When it comes to politics in Indiana, one of the savviest observers is Jack Colwell, who writes for the South Bend Tribune. A recent column documenting reasons the Indiana General Assembly still deserves to be called the World’s Worst Legislature is a good example.
After reading it, I decided that a discussion of our legislature would be appropriate for April Fool’s Day.
Colwell’s list–while not exhaustive–is illustrative. He began by noting that Indiana’s legislature has historically been ridiculous.
Indiana’s legislature long has been the subject of ridicule, going back historically to a time 134 years ago when violence among members forced the end of a session.
Later came influence of the Klan, influence of money that brought scandals and prison and decades of influence by naysayers who found progress too risky.
Sometimes it became a national joke, as with a bill to establish the state’s own definition of pi. Not pie, as in apple, cherry or pumpkin, but Indiana’s own mathematical value of pi.
In 2015, there were all those jokes by comedians on national TV about Indiana’s Freedom to Discriminate Act.
Colwell then enumerates the disaster that is the 2021 session: in the face of Governor Holcomb’s largely effective measures to contain the pandemic (whatever your “take” on the Governor’s efforts, it is undeniable that he has been more decisive–and effective–than most Republican Governors), the legislature has moved to remove his authority to act in a future emergency.
Colwell notes that “pressure from the Freedom to Infect Caucus” also has pushed Holcomb to end the statewide mask mandate a bit prematurely.
Speaking of the pandemic, some businesses have acted in ways that endangered the health–and lives– of their workers and others. Our General Assembly to the rescue–of the businesses, not the victims. It passed a. bill awarding COVID-19 civil immunity for businesses and prohibiting class action lawsuits against them.
Is climate change a looming danger? The General Assembly–especially members who develop real estate– wants further limits on the protection of wetlands. (Who cares about the world their grandkids will inhabit? Or the purity of the water we’re all drinking now?)
Speaking of the environment, replacing a significant amount of emissions by encouraging and enabling mass transit is one of the many, many reasons such systems are important. So our legislature is trying to destroy Indianapolis’ belated effort to create a workable and environmentally-friendly mass transit system.
Has the nation recently been stunned by still more mass shootings? Indiana’s General Assembly wants to eliminate the need for a license to carry a gun. As Colwell says,
Why require unnecessary cost and bureaucratic delay for someone wanting a gun? Some law-abiding citizen might want a gun quickly for a visit to a spa. A new recruit of the Proud Boys should not be inconvenienced.
And then, of course, there’s the persistence of the “White Legislative Caucus.” Colwell notes the ugly episode during the current session, where Republican legislators booed their Black colleagues.
Coincidentally, the same day his column ran, the Indianapolis Star had a front-page report about Representative Jim Lucas, Republican from Seymour whose Facebook page has been the subject of numerous accusations of blatant racism. (Our daughter has previously told us that she had visited that page, and was horrified by the “out and proud” bigotry she saw.)
The Star article reported on a conversation between Lucas and a Black surgeon, which the surgeon experienced as racist. Lucas evidently feels that any rhetoric or action short of lynching isn’t really racist, but as the newspaper noted
Lucas has a history of making troubling comments. The Indiana State Conference of the NAACP has called for his resignation after past actions.
Last year, Huston removed him from two committees as punishment for other controversial Facebook posts. On Twitter there’s a hashtag used by some critics, “#LucasMustGo.”
I’m clearly not the only Hoosier who is mortified by the people elected to “represent” me.