By Abdul-Hakim Shabazz
Two years ago Indiana was in the middle of a Level 5 political hurricane called Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
A few years before that Democrats and Republicans deadlocked over “right to work, ” and Democrats fled to Champaign, Illinois, bringing the government to a halt. And just last year we were all pondering whether then-Gov. Mike Pence could survive a re-election bid.
How I miss those days.
Don’t get me wrong. The substantive public policy guy in me can fully appreciate coming up with a 20-year plan to fund roads and infrastructure, tackling opioid and heroin abuse, creating responsible early childhood education programs along with workforce development. But then there’s the guy who loves the gossip, rumor and blatant political innuendo sprinkled with conjecture and wild-eyed speculation. And lawmakers, this session, aren’t giving me a whole lot of that.
My kingdom for a real divisive social issue!
Yes, there have been a handful of controversial issues concerning abortion, guns and school prayer. But let’s be honest, this is Indiana, so that’s just par for the course. And the two bills that could have raised a stir, permitless constitutional carry and a ban on all abortions, didn’t make it out of the gate.
The gun bill went to a summer study committee, and the “ban on all abortions” bill didn’t make it out of the birth canal. But just think of how much fun we could have had if they did?
Even Sunday Sales wasn’t brought up this session. What’s a legislative session without Sunday sales? Pretty darn boring if you ask me!
Instead of days and weeks of obsessing over lawmakers’ Twitter posts or the pictures of themselves that end up on their phones or adult websites, the conversation is about how much, if at all, the cigarette tax should be increased to reduce the costs associated with smoking and also indirectly help fill a budget hole created by shifting the entire sales tax on gasoline to road funding.
What kind of government is this? Eric Holcomb, Brian Bosma, David Long, Scott Pelath, Tim Lanane, you guys are killing me by giving me nothing but substance to work with here. And Suzanne Crouch, Curtis Hill, Connie Lawson, Kelly Mitchell and Tera Klutz, you guys haven’t been much help either. All you’ve been doing is your job, as opposed to helping create political distractions that are fun to write about.
Even the big potential political land mine I am keeping an eye that could blow things up in this state (See my next Cheat Sheet) has nothing to do with lawmakers behaving badly but everything to do with real, substantive public policy. This is no way to run a government, folks.
A government where lawmakers come to work, have real discussions about the major issues of the day, have fully realized that kicking the can down the road doesn’t help and instead want to tackle major issues head on? Look at this, a state with four percent unemployment, a near $2 billion state reserve and jobs going unfilled because there aren’t enough skilled workers?! Ugh! What kind of world is this?!
The next thing you know this will become the norm. Lawmakers will go to work, address major issues and then go home to their constituents while keeping the Statehouse drama down to a bare minimum. If they keep this up, I may need to find a new line of work.
Oh well, if you like a government that functions, the 2017 session of the Indiana General Assembly is for you. I guess you can’t have everything. Luckily, I’ll always have my home state of Illinois.
Hey, Bruce Rauner and Mike Madigan, we need to get reacquainted.
Abdul-Hakim Shabazz has been covering and writing about state and local government in Indiana since 2004. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.