News and Tribune

August 8, 2012

THEIR OPINION: Aug. 8, 2012

Associated Press

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Recent editorials from Indiana newspapers. Distributed by The Associated Press

Zoeller’s call part of checks and balances

One Indiana newspaper editorial board, echoing the words of a member of the Alliance for Immigration Reform in Indiana, praised Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s recent decision on the state’s immigration law as “thoughtful and quite frankly very courageous.”

Zoeller has a different view of his recommendation that a federal judge strike down parts of Indiana’s new immigration law. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision, Zoeller says his decision basically acknowledged that “some parts of the [Indiana] law are unconstitutional.”

As the attorney general explained during a recent interview, he takes an oath to support the Constitution. And part of maintaining the “credibility of the office,” is recognizing what can no longer be defended.

Zoeller’s decision may have come as a surprise to anyone who assumes that other considerations would come into play in an issue that’s as emotionally and politically charged as immigration reform. But Zoeller sees himself as part of a checks and balance system that “works pretty well.”

And he considers it a “valid exercise” to challenge the legislation he’s sworn to defend. “I respect people who want to challenge it ... It’s a good test. Did we do it right?”

He points out that he will continue to defend the part of the law that concerns foreign-issued ID cards, which wasn’t mentioned in the Supreme Court’s ruling.

We have long argued that immigration reform requires action at the federal level. Immigration is a national concern that cannot be addressed with a patchwork of state regulations.

But that doesn’t diminish the significance of Zoeller’s actions. His call on the Indiana law was right on the money.

— South Bend Tribune

Let’s hope ousting Bauer opens communication

Last week’s decision by Democrats to switch leaders in the Indiana House of Representatives could spice up voters’ choices in the November election.

Members of the House’s minority party caucus voted to replace longtime frontman Patrick Bauer with Rep. Linda Lawson of Hammond. Their meeting was attended by 23 of the 40 House Democrats. Those attending refused to reveal how each voted, but at least 21 votes were required to oust Bauer as leader.

With just 100 days left before the election, the shake-up pursued by disgruntled Democrats will be cast by rival Republicans as an act of desperation. Some Democrats questioned the move, too. “I worry about the message it sends to folks,” Rep. Clyde Kersey, a Terre Haute Democrat, told the Tribune-Star. Kersey praised Bauer’s performance in recruiting Democratic candidates for this fall’s election.

Others worried that without a change at the top, Democrats could lose more House seats in November, further marginalizing the party. They’re already outnumbered 60 to 40 in the House, after a Republican landslide in 2010. The prospect of Republicans amassing 67 seats is quite real and would give the GOP a “super majority,” allowing them to conduct business without any Democrats present. In other words, the underdogs’ last tool of opposition — a walkout, employed in divisive fashion during the past two Republican-dominated sessions of the General Assembly — would be gone.

The Democrats behind last week’s switch aptly sensed voters were not being won over, despite Bauer’s willingness to face off with the top Republicans, namely Gov. Mitch Daniels, over controversial reforms of education and labor laws. Those Democrats also expressed frustration that Bauer controlled the caucus flow of information and decision-making and conducted few meetings. Ironically, Bauer was not at Thursday’s meeting, but after the change was made, Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis forecast a new operating style — a “polar opposite.”

“The other model says we try to get the best out of every one of our members — we may have some disagreements, but we have our team approach,” DeLaney said. To Bauer’s credit, the veteran of 42 years in the Legislature praised his successor and promised support.

The prospect of House Democrats exercising more freedom to pitch ideas and rebuild some bridges with Republican colleagues sounds refreshing. If Democrat candidates offer creative plans in the coming election season, Hoosiers may vote a more balanced slate of state representatives into office. The presence of a super majority in both the Indiana House and Senate limits the chances of active bipartisanship.

If Indiana Democrats intend to provide resolute, unique solutions to problems such as low wages and high poverty rates, they’ll need to be more dynamic inside the Statehouse. Give and take between the majority Republicans and the minority Democrats is healthy for the legislative branch of government. Such fruitful discourse has been rare during the past two General Assembly sessions. The House Democrats appear convinced that installing Rep. Lawson as minority leader strengthens their future. Let’s hope it signals better communication among all legislators in 2013.

— Tribune-Star, Terre Haute