Statement issued Thursday:
November 17, 2011 (INDIANAPOLIS) – Never in the nearly two centuries of state government have leaders of the Indiana General Assembly faced the challenge of a five-week interruption of the legislative process. Yet despite that high hurdle in 2011, Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long were able to motivate their members, keep vital public policies alive and, ultimately, steer the Legislature toward historic accomplishments in the education arena.
These efforts were lauded tonight when Bosma and Long were named the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s 2011 Government Leaders of the Year. They received the honor at the Chamber’s 22nd Annual Awards Dinner before a crowd of nearly 1,500 business, civic and political leaders at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis. Governor Mitch Daniels provided the welcoming remarks while Pittsburgh Steelers legend and Fox commentator Terry Bradshaw delivered the keynote speech. The awards dinner was presented in partnership with Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield.
Bosma and Long are both attorneys. Bosma represents constituents in part of Marion and Hamilton counties. For Long, Fort Wayne and portions of Allen County are his legislative home. Bosma was first elected to the General Assembly in 1986 and Long 10 years later. This legislative session, however, is the first time that they served together in the leadership roles.
The duo talked early and often, crafting a close relationship. They communicated clearly, and they involved their leadership teams. Long terms it a “lot of planning and forethought before the session.” Bosma reiterates that without the early work that the “unforeseen events that happened, including the (House Democratic) walkout, would have sidetracked everything.”
On the communication front, Bosma discloses, “There wasn’t any major development that David wasn’t at least forewarned about. He may not have always agreed or perhaps I didn’t agree with every step the Senate took, but we tried to keep each other informed. People weren’t surprised by the action of the other chamber … that’s not always been the case, I guarantee that.”
The ultimate evaluation of any General Assembly session is did legislators accomplish what they set out to do? At the top of that agenda (shared with Gov. Daniels and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett) was education reform – enhancing school choice, expanding charter schools and putting improved teacher performance standards in place. The final pieces of the education puzzle came together as the session concluded.
Bosma took the unusual step of serving as lead author on the charter school legislation. The bill number (House Bill 1002, just after the budget legislation) helped amplify its importance.
He declares: “I think (these reforms) really set the stage for the future, and set the bar for other states. I have been inundated from leaders from around the country asking: ‘How did you guys accomplish this? How can we duplicate that here?’”
Long echoes the sentiment. “These bills were critical to put Indiana at the forefront of education reform in the country, no doubt about it. That’s saying something for a state that has traditionally kind of fought change. What will happen as a result is that our kids are going to get the opportunity for the educational background they are going to require in order to be successful in the next 20 years.
“I’m very proud of what we achieved. For both Brian and myself, this will be the crowning achievement for us as leaders as it will have the longest lasting impact and legacy for the people of this state, particularly our kids.”
Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar says while education was in the spotlight, it was joined by other important victories: revamping the state’s unemployment compensation system, cutting the state’s corporate income tax rate to benefit small businesses and authorizing enhanced public-private partnerships for transportation infrastructure projects.
“I truly believe that none of these achievements would have occurred without Brian and David’s strong leadership. They deserve much praise for so adeptly navigating the unchartered waters they were faced with and continually pushing forth an agenda that will benefit companies, their employees and all Hoosiers for years to come,” Brinegar proclaims.
Also honored at the Chamber’s Annual Dinner were Jean Wojtowicz, president of Cambridge Capital Management Corp. of Indianapolis, as Business Leader of the Year and Kokomo as Community of the Year.
The dinner followed the Chamber’s fall board of directors and annual membership meetings. Recognized during a luncheon ceremony as Chamber Volunteers of the Year were Chris LaMothe (Sherry Laboratories) of Daleville, Brian McDermott (Ogletree Deakins) of Indianapolis and Jim McKinney (Regency Properties) of Evansville. In addition, Unified Group Services of Anderson was named 2011 Small Business of the Year.
Mike Wells, president of REI Real Estate Services in Carmel, was elected the Indiana Chamber’s 2012 chair of the board of directors.
RECENT INDIANA CHAMBER WINNERS:
Business Leader of the Year
Mike Wells – 2010
John Swisher – 2009
Tony George – 2008
Niel Ellerbrook – 2007
Clarence J. “Mac” McCormick III – 2006
Community of the Year
Terre Haute – 2010
Valparaiso – 2009
Noblesville – 2008
Anderson – 2007
Evansville – 2006
Government Leader of the Year
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett – 2010
Stan Jones, former state commissioner for higher ed. – 2009
Former Gov. Joe Kernan and Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court Randall Shepard – 2008
Mayor Graham Richard – 2007
Gov. Mitch Daniels – 2006