Not so bold action in the Statehouse 

It"s time for bold

It"s time for bold action in Indiana. Or at least that"s the buzzword floating around the Statehouse. Gov. Frank O"Bannon used it in his state of the state speech. The Republicans unveiled a bold vision for Indiana. Speaker of the House Pat Bauer said the state needs bold action to deal with the budget crisis.
Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) sponsored a bill to adopt an energy policy for Indiana.
Of course, when you"re actually doing something bold, you usually just do it. Invade a country. Give massive tax cuts to the rich during a recession. It may be nuts, but it"s bold stuff and everyone knows it. When you actually have to tell people you"re being bold, then you"re really telling them, "Here is another collection of my same old wussy ideas - my kick-ass wussy ideas." So what do you do in Indiana when you have an idea that may be bold? Good question. At the moment, Indiana does not have an energy policy, unless of course Vice President Dick Cheney designed one for the state and just won"t tell us. Some people would like us to have one, including environmentalists who are still flabbergasted that they were able to stop anyone from building a nuclear power plant back in the 1970s. Not that nuclear power plants aren"t bold - and for a really long time, too. Realizing what bold means in Indiana politics, Rep. Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) sponsored a bill to adopt an energy policy for Indiana Ö well, sort of. The bill would nudge the state toward looking at sustainable sources of energy and conservation. It would be paid for by a charge of less than 1 percent on utility bills. "It"s particularly important at this time when we are facing a conflict with Iraq. We have to review what our energy resources are," Pelath said. Realizing it was a new idea for the state (which means it"s a bad idea in case you just moved here), Pelath arranged a deal with the chairman that members would not vote on the bill he submitted. Instead, they would only take testimony from people from Vermont and Wisconsin who started energy programs that are working well. Blair Hamilton of Efficiency Vermont testified about a program started in 1999 that cut the amount of power consumed in Vermont by offering rebates on compact florescent light bulbs, high efficiency ceiling fans and other items to bring down the cost for consumers. They came up with all sorts of ideas that cut the use of electricity without requiring anyone to get rid of any bad habits. It"s like fat free power. A private group contracted by the state, Efficiency Vermont spent most of their time and money working with businesses. They saved an Ethan Allen furniture plant from shutting down when they found ways to make their plant more efficient and cut electric costs, Hamilton said. States around the country once required power companies to invest in these kinds of programs. When deregulation of the utilities industry came into vogue in the late 1990s, companies wanted to drop the unprofitable programs and, while the law never changed in Indiana, regulators, well, took a comp day. Like Indiana, Vermont and Wisconsin never jumped on the deregulation bandwagon and the idea is now unpopular with lawmakers in Indiana on both sides of the aisle after the problems in California. Score one for the wussies. While Vermont and Wisconsin didn"t deregulate the utility industry, they did borrow a program used in deregulated states that figured out how much people were paying for efficiency programs and gave the responsibility for running them to the state, which has the ability to run programs statewide. The Citizens Action Coalition fought for the hearing before the Indiana House Commerce Committee. Pelath said the bill will be back with another version next year, which is when we"re likely to see what opposition emerges. Bills on the move Rep. Duane Cheney (D-Portage) has a bill on third reading to require riverboat casinos to reimburse the state for full-time employees who use Medicaid or any other state medical program. Rep. Mary Kay Budak (R-LaPorte) introduced a bill to license preschools. Unlike daycare centers, preschools are completely unregulated in Indiana, as long as the facility keeps a child less than four hours a day. The Rep. Jonathon Weinzapfel (D-Mount Vernon) bill to regulate e-mail spam passed committee and is headed to the House floor.

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