SENATE GOES TO WORK TO ‘SALVAGE SESSION’
Sen. Kenley begins budget hearings, includes all lawmakers who didn’t “cut and run”
While Democrats in the Indiana House of Representatives continued their legislative boycott in Illinois at the time of this writing, Indiana state senators remained hard at work, trying to salvage the 2011 session.
At my request as Senate President Pro Tem, Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville), chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, has begun hearings on a balanced two-year state budget. Time is running out for Kenley and other senators to write a budget, conduct hearings, question state agencies and seek public testimony. We simply couldn’t wait for House Democrats any longer. Other Senate committee chairs have been asked to work with both Senate caucuses and House Republicans to combine other pending legislation where warranted and appropriate.
Kenley is thoughtfully and respectfully including Senate Democrats and House Republicans in that process. We are listening and working with all lawmakers who didn’t “cut and run.”
“Responsible, accountable, honest budgeting is vital, especially when resources are so scarce,” Kenley said. “The transparent process constituents have come to expect takes time and effort on lawmakers’ part. Everyone must work together to make certain state government is as efficient and effective as possible. Hoosier families have been forced to make tough spending decisions these past few years. They know firsthand those decisions take time and are not made lightly. Government should be no different. We should not rush. We should get it right.”
While Democrat House members have played hide-and-seek across state lines since their walkout began Feb. 21, the Senate worked 10, 12 and 14 hour days to meet and beat legislative deadlines. That included Senate Democrats, who, like their House colleagues, strongly disagreed with many of the bills passed but chose to “stay in the game” and offer passionate arguments from the podium instead of issuing divisive statements from a motel conference room in another state.
I am pleased with the Senate’s efforts to date – not only what we’ve done but how we’ve done it. During the first half of the session, senators introduced 600 pieces of legislation, heard 213 proposals in committee, then debated and passed 198 bills on the Senate floor. All but six of those were approved with bipartisan majorities.
Citizens have testified and been heard on 56 different bills during 21 Senate committee hearings since House Democrats ran away to the state of Illinois. Jobs, education, health care, public safety and other matters important to the people of Indiana are being discussed and decided. Senators of both parties and House Republicans should be applauded for staying on the job – engaged in policy, not politics.
Elections have consequences and last November Democrats took an historic beating. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives is 60-40. In the Senate Republicans have a super-majority, 37-13. These majorities are strong and it is absurd to think that the minority should control the agenda when Democrats have only 53 of the 150 legislative seats.
Lawmakers went into the session aware of the severe financial crunch felt by states due to the prolonged national recession. However, the work stoppage by Indiana House Democrats has made a difficult session nearly impossible and lacking the civility, decency and responsibility Hoosiers expect officials to display. Citizens have every right to ask, “How dare they?” Legislators were elected to represent our constituents and to be here to voice their concerns. We respect our jobs and respect those who put us in them.
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