Indiana Legislators Don’t Care What You Want…Or Don’t

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is one of a handful of new media sites trying to fill the dangerous void in news about local and state government. (As I frequently complain on this site, so-called “legacy media” like the Indianapolis Star have emptied their newsrooms of reporters as they’ve focused on cutting costs at the expense of real journalism. The result has been a news desert when it comes to informing citizens about their state and local governments.)

A recent column in The Capital Chronicle focused on what is perhaps the most annoying characteristic of Indiana’s General Assembly–its pursuit of legislation untethered to the needs or desires of Hoosier constituents.

As the columnist began;

My Christmas wish is pretty simple: I would like lawmakers to listen to what Hoosiers want. ALL Hoosiers, not just the loudest slice of their Republican constituents.

Poll after poll and survey after survey shows what Indiana residents are worried about, and what they aren’t.

Bellwether Research’s latest poll in early December surveyed 1,100 Hoosiers representing both the demographic and geographic layout of Indiana. It asked about their top priorities.

Wishes one and two were lowering health care costs and affordable housing, at 31% and 21% respectively….Next up was increasing K-12 education funding at 17%. Nothing after is in double digits

As Hoosier lawmakers prepare for the upcoming session, however, they are signaling their preoccupation with culture-war issues. Some are focusing on restricting dissemination of abortion pills through the mail; according to the polling, exactly 3% of Hoosiers care about restricting access to mailed abortion pills. (Quite the contrary: according to the article, the GOP’s own internal polling reveals that a solid majority supports abortion rights, and a survey by Ball State found that 56% of Hoosiers believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.)

That poll also found that 56% of Hoosiers believe marijuana should be legal for personal use and 29% for medicinal purposes. Only 15% say it should not be legal…

Surveys also find only 6% of Hoosiers making oversight of K-12 curriculum a top concern, but the “usual suspects” in the Indiana Statehouse are busy preparing bills to combat “critical race theory,” which is not only not being taught, but is a rather rarified field of research into American legal systems pursued by a subset of law professors. Use of the terminology is not only inaccurate, it is intentionally misleading–a none-too-subtle “dog whistle” to White supremicists who want teachers to ignore certain aspects of the national story.

And of course, it wouldn’t be Indiana if our legislature failed to pick on LGBTQ Hoosiers. House Education Chairman Robert Behning has promised introduction of a “don’t say gay” bill–demonstrating that Indiana lawmakers aren’t intimidated by that pesky court ruling that found Florida’s “Don’t say gay” bill unconstitutional.

Most lawmakers send out constituent surveys on hot topics that they know will be coming up. They are clearly less scientific than the polls I have mentioned but even when legislators directly hear from their most engaged constituents they ignore the results.

Remember gun licensing from earlier this year? Not a single survey — that journalists could find — supported abandoning the carry permit. In fact they almost all said to keep the system as-is. But legislators tossed the licensing out with the bathwater — against advice of the Indiana State Police superintendent and the majority of law enforcement groups.

Growing up I was always told, “be careful what you ask for.” It seems lately the phrase for Hoosiers should shift to, “be careful what you DON’T ask for,” because you are increasingly more likely to get it.

The disconnect between what Hoosiers want and what we get from our lawmakers is a direct result of gerrymandering that produces safe seats and allow lawmakers to ignore the policy preferences of a majority of Indiana citizens.

Gerrymandering, after all, is the very best voter suppression tactic. Why bother to vote when the result has been foreordained–or, to use Trump language, when the election has been rigged? Gerrymandering amplifies the power of the fringes–the ideologues and culture warriors who vote in primaries–and effectively disenfranchises the rest of us.

Reporting on the antics at the Statehouse is one of the very few checks on lawmakers bent on pursing their own cultural fixations, and central Indiana has been ill-served by the Star’s devolution into sports and what has been called the “beer beat”–reports on new watering holes. That makes the arrival of the Indiana Capital Chronicle very welcome. The Chronicle describes itself as an “independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to giving Hoosiers a comprehensive look inside state government, policy and elections.”

It’s probably wishful thinking, but perhaps a “comprehensive look” at what Harrison Ullmann dubbed the World’s Worst Legislature will trigger efforts at reform….

17 thoughts on “Indiana Legislators Don’t Care What You Want…Or Don’t

  1. Indiana like the remainder of the US is getting the “best” legislators money can buy.

  2. Here is the TOP LINE story from todays Indy Star – what they are focused on:
    Paper or Plastic.
    ==================================================
    The Daily Briefing
    YOUR MORNING NEWS ROUNDUP

    Tue Dec 27 2022
    Paper or plastic bags? We measured Indy shoppers’ preferences

  3. Indiana’s General Assembly is no different than any other state legislature. Every legislature has its share of kooks who introduce kooky legislation. Just because some kook in the legislature introduces a bill doesn’t mean that it is going to be supported by a majority of legislators. Usually, it’s not. I’ll just gauge legislatures on what measures pass.

    By the way, everyone believes their state legislature is the worst. Harrison Ullman wasn’t saying anything insightful by his declaration.

  4. My Rep., Blake Johnson, sent a short survey in the mail which I have sent what I want tax dollars spent on. Out for mail pickup…IF there is pickup today, none yesterday…and the issues he questioned are on the blog today. I had trouble opting between money into K-12 education and reasonable housing costs on his list of options; knowing this state will continue to increase voucher students in religious schools I hated to choose reasonable housing costs over the entire list Rep. Johnson listed. I voted NO on supporting ending gun licensing and on ending sales tax on feminine products which, after watching the many TV ads I know it could be an endless inclusive list of ridiculous products and the loss of needed sales tax for the state. I have stated my reason for being part of this 6% “Surveys also find only 6% of Hoosiers making oversight of K-12 curriculum a top concern…” Hopefully I am not the only one of the 6% who takes the rampant voucher system into consideration here.

    Just this morning I blocked Facebook posts from Braun; as I do when the rare Republican sneaks through my blocks and show up on my FB page. Yes; I use Facebook, primarily because most people have stopped using E-mails and maintain contact on FB and their Messaging option. There is so little action I can actually take to fight the “system” here in Indiana but I take advantage of each little action which appears in my mailbox or on my computer. It will soon be time for my mailbox to hold membership renewal forms for my dues in the DNC, InDems, DCCC and DSCC which I will return with my check. The endless demands to renew these memberships on line via Act Blue I will continue to delete; replying to them that I am an active, dues paying member is a wasted effort but I do not and will not donate on line.

  5. JoAnn, thank you
    I use fb like you do, also.
    To the political requests at the start of the USPS biggest mail push was a travesty. My mail clerk was aghast at the political mailing they had to deal with among the massive increase in packages and first class mail.

  6. More power to the Chronicle!!
    When I get a survey, from my elected representatives, the one senator, and my congressman who
    bother to send such things out, the bias in the survey, in its wording, its focus, and the absence of
    what it asks about, takes little effort to notice. These surveys are nothing, if not self-serving. but, then
    this IS Florididiia!

  7. I’m flying home today to Florida, which currently leads the nation in bad legislation. Keep in mind that Florida has a system that allows the voters to make changes to the state constitution. What actually happens is that the legislature spends the whole session finding ways around the will of the voters.

    Personally I think it’s a bad idea to change the constitution like you change your shirt, but I do think the voters need a way to require changes to laws. It shouldn’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be impossible.

    I knew Harrison Ullman and I think he might amend his statement today. He wasn’t around long enough to witness the legislative carnage brought on by total maga Republican control.

  8. Una; I think the increase in use of USPS was a way to support and save the system from Trump and DeJoy’s determination to completely end the Postal System to force use of private delivery services/corporations increasing the wealth of the already wealthy. We will probably NOT see removal of DeJoy once the Republicans takeover of the majority of the House and with the still slim Democratic majority in the Senate. It is not only state Legislators who do not care what we want…or don’t. Contrary to Paul K’s comments; the kooks are managing to include their kooky legislation hidden in enacted bills at local, state and federal levels, we are just not aware of them until they effect us directly. We appear to be in a national movement to force us to agree to automatic deduction of payment of all bills electronically; taking control of our personal finances will be a form of dictatorship of our already politically controlled lives. Conspiracy theory or coming reality? Turning more control over to State Legislation is the aim of the far right, White Nationalist MAGA (aka Trump) party. There are still many of us who must juggle bill paying by due dates to keep all bills paid; the USPS delivering our bills currently have come on time and evidently payments are being received on time or we would be receiving late fees added to our monthly bills.

    Your mail clerk who was aghast at the increase in political mailings, at election time, in addition to the massive increase in packages and first class mail during the holidays still had their job. The rules set up by DeJoy to slow down delivery and prevented increasing staff to necessary levels to keep up with the work the USPS has managed to do for many decades now.

  9. Why should legislators care about what their constituents want? The gerrymandered districts and our “tribal” culture ensure that those who bother voting vote for the party, not a person. And right now, the GOP has by far the most engaged/angered voters…voila’.

  10. The melting pot is no more. We have now separated the ingredients with no regard for anyone but those like us. I want, no longer what we need.

    It doesn’t work for the nation.

  11. Gerrymandering helps but with my deep dive into Indiana politics; it was mainly captive by money (corruption).

    The only negative ads in my Indiana district came from a Koch network agent, meaning an entity that doesn’t reside in the state.

    I hope the Chronicle does more than report on what’s occurring at the Statehouse. You must look beyond the carnival characters to understand how money flows in Indiana and what little regulation occurs. All intentional.

  12. In the last two weeks I’ve met with two Hoosier couples age less than 50. One asked for their financial plan to include a move to Canada. The other for a move to a blue state. Both have been long-time clients. The first has a daughter getting ready to go to school. They don’t want her exposed to Indiana’s gun culture. The second couple is LGBTQ and they are rightfully afraid of the discrimination they face here. We’re losing our best and brightest!

  13. It appears that it will take an organized effort to get Indiana government to reflect the will of the citizens. By organized, I am referring to specific public efforts such as a boycott, picketing and other organized public activity to draw attention to the lack of public influence in policy.

  14. These articles should be tightly focused on education issues only. Bringing up other issues doesn’t help the cause. You have to find a common point to rally people on both sides of the political aisle. This is just someone far on the left complaining that Indiana is not a “blue” state. Politicians on both sides are bought & paid for by a tiny minority of voters.

  15. Polls are interesting things and can be slanted simply by using the word or between two clauses making the reader think there is a shift in public opinion when it has been steady or sways by less than 5% either way over a three or four year period. The legislature in Indiana can do more to help improves the infrastructure with its surpluses and also better compensate those with huge losses when medical emergencies cause family household fiscal problems. Lowering state provided premiums would help and providing improvements in media-care coverage.
    However we see are in a recession and tax revenues will be reduced for the state as jobs ate lost. Once again the overspending by the federal government hinders state revenues thru economic priblems.

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