[r31] Going through the motions (2/14/2012)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Start Date: 2/14/2012
End Date: 2/14/2012

What a refreshing feeling it is to have a normal session week – aside from the remnants of Super Bowl XLVI throughout Indianapolis. We went through the familiar motions of discussing bills from the Senate in House committees, just as the Senate is now discussing House legislation.

In fact, my legislation addressing nepotism at both the state and local government levels and conflict of interest in local government have both passed out of Senate Committee on Local Government this week. House Bill (HB) 1005 and HB 1250 will now be discussed by the full Senate.

Legislation is filed, assigned to a committee, receives public testimony and discussion, then is debated on the chamber floor – that is, if the bill makes it through all the steps. If it does make it through and then passes the original chamber, it gets sent to the opposite chamber to start the whole process over again. This long process ensures fair and reasonable conversation on every proposed policy.

There were 397 bills filed in the House this session, however we only passed 108 bills onto the Senate. If legislation doesn’t make it through, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a “bad bill” or an issue is unimportant. There are many reasons for legislation to not pass through. It’s also possible for the subject matter to get put into another pile of legislation.

One of the pieces of legislation that did not pass out of the House was HB 1152, which would have required misdemeanor crimes be heard only in courts where a judge presides who is an attorney. Like many issues, what may be good for one area, may not be good for another. This legislation might have benefitted my colleagues’ district, but it would have been disastrous for ours.

Misdemeanor crimes can range from disorderly conduct, minor drug infractions or simple assaults. Therefore, requiring these crimes be heard by judges who are attorneys would have moved a number of hearings out of Blackford and Grant County courts – backlogging other court systems. Our courts and judicial resources could have been severely affected had this legislation progressed through the Senate. Again, this bill wasn’t necessarily a bad idea; it was just not beneficial to all communities.

I was contacted by multiple local officials expressing their concern over this legislation – another important aspect of the democratic process – and I worked to halt this legislation accordingly.

Legislation is not always a one-size-fits-all solution. What is good for one area does not always translate into another – a problem that can arise when reviewing legislation at the state level. Thankfully, we have multiple opportunities throughout the legislative process where we can vet our issues.