Send In the Clowns….

Don’t bother. They’re here. In fact, they’re apparently everywhere.

Yesterday, a student sent me a link to a story about a Montana lawmaker who is proposing to give people convicted of a crime a choice between prison time and “infliction of pain.” According to the report, Republican Rep. Jerry O’Neil is drafting a bill that would allow those convicted of misdemeanors or felonies to negotiate corporal punishment rather than a more conventional sentence, because he thinks long prison sentences are inhumane, and thinks many offenders would prefer something like “20 lashes.”

This is the same lawmaker who made headlines earlier in the legislative session when he asked to get paid in gold and silver coins because he is skeptical about the future of the dollar.

Not to be outdone, however, our Hoosier legislators are weighing in with some pretty impressive entries in the OMG sweepstakes. Some pending bills are just terrible policy, of course. We’re used to those here in Indiana. Others are head-scratchers. For example, Senate Bill 0462 designates the fourth Saturday of July as the National Day of the Cowboy and Cowgirl in Indiana, and designates the third weekend of May as the First People’s Celebration Weekend in Indiana in observance of the Corn Planting Moon Ceremony.

The Corn Planting Moon Ceremony? SB 0462 is definitely a contender. But my current favorite is Senate Bill o230, which proposes to “nullify” federal laws our Indiana policymakers don’t like.

SB 0230 provides that “any federal act, order, law, rule, regulation, or statute found by the general assembly to be inconsistent with the power granted to the federal government in the Constitution of the United States is void in Indiana. Provides that a resident of Indiana has a cause of action to enjoin the enforcement or implementation or the attempted enforcement or implementation of a federal act, order, law, rule, regulation, or statute declared void by the general assembly. Provides that a plaintiff who prevails in such an action is entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. Provides that a person who knowingly or intentionally implements or enforces, or attempts to implement or enforce, a federal law that is declared void by the general assembly commits a Class D felony. Finds that the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the federal Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 are inconsistent with the power granted to the federal government in the Constitution of the United States.”

Presumably, the genius who sponsored this one missed that pesky little provision in the U.S. Constitution known as the Supremacy Clause. (Didn’t some of this guy’s forebears try that “states rights” gambit during the civil rights movement? Didn’t work then, either.)

It’s pretty clear what’s pissed off the sponsor of SB 0230, and pretty obvious what his bill–however embarrassing–is all about.   SB 0163, on the other hand, is mystifying.

The digest begins “Provides that an individual may not be registered as a lobbyist for more than ten years.” The bill also provides that “an individual may not be a candidate for election to the general assembly if, at the expiration of the term to which the individual would be elected, the individual would have served more than 16 years as a member of the general assembly” and “provides that an individual may not be employed by or provide personal services under contract to any Indiana government body for more than ten years during the individual’s lifetime.” It also prohibits anyone from receiving more than $1,000,000 in compensation from government during his lifetime.

I understand trying to term limit legislators (although it really isn’t a very good idea, no matter how tempting it may seem)–but lobbyists and government employees?

Maybe we could just give those guys a choice between term limits and 25 lashes?


  1. As ridiculous as Montana representative O’Neill’ plan sounds, I think we’re long overdue for a discussion on our concept of incarceration as punishment. Overcrowded prisons, for-profit prisons, recidivism rates, the perceived need to punish all sex offenders for life all point to a system of punishment and rehabilitation that has failed.

    Maybe there is a way other than incarceration? I’m not in any way suggesting the lash is the answer though.

  2. Thinking, intelligent Republicans are no longer an endangered species – they are now obsolete. Do local Republicans believe by dedicating “Hudnut Commons” downtown they will regain their once respected status in this city and state? Doesn’t work for me; especially after reading the above article regarding their proposed hair-brained bills in the current Legislature. I would be ROFLMAO were they not so ridiculous and downright frightening…with good possibility of being passed.

  3. “First People’s Celebration Weekend” sounds like it’s recognizing a native people’s event of some sort. Is there some cultural significance for indigenous Indiana people, or is this something someone made up?

  4. Sounds like Islamic Law enforcement, cutting off hands and feet can’t be far behind. Wasn’t it the GOP opposing Islamic Law as a justification for needing assault weapons? I’m just amazes at how lost the GOP has become by following the Tea Party leadership.

  5. State legislatures produce an avalanche of laws, many of which are proposed for a variety of reasons. As an argument against Darwin, many representatives continue to survive, introducing hideous legislation that leads outsiders to question the competence, not only of the writers but the voters who bring them back. In the case of Indiana, I am thankful for the Rules and Legislation Procedure Committee, which seems to be where some bad bills (in this case, SB0230 and SB0163) are sent to die a peaceful death. In the institution (a good word) of the General Assembly, a few inmates seem to have some sense.

  6. What worries me more are the bills that have a a strong chance of passing and seem so innocent on the surface. The bill that has me really worked up is Indiana House Bill 1348 that would put in place punitive incentives to encourage students to graduate in four or less years. Governor Pence is out promoting the current bill.

    The student still has to take the mandated 120 credit hours, so it is not reducing any requirements, it just puts pressure on students to “stay on time” to meet an artificial deadline of four academic years. It is important to education bureaucrats because it is a performance measurement.

    This bill would punish students that did not take at least 30 credit hours per academic year. (It is accumulative, 60 by second year, 90 by third year, 120 by fourth year.) If a student does not receive at least 30 credit hours during an academic year (or have a build-up from previous years), then the student loses O’Bannon scholarship funding for the entire next academic year.

    This current bill is trying to piggyback on a really great bill that was passed last year, in 2012, in the Indiana Legislature that placed a general cap of 120 credit hours for a baccalaureate degree. The school has to justify degrees that require more than 120 credit hours. It does not prevent outside requirements that might require the student to take extra classes, but it was a great bill. It is House Enrolled Act 1220 (2012) if anyone wants to look it up. That was the bill that saves money. This has already happened, the bill was enrolled as an act, it is done, but since this happened last year, it was before Pence was Governor. It is misleading the public, to confuse a really great bill that passed last year with this current Indiana bill.

    In my opinion, what then should be happening this year as a follow-up to the great bill passed last year is working with the colleges to re-design their programs so that students have to take less fluff classes, have more flexibility to earn credits, and promotion of the new general cap 120 credits for a baccalaureate degree.

    HB1348 also encourages students to take easier classes, take any class just to keep on schedule, and it does nothing to encourage students to take on harder degrees with expected shortages such as nursing. All of this to meet an artificial deadline of four academic years or less to earn a baccalaureate degree because education bureaucrats have performance measures.

  7. Thanks for mentioning this bill, Soapbox. I just sent some letters. Let’s hope they listen.

  8. 1) I wish people would quit painting clowns in such a bad light by pejorative use of the word. Clowns entertain. Then again, perhaps some see our legislators as form of entertainment; perverse entertainment, but enterntainment. Unfortunately, at worst real clowns fail to get laughs. Our legislators enact laws with the full power of the State behind the laws’ enforcement.
    2) A good point was made about for-profit prisons. “There oughtta be a law” passed in Indiana against those creatures.
    3) We should be careful about what we call”fluff” courses in college. Some of those courses that perhaps do not serve to directly provide knowledge directly applicable to a vocation serve to educate the student. “Well-rounded education” includes courses some ight consider “fluff.”

  9. I agree with Mark. I would prefer to associate GOP politicians with “Freaks”.

    Another point I concur with is the for-profit prison industry. I think, though this is a radical idea, repealing all federal drug enforcement laws would starve this beast and get it out of our society permanetly.

    Pence scares me when it comes to education. I dont think he nor other Tea Bag GOP members should mess with it.

    I think when I finish my degree I am going to move out of this state and never look back. Its too looney for me here.

  10. Sorry about the word fluff, I got reprimanded at the other place I posted too. I meant duplicative. When colleges won’t accept for transfer for similar classes or different majors will only accept their version of basically the same class. Colleges should be more flexible with students. Allow for more elective choices to better fit the needs of the students.

    I was a double major with Biology and Science Secondary Education. Basically the education department would not count the harder Biology/pre-med versions of the same courses. So I took two versions of genetics, physiology, statistics, evolution, lab methods, etc. Departments should work together and with students to reduce duplicative “fluff”.

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