Oddball session of the General Assembly 

Same-sex marriage, full-day kindergarten and property taxes

Same-sex marriage, full-day kindergarten and property taxes

I’m trying to pick the most stunning oddball turn taken in this session of the General Assembly, but I’m having a hard time narrowing the list. It could be the Republicans walking off the floor during the final weeks, in a last minute attempt to start a resolution to immortalize the banning of gay marriage in the state Constitution. When they left, work in the House ground to a near halt — though I need to put little quote marks around the word “left,” considering on one Wednesday I counted four separate press conferences by the House Republicans.
-Indiana House Minority Leader Brian Bosma led Republicans off the floor in an attempt to immortalize the banning of gay marriage in the state Constitution.-

You know, you keep packing me into the same cramped committee room with a bunch of middle-age white guys, just to tell me one more time that you’re against gay marriage and quite frankly I start to wonder. I’m not saying House Republican Leader Brian Bosma isn’t doing what he thinks is right. He is a religious man. He talks openly about it on the floor. For many religious people, same-sex marriage is a line in the sand.

It’s also a kind of free shot. Most of the people who aren’t particularly bothered by same-sex marriage aren’t going to make it an issue in the next election. But the people who don’t like the idea are more apt to freak out. When you only have to pick up one of 51 seats, all it may take are a few freaked out voters in a key district. It may be one reason the holdout lasted beyond the deadline to pass the resolution they supposedly were holding out to pass.

My favorite line still has to be when Bosma said during one of the press conferences that he would not return to the floor of the Indiana House until the institution was treated with dignity and respect. The press corps looked at one another as if to say, well, I guess that’s it, then. I wonder how much they’ll get for the limestone when they bulldoze the place to put up a BW3s.

For another candidate for the oddball title, I could back up a few weeks earlier to when Speaker of the House Pat Bauer attempted to have one of his members vote via Web camera from South Bend. We were treated to the image of the ailing Rep. Kromkowski, who looks like a cross between Jimmy Durante and Gary native Karl Malden, waving from his home, there on the screen, guarded by two state troopers.

Same-sex marriage and Web cam voting aren’t the only highlights. It’s hard to remember that the session began with the traditional Organization Day being turned into a three-week mini session to discuss property tax reform. Remember reassessment? It was the gay marriage of 2003. It was the battleground that Democrats would use to propel themselves to victory in the next House elections. Only after three weeks, the Democrats realized that the Republican-controlled Senate had their number and wouldn’t let any of the new deductions for homeowners and farmers pass.

Or how about the governor proposing to fund full-day kindergarten for every child in the midst of a wobbling economy that may include a $1 billion state deficit by the time the budget cycle is over? No matter what happened to the kindergarten bill, it is going to be a cornerstone of the governor’s re-election campaign. The Web cam vote was to pass a resolution to begin the process of changing the Constitution to allow abandoned property to be used for kindergarten.

Come to think of it, during the first week of the walkout, House Republicans returned briefly to vote on three more amendments to the Constitution, including one on eliminating the inventory tax. You know, I haven’t read the state Constitution all the way through but apparently it’s not necessary. They left out all the good stuff. Not only did our founding fathers leave open the possibility that gay kindergartners could marry during all their extra free time but they could also have their inventory taxed. Luckily, the 2004 General Assembly has come to the rescue.

One thing the framers did do was make it tough for anyone to amend the state Constitution. Both houses of the General Assembly have to pass a resolution during two General Assemblies before the question can even get on the ballot. It’s a time-consuming process designed to stop, well, everything I described over the last 750 words or so. The founders didn’t know about sound bites or attack ads. They’d have a tough time navigating a news cycle, but they did assume we’d go off the deep end, especially in an election year. The longer I cover the General Assembly, the more I start to believe those dead guys who wrote the Constitution may have had our number after all.

Steve Walsh is the Statehouse reporter for the Gary Post-Tribune.

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