Opinion and Forefront

BENNETT: Indianapolis is treated differently than other cities

June 29, 2013

BennettQuestion: Does Indianapolis get more than its fair share from the General Assembly?

Answer: The question continues to be pondered by many people and seems to always rise to a high level during each session of the General Assembly. The issue is typically considered and debated regularly by those of us from around the state who live outside of Marion County.

In most cases, it is simply an annual frustration felt by locally elected officials who are trying to get legislation approved to help their own community and consistently run into many political roadblocks. At the same time, we see serious debate and compromise on Indianapolis-related bills that seem to find a way into law more often than not.

It is clearly understood by all that Indianapolis is the central hub of government, business, finance, entertainment, etc. It is therefore an obvious fact that it would also warrant significant political attention. No one disputes that fact and we understand the political reality of the system.

The concern I have heard repeatedly from both elected officials and the citizens we represent is that the rest of us would just like some of the same legislative opportunities. The majority of approved legislation for Indianapolis would also likely work elsewhere across the state.

As an active member of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, I have had opportunity to spend considerable time over the past five years engaging in the legislative process. It has been interesting and educational to see how things really work as I engage on behalf of our community.

The entire legislative process is a constant battle of political will and strength that builds throughout a session and ends with what seems to be only a few success stories.

A common theme that emerges is that legislation proposed for Indianapolis clearly has the upper hand each session due to the political and financial clout it brings to the table.

This is not a slam on the Legislature or the local government in Indianapolis. They are doing what they believe they need to do to get things done. I have total respect for the difficult job our legislators have in dealing with hundreds of bills presented each session.

I, along with many other locally elected officials, would simply like to see the other 91 counties get the same attention on the bills that would help our communities.

Much more local authority or “home rule” is what we seek. The Legislature can help us by passing legislation that gives locals authority to put things on the ballot to be decided locally.

Tools to fight methamphetamine and options for new revenue streams would go a long way toward helping us solve many of our local issues.

The problem is that those types of bills get sidetracked too easily, and most would agree that legislation that helps Indianapolis appears to have a much better track record of becoming law.

We all want Indianapolis to grow and prosper. The greater overall success it has helps the entire state.

An emphasis on legislation that serves both Terre Haute and Indianapolis equally seems like a good strategy. All we are seeking is a level playing field for everyone when it comes to legislative decisions.

As my father used to tell me, “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.”•

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Bennett, mayor of Terre Haute, is a Republican. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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