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EDITORIAL

Interest conflicts threaten faith in the indiana House

Friday, March 21, 2014 - 12:01 am

Speaker Brian Bosma needs to get a handle on them quickly.

Last year, it was reported that powerful Republican Rep. Eric Turner had pushed a measure to benefit a client of his daughter, who is a Statehouse lobbyist, prompting House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, to say he’d review how the House handles conflicts of interest.

He must not have looked very deeply into it, and if he gave anything resembling a warning or even a lecture to Turner, it is fair to say it was not heeded, because the same kind of conflict of interest is in the news again. If Bosma doesn’t get a handle on it this time, he risks great damage to the reputation our part-time Legislature must have to earn the trust of Hoosiers.

Turner, The Associated Press is reporting, secretly lobbied colleagues in the final hours of the 2014 General Assembly session to kill a measure that would have been disastrous for his son’s nursing home business. This was after he made a big show of excusing himself from votes and remaining silent during public discussions.

Recuse in public, Strong-arm in private. That’s just the way the political world works, according to a growing number of cynical observers. The powerful take care of their friends, and nobody is looking out for the best interests of everybody. That is the attitude Bosma can’t afford to let grow.

The measure in question would have created a temporary moratorium on new nursing home construction. There is currently a glut, which is bad for a lot of reasons. For one thing, wealthier patients might flock to newer homes, and Medicaid patients would be stuck in worsening conditions at older homes. For another, the over-reliance on nursing homes causes the state to slight the better option of home care.

Turner’s son Zeke is involved in a company developing five new nursing homes. He argues that building new homes means creating thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in economic development.

Maybe you think the state shouldn’t even be involved in this – let people build whatever they will, and the marketplace will sort it out. But the state is involved, and that won’t change anytime soon, so legislators have to watch out for the interests of all, not the financial gain of a few.

Having part-time legislators is a blessing – just look at the overspending, bloat, bureaucracy and crushing debt in states with full-time legislatures. But conflicts are bound to develop for lawmakers who must also have jobs out in the real world. If Hoosiers don’t think those conflicts are being monitored and dealt with seriously, they have every right not to trust the General Assembly with their business.