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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, March 11, 2017 10:01 pm

Constitution clear on schools superintendent

Niki Kelly and Brian Francisco | The Journal Gazette

What’s in a name? Apparently a lot.

The Senate is preparing to consider a bill that would change the elected superintendent of public instruction to an appointed position.

But a more intriguing question might be: What do we call it?

House Bill 1005 would abolish the office of the state superintendent of public instruction on Jan. 10, 2021. After that, the governor would appoint a secretary of education.

Changing the name might seem minor but points to an ongoing argument on education reform and funding. Democrats focus more directly on "public" education, while Republicans have expanded that realm to include vouchers to religious private schools.

Philosophy aside, lawmakers are likely stuck with the current moniker unless they want to change the Indiana Constitution.

The constitution says "there shall be a State Superintendent of Public Instruction, whose method of selection, tenure, duties and compensation shall be prescribed by law."

It would seem the name is not up for debate.

Delay, delay

The Fort Wayne City Council is holding off consideration of a proposed nuisance property ordinance until the Indiana General Assembly votes on a similar bill, City Council President Tom Didier said at the end of Tuesday’s council meeting.

The proposal was put on hold in December as officials sought written correspondence from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development stating that the agency supports the ordinance.

"I had a phone call from a constituent today in regard to this particular ordinance that we held and I was I guess disappointed by what he was making comments in regard to," Didier said. "I wanted to make the air clear that the state is the one that proposed the ordinance basically throughout the whole state of Indiana."

Didier said the council is waiting until state lawmakers make a decision on the proposal.

He said the bill has been approved by the state Senate and is awaiting a hearing in the House.

Should the measure pass the Legislature and be signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, it would supersede any local ordinance.

Legislative Services hits 50-year mark

The Legislative Services Agency turned 50 last week.

The nonpartisan state agency drafts all bills and provides fiscal notes that explain how state and local revenues might be affected by legislation. It is an agency that stays above the political fray. Lawmakers respect its independence and rarely question its conclusions.

Marci Oddi, of the Indiana Law Blog, reminisced about being there when LSA was created. She first worked as an intern for an entity called the Legislative Advisory Committee. Separate from that was a public law office that drafted and typed the bills.

"Big heavy duty manual typewriters pounded out the originals and seven copies (using carbon paper). Xerox had not yet been invented, and neither had the Selectric typewriter," Oddi said.

Back then, the legislature met only every other year. In 1967, LSA was created, and a 1970 constitutional amendment allowed lawmakers to meet every year.

Dave Gong of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

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.