Reflections on the 2013 General Assembly 

click to enlarge "Liberty" one of the "Hallmarks of Civilization" marble statues in the Indiana Statehouse Rotunda. - COURTESY OF PJERN VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS
  • "Liberty" one of the "Hallmarks of Civilization" marble statues in the Indiana Statehouse Rotunda.
  • Courtesy of pjern via Flickr Creative Commons

Of more than 1,200 pieces of legislation submitted for consideration by the 2013 General Assembly, about 300 are heading to Gov. Mike Pence's desk. NUVO reached out to different sectors of business and advocacy to compile of sampling of reflections on lawmakers' work. [See also reactions in a breaking news story posted May 1, "Pence tightens regs on abortion drug."

Jeff Kuehl, president

Indiana Coalition of the Arts

Highlight: Arts advocates went into the 2013 session having endured arts budget cuts of more than 30 percent since calendar year 2008, looking at a proposed budget from the governor's office outlining an additional 3 percent reduction. Lawmakers avoided the reduction and found $250,000 in additional funding for arts projects support grants, earmarked mostly for rural and underserved areas.

Disappointment: I know our friends in the Department of Education are still working to rebuild cuts from years ago. I hope that becomes a priority as we move forward.

Moving forward: More for the arts. I don't know why we can't think of putting $1 per Hoosier into the arts budget. We once were at 66 cents per Hoosier and are now at 42.

Stephen Key, General Counsel and Board Member, respectively

Hoosier State Press Association

Indiana Coalition for Open Government

Highpoint: The defeat of SB 373, the "ag gag" bill. In its final version it would have been a broad weeping bill that would have impacted first amendment rights and the ability of people to report unsafe or illegal conditions in farms, factories, mines or other business and chill them from reporting situations that may be perfectly legal but might spur changes in the law.

Greatest disappointment: The defeat of HB 1175, which would allow citizens to determine the form in which public records requests are delivered. For instance, if a record exists in an Excel spreadsheet, a citizen could request that the record be delivered as an Excel file instead of being converted into a PDF or printed out on paper copies. Under current law, the public agency determines the form in which records are delivered. The bill passed the House, but died in the Senate because of concerns from Indiana's county recorders, who were concerned about the potential drop in copying fee revenue such a law change could cause.

Moving forward: Key believes the odds of passing the bill next session are better than 50 percent if an exemption for the recorders' record perpetuation funds is added.

Julia Vaughn, policy director

Common Cause Indiana

Highpoint: Working with college students to kill the language in HB1311 that would have prohibited college students paying out-of-state tuition from registering to vote.

Greatest disappointment: The low point was that legislation to create an independent redistricting commission did not get a hearing.

Moving forward: We'll be working over the summer to build grassroots support for redistricting reform and meeting with sympathetic legislators to gain support within the Statehouse.

Jesse Kharbanda, Executive Director

Hoosier Environmental Council

Highpoint: The legislature — in response to an outpouring of advocacy from the public, and the tireless work of several public interest groups — acted wisely in ending policies that would have been environmentally harmful: the "right to harm" constitutional amendment (SJR 7), the "ag gag" bill (SB 373), and the "canned hunting" bill (SB 487).

Greatest disappointment: The legislature failed to adopt policy measures that would have increased jobs while improving the environment: a bill that would have boosted lake tourism while cutting phosphorus going into our lakes; a bill that would have expanded clean energy while reducing electricity bills; and a bill that would ultimately have boosted public transit investment & improved air quality.

Highest priority: Continuing to build the case for cost-effective policies and programs that will lead to more jobs for Hoosiers while improving our state's protection of our air, water & wildlife.

Jane Henegar, Executive Director

Indiana Civil Liberties Union

Highpoint: The ACLU of Indiana was pleased the General Assembly defeated HB 1483, which would have subjected recipients of assistance to unconstitutionally intrusive drug testing, and SB 373, the "ag gag" bill that would have been a wildly unconstitutional infringement on First Amendment rights of Free Speech.We are glad our legislators heeded our advice, in these instances, to remember their oath of office to support of the Constitution.

Greatest disappointment: The legislature assaulted women's reproductive freedom with passage of SB 371, which limits a woman's access to a safe and legal abortion.And, despite years of effort by many to reform our criminal justice system to reduce Indiana's serious over-incarceration, HB 1006 was amended in ways that may lead to greater prison populations.Much work remains to be done to decriminalize low level drug offenses and to improve the sentences and conditions within our prisons so that offenders may re-enter our society with their hope and health intact.

Highest priority: The ACLU of Indiana stands with our coalition partners in support of marriage equality and in opposition to a resolution to amend the State Constitution that would enshrine discrimination and limit marriage to between a man and a woman.

Mark Fisher, VP of Government Relations and Policy Development

Indy Chamber of Commerce

Highpoint: This session made great strides in areas of workforce development, which is a major draw for good business and talent attraction for our region. The passage of HB1002 — Indiana Career Council, sponsored by all four caucus leaders — was a major victory in helping train and grow the type of workforce good companies are looking for.

Greatest disappointment: This Assembly did a great disservice to the people of Central Indiana by not passing HB1011, the Central Indiana transit initiative. This is issue has been vetted for many years; (improvements) will boost our region's competitiveness when it comes to economic development, talent attraction, tourism and overall livability. We appreciate the support we did gain this session, especially that of Rep. Jerry Torr and Sen. Pat Miller, and will work with our leaders in the General Assembly during the summer study committee to iron out the details on transit issues including governance and fiscal analysis. We remain steadfast in our mission to bring this issue to the public and will not waver in our efforts to do so.

Moving forward: In 2014, we will continue to work diligently on behalf of issues that make Central Indiana the ideal place to live, work and do business. Issues that keep our tax climate favorable to business, keep working Hoosiers on the job, and make our communities more livable will always be a top priority for the Indy Chamber. This includes keeping our eye on the ball to ensure transit moves forward and working with our elected officials and leaders in education to ensure we continue to train and grow our talented workforce.

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Rebecca Townsend

Rebecca Townsend

Bio:
Rebecca Townsend served as NUVO news editor from May 2011 to August 2014. During a 20-plus year career, her bylines have appeared in publications ranging from Indiana AgriNews to the Wall Street Journal. Her undergraduate degree is in sociology and anthropology from Earlham College, and her master's is in journalism... more

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