Guns, Gays and Greenhouse Gases…Welcome to Indiana’s Legislature

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when Indiana’s (mercifully part-time) legislature is in session, I tend to break out in hives. Thanks to our massively gerrymandered election map, a number of people who get elected to that august body tend to advocate measures that don’t reflect the opinions of most Hoosiers.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that, in many cases, Indiana’s lawmakers’ actual constituencies are the special interests–the NRA and gun manufacturers, the Christian Right, Big Agriculture….

A quick look at some of the bills being considered this year may illustrate the point:

Let’s start with guns. Every year, guns kill some 33,000 Americans. The Indiana General Assembly isn’t deterred by that number, or by repeated massacres of children and innocents. No siree. This year, bills have been introduced 1) to get rid of Indiana’s requirement of a license to carry a handgun, 2) to allow guns at public universities and state office buildings, and 3) to make it easier for repeat alcohol offenders to get a handgun license.

What could possibly go wrong?

I’ve posted previously about the reluctance of our lawmakers to just bite the bullet and admit that LGBT folks are citizens and taxpayers entitled to the same civil rights protections that apply to women, racial minorities and religious folks. (Although it has been sort of enjoyable to watch the discomfort of legislators who are used to doing the bidding of both the Religious Right and business interests—constituencies that are on opposite sides of this issue.)

Survey research has uniformly found a solid majority of Hoosiers favor adding “four words and a comma” to the state civil rights statute. Employers large and small are lobbying for that approach, and significant numbers of clergy and other representatives of faith communities have come out to support it–but our lawmakers have thus far been reluctant to incur the wrath of the small (but shrill and intensely homophobic) Christian Right.

Then there’s HB 1082, authored by Representative David Wolkins. Dubbed the “no more stringent than” bill, it would forbid Indiana agencies from making or enforcing any environmental rule that is more stringent than those established by the federal government. As the Palladium-Item noted

Indiana consistently ranks near the bottom of the states regarding environmental quality. If State Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, has his way, Indiana will stay there.

As the Hoosier Environmental Council points out, the situation in Flint illustrates precisely those gaps in federal regulation that Indiana would be prevented from addressing under HB 1082: For example, under federal regulations, drinking water systems can continue to deliver lead-tainted water to households and businesses for up to 24 months while a variety of fixes are attempted. In 24 months, children’s health and cognitive abilities can be permanently damaged.

In fact, there are a number of areas where EPA regulations are considered weak, among them pollution from fracking, factory farm manure pits, and outdoor wood boilers. There are probably others.

Why would we want to prevent Indiana from addressing areas where federal regulations may prove to be inadequate for our needs? It isn’t as if the absence of a “no more stringent” bill would require the state to act. Why tie the hands of those charged with citizens’ public health and safety?

I’m sure a closer examination of the bills that have been introduced would uncover still others belonging to the category that I call “good god, what were they thinking?”

Maybe I should just drink until they go home….


  1. While all the nonsense is getting attention, what is really going on behind the scenes? It is a shell game played on us rubes by the slickers. Will we never learn? Follow the money!

  2. Republicans sure LOVE dirty water, dirty air and dirty food and questionable otc medications. They are a wonder. Keep the Gays in the closet, keep the women folk barefoot and pregnant. Yee Haw. Bang Bang. They are a wonder to behold.

  3. America could do worse than to start deporting Republican Americans and importing more refugees, that is the only real way to change it for the better.

  4. I still want to see a copy of the Oath of Office taken by Senators and Representatives, word-for-word. How many of us actually know what or who they promise to support? We also need to see – published with sources – regarding corporate campaign contributions, how many have businesses in this state or are negotiating a move. For all the majority of constituents know; elected officials could be fulfilling their Oath of Office supporting party over constituents and we need to know (know by seeing facts) which party is receiving out of state corporate financial support. That was a problem with Goldsmith who sold, leased, contracted with or hired sans contracts, with Ohio firms through his sidekick and chief financial contributor and adviser, Warren Tyler, vice president of a Cincinnati bank who had a personal contract with the City of Indianapolis, negotiated million in contracts with Ohio firms and was illegally appointed interim Director of the Department of Metropolitan Development. Yes; back to Goldsmith, that is when this city began it’s downhill slide, and I don’t mean “trickle down” in benefits.

    As JD stated and I have said repeatedly; FOLLOW THE MONEY.

  5. Oops; Warren Tyler was vice president of a bank in Columbus, Ohio, he did negotiate two $3 million contracts with Oscar Robertson/Smoot in Cincinnati. So many Ohio contracts, hard to keep the cities straight.

  6. Dave Wolkins is the Indiana State Chairman for ALEC. Does that tell you anything?

    Unfortunately, he is also my district’s representative. Wolkins, Sen, Jim Banks (who authored SB 66 and SB 144-to outlaw abortion), Jackie Walorksi and Donnelly all represent my district, which means that I live in the worst Hell of any place in Indiana. Gerrymandering has three of them locked safely into office.

  7. For those of you that keep saying we can vote these people out of office, you are very wrong. Gerrymandering got them there and it is keeping them there. Democrats don’t stand a chance where I live.

  8. Nancy; check out “Indiana’s Own Dana Black”, she is the sole voice for Democrats against Brian Bosma – in office for 25 years with no competition. Her district straddles the east Marion County line near the northeast corner, smallest area inside this county. She has a strong platform but weak support due to the name “Bosma”. I’m sure many do not know whose district they live in or why unless they pay attention to local politics. I still believe many voters go to the polls uninformed so they see a name they recognize, believe if they are already in office they must be OK, so they vote them back in.

    With the clown car full of fools on the Republican wanna be list – and WHO could miss any of them – I have seen Democrats state they will not vote for Hillary if nominated or they will not vote for Bernie if nominated. What the hell do they think the results will be? Our current legislature is near monarchy level with the same old farts running the state and maintaining the status quo on “Guns, Gays and Greenhouse Gases…” nearing the half-century mark. Ranting they have God on their side and President Obama is going to come take their guns is using Bible thumping fear tactics and it is working. Working as well here as it did in Kentucky when Kim Davis was recently reelected to her family owned Clerk’s Office.

  9. Well and unfortunately (maybe with the exception of Marion County) the Democratic Party statewide is very, very weak with barely any money. I am aware of several individuals who are running on the Democratic ticket but can not receive any help….the county Dem’s in my old county is pretty weak. I think their FB page has 13 likes….these individuals have asked for help but there is no money to help them and one of them has been running against Bob Behning!

    Current Democratic legislators could not even get help running some of the current campaigns and so several seats were lost a few years back. I know Koch money was coming into the NW area for a legislator I interned for and she lost.

  10. Here’s the good news. The greediest generation is dying off. Over the next decade we’ll largely be replaced by better educated people who live in the real world of way too many people, global culture, sustainable energy and the Internet instead of TV.

    People who see the future as potentially better than the past have to seize the transition of America from those who are stuck in the past by raising order from today’s chaos.

    I personally have lost my hope for a re-emergent GOP. It needs to be allowed to continue its suicide and become only the past.

    So our collective attention has to be in rebuilding the Democratic Party to save America. 2016 is the year of the launch. The year of the big sweep. The year marking the return of statesmanship and visionary leadership and respect for the country and all of its citizens and most importantly it’s institutions.

    Lincoln led the way to the last rebirth of America. Let’s mark the beginning of the second rebirth with Obama.

    Hillary or Bernie is necessary but not sufficient. The winner needs an unmistakable mandate. A strong statement that America is back sent around the world. That Lady Liberty got her mojo back.

    But much also needs to be done in insuring they have the support of a functional Congress. Without that progress is impossible.

    We need a viable strategy for the state houses. Write off the bottom states for now and concentrate on the ones that are winnable and open to the future. It really is a matter of eating the Republican elephant one bite at a time.

    The re-election of Bernie or Hillary will be marked by the next redistricting opportunity and that gives us their first term to ditch antiquated laws and design a modern redistricting law that is based on function rather than partisanship.

    We have a great deal to do. We have the ship of state righted and underway from being Bushwrecked. That’s called a good start for our journey into a viable future. Let’s focus on the long haul.

  11. In an address at the 2010 Whitley County Jefferson-Jackson dinner I urged those present to stop their whining and open their wallets and to get off their backsides and onto the streets. Of course there were so few attendees (40 or so, including other candidates) that if they had all responded positively and kicked in a grand apiece there would still have been barely enough to fund any sort of reasonable campaign for the state legislature. Current Democrat leaders are beaten down and despondent and care nothing about sincerely challenging state Republican office holders, providing no money and less help. Instead they throw all their money and effort into the “big” races such as congress and the governor’s race, etc. We will remain a red-neck governed and backwards state until Democrats are ready to change from whiners to winners. It is very sad.

  12. Sheila, you’ll have to let us all in on what you’re going to be drinking and where we can get large quantities of it since I think we’re going to need large quantities of whatever it is over the long haul. Even if the state wasn’t gerrymandered into near oblivion the Indiana Democratic Party and its standard bearer, John Gregg, seem no where near being up to the challenge they face. Between Tim Swarens’ op-ed on Gregg in todays IndyStar, or Gregg’s campaign ads soliciting money while he is AWOL, how on earth can they expect to win the Governor’s office unless Mike Pence stumbles badly again? Democrats have virtually no idea where Gregg stands on anything. Is it all such a lost cause electorally that the Democrats could not find anyone else other than Gregg to mount a challenge to Mike Pence or is it something far worse?

    Even though the Republicans in the State House continue to make fools of themselves on a near daily basis, who’s in a position to stop it or even speak up about it? No one, no one at all apparently; we only short quotes in newspapers as opposed to public statements geared to get TV air time. Perhaps what Nancy stated about the Democratic Party’s electoral chances in her “neck of the woods” really pertains to the entire state as a whole where the GOP dictatorship is already locked in and that thinking and working on anything to the contrary is just fantasy.

    During the last two general elections many of the races for many county-wide offices In my particular county have not had Democratic candidates slated at all against those of the GOP. Is it a lack of people wanting to run for those offices from the Democratic Party or a virtual collapse of that party’s efforts there and elsewhere across the state? It reminds me of what is happening nationally where the Democrats ask for money nearly continually but still act like they are afraid of their own shadows and are no where to be seen. They talk a good game in their solicitation ads, all web or social media based, but when it comes being out in public and on the record they seem to always demure.

    We still have a two-party system in this country whether we like it or not and when one of those parties fails to show up and stand up to the other and the hate and fear filled malarkey it spews every day, what do we do? While I apologize to all for being so grim if someone, anyone, can offer up a plausible scenario to the contrary I hope that they do so and very soon. Time is short.

  13. After Wednesday’s hearing on a bill to punish businesses which hire undocumented workers, I spoke to a Senator. I related my bad experience with the I-9 form, but stated my general approval of government actions. His response: “I hate government, that’s why I’m here!”

  14. Pete >> “Here’s the good news. The greediest generation is dying off.”

    I really do not know how you drew this conclusion. Nice of you to paint an entire generation, all of us with the sin of greed. By the way I am not a Walton Heir. I am a Boomer and started working in McDonalds at .90 an hour in 1965. I went to work in a steel mill as a laborer for $2.385 an hour. I was drafted in the US Army and sent to Vietnam as a Combat Infantryman. I went back to the steel mill, and then used the G.I. Bill to get a four year degree in business. I worked in the financial industry from 1975 until my retirement. I made more than .90 an hour when I finally retired.
    Sorry I was so “Greedy” that I made more than .90 an hour when I retired. Yeah, the good news is I could die today. Hopefully, though I will live long enough to cast my Vote for Bernie.

  15. Louie, I’m not sure why you took my post personally. I’m a member of the greediest generation too and I can also play I worked harder than you. What would be the point?

    I look at the damage done to America on our watch and feel shame. We’ve had nothing like the trials and tribulations of the greatest generation yet collectively turned into a whiney, scared of our own shadows, lazy, self centered gang of malcontents while living with more freedom and prosperity than any humans ever on the planet.

    How can you be proud of us? I can’t imagine a Bernie supporter who is.

  16. Wray McCalester–watch who you’re calling a whiner. I worked for David Sanders every time he ran in the 4th district. We got NO help from the Democratic party. They told us we couldn’t win, so we were on our own. Plus, John Gregg? There was some competition for a real primary, but that was stamped out early with the Dems discouraging any other contenders and endorsed Gregg LAST year, in order to prevent anyone actually getting out there and running FOR something. So, no, I’m not sending my money to Indianapolis. I send it to the candidates who aren’t getting any help from them anyway. Apparently every dollar raised goes to Andre Carson. On a personal note, I can’t go knocking on doors telling people what a great choice Gregg is when I can’t see daylight between him and Pence. They are both big business social conservatives. AND when I have complained about the republican-lite candidates to purported Dem party officials, I am told it is naive to run anyone else–this is Indiana. This is also the home of Eugene Debs, Andrew Jacobs, and Birch Bayh. Although people would like to forget this, Indiana used to be a lot more progressive.

  17. If they find evidence of e coli in Winona Lake resulting from a confined feeding operation, perhaps that would persuade Rep. Wolkins to back off. Anyone have a test tube?

  18. I have given up. I am encouraging my kids to choose colleges in the (decent) states they will most likely be living their adult lives. When they have settled, I will move. Indiana has been in a death spiral for decades. We are seeing a manifestation of cultural, educational, and genetic deficits, and the brain drain continues.

  19. Girl Cousin

    You are reacting personally to something I — accurately I might add — intended about Democrat leadership in particular and non-voting/contributing Democrats who sit on their collective backsides rather than help and then whine when we get another round of right wing Republican reactionaries in the state house. Bless you for contributing and working for candidates you support–but you are definitely in the minority. Democrat party leaders have a guaranteed to fail approach to winning elections and they have proved it works every time.

  20. I’m not at all familiar with Hoosier politics but I can picture it being the case that changes in the state will only follow in time changes in Washington and other more balanced states.

  21. Judging from what i heard on Indiana Week In Review, the republicans don’t have the stomach to pass equal rights for all. I emailed Bosma and asked him to vote against 1062 (I think that’s it) the “no more stringent than” law, citing the very reasons that Sheila detailed above. Without widespread voter outrage and concomitant huge turnout, we have no leverage and can expect that things will get worse and may never get better in IN. I am near retirement and I can’t imagine retiring here; I am even considering other countries with reasonable political climates.

  22. The self-destructive political virus that DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is infected with apparently filtered down to the leadership of the Indiana State Democratic Committee. Just as she orchestrated the coronation for Mrs. Clinton they have done the same thing for Mr. Gregg. Makes me wonder how much they are all getting paid by the Republican National Committee for doing this work for them. While Democrats awakened at the national party level as to what was going on, albeit far too late, there doesn’t seem to be any awakening on the part of their Hoosier colleagues. When people say that the fix is in then, I guess, it’s really in.

  23. Tom; sadly, there appears to be no one but John Gregg who is willing, able or not, to run for governor. Like old soldiers, it appears old Democrats never die, they just fade away. I’m sure Pence’s complacency is well placed; why pull the plow when the asses will do it for you?

  24. I’m doing what I think is my only power to do: I’ll smile at my neighbors when I go to the polls in November but then I will vote straight ticket. It’s super easy to do and in conformity with my policy to oust them all, oust all the Republicans that is.
    Yes, I know it’s a wasted effort in my district, but it’s enjoyable to relieve stress. It would be better to take them out behind the barn and pants them..but…
    It would be fun to see Pence follow the example of the clergy with his pants around his ankles. They’re all so absolutely certain of their rectitude….conservatives by definition.

  25. OMG; if WE don’t go to the polls and vote the straight Democratic ticket, Republicans win on two levels. They win with the officials they elect and they win by appearing to the public that they are the right choice. This country has come to believe that quantity counts over quality. All we can do is ALL we can do; we can also hope there are more of US out there than we know and we do have a voice. It is not a wasted effort to want our voice to be heard; all those in 2008 who believed Barack Obama had no chance at the presidency due to the color of his skin and his lack of political experience were proven to be wrong. WE elected this man twice by making our voices heard across the land…we can do it again if we don’t weaken and let Donald Trump with his former stripper wife buy the White House and shame us before the entire world.

    Make your voice heard in your district in November by electing Democratic candidates in surrounding districts. I look forward to the day when I can once again become an Independent voter; look at the candidate, their history, their platform, listen to their words and make my decisions on those factors rather than voting a straight party ticket. This is a necessity today as our only option for personal and political self preservation. At 78 years of age, I doubt I will see those “good old days” again in my lifetime.

  26. At the top of the states for Rx store robberies, black homicides, far above average suicides & filthy air–none of which Gov Pence ever addresses. Yet many outside our state see him as “wholesome!”

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