Good and bad in picking aides
Elected officials can make good hiring decisions when they’re seeking aides to help them in office, and they can make questionable ones. Republican Gov.-elect Mike Pence and GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma have provided us with examples of each this week.
Bosma gets the nod for the questionable hire. His choice of five-year lobbyist Matt Whetstone to be the new parliamentarian for the Indiana House of Representatives has aroused the ire of Common Cause, which points out the obvious potential for conflicts of interest. The case does illustrate the revolving door between state government and the lobbying world – the phrase “fox in the henhouse” comes to mind.
Pence made the good hiring decision in choosing retired House member Jeff Espich to guide the governor’s agenda through the Statehouse.
No reason to delay a vote
Those who were waiting Monday for the U.S. Supreme Court to say whether it would decide one of the gay marriage cases it has under consideration were disappointed by the silence. The court has been asked to rule both on Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that banned gay marriage in California, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bans benefits for same-sex couples. If the justices don’t make an announcement after their next session on Friday, gay marriage may not be on the docket this year.
That’s one more reason for legislators not to put off voting on their gay marriage proposal. Lawmakers already approved the measure once. If it passes one more time, it will go to voters in a referendum, and they will decide whether to put the state’s ban on gay marriage in the state constitution or leave it as a mere state law.
Vows club is still exclusive
We just can’t seem to leave marriage alone in Indiana.
First we had the fight over whether gay couples should have the same marriage rights as straight couples, and pretty much said no.
Now there’s an attempt by a secular humanist group to get in on the marriage-vow business. It’s not as interesting as the gay marriage debate, but it’s interesting in its own way.
Under Indiana law, only public officials and those who obtain ordination as clergy are allowed to perform the marriage ceremony. Granted, any official will do, from a governor on down to a justice of the peace. And you can be “ordained” online by any number of church-in-name-only outfits.
But if you don’t at least go through the “let’s pretend” exercise, forget about solemnizing any couple’s vows.
Getting sneaky about religion
Proposed “truth in education” legislation by Republican state Sen. Dennis Kruse of Auburn won’t mention the terms “creationism” or “intelligent design” or “evolution,” but don’t doubt for a second that this is one more attempt to force a religious debate into science classrooms. The General Assembly should have none of it.
His previous attempt was more straightforward. It would not have mandated creationism to be taught along with evolution, but it would have allowed school districts to mandate it. The bill actually made it out of the Senate but was killed in the House because of concerns over legal challenges. Those concerns were more than justified given that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that teaching “creation science” in public schools is unconstitutional if the purpose is to “advance a particular religion.”
'Trust Local,' mayors request
The Indiana Conference of Mayors has a worthy goal for the coming session of the General Assembly: getting the state to return more control to local governments, giving them the flexibility and resources to solve more of their own problems.
The “Trust Local” campaign, says Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura, president of the mayors’ conference, is not meant to pit local and state governments against each other but to make them better partners. “We don’t want them fighting home front battles in the Statehouse,” Stahura says. “Let us handle the local stuff at home. Zoning issues, water rights, financial flexibility, there’s thousands of those issues we can handle. We don’t need the help.”
If anything, the campaign might seem to lack ambition – local control is being sought only for three issues.