Opinion and Forefront

MACALLISTER: Hooray for underrated lawmakers

March 30, 2013

MacAllisterAs the end of the annual meeting of our General Assembly draws nigh, it is not inappropriate to once again view both the legislation considered and the general health and well-being of the system itself as it works in the Great Hoosier Heartland.

We spend a good deal of time pointing out the weaknesses in the system, the character and pedigree of individual legislators, and are rarely flattering in our comments. They become buffoons, clowns and lightweights. The product of special interests—pawns of the unions or of the banking or industrial conglomerates.

And beyond that, they don’t agree with me on education reform, school lunches, prevailing wages, support of our major universities, etc.

Comment about political legislation is certainly welcome and is not only an American privilege (I almost said “right”) but, indeed, an obligation.

As the comment is offered, however, first query: What is the source? Is this someone who has walked the walk? Or is this a curb-stoner, centered on HIS ox with no interest in the larger picture and only the vaguest understanding of the impact the given legislation might have?

If one is a player in the game, he or she is entitled to express opinion and expect it will be heard. If one is interested in a specific bill, my inclination is to distrust his counsel as primarily self-serving.

I discovered Indiana has 6.54 million citizens, 76 percent of whom qualify for voting privilege. Mirabil dictum, 91.5 percent are registered to vote!

But guess how many voted in the last primary? Just 21.03 percent. Roughly four out of five copped out. If we are complaining about the conduct of officeholders, how do we feel about complaining citizens who abandoned that obligation by ignoring the primaries? This is the pot calling the kettle black.

On the hooray side, two supporting comments.

The first is examination of the results. Lay Indiana’s balance sheet or operating statement next to that of Illinois—or California or Ohio. On the basis of performance, looking at the record, is there any question as to whose operation is the soundest?

Why? Partly because of our governors, but also because of the prudence of our legislatures.

Second, I know some of the people who constitute our Legislature and some are pretty impressive.

A model would be Pat Miller, who just won her eighth term in the Senate after an arduous, non-stop campaign, door to door, neighborhood after neighborhood, week after long week. She brings her own viewpoint, relies on her own experience, is governed by her own Methodist code of ethics, and has nothing to gain from the experience except satisfaction in doing the right thing. And lend to her value years of parliamentary and committee experience, facilitating performance of her committee assignment.

I can’t imagine Dave Frizzell or Bob Behning or Luke Kenley or Jim Merritt on the take or padding their nest or guilty of conduct that would embarrass the respective families.

Along with the terms each is serving, there is the endless scrounging for dollars, calls from constituents, speeches, examination of ponderous proposed legislation, caucuses, preparatory meetings.

This is not altogether a lot of fun, surely not deserving of the calumny accompanying the office.

All alongside holding a regular job. And the Legislature meets in the dead of winter, meaning no sandy beaches for this group. No palms waving outside the window. No sunsets over the gulf.•

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MacAllister is chairman of MacAllister Machinery Co. Inc. and a longtime leader in Indianapolis Republican politics. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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