Indiana’s Fools Aren’t Just For April…

When it comes to politics in Indiana, one of the savviest observers is Jack Colwell, who writes for the South Bend Tribune. A recent column documenting reasons the Indiana General Assembly still deserves to be called the World’s Worst Legislature is a good  example.

After reading it, I decided that a discussion of our legislature would be appropriate for April Fool’s Day.

Colwell’s list–while not exhaustive–is illustrative. He began by noting that Indiana’s legislature has historically been ridiculous.

Indiana’s legislature long has been the subject of ridicule, going back historically to a time 134 years ago when violence among members forced the end of a session.

Later came influence of the Klan, influence of money that brought scandals and prison and decades of influence by naysayers who found progress too risky.

Sometimes it became a national joke, as with a bill to establish the state’s own definition of pi. Not pie, as in apple, cherry or pumpkin, but Indiana’s own mathematical value of pi.
In 2015, there were all those jokes by comedians on national TV about Indiana’s Freedom to Discriminate Act.

Colwell then enumerates the disaster that is the 2021 session: in the face of Governor Holcomb’s largely effective measures to contain the pandemic (whatever your “take” on the Governor’s efforts, it is undeniable that he has been more decisive–and effective–than most Republican Governors), the legislature has moved to remove his authority to act in a future emergency.

Colwell notes that “pressure from the Freedom to Infect Caucus” also has pushed Holcomb to end the statewide mask mandate a bit prematurely.

Speaking of the pandemic, some businesses have acted in ways that endangered the health–and lives– of their workers and others. Our General Assembly to the rescue–of the businesses, not the victims. It passed a. bill awarding COVID-19 civil immunity for businesses and prohibiting class action lawsuits against them. 

Is climate change a looming danger? The General Assembly–especially members who  develop real estate–  wants further limits on the protection of wetlands. (Who cares about the world their grandkids will inhabit? Or the purity of the water we’re all drinking now?)

Speaking of the environment, replacing  a significant amount of emissions by encouraging and enabling mass transit is one of the many, many reasons such systems are important. So our legislature is trying to destroy Indianapolis’ belated effort to create a workable and environmentally-friendly mass transit system. 

Has the nation recently been stunned by still more mass shootings? Indiana’s General Assembly wants to eliminate the need for a license to carry a gun. As Colwell says,

Why require unnecessary cost and bureaucratic delay for someone wanting a gun? Some law-abiding citizen might want a gun quickly for a visit to a spa. A new recruit of the Proud Boys should not be inconvenienced.

And then, of course, there’s the persistence of the “White Legislative Caucus.” Colwell notes the ugly episode during the current session, where Republican legislators booed their Black colleagues.

Coincidentally, the same day his column ran, the Indianapolis Star had a front-page report about Representative Jim Lucas, Republican from Seymour whose Facebook page has been the subject of numerous accusations of blatant racism. (Our daughter has previously told us that she had visited that page, and was horrified by the “out and proud” bigotry she saw.)

The Star article reported on a conversation between Lucas and a Black surgeon, which the surgeon experienced as racist. Lucas evidently feels that any rhetoric or action short of lynching isn’t really racist, but as the newspaper noted

Lucas has a history of making troubling comments. The Indiana State Conference of the NAACP has called for his resignation after past actions.

Last year, Huston removed him from two committees as punishment for other controversial Facebook posts. On Twitter there’s a hashtag used by some critics, “#LucasMustGo.”

I’m clearly not the only Hoosier who is mortified by the people elected to “represent” me.


  1. Professor-simple and brilliant. Some days, the answers are right in front of us. One of your best columns, ever! Thank you. Dennis Southerland

  2. This state motto, “Honest To Goodness Indiana”, would be laughable if not so dangerous for “small animals and other living things”…such as all residents, but especially blacks. I just ordered the book “Black In Indiana” by my long time friend Eunice Trotter, about black lives beyond slavery in southern Indiana. I look forward to comparing the long-ago days with today in Indiana’s Legislature and life today in our black communities and representation – or lack thereof – in local government.

    A reminder; our own Theresa Bowers’ Kindle book, “Lincoln County Stories”, while fiction, depicts a realistic picture of racism in southern Indiana in the 1960’s. A good read!

  3. We do have representative government, elected by the citizens (who care to vote). Let that sink in……

  4. The only answer is a 92 county ground game by the Dems. Are they smart enough to realize it? We’ll see.

  5. I am often surprised by the Indiana General Assembly, but this year is nothing if not stunning as to the level of blatant corruption on display. Specifically, the Senate’s so called “Environmental Affairs Committee”, which seems determined to do as much damage to what is left of our natural environment as quickly as possible. When the puppeteers of the Indiana Builder’s Association pulls their strings, the puppets in that committee happily dance away. Don’t even start on our current Attorney General…

  6. It is an embarrassment. With no local newspapers in smaller urban and rural areas with the ability to fully research and inform the voters about the candidates running for office, it is difficult to know much about those we elect. The nationalization of newspapers has made for an increasingly uninformed public of what is vital locally.

  7. Bill Bailey – a silver dagger, for IN and the US…all in a nutshell -kudos.

  8. Add to list of Hoosier humiliation, AG Todd Rokita, who testified at the Senate Rules & Administration Committee about the For the People Act. He insisted that voter rights could not be expanded because it would exacerbate citizens’ distrust in the election process. As we know, he has worked harder than most to create distrust in elections with false allegations of election fraud. He alleged that mail-in votes would take weeks to count, that redistricting reform can be resolved by electing different representatives, that allowing convicted felons to vote would incite widespread litigation, and that if the bill passes, he would be the first AG to sue. He went on to enable several Republican Senators who asked him to confirm as a previous Sec of State that S1 would allow criminals and illegal aliens to vote and other ridiculous claims. Ugh. For more on this, download my podcast with attorney Destiny Scott Wells, who did an outstanding review of his testimony. Indiana Politics with Deb Chubb on Spotify, itunes, and Stitcher.

  9. Forget not the kiss of death bestowed on redistricting and carbon sequester
    by a legislature run amuck. Not germane to a voting bill for redistricting and a study committee for the latter. It’s enough to turn one to religion and ask,
    “Oh Lord, wherefore hast thou forsaken us?” Certainly, even the most devout can no longer exclaim with hubris, “Ain’t God good to Indiana?” The answer is clearly NO!

  10. Indiana is a joke because it’s a red state. That’s all you need to know at this point. It’s the Mississippi of the North. Once you leave the urban centers, it’s the Deep South with the mentality to go along with it. You’d think coming to a large urban center to conduct business would enlighten them a bit, but it doesn’t seem to help them at all.

    I would imagine that Fox News is the most-watched news media in this state, so…

    When you consider Gannett owned most of the newspapers in this state at one point, it’s a dead giveaway.

    Just spend a few minutes perusing the comment sections on neutral news sites in Indy. They trash “librals” for destroying this country. They can’t articulate why, but just know the democrats are the evil culprits.

    When you’ve devolved into a kakistocracy, which Indiana has been for decades, the bills originating from the lawmakers are sure to be a joke. The question is, “Are these idiots representative of all Hoosiers?”

  11. Really when you think about in a gallows humor sense, the Reactionary Right Wing, bible thumping Rambo-Wannabes, that make up the GOP could care less about all the bills that Shelia enumerated above.

    The GOP of today has a selfish egotistical world view – “If it does not effect Me- Who Cares”. If wet lands are trashed by development – Let the Buyer Beware and Who cares about those people downstream.

    It is far more important to have the ” Freedom to Infect” than to place safety and hygiene into the hands of the “Gevermint”.

    The Right to Vote easily and efficiently – No Way you have to complete a legal obstacle course to prove You are Worthy to Vote.

  12. Very well. We agree that the legislature is a cesspool. What are we going to do about it in this decennial year in which even more gerrymandered districts can be drawn by the majority? Go to court? Which court? State or federal? On what grounds? One man, one vote? Equal Protection?

    I have been retired from the practice for so long I’m not up to snuff on the latest case law in connection with how other states have been attacking this gerrymandering problem, whether such states have been gerrymandered by Democrats or Republicans, but I’m sure Sheila and perhaps others who contribute to this blog are aware of the latest. ?

  13. I’ve said this many times before, everyone thinks his or her state’s legislature is the “worst.” Anyone who think the types of bills our Indiana General Assembly considers and sometimes passes are unique to this state would be very wrong.

  14. Indiana is a very red state. And as a result, Indiana is often on the wrong side of history. I would like to say to climate deniers “What if the scientists are right?” Do you want to help destroy the earth and the human race?

    Sadly Hoosier voters in rural areas just don’t seem to get it. I think they are caught up in the culture war and identity politics not working for the greater good. Our legislature simply reflects that.

    I’m lucky. I am represented by JD Ford and Cherrish Pryor. Unfortunately, the democrats are almost always in the minority.

    Time to donate to HOPE.

  15. Looks like the voters in Indiana got a whole lot of house cleaning to do. We have got people holding office that have no business being there! The Governor has done a great job leading us through the pandemic. His hands should not be tied! Should he have to act in a emergency. He should be able to do so without hesitation! I wonder if this is reaction to the results of the presidential election. There is still a lot anger from some Republicans over the election. It could be Republican Indiana is following suit. However I do not believe every Hoosier voter feels the anger that some do. There are some of us who know how to put the welfare of our country over loyalty to our political party when it has gone wrong.

  16. Not too surprised. I alway dread having the Indiana legislature in session. So often it seems like “what stupid thing are they going to do now”.

    As for the “you get who you elect”, I had a discussion with a “friend” on FaceBook about the Federal HR1, S1 election reforms. He was against it because he said election day should be on one day with limited hours. Maybe I was too blunt, but I told him that was spoken like a person that can afford to get time off from his job any time he wants, and afford to drive to a polling place to vote. I am not sure I changed his mind, but that is the example of small minded thinking out there.

    Buried in the stupendous stupidity are a few half hearted gems. 2 years ago the legislature passed a law allowing public utilities to replace lead water service lines all the way into the house and charge the cost to the rate base. Without the law, they could only fix things up the property line, and the home owner would be stuck with the rest of the cost. Doing it on a 1 on 1 basis, it is a $5000 expense. Doing it en-mass, the cost goes down to less than $1000 a location. 1 year ago, they passed the same law but included municipal owned utilities. What this means is every utility in Indiana can start working on getting rid of lead pipes. Sound good? Well, they never followed it up by setting a deadline for this work to be done, because it might raise utility rates. So the net result is that almost ALL inner city neighborhoods in ALL of the cities and larger towns of Indiana still have lead pipes. But it is OK with Indiana lawmakers that the “poor” inner city people deal with lead poisoning and the long term effects. It does not effect them, so who cares, so even when they look like they care, they don’t really care if they get results.

    As a disclosure, I am lucky enough to be able to afford replacing my water service line and did some 15 years ago. I think this is a important issue for everyone and don’t think anybody should be subjected to potential lead poisoning.

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