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Monday, June 21, 2021

More tales from the ‘world’s worst Legislature’ — Indiana’s

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The late journalist Harrison Ullman, who called Indiana’s Legislature “the world’s worst” would be appalled at this year’s legislative shenanigans.

The madcap rush to reduce Hoosiers’ incomes, especially African-Americans, through the race to the bottom, ramming right-to-work down our throats, is bad enough.

But last week’s new assault on working people was bizarre. House Bill (HB)1006 would remove licensing requirements for barbers, hair stylists, dieticians and security guards. Proposed by recommendations of a group of Republican academics and elites, these professions would have their licensing requirements removed in the name of deregulation.

I guess the Republican majority in the Legislature and Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration wants those deciding diets in our schools and hospitals to be unregulated.

They want any yahoo with a gun to buy a 10-cent badge and call themselves a security guard.

And, worse, they want to remove any requirements for sanitation, health and safety by those who care for Hoosiers’ hair.

Outraged barbers, stylists and others from across Indiana packed the Statehouse Friday, unanimously opposed to HB1006. Union protestors cheered them as another example of the Daniels/Republican assault on ordinary working folks.

Meanwhile last week, the bill to let Marion and Hamilton county residents vote whether to create an improved public transportation plan is in serious trouble as House Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Espich virtually said the plan’s on life support.

One problem is Espich, who’s sponsoring the bill as committee chair, can’t find anyone else in his Republican Party willing to publicly support the proposal.

Democrats have also been skittish about supporting it. Last week Democratic Rep. Peggy Welch of Bloomington agreed to co-sponsor the legislation, even though it wouldn’t affect her Bloomington/Monroe County constituents.

Many Democrats, including those on the Ways and Means Committee, are concerned about one sentence on page 52 of the bill. The sentence would seemingly enact “right-to-work” anti-union straightjackets on existing union workers of IndyGo. For Democratic legislators from Marion County, and I hear for Democratic City-County Councilors, that one sentence is a poison pill in a proposal they seem to support.

The bizarre lobbying tactics of those pushing the public transportation plan isn’t helping, either.

See, folks in Indianapolis forget the majority of Indiana isn’t composed of big cities; but rather small cities, towns and rural hamlets.

Hamilton and Marion counties comprise just 18.6 percent of the state’s population. The population of Indiana’s 20 largest cities only makes up 35.2 percent of Indiana’s total 6.5 million population.

So, what did the mass transit adherents try? A petition and e-mail campaign to get people to call and e-mail members of the House Ways and Means Committee demanding support for the mass transit proposal.

The committee has 25 members, 16 Republicans and nine Democrats. But of the 25 members, only seven (five Republicans and two Democrats) represent districts which include parts of the Indianapolis metropolitan area. And only three, Republican Eric Turner and Democrats Bill Crawford and Cherrish Pryor represent Marion or Hamilton counties.

Most Ways and Means members, especially the Republican ones, represent Indiana rural areas and small towns where mass transit doesn’t exist. Other committee members represent areas of Indiana with better mass transit than Indianapolis.

Hamilton and Marion counties are represented by 21 state representatives and 11 state senators of which 22 are Republicans and 10 are Democrats. Republicans have the legislative majority. So why hasn’t Mayor Greg Ballard exercised leadership to get his party’s lawmakers from his city on board the public transportation bandwagon?

Why has the mayor still refused to meet with the senior state lawmaker representing Indianapolis, Bill Crawford?

If the public transportation plan goes down, Mayor Ballard’s inept leadership will be one reason.

What I’m hearing

in the streets

It’s not well known, but for decades the Indiana State Board of Education, by state statute, has had to approve the redistricting of boundaries for Indianapolis School Board members. But after the state board’s decision to take over four IPS schools last July, questions must be raised about the state board’s oversight of this year’s IPS board redistricting.

At their Jan. 4 meeting, the state board OKd a plan to “convene a committee of community partners to work with DOE staff to prepare a (redistricting) proposal.”

The state board also said they would adopt measures to allow the public to submit their own IPS board redistricting plans.

The state board was told IPS is “preparing” a redistricting plan for the state’s OK. Unfortunately, the IPS board hasn’t publicly revealed their process for redistricting and for involving the public and community.

I’m also suspicious of the state board’s motives in redistricting IPS’ board. Will the “committee of community partners” they plan for IPS’ redistricting to include a majority who “live” in the IPS district. Will the committee reflect the racial makeup of IPS, which is 41.3 percent Black, 10.9 percent Hispanic, 46.1 percent non-Hispanic white?

The potential for mischief by the State Education Board in IPS redistricting is high and our Black community should be vigilant.

* * * * *

The mayor’s office never told media that the mayor attended the Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors last Jan. 17-20 in Washington.

At the meeting, the mayor hosted a continental breakfast for mayors of cities with big sports teams, co-chaired a panel on water, sewer policies and dealing with the EPA and he was part of a panel on education reform.

What I’m dying to know is did the mayor attend any of the conference seminars on job creation? One session, headed by Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray, dealt with finding jobs for “hard-to-serve populations” and at risk youth.

Given the mayor’s infamous debate remark on “difficult populations” last year, I would think the mayor would’ve been front and center at that session.

See ‘ya next week.

You can email comments to Amos Brown at acbrown@aol.com.

 

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