As I have repeatedly pointed out, Indiana has nothing remotely approaching home rule. Our legislative overlords consider themselves to be arbiters of both state and local decisions, entitling them to impose their personal prejudices and “unique” viewpoints on municipal governments.
The fact that local legislators–chosen by the residents of those municipalities–may have different priorities is irrelevant. (Remember when Bloomington wanted to forbid the use of plastic grocery bags? The legislature said no can do.)
It was bad enough when Indianapolis had to go to the Statehouse for three sessions to get permission to hold a referendum to determine whether we could tax ourselves for mass transit. And even then, the legislative pooh-bas took light rail off the table–no, we couldn’t ask Indianapolis citizens if they wanted that particular method of transit. And ever since the city voted–overwhelmingly–for the transit we were allowed to consider, Aaron Freeman, a member of the legislature (not the City County Council) has been trying to stop construction.
Because his lordship disagrees with the results of the democratic process. Other members of Indiana’s legislative self-appointed aristocracy want to reverse the City’s decision to limit right turns on red. It evidently hasn’t occurred to these autocrats that if Indianapolis citizens disagree with these decisions, we can vote for different municipal legislators. We have the veto; the legislature does not. At least, it should not.
As aggravating as these examples are, however, they don’t hold a candle to what was reported yesterday.
Indianapolis residents would lose access to free bus rides on Election Day under new legislation filed by a state senator from southern Indiana.
IndyGo buses were free to ride during the 2022 and 2023 general elections because of a sponsorship from AARP Indiana, a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of older residents.
The AARP sponsored similar efforts in Fort Wayne, Gary and Evansville, and is currently considering another sponsorship in Indianapolis for the 2024 general election — which will contain the high-profile elections of attorney general, governor, U.S. senator and president.
But those rides would be stopped under Senate Bill 187, which contains a single sentence: “A public transportation agency shall not implement free or reduced fares on a general, primary or municipal election day.”
Sen. Gary Byrne, R-Georgetown, said his legislation is about ensuring all voters have the same access to the polls.
“It’s a fairness thing for me on voting,” Byrne told Mirror Indy on Thursday. “The area that I live in, there’s no public transportation, and to say one part of the state gets a free ride to go vote sort of discriminates against other people in the state who don’t have that opportunity.”
Fairness my patootie! The real motive here is suppression of the urban vote. Byrne is Republican. In Indiana–and elsewhere–Republicans depend upon the votes of rural White folks to retain office. Anything that facilitates turnout in urban parts of the state–especially turnout by “those people”–minority citizens and poor folks–must be stopped. Why…it’s “woke.”
The transparency of motive, however, is beside the point. The point is, this none of the legislature’s business. Tax dollars are not being spent. Government bodies are not the sponsors. A private non-profit organization is sponsoring this effort to ameliorate some of the burdens experienced by municipal citizens.
The next time you hear a Republican talk about “freedom” or “keeping government from interfering with private business decisions” you should understand that what the members of that cult really mean is: “we are only in favor of interfering with decisions that we disagree with, or decisions that might make it more difficult for us to win elections. So long as you use your uterus and your nonprofit dollars in ways we approve, we won’t interfere.”
If Byrne really cared about “fairness,” he”d sponsor a bill to help his poorer rural constituents get to the polls–he wouldn’t be trying to suppress the votes of people who live in the urban areas of the state.