[r79] Session is "Heating Up" (1/18/2011)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Start Date: 1/18/2011 All Day
End Date: 1/18/2011
January in Indiana is when the coldest north winds blow, you watch the weather report with more trepidation, kids gleefully embrace a winter snow advisory with the anticipation of seeing their school's name scroll across the bottom of the TV screen under the "closed" banner.  It is also the time in Indianapolis when everything starts to heat up.  Not indicated by the outside thermometer, but you can feel it inside the Indiana General Assembly.  It is that time of year again when legislators gather from across this great state and for the next four months debate, discuss and hopefully come to a consensus to pass good legislation that benefits the public in a positive manner. The election is over, the campaign rhetoric needs to exit the stage, and we all need to act like the statesmen and stateswomen that Hoosiers demand and deserve.

We will have some very contentious issues to deal with over the next four months: crafting a fiscally responsible budget, fixing the unemployment deficit, passing constructive education reforms and drawing fair state and federal legislative districts. I will keep you updated on these issues as they go through the legislative process.

In this first issue of In Lehman's Terms, I don't want to focus so much on the issues that I listed above (mostly because they are in their infancy and I guarantee you that they will look differently in four months than they do today) but on what you can expect from me. I want to give a big thank you and a warm welcome to all the new subscribers on my e-mail list and to the newspapers who print this column each week.

In November, voters in Indiana gave the Republicans a 60-40 majority in the Indiana House of Representatives after being in a 48-52 minority the previous two years.  My life has changed since that day.  Last year at this time I was on two committees - Insurance and Agriculture. Being in the minority, I waited around a lot and watched for an opportunity to be a part of a bill, but as a "freshman" I was mostly ignored. Now in the majority, I am honored to serve as Chairman of the Insurance Committee and to serve as a member on the Public Policy Committee, Courts and Criminal Code Committee and finally Government and Regulatory Reform Committee.  To say the least, it has been a very busy two weeks.

My goals for this session are fairly simple: limit the amount of "new" laws that we pass, make sure these laws have been fully vetted and ensure that the legislation benefits not only Hoosiers in District 79 but statewide. I had a person come up to me this week and asked if I was going to hear a particular bill.  To his surprise, my reply was that I would.  I inquired as to why he was surprised, and he indicated to me that he had pursued this issue in the past but was continually ignored.  I told him that I may not agree with his idea but that I would at least hear the bill and let people testify and debate it. 

There is a scene in the musical 1776 where some members of Congress want to begin the debate about American Independence and some do not. It came down to the delegate from Rhode Island to break the tie.  Before he cast his vote he says (I am paraphrasing), "I can't imagine an issue so contentious and dangerous that we can't even talk about it." I share this belief.  We need open and honest discourse.  We need to hear from both sides of the aisle on issues, and we need to be receptive to changing our position if the facts merit such a change. I hope we can operate in this fashion and return to a more civil discussion.