by Scott Pelath
Any lawmaker who believes this session is serving regular Hoosiers should consider getting into some sort of treatment.
We are wallowing in the mire. The everyday worries of a vast majority of Hoosiers are being ignored, while old-fashioned thinking, shameless power grabs for power’s sake, and out-of-touch ideas are prevailing.
At this point, people would be better served if these so-called conservatives simply left us all alone.
Let us review what could have happened:
Since House Democrats believe every Hoosier benefits from a growing economy, we made four different attempts to set the wheels in motion to raise Indiana’s minimum wage — a mainstream movement taking hold even in the nation’s reddest states.
On four occasions, House Republicans just said no, but they did say yes to suppressing wages by voting to eliminate the state’s Common Construction Wage, a move that will eliminate local jobs and drive down wages and salaries in communities across Indiana. Their solution to this particular problem seems to be to get people to work for less.
Since House Democrats believe that every Hoosier should receive a quality education, we supported a budget proposal that would have eliminated the cost of textbooks for schoolchildren, expanded both pre-K and full-day kindergarten, made school funding honest and transparent, made college affordable, and ensured no public school lost funding. And even better, we found a way to do it that cost about the same as what the Republicans planned to spend.
House Republicans rejected those proposals. They preferred a budget that does not make school funding honest and transparent, and does not make college affordable. They preferred a budget that will force middle class families to keep paying the cost of their kids’ textbooks. And mere weeks after election year pledges to fix school funding, their budget cuts basic education for 139 school districts in the first year and for another 80 communities in the second year.
Since House Democrats dare to engage in basic oversight, we asked for greater accountability from a Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) that can’t keep from overcharging folks. House Republicans just said no.
House Democrats also voted for reforms to get more Hoosiers to the polls. We tried to keep polls open until 8 p.m. on election days, allow voter registration on Election Day, provide no-excuse absentee voting, let qualified voters vote by mail or absentee ballot, and require absentee voting on the four Saturdays before Election Day.
House Republicans just said no to all that, but they said yes to voter suppression by eliminating choices at the ballot box at a time when Indiana voter turnout is the worst in the nation.
The potential for great successes was there, but it was easier for the House supermajority to tread lightly, acting as if there were no problems facing our middle class. Or that household incomes continue their steady descent. Or that our school kids keep suffering from the relentless education experiments and ideological obsessions.
We have time to change all this. What House Democrats are proposing is both forward looking and reasonable, unless one is resistant to anything resembling common sense progress.
But we need to think about who we can help, and take the pragmatic and centrist steps necessary to achieve those goals. A lawmaker ought to have greater goals than simply telling the grandkids, “Well, I followed the advice of a talk radio host.”
Scott Pelath is the leader of the Indiana House Democratic Caucus.