This Wednesday, January 5, the 117th Indiana General Assembly convened at the Statehouse. Speaker of the House Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) had announced on Organizational Day, in November when we were sworn in, that we would be willing to work together in a spirit of bipartisanship. He demonstrated that by appointing two Democrat members as Committee Chairmen, a historic first in Indiana government.
On the first day of the legislative session there was a protest by the Democrats to change a 40 year precedent of not voting on a bill until it's in the hands of the elected officials. This also allows the public and the media to have time to read over the bills before they are sent to committee to be discussed.
Speaker Bosma has pledged to allow all members to speak their peace on all issues. And it is our intent to work with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle that are willing to. In an interview after Wednesday's session Speaker Bosma stated that, "Ironically, Representative Bauer (D-South Bend) in his six years as speaker handled the bill lists precisely in the same manner as they were protesting." It would have forced legislators to vote on bills before anyone but the author and Speaker Bosma had a chance to read them.
We encountered a few floor antics, but despite that, we are still willing to reach out to those who are interested in working in a bipartisan spirit, and work around the obstructionists. We will continue to move forward in a professional and respectful manner and I look forward to seeing what the months ahead bring.
One of the major issues we will be discussing this year is the budget.
The December Revenue Forecast was recently released. It is put together by a committee that includes fiscal analysts from all four legislative caucuses: the House and Senate Democrats, and the House and Senate Republicans.
The new forecast projects modest growth over the next 2.5 fiscal years, but the expected growth rates are much lower than in the periods following most recessions. While we won't be at the same level of revenue as we were in 2008 until 2012, we are heading in the right direction.
We will have to make further reductions in the upcoming budget, but there are still reasons to be optimistic. We are working together to make appropriate spending reductions so that Indiana can weather the recession.
Our plans will allows us to strengthen Indiana without jeopardizing the long-term health of the state, and also to avoid a tax increase that would be counterproductive to the state's economic recovery. We want to create a balanced budget and a climate that encourages companies to grow and expand in Indiana.
I hope our rocky start on Wednesday is not an indication of how the entire session will proceed. As Vice Chairman, I expect to work well with the Democrat Chairman of the Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee to get positive things done for the state of Indiana. I have invited several Democrats to co-author legislation that I am working on. It's too bad Minority Leader Bauer, and some his party's House members, continue to be interested in playing political games rather than serving the people of Indiana well.
Rep. Mark Messmer (R-Jasper)