A doozy of a slugfest
And you thought the fights between Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly got ugly sometimes. A doozy of a slugfest is being performed this year by Republicans all by themselves.
Republican legislators are getting a little testy over what they see as unfair and unseemly pressure from Gov. Mike Pence to get his 10 percent income tax cut passed. Pence has been going outside the Statehouse to get his conservative base to lobby the legislature hard. And Americans for Prosperity, a national tea party group, has been running radio and TV ads attacking House Republicans for passing a $30 billion budget that substitutes more spending on roads and schools for Pence’s tax cuts. House Speaker Brian Bosma is especially irked by the group’s claim that he is a RINO – Republican in name only.
Saturday mail is costing us
Fort Wayne postal workers Sunday joined in the pointless nationwide rally for continued six-day mail service participated in by thousands of mail carriers all across the nation. It was pointless not because Congress will not heed their plea – quite the contrary. Congress had already acted. On Wednesday, the Senate passed legislation apparently forbidding ending Saturday mail delivery. On Thursday, the House approved it and sent it to President Obama’s desk.
So the United States Postal Service’s big, fat financial mess will continue and get worse and worse. The USPS lost $16 billion last year by continuing to provide a service that fewer and fewer people want or need. Cutting back to five-day service would save about $2 billion a year. Eliminating some post offices, which Congress also dislikes, would save some more.
The same-sex marriage divide
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in challenges to two gay-marriage bans – the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, and Proposition 8, which does the same thing for the state of California. Indiana is in the thick of that battle, reason enough for Hoosiers to pay attention.
The Republican attorneys general of 21 states, including Indiana, have filed briefs with the court in defense of a state’s right to define marriage, including a ban on same-sex marriage if it chooses. The Democratic attorneys general of 15 states have filed briefs on the other side, basically asking for a federal edict that gay marriage be allowed. Sort of illustrates the divide in the country as a whole, doesn’t it?
It might seem Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is on the wrong side of this issue.
Vouchers: We can, but must be?
There never should have been any doubt about the constitutionality of Indiana’s school voucher program. Now there isn’t. The state Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the vouchers do not violate the Indiana constitution’s prohibition of spending “for the benefit of” religious institutions.
The nation’s Supreme Court had already ruled, in a 2002 case from Cleveland, that vouchers allowing the spending of public money on private schools do not violate the U.S. Constitution’s requirement for the separation of church and state. The only question was whether the language of the state constitution requires a narrower perspective. Now we know – it does not.
Of course that doesn’t mean the state should have vouchers, merely that it can, a point strongly made by Chief Justice Brent Dickson.
Do marijuana laws need overhaul?
There has always been a healthy and spirited debate between the conservative and libertarian wings of the Republican Party. It seems more intense today merely because there are so many hot-button social issues to argue about – everything from abortion and same-sex marriage to immigration reform and gun control.
Consider just one issue – whether penalties for marijuana should be lessened or done away with altogether.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is on the conservative side of the divide. He has asked the General Assembly to modify the proposed criminal sentencing reform plan because it isn’t tough enough on low-level drug offenders. On the libertarian side is U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who asked in a recent TV appearance, “Why ruin a young, nonviolent drug offender’s life by sending him to jail?”