Getting the business of government done

Friday, October 11, 2013

Getting the business of government done

On Tuesday, I made my fifth Tuesday interim trip up to the Statehouse in Indianapolis. That makes four Tuesdays in a row, and if you throw in a September Wednesday, it is five weeks in a row where I have been on the new I-69 highway (thank goodness for satellite radio). Now, if you are like me, you may be saying to yourself, “Why in the world is our state representative making all these trips to Indianapolis, especially because they adjourned in April?” Well, I think that the answer is that in Indiana we know how to get the business of government done.

You see, what is taking me and other representatives and senators (as well as individuals, business leaders and lobbyists) to Indianapolis so regularly this fall are what is known as summer study committees or, in some cases, commissions. I serve on three: one deals with proposed changes to probate law (doesn’t that put you on the edge of your chair with excitement?), another with uniform laws and the third with practical grammatical or structural revisions to the Indiana code. I suppose it is in part because I am one of the lawyers in the Indiana House of Representatives that these were my assignments. Other committees meeting involve education, public transportation, etc.

These committees and commissions serve Indiana well. Outside the pressure and posturing associated with the normal consideration of legislation, amendments, floor time, etc., these committees gather to preliminarily discuss matters that may find their way into legislation when the General Assembly meets next year. The various groups and individuals interested in legislation have the opportunity to not only share their ideas, but to find out what kind of opposition is out there and hopefully find common solutions.

Perhaps more importantly, the committees allow common sense to bubble to the surface, saving us all from needless stress once the true legislative cycle begins. Indeed, some topics are sent to the study committees by the General Assembly itself precisely because the issue was not ripe for consideration when first presented.

There are, of course, numerous issues that will not come through the study process. Some of these may develop into legislative form too late to be considered. Others might be of a subject that needs little study or may not fit into the jurisdiction of any committee or commission. Thankfully, however, a good many issues are known well in advance and people take these to the various committees for consideration.

The Indiana legislature officially meets from January to either late April (the “long” session) or from January to mid-March (the “short” session) in alternating years. As such, we sometimes need to extend debates on certain topics into the interim. . By more informally taking on issues in a preliminary way while out of session, we greatly improve the quality of what will be considered once a session begins. In other words, we get the business of government done as efficiently and prudently as possible. It may not give politicians the ability to grandstand an issue, but it does get issues resolved, which is more important.

Once again, Indiana is a model that much of the country would be wise to emulate. When it comes to governing, we should all be proud that Hoosiers know how to get the job done.


State Rep. Tom Washburne serves as Vice Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He also serves on the Financial Institutions Committee and the Select Committee on Government Reduction. Rep. Washburne represents the entirety of Gibson County and portions of Knox, Pike, Vanderburgh and Posey counties.