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November 10, 2012

Indiana House leader pledges no abuse of super majority power

GOP now dominates House and Senate

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma promised not to exploit the super power of the Republicans’ new super majority status in the Statehouse, saying he hopes Democrats will be “partners” in passing legislation to benefit Hoosiers.

At a press conference the day after Republicans won 69 of the 100 seats in the Indiana House of Representatives, Bosma told reporters that members of the minority party wouldn’t be shut out — even though he has to power to do so.

“I’ve told a few folks that having a super majority may actually require more bipartisan cooperation, rather than less, so that people feel included,” Bosma said. “We have colleagues on both sides of the aisle who are valuable resources.”

Bosma made the remarks surrounded by Republican House members — including 19 new legislators — whose quorum-proof numbers mean they could pass new laws without a single Democrat present.

Still, the Indianapolis Republican made clear that he intends to push through the GOP agenda that he said will be focused on boosting job creation and improving schools, but may also include legislation on some divisive social issues.

Bosma also said Republicans have no plans to roll back the sweeping education reforms passed by the GOP-controlled legislature and implemented by Tony Bennett, the Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction who lost his bid for re-election Tuesday to Democrat Glenda Ritz.

“I’ve said frequently we will reach out to the willing and include them,” Bosma said, before adding that he’s also ready to “work around the unwilling” — a veiled reference to the House Democrats who staged walk-outs during the last two sessions.

“I’m hoping there aren’t many of those folks that we have to work around but we’ve had to in the past,” Bosma said. “And if we have to, we will again.”

After the 2010 election, Republicans held 60 of the 100 seats, giving them a majority needed to pass laws without support from Democrats, but not enough to stop Democrats from shutting down legislative business by walking out.

The Republicans’ near-sweep of Tuesday’s House races now gives them power that mirrors the GOP’s long-held super majority in the state Senate.

That shift prompted new Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, an Anderson attorney, to offer some advice: “Be careful what you wish for,” Lanane said.

Senate Democrats picked Lanane to replace retiring state Sen. Vi Simpson of Ellettsville, who lost her bid for lieutenant governor when her running mate, Democrat John Gregg, was beaten by Republican Mike Pence in the governor’s race Tuesday. Pence’s win gave Republicans a trifecta, controlling both legislative chambers and the governor’s office.

 “This idea of a super majority is dangerous,” Lanane said. “It can be very dangerous.”

Lanane warned of the potential for a super majority party to “run roughshod over the system” by closing out discussion and debate, especially on divisive issues.

“There can be the temptation to say, ‘we don’t even need to listen to the other side,” Lanane said.

Bosma said he didn’t expect that to happen, and said he’d lead his caucus in the same fashion as he did when the Republicans were in the minority in the House during the 2008-09 session. He also cited the historic pendulum swings of power in the legislature between Democrats and Republicans.

“The message I have there is, ‘Don’t take much for granted, nothing is permanent, and do what’s right for the state,’ ” said Bosma. “And let the politics shake out for itself.”

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