July 10, the Senate Democrat Caucus announced legislative proposals that would reform many legislative branch policies. As a candidate for the Indiana state Senate, I appreciate the vision of these leaders in understanding that the public at large has lost confidence in their elected officials and introducing meaningful ways to make government more transparent and begin to overcome this loss of trust.
First, legislators largely run in “safe” districts with only a handful of districts being competitive each cycle. The Senate Democrats have supported a change to the Constitution, which would require redistricting to be done by a bi-partisan commission instead of the elected members of the General Assembly. This proposal would likely create more competitive elections throughout Indiana.
Second, public perception is that deep-pocketed lobbyists gain favor with legislators in part by showering them with unreported gifts including meals, tickets to sporting events and other perks. The proposal of the Senate Democrats would require reporting of all gifts to legislators, regardless of value and thus promote an increased transparency in the interactions between elected officials and legislators.
Finally, the statutorily set compensation for the General Assembly is $11,600, an amount which has not been changed since the mid-1980s. In reality most legislators draw a salary that averages in the mid $30,000 range after allowable per diem and committee pay. While the Legislature is a part-time job, many members of the Legislature make a full-time commitment to this role, both here in Indianapolis and at home in their districts. The Senate Democrats have introduced support of a legislative pay committee which would re-evaluate the pay structure of the Indiana General Assembly, bringing more transparency to the level of compensation actually paid to these elected officials.
These three proposals, if implemented by the Indiana General Assembly, will begin to make state government more transparent and hopefully restore public confidence in our elected officials. If elected, I will work with my colleagues to introduce and implement meaningful reforms and begin the process of restoring trust with all Hoosiers.
Indiana Senate District 31