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State official puts deputy in DC to watch the feds

– Attorney General Greg Zoeller is sending a deputy to Washington, D.C., to monitor and review federal actions that might affect the state.

The legality of the move, though, is unclear since several bills filed this year in the Indiana General Assembly to create such a position have not yet passed.

Senate Bill 36 expands a 1905 statute that allowed for the appointment of one assistant in the nation’s capital related to claims involving swamplands and swampland indemnity.

Specifically it allows a deputy to review and monitor federal legislation, regulations and administrative actions and take any action the attorney general finds necessary to respond to or influence a proposal.

Bryan Corbin, spokesman for Zoeller, said the bills were filed out of caution and Zoeller is creating the position on an interim basis administratively until then.

“Lobbyists and special interest groups live in Washington and have regular access to Congress and they often work to undercut the authority of state governments and centralize the authority of the federal government by claiming the states are only a ‘crazy-quilt patchwork’ of inconsistent jurisdictions,” Zoeller said. “From my own experience I know that a physical presence at the Capitol succeeds better in dealing with the federal government than sending a letter.”

Deputy Attorney General Richard M. Bramer has been tapped to work with members of Indiana’s congressional delegation to monitor bills moving through Congress and proposed regulations moving through federal agencies.

The deputy AG will advise the Attorney General’s Office of upcoming issues so that the state of Indiana can make its position known and recommend action if necessary. And he will seek opportunities for state government to provide testimony to committees and regulatory agencies.

Bramer will serve only the state of Indiana. His initial contract is worth $55,000 but is only through May. He will also receive a housing allowance of $500 per month, temporarily, while he works out of his home office in D.C. Once a permanent office space is secured, that housing allowance will cease.

Bramer was a longtime deputy attorney general who served in various capacities in the Attorney General’s Office from 2002 to 2011.

He recently returned to work again for the Attorney General’s Office as a deputy AG after serving in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington.

“Having met with some of the members of Indiana’s congressional delegation, I am looking forward to this assignment that focuses on the federal government’s impact on our state clients,” he said.

The bill related to the new job is being heard Wednesday in a Senate Committee.

Corbin was unaware whether any other state Attorney General has a staffer on-hand in Washington, D.C.