[r54] Last Hours Give Way to Disappointment (5/4/2009)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Start Date: 5/4/2009 All Day
End Date: 5/4/2009
The last hours of session were a letdown after all the hard work I've been doing this year.  I think the entire House chamber was dismayed by the big-spending budget presented in the final hours of session.  The budget failed to pass the House, receiving only 27 "Yes" votes. 

But as I felt that sinking feeling, looking at the state's falling revenues and the dismal budget proposal that would put us $700 million in the hole each year, I knew I wasn't the only one feeling disappointed.  More than 100 children are also disappointed.

This session, I was determined to save the Knightstown Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's Home.  It's a beautiful facility that has changed and continues to change the lives of hundreds of Hoosier children.  There's nothing else like it in Indiana, and the lives of the children who go on to be productive, engaging citizens are a testament to Indiana's need for a home such as this.

Unfortunately, we failed to pass legislation that would allow the home to remain open for even a year.  I was hoping to buy the home some time so the governor's administration and the rest of the state could see this isn't an old-fashioned orphanage.  It's a place where children receive care, knowledge and opportunities beyond what many high schools offer.

But I'm only one man, up against 149 other legislators who feel the pull and tug of very diverse constituent wants and needs, not to mention different political beliefs. I added amendments to various bills and did everything I did to get as many proposals to keep the home open and funded.  I know many people agreed the home deserved a second look, especially those who were able to tour the home with me.

In the end, there was too much going on and too many divided interests.  The home is slated to close May 23, a decision based on misguided figures and a fuzzy picture of what the home's full potential really is. 

Right now, there is a waiting list with 100 students seeking placement in the Knightstown home, but the governor's administration will not let them in.

Unless the governor's administration changes its mind, the home and the lives of 110 Hoosier will change drastically, and quote possibly not for the better.  I hope he will put off the home's closing at least until after we complete the imminent special session.

I also had another goal to fix something else that directly affects District 54.  Rep. Phil Pflum and I want the removal of railroad cars now sitting idle in New Castle. 

We wrote an amendment to a Senate bill that would have fined the railroad company $500 per day per railroad car to store the cars within city limits. Unfortunately, the Senate said the amendment was not germane to the main bill.

Sometimes it seems the Senate's decision on whether language pertains to a bill or not is completely capricious, and I think this is one instance where it used this tactic as a way to avoid the issue.  Maybe, though, the serious consequences we suggested will show the railroad company we're serious that New Castle is not a railroad car storage facility.

My efforts to illuminate the intersection of S.R. 3 and U.S. 40 were also cut short by the Senate, which removed this provision from HB 1123, again, claiming the amendment was not germane.  This dangerous intersection will remain at the top of my priority list.  I just hope nobody is killed or seriously injured while we wait for the state to take this issue seriously.

There's some good news concerning local issues, though.  A bill I authored to allow interlocal agreements bogged down in a Senate committee, but I was able to add the language to another bill.  If the governor signs the bill, cities and towns without established courts or ordinance violation bureaus would be able to enter into agreements with cities or towns that have these resources. 

Locally, New Castle and Knightstown can partner with Lewisville and Spiceland to hear nuisance-type violations, such as those covering stray dogs, old cars and trash. This allows Indiana's courts to focus on bigger cases. 

Now that a special session is imminent, I hope we have all learned from these little lessons.  Political games will get us nowhere.  Focusing on the real problems of real people is the best we can do for Indiana. 

I think taking a break will remind each of us where we're really from - districts full of Hoosiers.  And when we gather again, I hope those real issues will inspire us to draft legislation that won't run anyone into the ground and will set the stage for a more prosperous Indiana.