Watching out for interest conflicts
Indiana Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, The Associated Press reports, has spent the 2013 session of the General Assembly “quietly pushing a measure that would allow Insure-Rite to win a multimillion-dollar contract screening uninsured motorists for the state.” The company hired Turner’s daughter, Jessica Turner Stults, to lobby lawmakers on its behalf.
That’s what we out in voterland would call “a conflict on interest.” House Speaker Brian Bosma had the right reaction when he heard of it: “I think anytime that you have a potential conflict like this, of course there are concerns. But again, the key is disclosure. This obviously became disclosed, so we appreciate that. We may have to consider some alteration to our disclosure rules here so that becomes more apparent to folks.”
Bosma said changes are needed to the rules governing what lawmakers must disclose about their personal and financial ties.
Thinking small in the House
Oh, too bad. This state had the chance to be a pioneer in a movement of epic proportions. But members of the Indiana House could not bring themselves to think big.
The House let the deadline go by last week before which it had to approve a resolution, introduced by Senate President Pro Tem David Long, to call for a limited constitutional convention intended to return some of the power the federal government has stolen from the states. The convention would be charged with considering constitutional amendments to limit the power of Congress to regulate commerce and to levy taxes.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said “perhaps we’re not prepared” to be the first state to call for a convention and that his first choice would be “to elect folks that are ready to rein in the federal government.”
No secrets on cause of death
When there are two laws on the books that seem to have contradictory effects, it is time for legislators to step in and clean up the mess. That’s the situation today with “cause of death” notices and whether the public does or does not have a right to see them.
One state law, cited by the Evansville Courier & Press in its lawsuit against the Vanderburgh County Health Department, requires health departments to keep records of the death certificates filed by petitions and make them available to the public. But another law seems to limit access to “cause of death” records to those who can prove they have a direct interest in the case, such as a spouse or immediate relative who may need them for legal purposes.
The former law was relied on by Indiana Public Access Counselor Joseph Hoage, who sided with the newspaper and the public’s right to know.
Doing nothing on gambling
The General Assembly seems poised to make one of its best decisions ever on organized gambling in the state by simply doing nothing.
Indiana has “lived high on the hog” from casino money for the past two decades, says House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, but now there is an opportunity to stand on principle and let go.
“I’m not prepared to engage in a massive expansion of gambling just to keep revenue up. I don’t want to see us get in any deeper.”
For 2010, taxes from Indiana’s 13 casinos amounted to almost $680 million, or 5.5 percent of the state budget. But because of the weak economy and competition from casinos in adjacent states, the figure dropped to $632 million last year. Budget planners are anticipating a drop of 20 percent in the next few years.
Fraud and the 2008 election
Let us concede that Republican claims of massive voter fraud have been somewhat exaggerated. But it must also be said that Democratic complaints that the whole anti-fraud crusade is just an evil ploy to suppress voters is also off the mark. Fraud might not be widespread, but it does happen.
And sometimes the effects could be profound. Thanks to the Richard J. Daley political machine, not even death could prevent people from voting in Chicago, and some have suggested that fraud might have contributed to John F. Kennedy’s election in 1960.
That brings us to St. Joseph County, where a trial is under way for officials alleged to have submitted fraudulent petitions in order to get Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the Indiana Democratic primary ballot in 2008. How momentous might that fraud have been?