Now that we’ve had some time to digest what Indiana lawmakers did and did not do, it’s time for my list of winners and losers.
As I wrote in a recent column, nothing can ever really be considered a total win or complete loss because of the compromises necessary to make the legislative process work. However, some things are pretty obvious, and some things are worth keeping an eye on for later. So with that said, here’s our list.
Gov. Eric Holcomb
For a guy who just a little more than a year ago was running third in the GOP race for the U.S. Senate, later got out to be Mike Pence’s running mate and then got in the race for governor with 100 days to go, he did not do too badly. He got roads, early childhood education, workforce development, money for economic development, amongst other things.
If there was a “stumble,” it was his answer to the “Ricker’s question” when he told us media folks he believed Rickers and the ATC followed the law? That reply apparently threw a lot of people, including his staff, into a bit of a whirlwind, to put it mildly, and some lawmakers were so mad there was talk of derailing some of his agenda because of his response. Apparently, that didn’t happen.
House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long
Except for a few other lawmakers, these two won big this session. Not only because Bosma and Long got road funding and early childhood education through, which both included some ideologically divisive issues for Republicans (tax increases and the role of government and pre-K), but they managed to keep the crazy social issue stuff down to a bare minimum.
The Road Warriors
If there were a “heavy lifting” award for the 2017 session, the winners would be Sens. Luke Kenley and Mike Crider and Representatives Dr. Tim Brown and Ed Soliday. Not everyone can put together a 20-year road funding plan. Luckily they’re not everybody.
Say hello to the new power force at the Statehouse. Indiana’s Mayors not only got more money for road funding and were instrumental in the final bill that passed, but they also worked together to put a halt to the bill that would prohibit them from regulating AirBnB rentals in their communities. In the past, these guys would have been playing more defense than offense, but this year was a lot different.
Social Activist Monica Boyer
You might not have been paying attention to Warsaw social activist Monica Boyer, but we were. She had been throwing her weight around to pass a bill that would outlaw all abortions in Indiana as well as she threatened to find a primary challenger against anyone who voted for a tax increase to pay for roads. You can see how well that worked.
The “Anti-Tax/No Idea” Crowd
It’s one thing to say you oppose raising taxes to pay for roads, but the anti-tax folks never came up with a viable alternative. At best, they would question the studies that showed Indiana’s road funding needs were between $900 million to $1.4 billion. But they never had an alternative. It’s one thing to say “no,” but you better bring some ideas to the table.
The folks who wanted to redraw Indiana’s maps are going to have a to wait another day. Efforts to do that hit a brick wall in the House, and even if they had got a bill out of the House, it would have had a date with another brick wall in the Senate.
Indy Soccer Advocates
Up until the last day of session, it looked there might be a funding mechanism for a new soccer stadium that would not have cost the state a dime, but things fell apart at the last minute, and now it looks like Indy’s professional soccer team might be playing its final season.
To Be Continued
I purposely did not put the “Ricker’s” controversy in the win or loss column because I think this has yet to play out. Both sides of this debate can claim a partial victory and loss. Ricker’s still gets to sell cold beer for carryout at its locations in Sheridan and Columbus until its permit expires and the liquor store lobby can take credit for putting a wall up around Ricker’s so no one else can duplicate what they did. I don’t think a winner or loser can be declared until we see what a rewrite of Indiana’s alcohol laws looks like starting next session.
Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at email@example.com. This was distributed by the Franklin College statehouse bureau.