FEIGENBAUM: Passage of Daniels' agenda will spawn sweeping change

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You shouldn’t have much trouble discerning the immediate winners from the 2011 session of the Indiana General Assembly.

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels received virtually everything he asked for, winning historic victories on virtually every big-picture agenda item he sought and falling short only on more marginal matters such as sentencing reform and some extant government anachronism he sought to reform.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, showed he learned much about leadership from his 2005-2006 speakership stint. Bosma avoided antagonizing Democrats and poisoning the well from the outset, refusing to be baited by Democrats who sought to turn him into the legislative ogre.

His measured rhetoric and formal floor responses to the Democratic walkout allowed business to be conducted without rancor when Democrats returned. That allowed the full Republican agenda to be enacted.

Bosma’s willingness—and the willingness of the governor and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne—to shift Right to Work to a summer study panel defused a potentially unresolvable situation, and also showed the freshman bloc that just because they could do something didn’t mean they should do it.

Long also offered steady direction in the upper chamber—ensuring adult leadership when Bosma was without a quorum—and Daniels chose to avoid employing the bully pulpit.

But beyond the political winners, the policy that prevailed clearly stole the show.

Indiana Democrats cast the GOP as an out-of-control juggernaut as legislators passed education reforms—including student vouchers, charter school expansion, teacher evaluations and collective-bargaining restrictions; cut corporate income taxes; reduced worker benefits for the unemployed; imposed far-reaching abortion restrictions; defunded Planned Parenthood; and expanded gun-owner rights.

It was the same tactic national Republicans had employed against the Nancy Pelosi-led Democratic Congress that passed health care reform and assorted bailouts and stimulus programs.

Just as those measures were nation-changing initiatives—whether you believed them to be positive or negative—the legislation passed by the GOP-controlled General Assembly will have sweeping implications in Indiana.

Not since the mid-1930s, when Democrat Paul McNutt was governor, has the state arguably seen such important, high-profile and potentially society-changing initiatives approved in such a short time.

One interesting consequence of this sea change is that it will result in a huge wave of state regulations promulgated to implement the new laws. The large bloc of freshmen lawmakers may not have intended this, but it is a consequence, nonetheless.

And speaking of those freshmen, we cautioned you up front this session that they would find themselves philosophically conflicted on a number of issues, and they were.

The House (and its 19 GOP freshmen) approved restrictions on assorted freedoms, including texting while driving, cigarette smoking in public places (which ultimately did not become law), drug-testing for some seeking unemployment assistance, relationships between women seeking certain health care services and their physicians, and even diluting home rule for local government units.

Casinos fared well with the Republican Legislature, avoiding a smoking ban, garnering savings from elimination of outdated maritime regulations, and winning the ability to host larger card tournaments.

Banks were able to persuade lawmakers to turn aside the governor’s attempt to appropriate the $200 million-plus Public Deposit Insurance Fund for other purposes. They eventually acceded to an extension of repayment on a decade-old $50 million PDIF loan, but bankers took a hit for not agreeing to forgive it; they were not included in the corporate income tax reduction.

Agriculture interests won preliminary approval for a “freedom-to-farm” constitutional amendment they believe will protect livestock breeders from animal rights activists. They also won key exemptions from the immigration bill, and some short-term concessions for Indiana’s mint-growing industry.

Summer study committees will tackle the Right to Work conundrum, which threatens to overshadow the next session and 2012 election.

But elections have consequences, as we’ve told you all year, and those consequences then set the stage for the next election.

See you in 2012!•


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.


  • Daniels a Rhino? I don't think so!
    He leads the Republican party to massive gains in the 2010 Legislative elections, giving them control of both houses of the legislature.

    Leads them in formulating an agenda for the 2011 session that promises to be eye-opening.

    He proceeds to lead them as they work this Conservative Agenda through to passage.

    The result: Historic Education reform....Tax cuts for business....Tighter regulations on Unemployment Benefits....Stricter Abortion controls....Defunding of Planned Parenthood....Expansion of Gun ownership rights....and on and on!

    Conservatives across this country could only dream of these kind of changes for their states, yet we have these 'no-nothing' commentators saying Gov Daniels is a Rhino!

    What a joke.....really

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  1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?