EARLY: Majoring in the minors can be rewarding

Keywords Forefront / Opinion

Rex EarlyFifty years ago, the Marion County delegation to the Indiana House consisted of 12 men. Among them were Charles Bosma, Brian Bosma’s father; Jim Clark, Murray Clark’s father; and me.

In 1963, there were no legislative districts, so all 12 ran at-large. They were all Republicans.

The Legislature met 60 days every other year and the salary was $1,800 per year. There were no pensions or health care benefits. Only two of the 100 members of the House were women. Smoking on the floor at times made the Cigar Bar in Indianapolis look like a fitness center.

The governor was Democrat Matt Welch and the lieutenant governor was Republican Richard Ristine.

Some of the lasting accomplishments of the 1963 session were:

• Creation of the Indiana Port Authority.

• The method of funding the convention center in downtown Indianapolis.

• Rewriting the tax code, which included replacing the corporate net income tax with an adjusted gross income tax and adding a 2-percent sales tax.

Rewriting the tax code was not popular with the electorate. Indiana was broke. The Democrats wanted to raise the net income tax, and many of the Republicans favored the sales tax and the adjusted gross income tax.

The Marion County delegation was split. Some wanted the sales tax and gross income approach and some felt that the Democratic governor should be responsible for the tax increase.

During a special session, the sales/gross income tax won out and, sure enough, the Marion County Republicans lost all 12 House seats in the 1965 election, and Ristine was defeated in the governor’s race.

My contributions to good government in the House include:

1. The liberty amendment. The amendment, which I sponsored, proposed amending the U.S. Constitution to abolish personal income, estate and gift taxes, and prohibiting the federal government from engaging in business in competition with its citizens.

On the third reading, the bill passed the House 51-46. All the Marion County members voted for the bill. It lost in the Senate by one vote. At the committee hearing, hundreds of people crowded into the Statehouse. It certainly caused a furor. I loved it! (Ron Paul and the Tea Party folks would have loved it.)

Just think: Fifty years later, one of my conservative friends called me a liberal for supporting Susan Brooks!

2. When the adjusted gross income tax bill was being written, the authors weren’t familiar with subchapter S corporations. There were only a few sub S corporations in Indiana. As a recent Indiana University accounting major and an owner of a sub S business, I made sure sub S’s were exempted from the adjusted gross income tax. A few years later, there were thousands of sub S corporations in Indiana.

3. The accomplishment I am most proud of was being able to protect the great sport of raccoon hunting. The Department of Natural Resources wanted to outlaw spotlighting of deer and pushed for a bill to make it against the law.

I was for protecting the deer from spotlighting, but how about the raccoon hunters? How can you ever get a treed coon down if you couldn’t shoot him down by using a flashlight?

The DNR agreed to change the language to protect raccoon hunting. Where would we be today if you couldn’t hunt raccoons?

After the 1963 session, I chose not to run again. If I couldn’t get an innocuous bill like the liberty amendment passed, I felt like I was wasting my time.•


Early served in the Indiana House and as a Republican state chairman, as well as on the Republican National Committee. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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