State legislators have a busy week to work through bills in conference committees before session ends April 29.
Bills that survive the hazards of both houses but are changed in the second chamber end up in conference committees because the original author does not agree with the changes. Four conferees - two members of each party from the House and the Senate - work to reach an agreement that will be acceptable to both chambers.
All four committee members must sign the committee report, and it must be approved in both houses. Once they agree on the changes, the bill goes to the governor.
Sometime bills die in conference committees because no agreements can be reached.
On the other hand, if the original author agrees with the changes, the bill does not have to go through a conference committee and, instead, goes directly to the governor.
Of the 731 bills filed in the House at the start of session, only 138 made their way out of both houses. The governor has signed 22 of the 138 as of Monday.
The Senate filed 582 bills and only 81 made their way out of both houses. Gov. Mitch Daniels has signed 11 of the 81 as of Monday.
Two bills I authored this session, House Bill 1123 and House Bill 1058, passed both houses and will be heard in conference committees. House Bill 1123 deals with the proper display of school zone signs, and House Bill 1058 deals with residence information for state income taxes.
Other bills dealing with the unemployment insurance fund, the Capital Improvement Board and the budget have started moving through conference committees. We still have a lot of work ahead of us but not much time for settling these highly debated issues.
Last week, something unrelated to these bills happened on the House floor, and it deeply disappointed me.
Congressman Mike Pence, representing Indiana's Sixth Congressional District, visited the Statehouse last Wednesday to say a few kind and encouraging words to his House colleagues. However, he was never given the chance.
House Republican Leader Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) asked Speaker Pat Bauer, who was in his office at the time, if Congressman Pence could be introduced and have the opportunity to speak. Leader Bosma was told "No." He also asked the speaker pro tem and was again refused, so Rep. Bosma, on his own initiative and from where he was standing near the podium, introduced Congressman Pence.
All of the House Republicans - and several Democrats - gave Congressman Pence a warm and sustained welcome.
I was appalled the speaker not only denied a member of the U.S. Congress a chance to speak, but didn't even have the decency to let him be introduced. Especially since Congressman Baron Hill, a Democrat representing Indiana's Ninth Congressional District, was formally introduced and given more than 20 minutes to speak to his House colleagues just a few weeks ago.
The speaker blames the time crunch for his rudeness, which I don't accept since he took a 3½-hour recess the same afternoon while the tea party was going on outside the Statehouse.
Speaker Bauer said he didn't want to be around because of security reasons. But what is the speaker afraid of? I guess, if I were the one denying voters their right to vote on property tax caps, I would be afraid, too.
Nevertheless, no matter what business is being conducted in the House chambers, we have always taken the time to let a member of Congress be introduced and say a few words. Even though the speaker has already said he would invite the congressman back again to speak, I refuse to brush this issue aside.