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Indiana House speaker offers two Democrats committee chairs

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New Republican Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said Tuesday that he wants fellow lawmakers to put vicious election campaigns behind them and move to a new era of bipartisan civility — and said he was doing the same as he appointed two Democrats to head committees.

Bosma said it's the first time in state history that the majority leader has asked minority members to be committee chairs, a job that carries the power to determine which bills move forward. Republicans won control of the House in November's elections and now hold 60 out of 100 seats in the typically rancorous and divided chamber.

"I'm serious about bipartisanship," said Bosma, R-Indianapolis. "I intend to make it work."

Bosma named Rep. Steve Stemler, D-Jeffersonville, to lead the commerce, small business and economic development committee and Rep. Chet Dobis, D-Merrillville, to head a new committee focusing on reducing government regulations and laws. Republicans would be vice chairmen of the two committees.

Dobis lost his Democratic leadership position in the last session after clashing with then-House Speaker Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, but said he was still a Democrat and didn't see the appointment as recruiting. He said Bosma was simply reaching across the aisle with an olive branch.

"Everybody's called for bipartisanship over the years," Dobis said. "Nobody's really been sincere about it."

But Bauer, now the House Minority Leader after Democrats lost their slim majority, didn't immediately buy into the idea of everyone peacefully working together. He suspected Bosma wanted Democrats on the committees so he could spread the blame for any politically-charged bills that might become election liabilities.

"It's an olive branch with thorns," Bauer said.

The committee offerings also ruffled Bauer's feathers because he said as the Democratic leader, he should be the one to appoint members to the committee.

Bosma acknowledged that some lawmakers may still have hard feelings over election campaigns that involved attack ads and negative campaigning. But he said the House needed to rise above partisan bickering.

"I think we owe it to the public," he said.

Any lingering resentment over the elections didn't show on Tuesday as lawmakers gathered at the Statehouse for the largely ceremonial Organization Day. Legislators in the House and Senate shook hands and gave each other hugs. They took oaths of office as spouses, children and parents watched from balconies and snapped pictures.

Whether that jovial spirit will stick around once lawmakers start dealing with weighty issues is another matter. There's plenty on the agenda for the 2011 session, which begins Jan. 5. Republicans control the House, Senate and governor's office and their top priorities include creating a new two-year budget and fixing the state's broken unemployment insurance fund.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, applauded Bosma's decision to include Democrats as committee chairs but said all committees in the Senate — a chamber long controlled by the GOP — will be held by Republicans. He said he'll have to wait and see whether Bosma's experiment will mean real bipartisan cooperation.

"It makes a great statement," Long said. "That's a very positive start to the 2011 session."

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  • Bauer Has Got To Go!
    Pat Bauer (and Nancy Pelosi comes to mind) is the epitome of everything that is wrong with politics. Way to go Brian Bosma for reaching out. Hopefully the other Dems have the decency to see Bosma's offer for what it is, not a olive branch with thorns.

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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

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