State Government and Economic Analysis and Banking & Finance and Government

HICKS: General Assembly puts foolishness on display

April 2, 2011

This year in Indiana, an April 1 legislative roundup seems mighty appropriate.

The Legislature has faced this session undeterred by the many challenges facing Hoosiers: crafting a balanced budget, reforming a weak K-12 education system, redistricting voting districts, and ensuring fiscal solvency into the next decade. Instead, they have busied themselves with a far more important set of priorities. Here are some examples.

An early priority is a bill that would make the already-illegal act of same-sex marriage actually more illegal. This undeniably critical bit of legislation affecting perhaps 0.01 percent of Hoosiers is not what it seems. Though the legislation may appear as a mean-spirited attempt to permanently disallow what an increasing number of Americans support—the chance for gay and lesbian couples to unite themselves in marriage—an enlightened observer can see through the masquerade of this bill. It isn’t just a thoughtless attempt to anger voters and scare off potential employers. The real purpose is to protect gay and lesbian couples from the expense and heartbreak of divorce. I, for one, am comforted that our General Assembly cares so deeply about the personal lives of Hoosiers that they can take this action in the midst of so many other distractions.

A second important bill is that dealing with Indiana’s biggest problem—national sovereignty. It isn’t enough that Congress is spending billions of dollars trying to secure our borders; Indiana must also freely spend money tracking down illegal immigrants. As the state with arguably the smallest illegal immigrant problem, we should set the example. No longer can we allow tomato pickers, tobacco cutters and dishwashers to seek out a better life inside our borders. We must ruthlessly hunt them down and expel them, no matter the costs.

But it cannot stop there. The authors of this legislation must next propose an Indiana Navy and our own space program (IASA perhaps?). Because we are acquiring the ambition of the federal government, we should also burden ourselves with all the expenses, no matter how absurd.

This legislative session has not been a complete loss, though. In a rare showing of bipartisanship, the state’s Democrats have matched the GOP in legislative antics. Exhausted of useful ideas and demonstrating the political acumen that got them thumped in the last election, Indiana’s Democrats scampered out of state, seeking refuge in Illinois of all places. The land of Gov. Blago and the 75-percent income tax hike could hardly have been more poorly chosen to represent thoughtful progressive governance. Why did they leave? Not to help gay couples or distressed immigrants, but rather to ensure parents remained unable to choose what is best for their child’s education.

In all truth, those who serve us in the General Assembly deserve our respect for their efforts. But the good intentions and honest efforts by many have been badly bruised by zealotry and short-sightedness. We need the remaining month of this Legislature to look a lot less like the last month.•

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Hicks is director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at cber@bsu.edu.

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