EDITORIAL: Right-to-work issue will cause legislative gridlock

November 26, 2011

With Indiana Republican leaders targeting right-to-work legislation as their top priority in 2012, we worry about the fate of other issues that should have long ago risen to the top of the heap.

If Republicans can push through right to work, Indiana would join about half of the states—most in the West and South—that prohibit workers from being forced to join or otherwise support a union.

We’re not necessarily against that, but by targeting the same polarizing issue that brought the 2011 session to a grinding halt, Republican legislators put at risk other issues that have been rattling around the Statehouse for years: local government reform, transportation funding and a statewide smoking ban.

All those issues have, in the past, been able to draw some level of bipartisan support, which offers hope that progress could be made absent an issue as emotionally charged as right to work.

We’d hate to see them become casualties in a drawn-out battle over right to work, but that seems increasingly likely if the Republicans insist on making it the centerpiece of their 2012 legislative package.

Unfortunately, the other issues—important as they are to the state’s future—are too easy for politicians to ignore.

Reforming local government seems like a no-brainer. Why not consolidate certain functions to save money and, in the process, unlock piles of cash amassed by township officials who operate with little oversight?

We know legislators are reluctant to consolidate away some of the same local officials who support them politically, but making reform a top priority instead of a bit player in the session might produce some results. The governor should dust off the 4-year-old Kernan-Shepard report on streamlining local government and make it a priority.

Public transportation advocates also have been waiting patiently for the Legislature to allow local referendums so voters can determine for themselves, county by county, whether to support a dedicated source of funds for transit.

On the smoking front, every year that passes without a comprehensive workplace smoking ban puts Indiana further behind other states in protecting public health.

Efficient government, diverse transportation infrastructure and a healthier work force are all good for economic development. These issues aren’t without controversy, but compared with right to work they are relatively drama-free. Legislators should address them instead of lighting the fuse on another explosive session.

Keep your money

You can help a local not-for-profit without spending cash by perusing the IBJ Holiday Wish List on page 35A. The list is our effort to match organizations in need with generous businesses and individuals.

Your generosity need not be lavish, but it can make a big difference for a not-for-profit doing good work with limited resources. Their requests are broad, yet modest. Some want copy paper and conference room chairs. Others want financial expertise, bicycles or personal hygiene items for their clients.

Please, spend a few minutes to see what they need and consider what you or your business might be able to provide. If you don’t see a match, try again next week. The list, which is sure to grow, runs through Dec. 19.•


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