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Mass-transit advocates make headway in new Legislature

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Mass transit advocates think they have a good shot at reviving their cause with the new Republican-dominated Legislature.

The $1.3 billion transit plan for Hamilton and Marion counties is one of a few lingering issues — along with Sunday alcohol sales and a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage — likely to appear before lawmakers in 2013.

Advocates for and against those causes began work long before Tuesday’s election, which ushered in a super-majority for Republicans in the House. Senate Republicans retained their quorum-proof majority.

State Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, said he’s offered to carry the transit bill, which died early in the last session because it contained right-to-work language. Torr easily won re-election against Socialist candidate John Strinka in District 39.

With Tuesday’s election, the Central Indiana Transit Task Force also gained the support of freshman lawmaker Todd Huston, who ran unopposed in a newly drawn Fishers district.

“I want to give the locals the opportunity to make the case,” said Huston, a Republican.

Legislative approval is just the first step in the transit plan, which would expand bus service and add rail from Noblesville to downtown Indianapolis. Voters would have to approve a ballot issue to raise local income taxes.

"I think we'll see strong support from the Marion County and Hamilton County delegation," said Ron Gifford, executive director of the task force. Gifford also watched the presidential election because he said a Romney administration might have been inclined to cut federal funding for mass transit. "I think the funding is pretty safe," he said. 

The Sunday sales issue has pitted liquor-store owners against grocery and convenience stores for years.

“I feel very comfortable saying I think the tide is turning in our favor,” said Matt Norris, a lobbyist at the Corydon Group who works for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association on Sunday alcohol sales.

The large wave of freshman lawmakers are more inclined to keep government out of the industry turf battle, Norris said. Many of the freshmen were guaranteed victory through redistricting, and Norris began talking to them about the issue last summer.

Advocates of a same-sex marriage ban expect Republicans’ continued dominance to help them put the issue before voters in 2014. Indiana already prohibits gay marriage by law, but not in the state constitution.

The issue cleared its first hurdle with legislative approval in 2011. The new legislature must adopt ballot language a second time, either in 2013 or the following year, for the referendum to go on ballots in the 2014 general election.

Almost every Republican and many Democrats have voted for the amendment in the past, noted Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, and he expects no substantial change.

Indiana Republicans did not list the same-sex marriage issue on their official platform leading up to the election because they chose to focus on economic issues.

Opponents of the ban have used the past year to recruit more corporate support, said Aaron Schaler, president of the Indiana Stonewall Democrats.

Cummins Inc., Eli Lilly and Co. and WellPoint are among the Indiana corporations that have spoken against a ban, which they fear would send a message of discrimination and make recruiting talent difficult.

“We need the best and the brightest working for our company,” said Rob Smith, senior director of corporate responsibility at Lilly. “These kinds of social policies are just not helpful.”

The drug maker will make its opposition known once again, Smith said, but it’s too early to say exactly what shape the lobbying effort will take.

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  • Wasn't the title of the article Mass Transit?
    I just want to be able to take the train downtown. I don't care who rides it and how many men/women/both they are married to.
  • Rail
    Build it and then see the benefits. Transit is something I look for in a city. I agree, Greenwood needs a rail as well.
  • religion and politics
    My predication is Indiana will likely be the last State to pass a marriage discrimination amendment before it is ruled unconstitutional at a national level. I don't think the typical mindset in Indiana is particularly extreme in their views on same-sex marriage, but we have proven to be apathetic towards social justice issues and willing to allow religious idealogues to control the State's politics. Weak Democratic representation, and therefore, a lack of rational and reasoned response to defend marriage equality, will set the stage for Mike Pence and Micah Clark to persuade the Indiana general public that this is the "Christian" thing to do.
  • Greenwood Area
    I live close to Greenwood, Perry Township. Are they still talking about bringing mass transit down this way? I would love to see it and I would use it.
  • any comment on mass transit ?
    Expansion of Mass transit in Indy is more important than ever before. Anyone want to comment on THAT ?
  • Why is anybody surprised?
    Either voters knew what they were getting with Mike Pence and a GOP legislature or they just haven't been paying attention. Without any doubt Pence and the legislature will be doing all sorts of social conservative legislation. That's what their most ardent supporters want. They’ll not only be wasting valuable session time but tax payer’s money defending the silly legislation they pass through numerous court proceedings. People, you get what you voted for and what Indiana voted for was a far right-wing agenda the large majority of moderate voters don’t want.
  • Waste of Government Resources
    Indyman, first, same-sex marriage has been legal in various countries and some U.S. states for years, and polgamy is not an issue in any of those places. Second, I do not care if 3 people wish to get married. I would impose a limit at some number simply for administrative convenience, but aside from those considerations, there is no legitimate objection to consenting, loving and unrelated adults entering into a domestic partnership called marriage. If you have personal or religious objections, then here is a hot suggestion for you, don't do it yourself. It is that simple. And, this rule should apply to any adult behavior that has no impact on you. If you don't like it, don't do it yourself, but stop telling others what they can and cannot do. And, stop trying to scare other people with your bogeyman crap. There are legitimate and serious state issues that need to be addressed, but banning same-sex marriage is NOT one of them.
  • Seperation of Church & State
    Who was the first person Mike Pence thanked in his Governor acceptance speech lat night? His wife? His family? His supporters? Voters? No He passionately thanked GOD. If you thought Richard Murdock was a tea party nut regarding his "God's intent" remark, you haven't seen anything yet from Mike Pence. Eric Miller's Advance America just took over the state. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7DjkCzpzdE
  • Welcome to the Tea Party
    Typical Tea Party strategy. Act like it is about the economy, get elected, push through social reforms that would make the 1950's look progressive. My o' my you better contact your legislators and let them know how you feel. With a supermajority, they will be able to pass whatever legislation they want, no matter how backwards it is.
  • Small Government, indeed
    Why does the GOP continue to say it is in favor of "small government" when it dabbles in social issues like this. Small government refers not just to your bank account, but to the actual lives we live. I'm not a Democrat or a Libertarian, but I can certainly say it will take at least a generation for younger professionals like me to ever trust the Republican Party.
  • I Knew It...
    I told people months ago that the very second Mike Pence was elected governor that the spectre of same-sex marriage would be front-and-center yet again. Truly, is this the most important thing our legislators have to deal with? Is there nothing more pressing in our State? Marriage Equality passed by vote in several states yesterday, why does Indiana feel compelled to pursue this issue that is not important in any way, shape, or form...
  • .
    Indiana already prohibits gay marriage by law. A Constitutional Amendment is a waste of time and does nothing but enforce a negative image of discrimination as many of these Indiana businesses point out. It's already illegal, move on.
  • really Indyman?
    Because polygamy is running amok in all the other states and countries that have legalized gay marriage. Right?
  • Would you care if three people got married to each other? What about a group of 20? Many polygamists have stated that if Gay marriage is accepted, they will push for their lifestyles to be accepted. Open the door and you would be amazed what is let in.
    • move on.....
      I am still stunned that people are makign this an issue and even a priority. Why would I care if two people that love eachother get married? I didn't get married to them and they don't have any changes that impact any of my life choices.......so I ask again, why is this even an issue?

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