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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. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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