Large crowd shows for legislative Q & A
Though cold, snowing and heavily overcast Saturday morning, 110 people crowded into the Superior Courtroom at the Harrison County Justice Center to talk politics.
The annual Legislative Update, 90 minutes of Q & A with elected officials serving in the General Assembly, is known as a good place to find out what issues are on the public’s minds.
State Sen. Richard D. Young, Milltown, and State Rep. Paul J. Robertson, Depauw, provided insight into the state’s efforts regarding those topics at the forefront.
The event was co-sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County and the Harrison County Farm Bureau. Pete Schickel was coordinator and facilitator.
All-day kindergarten dominated discussion in 2004. Education funding was a major topic in 2005. The classroom was nearly absent this year, but economics were inescapable as always.
And the discussion was plenty partisan.
When Ed Sieg of Depauw asked about health and human services, he questioned, ‘Is Mitch gonna privatize that, too?’ referring to Gov. Mitch Daniels.
‘I think he would privatize the whole state if possible,’ Young said. ‘It’s a difference in philosophy.’
The state senator said he discussed that difference with Daniels, and, ‘He (Gov. Daniels) said, ‘That’s all fine,’ in a very pleasant way, ‘But that’s not the way we’re going to do things.’ ‘
Young said he believes that he and the governor, despite their differences, both want what is best for Indiana.
Privatization was the topic when Jim Klinstiver told Robertson and Young, ‘I don’t think there is any way you can justify selling a toll road in this state to a foreign company.’
Daniels is an advocate of tolls roads, but Robertson and Young led legislation eliminating the toll on the Matthew E. Welsh Bridge in Harrison County.
‘The toll road bill is a major, major, major undertaking,’ Robertson said.
‘I am concerned that we are moving at a very rapid pace on a very important piece of legislation,’ he said, adding that the current proposal could put the project in the hands of the highest foreign bidder.
He also said that a ‘no compete’ clause would force Indiana to pay the builder ‘if we do improvements to a road to the point it competes with the Australian Interstate.’
A foreign company, Robertson said, would stand to make billions of dollars over 75 years at the toll road.
‘If they can do that, why can’t we do that in this state or at least in the United States?’ he asked, rhetorically.
Legislators should take more time in reviewing the bill, Robertson said.
‘If it’s a good deal today, it should be a good deal tomorrow.’
Dr. Neyland Clark, superintendent of South Harrison Community School Corp., asked that the state continue to schedule ISTEP for fall.
‘It will render historic data invalid,’ said Clark, and, ‘It will save $35- to $40-million just by not moving the test.’
‘You don’t practice for a basketball game to play football. All our comparisons to look from one year to another will be thrown out the window.’
Gordon Schneider of Elizabeth asked that legislators ‘remember the rural customers’ when considering a telecommunications bill that he feared would impact his service.
Robertson told Schneider his service would not suffer. He said he had opposed the telecommunications bill in the past and that state representatives and telephone companies have made it ‘a more acceptable bill.’
Schneider also asked that legislators ‘keep illegals (illegal aliens) out of our schools and out of drivers’ licenses and the state.’
‘They are taking jobs in most cases in this area that others would not have,’ Robertson said. ‘If these businesses would not hire them, they would not come here.’
Young suggested that the jobs would be taken by the local workforce if employers paid an equitable wage.
‘I agree with Paul that the biggest problem is that employers are not abiding by the law and are hiring illegal aliens,’ Young said.
Lanesville winery owner Jim Pfeiffer asked that the state senate axe a bill that he said would ‘shut down Indiana wineries’ ability to sell wholesale and ship directly to households.’
‘It’s definitely a turf war that will put some small wineries out of business,’ said Robertson, who strongly opposed the bill.
‘It shocks me that the majority of the house would support legislation that would be detrimental,’ Young said.
Charlie Eckart of Corydon said he was worried that libraries would lose funding and that Indiana State Troopers would be passed over for a pay raise for an 11th year.
‘Remember, number one, I did not vote for the budget. Number two, I did not vote for the budget,’ Robertson said.
‘Hopefully, next year the economy will be improved enough to take care of some of these issues,’ he said.