Political Notebook

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Early OKs have council feuding

The Fort Wayne City Council had another dust-up over procedures last week.

Council President Mitch Harper, R-4th, and Councilwoman Karen Goldner, D-2nd, were at the forefront of the battle over how the council grants quick approvals for city contracts.

The council has for years granted “prior approvals” to contracts that had not yet gone through the normal hearing process.

This was intended as a way to get contractors working on relatively routine projects.

The only problem is that the city has no authority in state law for its process regarding early approvals, making them susceptible to legal challenges.

Harper, a former state legislator, argued the council should stop using the process and instead go through a more formal early approval process.

Although the end result would be the same for the contractor, the process is more cumbersome – especially because it requires unanimous approval for one of its votes.

This unanimous approval is the reason the council’s “prior approval” process started decades ago, Harper said. He said former Councilman Jimmy Stier took a hard-line position never to support any suspension of council rules. That meant projects couldn’t be approved until at least two weeks after they were introduced.

Harper said the prior approval rule was created as a way to work around Stier.

This council did unanimously support several contracts for early approval last week, likely a sign of how the process will work in the future.

Forgive, not forget

The House Democratic walkout ended weeks ago, and the legislature has mostly picked up where it left off with little repercussion.

But that doesn’t mean anyone is forgetting the boycott.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said Thursday that legislators need to pass a law providing a disincentive for lawmakers to leave the state capital during the session.

“I can’t tell you how concerned I am for the future of this institution if this is ever allowed to be a common thing,” he said.

Aside from reducing the quorum requirement in the Indiana Constitution, the only option is an anti-bolting statute similar to something that was on the books until 1976.

That law provided a one-time $1,000 fine after a misdemeanor conviction, which could be unconstitutional since lawmakers are largely immune from arrest during session.

Also, under existing House rules, the Democrats were fined more than $3,000 each.

“I think we’ll just have to look at that and see how we can make it so penal that walking away is not a consideration. I just think it’s that important,” Long said.

┐Hablas inglÚs?

Long didn’t mince words last week when addressing the issue of illegal immigration legislation.

He noted that a provision in a bill prohibiting government forms to be written in anything but English was being removed from the legislation. But he understands the frustration some Hoosiers feel at immigrants who don’t speak English.

“I personally think that English is the language of this country, and it needs to remain a part of your qualification for citizenship. I don’t think you should be able to vote if you don’t have a mastery of the language,” Long said. “But, on the other hand, there are a lot of people who are here legally who still have some trouble with the language, and we should not get carried away with preventing services that are vital that are provided by government from being provided by unintended consequences of the language in this bill.”

Tweet and learn

Mayor Tom Henry has been tweeting for about two weeks now, and most of his 140-character updates have been routine notices touting city achievements or events. That changed last week when the mayor wrote, “2day in 1828 Noah Webster &Copy;’s 1st Ed. of his dictionary. 2day’s word: aglet - tag covering the ends of a lace or point http://bit.ly/hwErfB.”

Henry’s spokesman said the mayor felt like explaining the meaning of “aglet” because it had come up in conversation earlier in the day.

He said the style was used to fit Twitter’s character requirements.

More events

Voters have a few events this week to learn more about their Fort Wayne candidates:

•The IPFW College Republicans will host a debate for GOP at-large and 2nd District candidates Monday on campus at Neff Hall Room 101. The at-large candidates will begin speaking at 6 p.m. and the 2nd District candidates will follow at 7.

•The Allen County Republican Party will conduct a mayoral forum from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Magee O’Connor Theater at Indiana Tech’s Andorfer Commons.

Pat Miller of radio station WOWO-AM 1190 will be the moderator, and a panel of local journalists will ask questions.

To reach Political Notebook via e-mail, contact Benjamin Lanka at blanka@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. To discuss this entry of Political Notebook or others, go to the Political Notebook topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net.

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