[r72] A Clere View of the Statehouse (2/17/2009)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Start Date: 2/17/2009 All Day
End Date: 2/17/2009

STATEHOUSE, Feb. 17, 2009 - In the interest of wrapping up discussion of my survey results, I'm going to jump right in.

There were 11 questions on the survey, and I devoted my last two columns to the first five questions. Those columns are available on the Tribune's Web site.

Seventy-two percent of those who responded to the survey think Indiana should offer more generous financial incentives for new employers to locate and create jobs here. Those opposed and those without an opinion were evenly split, with 14 percent in each category.

To compete for jobs, we have to offer incentives. As long as we view incentives as an investment and offer them only when we are likely to get a good return for taxpayers, they make sense. This is the standard by which I will measure any attempt to expand incentives.

An even higher percentage of survey respondents, 77 percent, support state incentives for commercial building projects constructed with energy-saving technologies, such as wind, solar or geothermal. Thirteen percent are opposed, and 10 percent do not have an opinion.

As Kermit the Frog said, "It's not easy being green." But we should make it easy, and attractive. In addition to providing incentives for green building, we should offer incentives for preserving existing buildings, which are the greenest buildings of all. Renovating an existing building is always more environmentally friendly than building a new one.

The next question addressed a different environmental concern, indoor air quality.

Fifty-five percent of survey respondents support a statewide smoking ban. Forty percent oppose it, and only 5 percent do not have an opinion.

As it was introduced, House Bill 1213 would have banned smoking in all public places statewide. It was heavily amended in committee, with most of the amendments creating exemptions for various types of businesses and other establishments.

The bill was scheduled for a vote in the House yesterday. Not knowing what additional amendments might be offered or adopted prior to the vote, or whether there will even be a vote, I will reserve further discussion for a future column. For now, smoke 'em if you got 'em, but get ready for the smoke-free winds of change.

With smoking bans in place in numerous communities around Indiana and in two dozen states, it appears to be less a question of if than when.

There was much less division on the issue of increasing restrictions for new, teenage drivers, such as limiting night driving, further limiting the number of passengers under 18 and prohibiting cell phone use.

Eight-seven percent of survey respondents favor such restrictions, with 9 percent opposed and only 4 percent with no opinion. No question, additional restrictions would save lives, and I look forward to working on this issue.

The last two questions dealt with government reform.

Just over half, 52 percent, of those who responded were in favor of eliminating township government, with 29 percent opposed and 19 percent with no opinion, the highest no-opinion response on the survey. This suggests many people simply don't know what township government does.

I know I want to gain a better understanding of township government before voting on this issue. In the next few weeks, I plan to spend time with our township assessors in Floyd and Clark counties. I hope to learn more about what they do and how they do it. I'll share what I learn in a future column.

If you have had an experience with township government, good or bad, please share it with me. You will find my contact information at the end of this column.

The response to the last question was the most surprising to me. It asked whether county offices such as sheriff, treasurer, auditor, coroner and surveyor should be appointed by a county executive rather than elected.

Four out of five people are against it, with only 13 percent in favor and 7 percent with no opinion.

If the wording of the question had made it clear that the county executive would be elected, then maybe the results would have been different. Regardless, it's apparent this idea isn't popular.

I didn't run to be popular, however, so I'm not giving up on government reform. It's long overdue, and, if we're going to maintain services without increasing taxes, it's necessary now more than ever before. There are, however, many valid approaches to government reform, and I'm listening.

On this question and all of the others, I appreciate and respect the responses I received. Thank you again to each of you who took the time to respond. The 1,073 responses I received prior to compiling the results represent diverse backgrounds, opinions and political perspectives, and I am grateful for every one of them.