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Posted on Tue. Nov. 26, 2013 - 12:01 am EDT


Short-session danger: trying to do too much

But legislators are capable of gackling jobs and social issues both.

Here’s something Hoosiers will be glad to hear, straight from Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis: Republican legislators are capable of doing the political equivalent of walking and chewing gum at the same time. By that, he means they will be able to consider both legislation affecting the economy and the controversial amendment to put the gay marriage ban into the state constitution.

Democrats such as House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, insist that it’s an either-or situation. Bosma, he says, will “have an easier time governing” if he eliminates gay marriage from consideration.

That is mostly a misleading argument. Democrats do not want a gay marriage ban considered, period. They will list anything and everything as more important issues that should push any social issues off the agenda.

Bosma’s reply is that gay marriage won’t be quite as all-consuming as some suppose. He blames the media for overplaying the debate. “It will receive 95 percent of the coverage, and it will take 5 percent of the attention.”

That’s a pretty good ratio, and if Bosma can really deliver it, gay marriage won’t suck all the oxygen out of the coming session of the General Assembly.

At any rate, the biggest danger is not that legislators won’t get around to economic and other pragmatic issues, but that they will try to do too much and end up creating more problems than solutions. This is the biennial short session, when there is not as much time to study bills thoroughly and consider all the possible unintended consequences. If a lot of bills pile up for last-minute approval at the end of the session, some of them will go mostly unread.

House Republicans have only four priorities, but they represent an ambitious agenda. Bosma says they will concentrate on early education, road funding, elimination of the personal property tax and closing the jobs “skills gap.”

It’s possible to get diverted down the wrong path on any of those. On the jobs front, for example, Pelath and Senate Minority Leader Tom Lanane, D-Anderson, argue that it’s not enough to make new jobs. They must be well-paying enough that the state can move its per capita income up from its current spot far below the national average. But encouraging only “good” jobs is a risky move. It’s far better to create a business- friendly climate that all potential employers will find inviting.

When the session ends, the Legislature will be judged not just by which issues it tackled but by how much common sense was showed in dealing with them. Everything else is political falderal.

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