NUVO: If you could provide one element of constructive criticism about the 2012 General Assembly, what would it be?
State Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan, D, running for State Senate District 36: My constructive criticism would be that leadership at all levels should have had more confidence in their mainstream members to work together. We could have accomplished so much more.
Incumbent State Sen. Brent Waltz, R, District 36: I would have preferred a compromise regarding the passage of right to work legislation, which was very disruptive and would offer very little, if any, benefit to encouraging businesses to locate in Indiana.
Tim DeLaney, D, running for State Senate District 30.: Its focus on divisive culture war issues. We are just emerging from the worst recession in recent memory. Instead of focusing on putting Hoosiers back to work, legislators took on a Tea Party agenda focused on attacking women's access to health care, teaching creationism as science and engaging in so much silliness that legislators even attacked the Girl Scouts. This kind of extremism has no place in our government, embarrasses the state and gets in the way of real progress.
Fred Peterson, L, running for State Senate District 30:The term, 'minority leader' is a misnomer when the only leadership displayed is to leave town.
Incumbent State Sen. Scott Schneider, R, District 30: No matter how much you disagree with a bill, a legislator has no business being so rigid as to walk off the job.
John Barnes, D, running in District 32: Members of the legislature can't claim to be 'fiscal conservatives' and then not show concern when the state loses track of more than half a billion dollars of revenue. We need a transparent, independent accounting system so that we actually know how much money we have to work with. If you 'find' money that was 'lost,' restore the funding to the original programs that you cut. Don't invent new ways to spend that money.
Gena Martinez, L, running in District 33: The 2012 General Assembly seemed to be plagued by an air of complacency and a lackluster attitude towards bipartisanship. In addition to their inability to bridge the gap between the two major parties, they wasted taxpayer monies chasing pieces of legislation that served to single out and harm select portions of Indiana's residents and add absolutely no value to the quality of life for anyone living in Indiana. More specifically, House Joint Resolution 6 has already cost Hoosiers over $78,000 to pursue (more than double the average cost for a single piece of legislation), and if it is successful, its only contribution to our state will be: a.) to concrete an already existing law (same-sex marriage is already denied by the state of Indiana), b.) diminish protections (including domestic violence provisions) for all non-married Hoosiers, c.) it will (and has already) discourage many employers from moving to Indiana in an effort to protect their LGBT employees and to remain competitive while they attempt to attract talent.
Incumbent State Sen. Breaux, D, District 34: Focus on the issues that matter, not socially divisive issues that do not address real issues such as healthcare and Indiana's response to the Affordable Care Act, education-meaningful expansion of full-day Kindergarten, pre-school and funding for traditional public urban schools and suburban schools. Indiana's high school dropout rate is a big problem. We need to diversify our energy resources in the state, and we need to offer a real plan to reduce unplanned pregnancies and family planning to reduce STDs and too many very young people becoming parents.
Mark Waterfill, D, District 35.: The Indiana General Assembly is far too partisan. Right to work should never have been forced upon us, especially the way it was done. The state has no interest in criminalizing contracts between private parties. We need a strong, balanced voice. We need progress not more partisanship.
Michael Adkins, D, District 28: Only one? While right to work is an obvious choice. I would have to say my biggest criticism is how close the General Assembly came to allowing the governor to pull Hoosiers out of Medicare.
NUVO: How you do think an extended era of solid Republican control over the General Assembly will influence legislators' work at the Statehouse? How will bipartisanship and checks and balances function in this environment?
Sullivan: I believe that there are plenty of good ideas that can garner bipartisan support, if individual legislators are willing to assert themselves within their caucus and to their leadership. My sense is that many legislators are tired of the extreme partisanship and lack of collegiality at the Statehouse.
Until a less dysfunctional relationship is established, the role of the minority will be to react to the overreach of the majority who are testing the extremes of their ideology. Unfortunately, the extremists are driving an agenda that those in control seem unable to manage.
Waltz: There is no question that both the House and Senate will remain firmly in the hands of a Republican majority. I have always tried to focus on representing my community, not my political party. It is my hope that this new era will enable legislators to focus serving their constituents rather than scoring cheap political points at the expense of the opposing political party.
Delaney: We've seen the unfortunate extremism that has been the hallmark of debate in the General Assembly in recent years. Instead of engaging in such debates, I want to focus on issues that have bipartisan appeal such as early childhood education and improving our transit infrastructure. I don't care if a good idea comes from a Democrat or a Republican. I only care if it moves our state forward.
Peterson: As the term 'bi' in bipartisanship implies, two leaders are required. Unfortunately, quality leadership has been lacking on the Democratic side as evidenced by the 'we're not in the majority so we'll leave town' mentality during the last session.
Schneider: Compared to a 14-year era of Democrat control, Republicans have only been in the majority for two years, yet we have accomplished much good. Look at our state's fiscal condition compared to surrounding states. In the Senate where Republicans have a strong majority, 98 percent of the bills passed last year received bipartisan support, and 57 percent were unanimous. We work together in the Senate to accomplish many positive things with both Democrat and Republican support.
Barnes: There will be even more of a focus on social issues and less interest in tackling the tough economic issues that we face. There won't be much of any bipartisanship in such a climate. Instead, we will continue to see the 'political antics' that result with one-party rule.
Martinez: If the current state of affairs in the Indiana General Assembly is any indicator of the effects of an extended era of solid Republican control, Hoosiers need to reconsider our political priorities. We have legislation being rushed through the system with countless unknown earmarks and additional considerations that some legislators admit they aren't even able to read, let alone weigh and consider. At a recent debate, I heard a Republican incumbent admit that often times Senators' names are added as co-authors to bills they have never even read! If there is a shred of truth to this (and I suspect there is), it is a shameful state of affairs.
Breaux: While the legislature often divides along rural vs. urban issues, there are fundamental differences in how the two parties address our stateÕs priorities such as healthcare, education, tax policy and the environment. Democrats in the Senate will to be organized and vocal.
Waterfill: We need more fiscal watchdogs at the Statehouse. One-party control has resulted in the administration 'losing' over a half a billion dollars, cutting education funding and then not returning that money, and boondoggles such as the Rockport coal-gas plant and the IURC (Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission) and DCS (Department of Child Services) scandals.
Atkins: I know Republicans who are concerned about having full GOP dominance in the legislature. The GOP has become so emboldened they broke the governor's promise to labor and passed RTW. The very fact they tried to opt Indiana out of Medicare because of radical ideology is scary. A greater dominance by the GOP will embolden the Tea Party and make bipartisanship all but impossible.
NUVO: If you could ask one question of your opponent, what would it be?
Sullivan: Do you really believe that your rigid and extreme ideology is helpful to, or representative of, a modern, internationally competitive city?
Waltz: Does Mary Ann Sullivan believe that she would be more effective in representing our community as one of 13 Democrats out the 50 members of the state Senate and if 'yes' how she would do so?
Delaney: I would ask if he regrets authoring bills to defund Planned Parenthood, teach creationism in science class, make abortion a Class C felony, allowing guns in playgrounds and libraries and if he regrets endorsing Richard Mourdock in the primary over the respected Senator (Richard) Lugar.
Peterson:The largest cash payments unabashedly accepted by the other two candidates came from corporations or unions. My question to both is, "Why is the individual's political voice not most important?"
Schneider:Why are you so critical of so many of the bills that received bipartisan support? Are you upset with the moderates of your own party and wish they would be more rigid and partisan?
Barnes:Why do you spend so much time on social issues and so little time on the vital economic issues of jobs and economic development that would really help this district?
Martinez:Let me begin by stating honestly that I have the utmost respect for state Senator (Greg) Taylor. ... If I am elected to office it means I ran a good campaign and my district stood behind me (while we watched pigs fly overhead and snuggled close to Satan to keep warm). My only criticism may be that he wasn't aggressive enough. To that end: Senator Taylor, why did you not present more legislation with the intent to proactively protect Hoosiers in your district as opposed to only responding appropriately to defend them from the predatory bills of other legislators?
Breaux: I would ask Scott Schneider why he is so opposed to Planned Parenthood in Indiana. I would ask him if he is aware that PP provides valuable services for low- and moderate-income men and women in the form of breast exams, cancer screenings, and remedies for contracted STDs. These conditions, when detected early, can reduce the onset of serious illness and the spread of disease while at the same time saving our state significant health care costs.
Waterfill: Why did you co-author SB 423, 2009, a boondoggle requiring the state to buy gas from a for-profit developer for 30 years, and then lie about the fact that you co-authored that bill?
Adkins: My opponent is a very nice guy. Of all the questions I could ask, No. 1 would be how can you accept so many special interest campaign contributions and say you will not be beholden to any special interest?
NUVO: What question do you wish we'd asked and how would you answer it?
Delaney: Why am I running? I am running because we have been traditionally represented in District 30 by bipartisan senators who focused on the real priorities facing our state. That changed in 2009 when the Tea Party picked the replacement for our senator, who stepped down mid-term.
Peterson:The Democratic candidate wants to keep lowering the mandatory age for children to be sent to public school. How does he determine the age and is there a lower limit? The Republican wants creationism taught in public schools. Would he also mandate that all other religious accounts of the creation be included or only the one in which he believes.
Sullivan: What is the best part of what you do?
The absolute best part of representing my community is working with stakeholder groups to solve problems and create new opportunities. It is intensely satisfying to identify a problem, bring everyone together who is impacted by that problem, and collaboratively find a solution. Equally fulfilling is envisioning a great new direction and developing a compelling plan to get there.
Waltz: What is my favorite Harrison Ullmann column? "My Dinner Date with God" circa 1996.
Barnes: When people vote for me, they will be voting for someone who will work for them. They will be voting for a candidate, not a party. I am a moderate Democrat and a fiscal conservative. I believe in reaching across the aisle to get things done by working with members of the other party. Indiana is supposed to have a "part-time, citizen legislature." I don't think the founders envisioned 30-year incumbents who vote to give themselves expensive perks like health care and pensions. Let's get back to prioritizing service to our constituents.
Martinez: I do wish NUVO would ask all of the candidates this election round how they intend to set aside party obligations and tend to the needs and requests of the citizens they are sworn to represent. Political parties are powerful tools that serve to win elections, but people are called to legislate, not parties. Voters should bear this in mind when selecting candidates, not parties.
Waterfill: Are you a fiscal conservative? Yes. As a small business owner I will work to keep property taxes low. I pledge to: Oppose wasteful boondoggles such as the Rockport coal-gas plant, co-authored by my opponent; [and to] end pensions for legislators.