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EDITORIAL

Legislators push Indiana 'ever so gently to the right'

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - 12:01 am

And it's hard to imagine Hoosiers unhappy with session.

As this session of the General Assembly began, we wrote about the worry that Republicans, with supermajorities in both the House and Senate, might push too hard on an ideological agenda at the expense of more pragmatic concerns. At the end of the session, then, it should be reported that they did not.

In fact, the most remarkable thing about this session was how modest it was. That is not meant as criticism. There have been several sessions now with truly momentous legislation, the effects of which we still do not know. So this was a good session to pause and reflect. And this editorial page has never been known to complain of too little government.

Of course, celebration of this relatively quiet session was not a universal sentiment. House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, chided the GOP for having “a tremendous opportunity to lead Indiana” and “didn’t use it to do more” to “help the middle class.”

It might be emotionally satisfying to complain that Republicans aren’t behaving more like Democrats, but it sounds like whining to everybody else. Hoosiers voted for all those Republicans, presumably knowing how the GOP would approach issues.

Pelath and others should be grateful for the restraint showed by Republicans. (“General Assembly missed much more than it hit,” said The Indianapolis Star.)

On issue after issue, legislators rejected a hard-line ideological approach. They said no on having armed teachers, prayer or challenges to evolution in schools. They backed off putting the gay marriage ban into the state constitution. They declined to call for a national constitutional convention. They declined to order drug tests for welfare recipients. They didn’t grandfather canned hunts for five companies.

And on many controversial subjects, they either moved incrementally or hit the pause button. Education vouchers were expanded, but only slightly. The governor got a 5 percent income tax cut instead of 10. Casinos got a small tax incentive, not the huge package of protection they had sought. Common Core was given a one-year moratorium. Changes in criminal sentencing were approved but not set to go into effect next year with the idea the next session will approve tweaks.

As The Associated Press analysis put it, Gov. Mike Pence this year was looking for the Legislature to “tack harder to the right.” What he got was a General Assembly that “pushed the state to the right ever so gently.” It’s hard to imagine many Hoosiers unhappy with the way this session went.