IBJOpinion

FEIGENBAUM: Conference committees may offer fewer fireworks

Ed Feigenbaum
April 23, 2011
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Longtime readers may recall all the emphasis placed in this column on the final days of a given legislative session, analogizing the last two weeks to the final minutes of a National Basketball Association playoff game.

This, of course, is when much of the seeming non-urgency of the session (or season) to date is suddenly jettisoned, and attention focuses on the veterans and those, like the venerable Reggie Miller, who shine when the pressure and spotlight are on them.

You might have noticed that much of the end-of-session hi-jinks have largely dissipated in recent years, with a good chunk of the reason being single-party control of both chambers of the General Assembly and Governor’s Office. However, limited resources and a governor determined to prescribe how they should be divvied up also meant minimal cash to argue about. A closely politically divided House of Representatives offered little opportunity —or appetite—for major policy innovation that required last-minute compromise or fine-tuning.

Given the historical context, it would not be unexpected that there wouldn’t be much left to argue about as the 2011 legislative session approaches its scheduled April 29 conclusion. After all, one-party rule has allowed Republicans to largely achieve their major new policy objectives—even with the House Democratic Party exodus to Illinois. House and Senate Republicans largely agree over the major components of the big issues (particularly in education). And House Republicans reluctantly have offered a few crumbs in the way of modifications to Democrats. So there would seem to be little room for intrigue in the final days.

If you can search for the constitutional imperative that says you can’t have a legislative session in Indiana absent political intrigue, you won’t find such de jure language, but you can rest assured that it is certainly a de facto element.

Conference committees will be a rarer phenomenon this session, however, because there simply weren’t many bills passing both chambers in different forms. Because of the Democratic walkout, some House measures heard in the Senate were shuttled through that chamber without amendment simply over concern that the bills would die in limbo if the Senate exacted changes.

When Democrats emerged from hibernation, the House didn’t seem overly inclined to alter bills or to keep bills alive only as vehicles for nefarious purposes in conference. The prevailing attitude seemed to be that, while a few bills might be used to address some major issues in conference, it was simply better to keep the process moving, and not risk bills failing for lack of time. The time left available for conference committee deliberations is extremely compressed.

Because of the crunch, the general dearth of bills still alive compared with prior sessions, and some issues that died a surprise death earlier in the session, conference-committee time again will prove important.  

You must, however, keep an eye on “second reading” amendment efforts during this final week of legislative activity. Some amendments will keep concepts alive for conference, competing for inclusion in the few bills left, while concerns over germaneness may cause some issues to disappear in conference. Others may simply arise from nowhere (like recent Senate amendments affecting control of the Office of Secretary of State in a vacancy and prohibiting the state from contracting with, or granting to, Planned Parenthood of Indiana).

A major item likely to land in conference will be revival of the gubernatorially sought package that would ease the way for the Leucadia National Corp. coal gasification project.

The original Senate bill failed when the gubernatorial priority was not well-communicated to senators, but some of the newer senators who had concerns over granting eminent domain for a carbon-dioxide-byproduct pipeline might still not be reassured, and Indiana Farm Bureau is cranking up its opposition to granting such power to private interests.

If nuclear energy provisions remain, there also may be others raising post-Japan earthquake eyebrows.

As always, the budget will be the object of last-minute tweaking. As banking interests fight for repayment to the Public Deposit Insurance Fund of an old $50 million loan, agricultural interests fight to keep some $30 million in annual racino subsidies, and other entities seek to maintain certain education scholarships, lawmakers will be calculating the impact on the bottom line.

This session’s last few days will be interesting as always, like those playoff final games the Indiana Pacers once treated us to. Perhaps the only truism is that single-class high school basketball tournaments will not be reauthorized. Beyond that: “Game on!”•

__________

Feigenbaum publishes Indiana Legislative Insight. His column appears weekly while the Indiana General Assembly is in session. He can be reached at edf@ingrouponline.com.

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  1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

  2. My responses to some of the comments would include the following: 1. Our offer which included the forgiveness of debt (this is an immediate forgiveness and is not "spread over many years")represents debt that due to a reduction of interest rates in the economy arguably represents consideration together with the cash component of our offer that exceeds the $2.1 million apparently offered by another party. 2. The previous $2.1 million cash offer that was turned down by the CRC would have netted the CRC substantially less than $2.1 million. As a result even in hindsight the CRC was wise in turning down that offer. 3. With regard to "concerned Carmelite's" discussion of the previous financing Pedcor gave up $16.5 million in City debt in addition to the conveyance of the garage (appraised at $13 million)in exchange for the $22.5 million cash and debt obligations. The local media never discussed the $16.5 million in debt that we gave up which would show that we gave $29.5 million in value for the $23.5 million. 4.Pedcor would have been much happier if Brian was still operating his Deli and only made this offer as we believe that we can redevelop the building into something that will be better for the City and City Center where both Pedcor the citizens of Carmel have a large investment. Bruce Cordingley, President, Pedcor

  3. I've been looking for news on Corner Bakery, too, but there doesn't seem to be any info out there. I prefer them over Panera and Paradise so can't wait to see where they'll be!

  4. WGN actually is two channels: 1. WGN Chicago, seen only in Chicago (and parts of Canada) - this station is one of the flagship CW affiliates. 2. WGN America - a nationwide cable channel that doesn't carry any CW programming, and doesn't have local affiliates. (In addition, as WGN is owned by Tribune, just like WTTV, WTTK, and WXIN, I can't imagine they would do anything to help WISH.) In Indianapolis, CW programming is already seen on WTTV 4 and WTTK 29, and when CBS takes over those stations' main channels, the CW will move to a sub channel, such as 4.2 or 4.3 and 29.2 or 29.3. TBS is only a cable channel these days and does not affiliate with local stations. WISH could move the MyNetwork affiliation from WNDY 23 to WISH 8, but I am beginning to think they may prefer to put together their own lineup of syndicated programming instead. While much of it would be "reruns" from broadcast or cable, that's pretty much what the MyNetwork does these days anyway. So since WISH has the choice, they may want to customize their lineup by choosing programs that they feel will garner better ratings in this market.

  5. The Pedcor debt is from the CRC paying ~$23M for the Pedcor's parking garage at City Center that is apprased at $13M. Why did we pay over the top money for a private businesses parking? What did we get out of it? Pedcor got free parking for their apartment and business tenants. Pedcor now gets another building for free that taxpayers have ~$3M tied up in. This is NOT a win win for taxpayers. It is just a win for Pedcor who contributes heavily to the Friends of Jim Brainard. The campaign reports are on the Hamilton County website. http://www2.hamiltoncounty.in.gov/publicdocs/Campaign%20Finance%20Images/defaultfiles.asp?ARG1=Campaign Finance Images&ARG2=/Brainard, Jim

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