Political Notebook

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To Rules Committee go unloved bills to die

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, has used the Rules Committee liberally this year to kill off bad legislation.

He has assigned more than 20 bills there – plus dozens of other bills that will never get a hearing – on topics as varied as class basketball, guns on campus and the Lord’s Prayer.

Long said “some of these bills just aren’t reasonable.” Or they are blatantly unconstitutional.

For instance, Senate Bill 230. This measure would provide that any federal act, order, law, rule, regulation, or statute found by the General Assembly to be inconsistent with the power granted to the federal government in the Constitution of the United States would be void in Indiana.

It specifically voids the federal health care act and would make it a felony to enforce any provision of the law in Indiana.

Long said legislators promise to uphold the federal and state constitutions and can’t pass unconstitutional legislation like this. He said the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the majority of the health care law.

“It’s my responsibility to take the heat. It comes with the job,” he said.

The Tenth Amendment Center has attacked Long for blocking Senate Bill 230.

“Hey, Dave! Joe Biden is on the phone. He wants to thank you on behalf of President Obama for your support,” Tenth Amendment Center Executive Director Michael Boldin said. “Maybe Long should consider switching parties.”

Boldin said “this is not Long’s personal fiefdom” and he should allow the bill a hearing and vote.

“For one man to block a popular bill because he either doesn’t want to stick his neck out and oppose D.C., or he actually stands on Obama’s side, is unacceptable.”

Long said he understands the frustration but he can’t advocate unconstitutional legislation. He said he sent more bills to the Rules Committee this year partly because of the 621 bills filed – the second-highest ever. But he also said some senators file a bill strictly to make a statement and never expect it to get a hearing.

GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma said fewer of these “statement” bills are filed in his chamber because lawmakers there have a 10-bill limit in the long session. There are no such limits in the Senate.

A desk with history

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., took Richard Lugar’s seat in the Senate this year. Now Donnelly is taking Lugar’s desk as well.

Donnelly’s Facebook page states that he “received a piece of Senate history when he was told his desk once belonged to Senators Edward Kennedy, Charles Goodell, Vance Hartke, and Richard Lugar. Joe is looking forward to continuing their efforts to find common sense solutions in a bipartisan way.”

The social media posting drew responses from 173 people who “like” it.

Donnelly’s staff later said in an email that his desk – No. 98 in the chamber – had been occupied by six Republicans and four Democrats before Donnelly got it. Others who have sat at it included South Carolina Democrat Ernest Hollings and Kansas Republican Nancy Kassebaum. The current numbering system began in 1957, according to the Senate’s website.

Ben Ray, Donnelly’s press secretary, said past senators, including Lugar, have signed their names inside the desk drawers according to Senate tradition.

Lugar, who served 36 years in the chamber, lost the GOP nomination last spring to state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, whom Donnelly, then a member of the House, defeated in November.

Zody support

Several Democratic leaders in Indiana are supporting John Zody as the party’s next state chairman.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., former Gov. Joe Kernan, Reps. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, and André Carson, D-7th, and former Lt. Gov. Kathy Davis all endorsed Zody in statements issued Thursday by Donnelly’s campaign website.

Zody, Midwest political director for President Obama’s re-election campaign, has worked for Kernan, the late Gov. Frank O’Bannon and former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill. He teaches political science at Indiana University Bloomington.

Democratic Chairman Dan Parker is leaving after eight years in the post. The Democratic State Central Committee will choose his successor March 16.

Other possible candidates mentioned in news reports include former state Sen. Vi Simpson of Bloomington, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor last year, and Indianapolis architect Jim Schellinger, who sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 2008.

Stutzman in top tier

Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, was the most conservative member of Indiana’s delegation in the last session of Congress in the eyes of Heritage Action for America.

Heritage Action has named Stutzman one of 29 “sentinels” of the 112th Congress. Those lawmakers scored 90 percent or higher on the conservative policy group’s legislative scorecard.

“Not only did they advance the conservative cause, but they also held back the incessant tide of tax increases, out-of-control spending, and harmful policies that breed dependency on government,” Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham said in a statement.

Based in Washington, Heritage Action is a sister organization to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Stutzman scored 90 percent and was the only Hoosier on the list of sentinels.

Top scores were 99 percent for former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. DeMint is now president of the Heritage Foundation.

Former Republican Rep. Mike Pence – now Indiana’s governor – scored 80 percent; Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., scored 78 percent; and former Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly – now a senator – scored 23 percent.

Among votes that lawmakers were rated on were bills to repeal the health care law, cut spending, increase the national debt limit and deny federal funds for Planned Parenthood.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can also be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.

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