Saturday, January 20, 2007

General Assembly marked by cooperation, so far, legislators say

By FRANK PHILLIPS
frankphi@hotmail.com
There seems to be healthy air of cooperation and fraternity among the legislators in Indiana's General Assembly, according to remarks made by four of the five legislators representing Clay County.
Sen. Richard Bray (R-Martinsville), and State Representatives Clyde Kersey (D-Terre Haute), Vern Tincher (D-Riley) and Amos Thomas (R-Brazil) spoke to about 50 constituents at the Cory Firehouse Saturday morning during the first of three scheduled Crackerbarrel meetings.
Sen. John Waterman (R-Shelburn) did not attend.
Here are the highlights of the legislators' opening remarks before taking questions:
* Kersey -- "There is one thing we must do this session and that is to pass a budget."
He opposes taking money from local school districts to fund all-day kindergarten.
He likes the idea free textbooks, but doesn't think there is a enough money to fund all-day kindergarten and free textbooks. Indiana is only one of 10 states that require parents to pay textbook fees.
On privatization of the state lottery -- he wants to study the issue.
He liked what he heard in much of Gov. Mitch Daniels' State of the State address including: cooperation on the state budget is needed and Democrats and Republicans need to investigate privatization.
He called the 2 percent circuit breaker legislation, to limit tax increases, "good for property owners but bad for local governments."
* Tincher -- Welcomed the governor's call for cooperation. He believes the first two years of the governor's administration showed a district lack of cooperation -- "It was his way or no way," Tincher said.
Privatization of the Hoosier Lottery is a bad idea.
Tincher has concerns about the proposed local option sales tax. He said that because so many Clay County people shot in Terre Haute, the local option tax would benefit Vigo County, but take money out of Clay County.
He would rather see the state sales tax increased by 1 percent.
Tincher wants to see legislation passed that would plug gaps in the Open Door Law. He cited the decision to fire Bob Knight by Indiana University, saying the school's president met with the university board in small groups to prohibit public involvement in the decision.
Tincher favors a bill that would allow teenage boys to register for selective service at license branches. Sixteen-year-olds would fill out the paperwork and it would be filed when they turned 18.
Tincher would like to see the state crack down on illegal immigrants by holding their employers responsible. He sees the problem a state problem because the federal government has been indecisive about the problem.
* Bray --
He believes all-day kidnergarten has merit (see accompanying story).
Bray does not favor free textbooks because a survey of his constiutents indicate parents don't mind paying for their children's textbook rental.
He said Gov. Daniels is "very bright" and has more initiatives than any governor in Bray's lifetime. But some of his ideas are good and some are bad.
"He doesn't always do a good job selling his ideas," Bray said.
The division in Indianapolis is not just Republicans and Democrats but it is also rural versus urban. He would like to see the fuel tax formula changed to include pick-up trucks and SUVs when gas tax money is returned to counties.
* Thomas --
He believes being a freshman representative gives him an advantage because he doesn't know all the details about debates on the issues.
He also thinks his maturity and experience gives him an advantage over his younger freshmen legislators.
"It's harder to fool me," he said.
He has taken up the mantle of the fuel tax formula.
He has introduced a bill that would force all state agencies to examine their energy use.
A bill he co-authored with State Rep. Dale Grubb (D-Covington) has passed the House. It will provide some money to help maintain covered bridges in Indiana. It has yet to go to the State Senate.