QUESTION: Having completed your final legislative session and now moving toward retirement from the General Assembly in November, what are you most proud of? Also, if you could start your lawmaking career from scratch again, what would you do differently?
ANSWER: Early in my career, I spent many years in the minority so I did not have the chance to pass legislation. The two issues I focused on the most during my career were education and health care.
I am most proud of sponsoring legislation that stopped the executions of people who are mentally retarded. We were one of 13 states to pass this law before the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the practice.
I learned early on that patience and persistence were needed in the Legislature. In my first legislative session, in 1973, I had a bill titled Arrest Records of Applicants. This bill never went anywhere.
In 2011, I was a co-author with lead author Rep. Eric Turner on the Second Chance Act that would seal misdemeanor records for citizens with only one blemish on their criminal record. This bill also gave citizens an avenue to seal arrest records where no charges were brought or no conviction was obtained. In the 2012 session, I again worked with Rep. Turner to clarify some of the issues in the Second Chance Act.
In the late 1980s, I passed my first bill that would lead to more opportunities for women and minority businesses in state government contract participation. Over the years, I would follow up this initial bill with other legislation that would strengthen this effort.
I am proud of the three budgets I authored. I tried to be fiscally responsible and look out for the interests of the taxpayers while adhering to the profound idea put forth by former Minnesota Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey that states, “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
In 2003, Gov. Frank O’Bannon proposed a budget that would have increased funding for the Department of Corrections and Medicaid while flat-lining K-12 education. I passed a budget that increased funding for education while giving the Department of Corrections and Medicaid budgets that were sustainable.
I am glad I had the opportunity to pass the Low Income Housing Trust Fund (1989), the Minority Teacher Scholarship Program (1990) and the Neighborhood Assistance Program (1997). During the 2000s, I also worked to try to establish mass transit systems across the state.
I am also proud of the various civil rights laws I passed over the years, from having the state study racial profiling to setting up various educational scholarships for students of color. In recent years, I have focused on disproportionality issues regarding minority youth and their overrepresentation in foster care, the school disciplinary process and the juvenile justice system. I have also worked on the academic achievement gap between students of color and the school population at large.
Finally, if I could do anything over again, I would place a greater emphasis on passing legislation that would provide health insurance for the uninsured. I passed numerous bills that were signed into law that helped the least of our brethren with health care, but there was always more that needed to be done.•
• Crawford, a Democrat, is retiring this year from the General Assembly after having been first elected to the body in 1972. He represents Indiana House District 98 in Indianapolis. Send comments on this column to [email protected].