Giving up on the process
The Indiana General Assembly has before it a proposal to put a same-sex marriage ban into the state constitution. The proposal has already been approved in one legislative session, and if it flies in this one it will go before voters in a referendum.
But we already have a state law on the ban, so the amendment isn’t needed, and, furthermore, it might drive away businesses hoping to attract valuable gay employees. There have been a number of protests along those lines, including a symbolic “wedding” ceremony for 13 same-sex couples presided over by the mayor of Bloomington last week.
Isn’t this a marvelous exercise in democracy, all Hoosiers thrashing around in search of consensus that will govern how we behave in this state?
Well, it could be, but it isn’t.
Local control of our destiny
The Indiana General Assembly has previously flatly refused a request from Marion and Hamilton counties for a mass-transit tax referendum. But the mood seems to have changed this year. A bill allowing the referendum passed the House Roads and Transportation Committee 11-1 last week. There is still a long way to go – it must also get through the House Ways and Means Committee, and there is likely to be more opposition in the Senate – but there is at least a chance a bill will hit the governor’s desk this year.
The question of the hour is: If a bill does make it to Gov. Mike Pence, will he sign it? He has, after all, signed Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist’s “no new taxes” pledge, and this could end up raising $1.3 billion more in central Indiana.
He certainly should sign it.
Government choosing sides
There was a rare outbreak of honesty in Columbus last week. Mayor Kristen Brown was considering a proposal to allow street vendors to sell their goods from carts and trucks downtown, because she thought it would make downtown Columbus more vibrant and welcoming. But there was terrific pushback from downtown business owners, so she has shelved the proposal indefinitely.
The merchants, to their credit, did not spout the usual nonsense about safety or the public good. They want to keep the vendors out for the obvious reason that allowing them in would cut into the profits of businesses already downtown and might take up parking spaces used by workers and customers. “We were here first,” in other words, so keep out the competition.
Such collusion is common enough to be standard practice.
More choices for education
School choice advocates got good news this week. Gov. Mike Pence announced his support for an expansion of Indiana’s voucher system that goes beyond what he originally advocated. Our system is already the biggest in the nation, with more than 9,000 students attending private schools with public dollars during the 2012-2013 school year. There’s no cap for next year, and the proposed changes would greatly increase the number of eligible students.
The requirement for one-year attendance of a public school would be dropped, so students already enrolled in a private school would qualify. Recipients would be allowed to keep their vouchers if their family income goes up as much as $127,000 a year ($64,000 is the ceiling now). The current voucher amount of $4,500 would go up to $5,500 next year and $6,500 for the 2014-15 school year.
Treatment is not equal
Legislation under consideration in the Indiana House would keep some college students from voting, and it’s so flawed it’s hard to know where to begin. House Bill 1311, filed by Rep. Peggy Mayfield, R-Martinsville, says students who are paying “out of state” tuition would not be allowed to vote in Indiana. She says she’s trying to resolve an issue “about who is an Indiana resident. We’re having people who are not necessarily residents voting in our elections.”
The first problem with the measure is that it’s unconstitutional. Indiana’s constitution provides that a person who is at least 18 and has been a resident of a precinct for the 30 days preceding an election may vote. It takes a minimum of a year to get a university to consider changing a student’s “out of state” status, so the law would clearly be judging students by different standards.