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SCHELLINGER: Green delegation should work hard on influence

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SchellingerRoll Call reported several weeks ago that Indiana’s clout in Washington, D.C., has slipped in the rankings from 27th to 42nd. This is certainly no surprise in the wake of Sen. Richard Lugar’s departure, in addition to former Sen. Evan Bayh and former congressman and now Gov. Mike Pence.

Several Associated Press stories indicated in November 2012 that “Indiana lost 78 years of congressional experience among its senators and representatives.”

The loss of congressmen Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill in 2010 started the downward trend.

To break it down, Indiana boasted an average of 13-1/2 years of experience per member after the 2008 election. Just four years later, the Hoosier delegation averaged 3-1/2 years.

The wave of Republican freshmen and sophomores has taken a toll on the influence Indiana can muster in national policy matters on Capitol Hill. Clearly, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky carries some weight, but as a member of the minority, he will have difficulty affecting big outcomes for Indiana.

Sen. Dan Coats is the leader of the Indiana delegation, has the most significant committee assignments, and will be the most accountable when it comes to looking after Hoosier interests.

New Sen. Joe Donnelly can certainly be helpful to the president by forging coalitions of folks who are motivated to move important public policy initiatives forward, especially those that can be embraced by more moderate members of Congress interested in getting things done for the American people.

I think we can all agree that Congress needs more consensus-building and less political posturing. I remain hopeful that President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can advance job creation, debt reduction, retirement security, immigration policy, education transformation, college and health care affordability, and gun safety legislation in the next year or two.

The Hoosier delegation must stand together to protect our state’s interest when it comes to securing our fair share of federal dollars. But, we also must remember we are one of 50 states seeking to form a more perfect union. With that many cooks in the kitchen, I think we all understand the need to play nicely.

This is truly a moment for our newer members of Congress to work hard and distinguish themselves in particular areas of specialty. Energy, agriculture, technology, defense and transportation come to mind as important for Indiana.

Yes, we may have lost some juice in the halls of Washington, but now is the time to begin rebuilding and for some members to become leaders and consensus-builders for all of us. New faces should translate into new ideas, and better ways of doing business in the federal government.

Susan Brooks, Luke Messer and Todd Rokita are seasoned public servants, and many folks in central Indiana have tremendous confidence in Andre Carson, as well.

These days, the stakes are simply too high for partisan gridlock and unsophisticated approaches to some of the toughest economic problems America and the world have faced in over 30 years. We’re all in this together, and we had best start acting like it.•

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Schellinger, chairman and CEO of CSO Architects Inc., ran for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2008. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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  1. The east side does have potential...and I have always thought Washington Scare should become an outlet mall. Anyone remember how popular Eastgate was? Well, Indy has no outlet malls, we have to go to Edinburgh for the deep discounts and I don't understand why. Jim is right. We need a few good eastsiders interested in actually making some noise and trying to change the commerce, culture and stereotypes of the East side. Irvington is very progressive and making great strides, why can't the far east side ride on their coat tails to make some changes?

  2. Boston.com has an article from 2010 where they talk about how Interactions moved to Massachusetts in the year prior. http://www.boston.com/business/technology/innoeco/2010/07/interactions_banks_63_million.html The article includes a link back to that Inside Indiana Business press release I linked to earlier, snarkily noting, "Guess this 2006 plan to create 200-plus new jobs in Indiana didn't exactly work out."

  3. I live on the east side and I have read all your comments. a local paper just did an article on Washington square mall with just as many comments and concerns. I am not sure if they are still around, but there was an east side coalition with good intentions to do good things on the east side. And there is a facebook post that called my eastside indy with many old members of the eastside who voice concerns about the east side of the city. We need to come together and not just complain and moan, but come up with actual concrete solutions, because what Dal said is very very true- the eastside could be a goldmine in the right hands. But if anyone is going damn, and change things, it is us eastside residents

  4. Please go back re-read your economics text book and the fine print on the February 2014 CBO report. A minimum wage increase has never resulted in a net job loss...

  5. The GOP at the Statehouse is more interested in PR to keep their majority, than using it to get anything good actually done. The State continues its downward spiral.

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