[r63] Messmer Report: Divide and Conquer

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, November 26, 2010

Large groups can take a long time to accomplish tasks, and that's why sometimes it's better to break off into smaller groups to take action and reach a decision.

Whether you're looking at Moses appointing judges throughout the Israelites, Girl Scouts divvying themselves up according to troops or U.S. Air Force cadets being assigned a squadron as they enter the Academy, dividing people and delegating roles to each of them is one of the first jobs of a leader.

The Indiana House is really no different. With 60 members from across the state in the House Republican Caucus, it's vital to set up a system that brings together voices with different priorities from their districts back home, as well as ensuring agreement on some common priorities.

You might hear the word 'caucus' within the context of lawmaking, whether at the state or federal level. A caucus is basically a group of legislators who share a common interest or goal, so Republicans are considered to be one caucus and Democrats another.

Of course, anyone can create a caucus for some other reason. In Indiana we have a Rural Caucus, a Black Caucus, and just this spring I started one for legislators in S outhwest Indiana called the Crane Caucus.

There also are a number of 'leadership' positions within the House Republican caucus that were announced last week.

The most visible leader in the House, no matter what side of the aisle you are viewing from, is House Speaker Brian Bosma of Indianapolis. He presides over each session, directing which bills are called for a vote and when they are to be voted on.

The Speaker Pro Tempore- or Pro Tem, for short- steps in to preside when the Speaker is in a meeting or when he needs a break. Going forward, that position will be filled by Rep. Eric Turner, one of our veterans.

Rep. Bill Friend, a pig farmer from Macy, is our Floor Leader. His job is mainly to assist Speaker Bosma during official proceedings and make sure things are running smoothly on our side of the aisle.

Rep. Kathy Kreag Richardson- known by many as the "Den Mother"- is once again the Caucus Chair. She has jurisdiction over things that happen outside of the chamber- like requesting a Republican caucus, making sure each member has what they need, and overseeing the House Republican staff.

Both the Floor Leader and Caucus Chair have two members that assist them in their duties  and the Speaker Pro Tempore has one.

There's one other important set of positions, and you might think they are oddly named: each political caucus has their own "Whip."

The U.S. House Whip explains that the name comes from the phrase "whipper in", a British term for the person responsible for keeping the foxhounds from leaving the pack. It was first used in the House of Commons in the late 1700s.

Technically the role of this person is to advise and direct new members on important votes, although our caucus does a pretty good job of that already. Everyone is very careful about keeping new folks aware of the importance of every vote you make.

It is a role that involves a lot of strategy, planning and coordination. The Whip and two Assistant Whips also get to take part in daily leadership meetings.

Rep. Dave Frizzell of Indianapolis will be the Majority Whip, and I'm happy to announce that I've been chosen to lead our caucus as one of the Assistant Whips!

I'm looking forward to the opportunity to serve my caucus and excited for the upcoming legislative session.

I'm also excited to hear the announcement this week on my committee assignments.

Last week it was announced that I would be Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Vice Chairman. This week I learned that I will also serve on Financial Institutions, Family, Children and Human Affairs and Public Policy.