Sometimes Silence Speaks Volumes

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sometimes Silence Speaks Volumes

In the last several columns, I focused on the recent session of the Indiana General Assembly – the actions taken by our Legislature in setting the budget, cutting taxes, etc. However, I think that is also worth mentioning what the Legislature did not do.

Indeed, as one who believes that most solutions to problems do not require a new government program, this “non-action” is often some of the most important “action” taken.

Consider for instance the subject of firearm ownership and school violence. In the wake of the tragedy last year in Connecticut, several states advanced new restrictions on the ownership and use of firearms, requiring new registration regimes for handguns or limiting magazine rounds. In Indiana, we took a different approach.

First, it was quickly recognized that the events in Connecticut and other episodes of violence around the country are not really of a type that can be easily prevented without infringing on rights recognized by the United States and Indiana Constitutions. We cherish these liberties our ancestors gave us – many paid for with the blood of brave men and women in battle – and we tread very carefully where our rights are involved. We do not easily go down the path of putting further impediments on the lawful ownership of firearms, and rightly so.

Second, it was noted that school security is a very complicated issue and that it is important that we not implement a program that might make us feel good, but have no real practical effect or even result in negative, unintended consequences.

Accordingly, while some steps were taken, such as providing grants for resource officers, the General Assembly identified many issues regarding how to best provide security in our schools to first be studied this summer. This will help ensure that any changes deemed necessary can be identified in a careful way, and not through the pressure of an emotional tragedy.

Another “absence” this year was action to expand Medicaid under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. In June of 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to force the states to expand Medicaid eligibility. States all over the country are weighing whether to participate in the expansion, with some jumping at the chance, some firmly stating “no” and a few, like Indiana, taking a wait-and-see approach. While Indiana has asked for leniency in designing an expansion, if it does expand, no final decisions have been made.

I think that decision to move slowly, if at all, on Medicaid expansion is wise. The federal government is broke. Their promises to pay Indiana’s costs to expand its Medicaid coverage to include 400,000 can hardly be taken seriously, and default by the federal government on its obligations to the states in the coming years is not a far-fetched scenario. Given this unfortunate reality, Indiana is wise to slow down and not just slurp up to the federal trough – a trough that is rapidly depleting.

Prudence is a trait of good government. There were hundreds of votes taken in the House of Representatives and Senate, and hundreds more, if not thousands, taken in the committees of each chamber. The practical outcome of many of these votes were “not now” or “let’s study it instead” or, simply, “no.”

While not glamorous, these votes may be among the most important taken in Indianapolis. Sometimes silence truly does speak volumes. I wonder if our neighbors across the river in Illinois could use a little less noise out of Springfield?

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State Rep. Tom Washburne serves as Vice Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He also serves on the Financial Institutions Committee and the Select Committee on Government Reduction. Rep. Washburne represents the entirety of Gibson County and portions of ¬Knox, Pike, Vanderburgh and Posey counties.