MondayIndiana is one of only 14 states that have an elective rather than appointive superintendent of public instruction. In the next four years, we’re going to see why that’s a bad way to do things.
Incoming Democratic Superintendent Glenda Ritz beat incumbent Republican Tony Bennett with strong grass-roots support from teachers and the enthusiastic support of the Indiana State Teachers Association. She campaigned as the strong anti-reform candidate – at least reform as currently defined by conservatives and Republicans. It’s fair to say she is opposed to everything Bennett and Gov. Mitch Daniels were able to get through the General Assembly in the last four years, from vouchers to stronger teacher evaluations.
But if her agenda for the next four years is to get those reforms undone, she is doomed to failure and frustration.
TuesdayHow the new session of the Indiana General Assembly will be judged depends as much on form as on substance: How will majority Republicans behave?
They have absolute power, controlling the governor’s office and enjoying supermajorities in both House and Senate. Will they abuse that power by doing anything they want to just because they can? Or will they exhibit some graciousness and stay focused on the issues that matter most to Hoosiers? If they do too much, they will look arrogant and risk losing their majorities or at least see them diminish. If they do too little, they are wasting the kind of opportunity that rarely comes along.
Democrats obviously recognize this dilemma. New House Minority Leader Scott Pelath urged the GOP to “avoid divisive social issues” like gay marriage and abortion.
WednesdayAfter the school massacre last month in Newtown, Conn., there was some speculation that the event was so horrific that it could spur stronger gun control even here in NRA-loving Indiana. Surely our legislators would at least see the wisdom of ending lifetime carry permits and requiring at least some weapons proficiency training for licensing. But we tend to go our own way here. While other states and the federal government are easing into the gun control mode, here there are proposals to expand gun rights.
Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, wants to allow students to carry firearms on public university campuses. Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, wants to exempt guns made exclusively in Indiana from federal rules and regulations.
Neither measure has a good chance of passing, but their very presence should keep us grounded.
ThursdayAs he prepares to leave office this week, Gov. Mitch Daniels can look with pride over a much-improved state, the positive changes mostly a result of the policies he has pursued for the last eight years.
His record can be judged by the many big changes he won: lease of the toll road, approval of daylight saving time, property tax reform, an education voucher system, BMV overhaul. When he came into office, the state was in desperate financial shape. He leaves us with a $500 million budget surplus and $2 billion in reserves.
But even more than specific accomplishments, Daniels deserves praise for adjusting Hoosier attitudes and perhaps even transforming the political culture. In a state where the status quo is sacred, Daniels managed to shepherd Indiana through some momentous leaps of faith into the unknown.