The work you seldom see

Posted by: Brenda Holmes and Allison Vanatsky  | Thursday, February 9, 2017

A reasonably informed person probably reads the newspaper (certainly the Star-Times!), catches some news through radio and TV and perhaps has a website or magazine they turn to frequently. But even such a person likely has little knowledge as to what is actually going on in their state government beyond the major initiatives like infrastructure and education.

Let me give you just one example. I happen to serve as chair of the Indiana House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code. As I write this column, I have beside me a stack of bills that the committee will be considering, along with amendments that have been filed for the committee to address. Here is the bill list: HB 1064 Habitual Offender Requirements; HB 1148 Cannabidiol; HB 1209 Organized Retail Theft; HB 1218 Juvenile Justice; HB 1312 Pharmacy Robbery; HB 1405 Public Defense Reimbursements; and, HB 1513 Crimes Involving Adoption. This is a large list, but given the committee has 73 bills assigned to it and only until Feb. 21 to get its reports to the full House, it is also an important list. It is also a list that will likely take members several hours to examine, as every bill will have a presentation, public testimony, possible amendments and at least one roll call vote.

These bills originate from prosecutors, public defenders, concerned businesses, members of the public and members of the legislature themselves. All of them affect people and involve vital issues, but it is possible that the passage of many of these bills (when and if they get that far) will never enjoy much coverage in our media. I am certainly not intending here to criticize this lack of attention. I am well aware that other House and Senate committees are working their way through a large variety of bills. Indeed, there are 24 standing committee in the House, so while not all of these committees are equally busy, it still makes for a lot of legislation to sort through. Some of the bills introduced will fail to receive a hearing, some will change, some will fail by vote and some will become law. It is just not possible for our news media to cover every bill.

Of course, the individuals most affected by the bills that are being considered will likely know of their existence. The Statehouse has many interested groups and lobbyists that track bills on behalf of their members and clients. And, I suppose, there may be folks out there interested enough to track bills on the General Assembly’s website. Still, many of the bills passed in a session will receive almost no attention.

But, I do think it is important for the taxpayers to be aware that their elected officials are working very diligently on the bills to make Indiana a better place to live, raise a family, earn a living and run businesses — which is what I think our founders intended. It can be a confusing and tedious process, but as I have said before, I am not aware of a better way. Government of the People, by the People and for the People is still alive and well.


Rep. Tom Washburne (R-Evansville) serves as chairman of the Courts and Criminal Code Committee. He represents Gibson County and portions of Knox, Pike, Vanderburgh and Posey counties.

A high-resolution photo of Washburne can be downloaded by clicking here.