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Shake-up of study committees meant to streamline process

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The internal changes to the Indiana Legislature’s interim study committee structure are not readily visible, but majority and minority leaders are optimistic the alterations will make the process more efficient and control the workload.

Under key provisions of a bill approved during the 2014 session of the Indiana General Assembly, the number of topics has been reduced and the Legislative Council has more control over what issues are studied.

The bill also alters the composition of the committees. Legislators now appointed to the interim committees will be drawn from the standing committees that review similar topics during the session. Any lay members appointed now must be authorized by the Legislative Council.

bosma-brian-mug Bosma

“First of all, I think it’s going to streamline the process of appointing the committees,” Indiana Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said of the change in structure. “It has already streamlined the process of getting agreed upon topics before the committees.”

Working under Senate Enrolled Act 80, the Legislative Council met May 14 and unanimously approved the resolution that assigned about 37 topics to 15 interim study committees.

The Personnel Subcommittee of the Legislative Council sifted through about 90 topics submitted by legislators for further review by the interim committees. Bosma emphasized the selection process was bipartisan and that every member of the subcommittee had topic proposals rejected.

Interim study committees exist to examine matters that come before the General Assembly but are too complex to handle in a single legislative session. The committees can study the issues and make reports as well as recommendations which the Legislature can then use.

However, some legislators felt the number of interim committees and topics had become too unwieldy. As Bosma explained, upwards of 70 topics were being assigned and the committees did not have enough time to adequately study them.

The purpose of the bill “was really to organize the topics in a reasonable fashion,” Bosma said. “It seemed like the fall-back position for every unsuccessful initiative was to require a study by the interim study committee and that’s what we said last year we were going to get away from.”

Steele Steele

Speaking after the May 14 meeting, key members of the Legislative Council were supportive of the changes.

“Well, I’m a very positive person and I don’t see alligators in mud puddles,” said Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford. “So I will not express any concern as of yet. If it turns out that there’s something wrong there, then I’ll be the first to be yelling about it.”

Committee members

The new bill enables the Senate president and the House speaker to each appoint four members from the Legislature to every committee while the minority leaders in both chambers can each name three members.

In addition, only the Legislative Council can authorize the addition of individuals who are not state representatives or senators. Lay members will be a part of four committees including the Interim Study Committee on Corrections & Criminal Code and the Interim Study Committee on Courts & Judiciary.

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane acknowledged the number of lay people involved in the interim study process will probably be reduced. Not every committee previously had non-legislative members but some had as many as 15 which, the Anderson Democrat said, was too much.

“So we did reduce the numbers, but we did, I think, want to preserve that support and have lay members involved in certain committees,” Lanane said.

The Indiana Judges Association had asked the Legislative Council to retain the two judicial members who had been on the former Commission on Courts and put them on the courts and judiciary interim committee.

“We asked for the chief justice and a trial court judge to be members of the committee,” said IJA President John Pera of Lake Superior Court. “We think it is important if you’re going to look at and make recommendations about the judiciary, then judges should be allowed to provide input.”

Bosma noted lay persons will not be shut out of the process. If they are not members of an interim committee, they can still testify and let the policymakers hear their voice.

Preapproval

The interim study committee structure bill, authored by Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and sponsored in the House of Representatives by Bosma, established 17 committees under broad categories like agriculture and natural resources, environmental affairs, government and public health, behavioral health, and human services.

Lanane does not anticipate problems under the new committee structure.

“I think the Senate bill made some positive changes just in terms of how administratively do we establish the committees and we process the committees,” he said. “But I don’t think it disrupts what I think is the very important work of the interim study committees.”

Many of the topics assigned for the upcoming interim session arose from legislation that was considered during the 2014 Legislature. Among the committees and their topics are:

• Interim Study Committee on Corrections & Criminal Code: autism spectrum disorders of defendants, juvenile justice issues and changes to the criminal code;

• Interim Study Committee on Courts & Judiciary: digital privacy, nonparty defense, adoption and requests for new courts or changes in the jurisdiction of existing courts;

lanane Lanane

• Interim Study Committee on Education: pre-kindergarten and student discipline including the suspension, expulsion or exclusion of a student from school.

The chairs of the study committee will not be able to introduce additional topics without the approval of the Legislative Council’s Personnel Subcommittee. Bosma reiterated this provision is meant to control the number of topics. Without the preapproval process, he said, the concern is the issues not assigned would be submitted directly to the chairs of the committees to pick up.

During the 2013 interim session, Steele’s Commission on Courts had been assigned the sole topic of reviewing the need for a new magistrate in Vanderburgh Circuit Court, but he filled the agenda with additional topics regarding bail bonds and the use of psychiatrists.

Although he will now have to get thumbs up before assigning new topics, Steele does not believe he will have a problem getting preapproval of any topic he wants to study.

If changes need to be made to the new interim committee structure, Bosma is confident the legislative leaders will make adjustments on a bipartisan basis.

“This is a new process for all of us,” Bosma said, “so we’ll let it shake out a little bit, put a few miles on it and see if the tires need to be rotated.”•

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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