04/01/11Now that we have returned to the Indiana Statehouse, and the legislative process has resumed, one question remains unanswered.
Was our walkout worth it?
If you look at the radical agenda that caused this dispute, the concern it generated among thousands of Hoosiers, and the changes that came as a result, then everything that happened these past five weeks was worth it.
Consider what has been accomplished.
Not so long ago, the House majority was advancing a plan that would have taken your tax dollars out of our public schools and used them for experimental programs that would have been available only to a select few students. They tried to prevent working Hoosiers from earning a decent wage that would help them take care of their families.
The harm that could have come from these proposals would have been lasting, affecting millions. When efforts to use the legislative process to reduce their impact were rejected, the decision was made to leave the Statehouse and give the people of this state a chance to see what was being attempted in the name of “reform.”
The results of our efforts?
The majority has chosen not to proceed with plans to curtail the rights of workers to bargain for salaries, pensions and health care. The House majority will not pursue a proposal to allow for-profit firms to take over taxpayer-funded school buildings for as little as a buck.
Instead of allowing a full-scale plan to use hundreds of millions of your dollars to pay for school vouchers that would enable a privileged few students to attend private schools, the House majority chose a smaller plan that is aimed more at students in families on lower incomes.
And instead of eliminating agreements that enable workers to earn a decent wage, particularly on projects built with your tax dollars, the House majority chose a plan that still allows Hoosier workers to make a living and care for their families and reduces the risk that they will lose their jobs to out-of-state workers.
These are remarkable strides against a group of lawmakers who attempted to cover the radical nature of its agenda under the disguise of electoral mandate.
By taking a timeout, the people of Indiana had the chance to see what was being attempted. Their opposition was reflected in the thousands who came to the Statehouse these past five weeks to register their feelings. Thanks to them, the majority stepped back from radical changes and pursued ideas that reflect the wishes of more Hoosiers.
Let me make it clear that I still would prefer that all of these proposals be dropped. We have weakened their impact, but families still are going to be hurt.
We also should be clear that our work is not done. Despite all the talk about issues being taken off the table, nothing is dead in a legislative session until it is over. The special interests that want this radical agenda have a lot of influence, and they will not be ignored.
But neither will the people of Indiana. If they hadn’t had the time to examine the content of this radical agenda and speak out against it, there is a very good chance that most of these proposals already would be well on their way to the governor’s desk for final approval. We would have tried to change them, but we would not have succeeded.
Some of this agenda remains alive, but it will not hurt as many Hoosiers as before. A good chunk of it has been set aside, and I hope we don’t see it again this session.
Now we turn our attention to other issues, particularly a new biennial state budget (House Bill 1001). The House majority’s version of this plan has passed, but we all should hope that many changes will be made before this budget becomes law.
Here are just two examples of the havoc wrought by the House majority’s budget: funding is cut for both our public schools and the popular CHOICE program that provides in-home care for the elderly and disabled.
One of the great joys of the past few weeks has been the opportunity to talk with so many of you about the things that are going on at the Indiana General Assembly. Now that the session has resumed, please continue to stay in touch about the issues that concern you.
Here are the best ways to contact me:
Call the toll-free Statehouse telephone number of 1-800-382-9842;
Write to me in care of the Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204; or
E-mail me at H17@in.gov.