[r72] A Clere view of the Statehouse: My column is going away, but I'm not (9/26/2011)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Start Date: 9/26/2011 All Day
End Date: 9/26/2011

My column is going away, but I'm not

By the time you read this, I should be in Washington, D.C. I'm chaperoning my son John's 8th-grade class trip this week. It's the only trip to Washington I have planned. A friend recently asked me what office I'm going to run for next. I wouldn't rule anything out, but I'm content where I am. I'm blessed to have the opportunity to serve in the Indiana General Assembly, and there's still much more I want to accomplish in the Statehouse.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your state representative, and I plan to seek a third term next year. I'm not even halfway through my second term, and it's already time to start running again. Representatives serve for two years, and state senators serve for four.
I started writing this column in January 2009, two months after I was first elected. I wrote weekly until the end of August last year, at which time the Tribune suspended my column for the two months leading up to the election. After I was elected to a second term, I resumed writing weekly and continued until the end of March. Starting in April, after the Tribune and Evening News combined, my column was cut back to a bi-weekly publication, and I was told the policy the Evening News had followed would now apply to the merged paper: My column would cease publication as soon as I were to hold a fundraiser, announce my intention to run for re-election or file to run. I'm getting ready to schedule a fundraiser, so this will be my last column - for awhile, at least. It's No. 120.
The policy is especially problematic when it comes to a two-year term. I won't be able to write a regular column for more than half of my term. That doesn't seem to serve the interest of newspaper readers, especially those who don't have Internet access. Many of you will read this online. I realize lots of folks who read my column are not newspaper subscribers and receive it by e-mail the day after it runs in the paper, but those who don't have e-mail will miss out on what I hope has been a useful and informative link to state government. If you have e-mail and don't already receive my electronic newsletter, you can subscribe at www.in.gov/h72.

I have tried to minimize politics in my column; there's already too much partisanship. Of course, sometimes politics is unavoidable. It is, after all, a political office and a political process. Regardless, I always seek to inform, and I always try to be fair. As a newspaper reader, I'd like to hear from more elected officials, regardless of where we are in the election cycle. Whenever there's a question of fairness, there should be more voices, not fewer.

Even without my column, there will still be plenty of good reasons to read the News and Tribune, including several other good, local columns, and I encourage you to keep reading - or start.

My newspaper column is going away, but I'm not. In addition to my electronic newsletter, I'll be looking for more opportunities for face-to-face communication with constituents. To that end, I've scheduled three town hall meetings for October. In addition to discussing the outcome of this year's legislative session, including the status of various new laws, I'll preview the upcoming session and solicit your opinions and ideas. If you have a position on an issue or a suggestion for a bill, now is the time to voice it. The meetings are scheduled at three different times of the day to accommodate varying schedules. All three locations are handicap accessible:

  • 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 13, Purdue Technology Center of Southeast Indiana, 3000 Technology Ave., New Albany (on Charlestown Road at the Interstate 265 interchange, across from Kohl's)

  • 6:30  to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 18, LifeSpan Resources, 33 State St., Third Floor (there is an elevator), New Albany (YMCA building)

  • 10 to 11:30 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 22, Strassweg Auditorium, New Albany-Floyd County Public Library, 180 W. Spring St., New Albany

The session is fast approaching. Bills may be filed starting on Organization Day, which is Nov. 22, and the session will begin the first week of January. The 2012 session will be a "short session," with adjournment by March 14. In contrast, in odd-numbered years, the legislature meets from January through April; the state's two-year budget is written during this "long session."

It will be an election year, and tensions are already high. I was reminded of that recently when a former elected official for whom I have a lot of respect commented to me that she wanted to "hurt" a current elected official for whom I have a lot of respect.
I'm a Republican, but Republicans don't have all the answers and can't solve our problems alone. We'll have to work together - Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, young and old. It will require hard work and difficult decisions.
Speeches won't solve our problems any more than they will fix the Sherman Minton Bridge. It's time for action. Perhaps the Sherman Minton can serve as a metaphor for the challenges we face - a lurking problem too long neglected that we must now confront. Let's build some bridges together.