearly at play on federal health care reform, with Long "scared to death about what they’re talking about in Washington," while Simpson is "all for a national health insurance plan that insures more people." Bauer arrived in time to add that a fortune could be made and debt problems resolved if a 25% premium charge was placed on every advertisement both for and against health care reform
Local government reform: Simpson says exemptions for certain counties or areas have no place in such legislation; Long sees much duplication in township services in urban areas, but not necessarily in rural places; and Bauer gave arguments on both sides of the question before asserting that reform "must take place in steps and some steps will be taken this session."
Support of delay in unemployment insurance tax increase on employers: Bosma said "yes" to delay or even permanently postpone; Bauer adds that modifying those increases should take place in conjunction with a jobs program; and Simpson notes her caucus will "undoubtedly support a delay" but also believes that reforms in the hearings and appeals processes should be part of the equation
Education reform was addressed with Long contending that while some say Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett is a bull in a china shop, "I say we need a bull in a china shop. He needs to continue to push the envelope." Simpson says Democrats are more open to these discussions due to the efforts of President Obama. Bauer wants the focus more on students, expecially those struggling in inner cities, than teachers. Bosma sees the coming decade as one of "examination and action" on education, but that will not be the case in the 2010 General Assembly session
Bottom line: Excellent discussion; there will be plenty of issues in play during the short two-month session; and no one really knows what the outcomes will be.
Big dominates the headlines these days — big as in bad economic news, or companies and large numbers of employees being impacted by the economy. Today, however, was a time to focus on small businesses with a much more positive story to tell. The Indiana Chamber’s Small Business Awards luncheon recognizes small companies making a difference and those advocating on their behalf.
AIT Laboratories of Indianapolis was recognized as the 2009 Small Business of the Year. The Chamber’s BizVoice magazine recently profiled the fast-growing health care testing and research firm. The finalists and semifinalists were a statewide collection of companies making a difference for their employees and in their communities.
Small Business Champions are legislators who have worked to help improve the business climate for these and other organizations. Honored were senators Connie Lawson (R-Danville) and Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington), and representatives Jeb Bardon (D-Indianapolis), Richard Dodge (R-Pleasant Lake) and Sean Eberhart (R-Shelbyville).
Congratulations to the winners and all recognized on this day to reward small business success. Read all about it.
Shortly after the election, I wrote this post about how women now make up the majority of New Hampshire state senators.
Now, Brian Howey has this piece that explains how women are playing a major role in the Indiana legislature, as well:
Last week, Simpson appointed Sen. Earline Rogers of Gary (from lower left) as whip, Sen. Connie Sipes of New Albany as caucus chair, and Jean Breaux of Indianapolis as assistant caucus chair. They join Republican Majority Floor Leader Connie Lawson of Danville, Assistant President Pro Tempore Sue Landske of Cedar Lake and Assistant Majority Floor Leader Teresa Lubbers of Indianapolis who joined the leadership team of President Long in 2006. After President Robert Garton was defeated in the May 2006 Republican primary, it was a block of Republican women who threw their support behind Long and essentially clinched the top Senate job for the Fort Wayne Republican. He subsequently opened the gates to leadership for women. Simpson of Ellettsville was able to wrest the Senate Minority Leader post away from Sen. Richard Young last month. It came in a year when Hoosiers nominated Jill Long Thompson as its first major party gubernatorial nominee while U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton became the first woman to win the Indiana presidential primary. In 2003, Lt. Gov. Kathy Davis became the first female in state history to hold an executive branch office.