2013 Indiana General Assembly

Senate president stays busy killing 'statement' bills

2013-02-03T20:15:00Z 2013-02-04T09:34:03Z Senate president stays busy killing 'statement' billsDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
February 03, 2013 8:15 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | For the past two years, the Indiana House has been the source of Statehouse excitement as Democrats and Republicans repeatedly clashed in person and from afar over controversial labor legislation.

This year, however, it's the Senate that's filled with angry lawmakers — Republicans mad, not at the 13 Democrats in the 50-member chamber, but at the federal government.

Republican senators have proposed more than a dozen measures intended to rein in what they see as Washington overreach, including Senate Bill 130, exempting Indiana-made firearms from federal regulation; Senate Bill 127, barring arrests by federal officials without the consent of the local sheriff; and Senate Bill 230, allowing the state Legislature to declare federal laws unconstitutional.

Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he understands the sentiment behind each of those proposals, but he felt obligated to assign them to the Rules Committee, a panel he controls and from which they'll likely never be heard from again.

"A lot of them are in there for a reason, and in fairness to the authors, most of them would say, 'I'm trying to make a statement, I didn't expect a hearing,'" Long said.

Long told reporters this week he was particularly bothered by Senate Bill 230, the nullification proposal intended to prevent Hoosiers from having to live under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

"You cannot say that we just refuse to enforce this bill," Long said. "Particularly not when the Supreme Court found Obamacare to be constitutional."

Twenty Senate bills have so far been assigned to the Rules Committee. Long admitted that's more than usual but proportional to the 621 Senate bills filed this year, the second-most of all time behind the 647 bills filed 2005.

"This country is split politically, we know that, it has been for a while," Long said. "There's a lot angst about the growth of the federal government."

Across the Statehouse rotunda, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, has assigned four measures to the House Rules Committee.

They include House Bill 1572, sponsored by state Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, terminating the private school voucher program; and House Bill 1577, sponsored by state Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point, getting rid of the state charter school board. 

Bosma sponsored the 2011 legislation creating vouchers and expanding charter schools.

Unlike the Senate, which has no limits, Bosma said representatives tend to offer fewer "statement" bills because they're only allowed to submit 10 bills in odd years and five bills in even years.

"I think the bill limit has caused all members to have to focus on what's important and to prioritize their legislative agendas," Bosma said.

It also saves money.

"For every one of those bills someone has to draft it, someone has to draft a fiscal statement for it and the large majority of them sit in the corner," he said.

Long said whether to impose a limit on the number of Senate bills as well is an "ongoing topic of discussion."

In the meantime, he said he'll continue using the Rules Committee to judiciously dispose of proposals he believes go too far.

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