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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Ind. Law - As the 2012 General Assembly draws to an end ...

"Finish line is in sight for 2012 session of General Assembly" is the headline to this comprehensive story by Mary Beth Schneider and Chris Sikich in today's Indianapolis Star. The story details some of the bills on the Governor's desk, or on their way, plus what is remaining for concurrence or conference committee action.

ILB: Here are some tools to keep track:

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has an editorial today with words of warning, cautioning about the "legislative surprises" seen in past sessions:
[I]n these waning days, lawmakers will also make key decisions on spending and taxes.

Lawmakers are on track to make many of those decisions in one or more broad-ranging bills. History teaches that as likely as not, those bills will be crafted in a conference committee where legislative leaders will make numerous changes just before lawmakers cast a final vote. Not all of the bills’ effects will necessarily be clear and widely known when those final votes are taken.

Leaders should promise to produce final language at least 24 hours before bills face votes in the House and Senate. But with some lawmakers pushing to adjourn by Thursday, the likelihood of clearly understood, transparent bills does not appear strong. * * *

Dozens [of issues] could surface and be tucked into broad-based bills.

While lawmakers hurry to wind up their session, they should strive to make public exactly what they are voting on in the waning days and hours of their annual legislative session. That is not too much to ask.

Finally, another noteworthy story: Tom Davies of the AP reports on the retirement wave in the General Assembly. Some quotes:
The final days of this year's legislative session will see more than a dozen veteran legislators ending their Statehouse careers, setting up the Indiana House to have more than three dozen of its 100 members in their first or second terms when lawmakers next return.

The loss of hundreds of years of experience in the House — including the top Republican and Democratic budget writers — has some worried that paid lobbyists could gain an even heftier role within the General Assembly. * * *

"Folks who are new, I think, tend to be really dependent on lobbyists because they haven't been around a while to learn about the issues," said Julia Vaughn, policy director for the government watchdog group Common Cause Indiana. "I do think that newcomers suffer from an information void, and lobbyists are more than happy to fill it."

Dozens of lobbyists for business associations, school groups, labor unions, attorneys, law enforcement and state agencies spend their days in the Statehouse during legislative sessions seeking out lawmakers to support bills in which they have an interest. Those lobbyists are typically the people testifying during committee hearings and often have the ears of lawmakers as bills are drafted and revised.

With bills on hundreds of topics filed each session, the system couldn't function without lobbyists on all sides of issues who are experts in their subjects and can work both with their clients and lawmakers, said Ed Roberts, a lobbyist on labor law and business tax issues for the Indiana Manufacturers Association over the past 36 years.

[More] From Chris Sikich of the Indy Star, a long feature on two of the retirees: "2 retiring Indiana General Assembly representatives are the last of their class: Having served since 1973, Republican Jeff Espich and Democrat Bill Crawford bringing influential careers to an end after 40 years."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 6, 2012 09:17 AM
Posted to Indiana Law