Big issues have been tackled in short sessions
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 10:00 AM
Don't let the term "short session" fool you. The Indiana General Assembly's "short session" has a history of being long on achievement.
There was a time when Indiana lawmakers met only once every couple of years. They developed a budget and handled the state's other issues, then they went home.
More than four decades ago, lawmakers added a second, "short" session. The idea was to deal with short-term budget fixes that could not wait until the next regular session.
As Tom LoBianco of The Associated Press points out this week, the short session has become a time to cope with long-term issues.
This year, for example, lawmakers already have many proposals competing for time on their short session plate. Among those are two high-profile ideas. One would write the state's gay marriage ban into the constitution (if approved by voters). Another would eliminate the personal property tax paid by businesses (a key revenue source for local governments).
In recent years, politicians have used the short session to take on some of the state's most contentious issues:
In 2012, state lawmakers banned mandatory union fees via so-called right-to-work legislation. Republicans had delayed a vote on the issue during the 2011 session, after a five-week walkout by House Democrats.
Also in 2012, lawmakers passed the statewide smoking ban in most buildings that are open to the public.
In 2010, lawmakers passed the measure to put property tax caps into the state constitution. It was approved by Hoosier voters in a referendum that November.
In 2006, lawmakers passed Major Moves, Gov. Mitch Daniels' plan to lease the Indiana Toll Road as a way of raising money for Indiana road construction projects.
Unlike some other states, Indiana maintains a part-time legislature. Our politicians still come together for several weeks to tackle state business, then they go home to their workplaces and their families.
There is no reason to have a full-time legislature. So it makes sense to use the short session as meaningfully as possible.
It also means the short session should be as productive, and as relevant, to Indiana citizens as the longer, often-more-intense budget-writing sessions.
When lawmakers report for duty today, we expect them to tackle their agenda, including the contentious issues, with due diligence and a transparent process.