Russ Stilwell: The times they are a'changin'
Tuesday, May 10, 2011 12:12 PM
BOONVILLE - A lot has happened since the opening gavel of the 2011 Indiana General Assembly session. As Dylan sang decades ago, “The times, they are a-changin’.”
There were winners and losers, as well as a myriad of time bombs for campaigns to come and political junkies to ponder. From the beginning, this session was going to be about change and how that change was defined.
The Hoosier political landscape has changed. New legislative maps entrench the Republicans for years to come. Congressional maps had winners and losers and a host of new candidates are off to the races, even though announcements are in the distant future.
Congressman Joe Donnelly gets screwed in the congressional maps and is positioned to be a formidable U.S. Senate nominee. Senator Lugar is challenged by the tea baggers and the half-cocked state treasurer. And former Speaker John Gregg is on the Democrat circuit. Sure looks like 2012 is going to be a fun year.
Governor Daniels will be making a decision in the next few weeks about his presidential ambitions. Will he or won’t he? You would have to be living under a rock if you did not think a Daniels presidential run is imminent.
When House Dem leader B. Patrick Bauer told me back in 2008 that Daniels was running for president, I thought he was nuts. As I have often said, never underestimate Pat Bauer. The former Speaker got it right long before anyone even thought about a Daniels presidential run. Anyone, that is, except maybe Daniels.
My guess is that the average Hoosier did not pay a lot of attention to whom they were voting for in 2010 and what the consequences might be. My crystal ball also informs me that most aren’t fully informed about the massive change conducted in Indianapolis over the past few months.
But just wait. I am certain they will be fully informed of the mischief, the walkout and the attacks on public education, labor, Planned Parenthood and more. Every conceivable political angle from every potential advantage point will be hand-fed to every constituency group for political advantage by the Ds and Rs. After all, the election is only 18 months away.
As with any session, there are winners and losers. Here’s my list.
1. Governor Daniels. He laid out an aggressive agenda and he prevailed. And now he is poised to make his run for the White House.
2. Senate and House Republicans. They passed a budget, enacted the Daniels agenda and drew legislative maps that protect them for years and elections to come.
3. Hoosier Business and Corporate Interests. They got what they wanted in UI reform, got an early Christmas present in the form of a 25% tax cut and every conceivable gift the Republican majority could get wrapped.
4. Private and Charter Schools. They received an unprecedented expansion of charter schools and vouchers from taxpayers.
5. Twenty Newly Elected House Republicans. They stood up and were counted rather than standing down and heeding advice from wiser and more veteran lawmakers. They were on a mission to move the state to the right or far-right and got the job done.
6. NRA and Gun Lobby. Every conceivable gun law that could be imagined was passed. We may even change the name of a few of our smaller communities to Dodge City.
7. Right to Life. They passed the most stringent bill on reproductive rights for women in the nation. Did I say court challenge? Hoosier women now can know for certain that breast cancer and abortion have a direct cause/effect, even though not one reputable health care expert believes this to be true
8. Associated Building Contractors. This non-union segment of the Indiana construction industry stuck it to the union construction industry. Now they can underbid, pay Hoosier hard hats less money and keep the difference for increased profit. Nice work.
9. Folks Who Hate Unions. This group, whoever they are, were the really big winners as the legislature took a meat cleaver (a non-union cleaver for sure) to unions without mercy. Statutory elimination of state collective bargaining; restraints on local bargaining; a complete gutting (again by a non-union cleaver wielding meat cutter) of teacher collective bargain; and an all-out assault on Hoosier construction workers.
10. Folks Who Hate Public Education. They got what they wanted: The most expansive taxpayer-funded voucher system in the nation. Money will flow like a gushing fire hydrant from our public schools to private schools.
Now for the Losers.
1. Governor Daniels. He now has to put up with a national media cadre that will examine every aspect of his personal life, his political life and policies. Bet his political temperament improves when the press questions his policies from a national pulpit.
2. House Democrats. They walked out in protest of a massive anti-worker agenda for a record five weeks. And when they returned, the Rs continued their assault without a ceasefire. They did take Right to Work off the table and modify some of the more radical anti-school and labor initiatives. But the House Ds did make sure that it’s OK to stand up for things you believe in. They get an A+ for this.
3. Hoosier Workers and Unions. They not only took it on the chin but took a hot poker in the eye for good measure. It was an unprecedented massacre: Cutting UI benefits for Hoosier workers by 25 percent while cutting corporate taxes by the same amount. Eliminating unions at the state level and curtailing them at the local level. Outlawing project labor agreements without referendums. This list is just too long to list.
4. Local Government, Local Control and Local Ordinances. Just like Brian Howey reported a couple of weeks ago, the legislature has anointed itself the City and County Council for the state. Whether it’s the elected school board, the city or county council, or the myriad of other local bodies, the legislature has decided that “Father Knows Best” when the legislature is in session. Now we can have guns in the city council, our libraries and courthouse. Everywhere but the premises where the law was conceived – the statehouse.
5. Twenty New House Republicans. What? How can they be in both the winners and losers? Simple. They were elected by an unprecedented political tsunami and didn’t know it. Now they have a voting record that the House Ds will blister them with. Wanna bet that voters in many of these districts just might not like taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools? Wanna bet that labor and teachers will be motivated with political steroids in 2012?
6. Planned Parenthood. Again, Hoosier women have been denied reproductive rights by a majority of middle-aged white men in suits. And I’m not talking about abortion. Women will no longer have the resources of Planned Parenthood for hings like breast cancer screenings and birth control.
7. Public School Teachers and Public Education. There was an all-out assault on our public teachers with the elimination of collective bargaining, merit pay and a freight train of tax dollars delivered to private and charter schools. If any group got a hot poker stuck in their eye it was our public educators.
8. Hoosier Middle Class Workers and Public Servants. Indianapolis took a full frontal assault on those who teach our kids, build our highways and pick up our garbage. Seems our public servants were the scapegoats. Indiana is better than this, or at least it should be. Reward the corporate community and tell the unemployed to do more with less.
9. Right to Work Advocates. Just when they thought they were on the verge of victory, the House Democrats sent them a crushing message. Enough is enough. RTW was taken off the table almost as quickly as it was served.
10. Middle Class Hoosiers. House Democrat Leader B. Patrick Bauer said that voters will fill in “the real scorecard” within the next year as education reforms begin taking effect and priorities in the new state budget become apparent. “This session proved the difference between the two parties,” Bauer said. “We stood for the working people, the teachers, students, the elderly and disabled, and they didn’t.” Time will tell.
Maybe it really is a little early to list the winners and losers. But as Bob Dylan sang almost 50 years ago, “The Times, They Are A-Changin’; the loser now will be later to win.”
Only time and Hoosier voters will reveal the outcome. But for now, the Hoosier times are “a-changin’.”
“Come writers and critics. who prophesize with your pen, and keep your eyes wide, the chance won’t come again. Don’t speak too soon, for the wheel’s still in spin, and there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’, for the loser now will be later to win, for the times they are a-changin’.”
Stilwell is former House Democratic majority leader.