Stafford: New laws, plus what Indiana lawmakers didn’t do this year

editor-perspective-stafford.jpgIndiana Lawyer this edition presents our annual look back at what the General Assembly did this year. As is our custom, we’ve published in print and online at a list of every bill enacted by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, along with each bill’s corresponding public law number. Most of these new laws take effect July 1.

What I like to call “Newlaw-palooza” begins on Page 11. Grab that page, pull upward and you will have all the new laws in a handy pull-out section, wrapped by senior reporter Marilyn Odendahl’s wrap-up of the 2019 session. The annual new laws list is one of the most popular things we do here at Indiana Lawyer, so I hope this format makes it more user-friendly.

The Legislature did a lot this year, and as tends to happen, they likely did things we won’t figure out for weeks, maybe months. Supermajorities of any stripe tend to be less than super for good government, and Indiana in 2019 proved it: this immovable bloc of lawmakers didn’t do plenty this year. Here are my top three elephants in the room that our esteemed lege wouldn’t even talk about:

1. Attorney General Curtis Hill. Inexcusably, the Legislature wasn’t up to looking into our embarrassment of an AG, even though its very leaders in both chambers and both parties, and even the governor himself, had urged Hill to resign. But they lacked the integrity (courage?) when push came to shove. And the Legislature’s half-hearted half-measures toward protecting Statehouse workers from future lechery, harassment and bullying are weak.

Now, the victims of Hill’s sexual misconduct will have their day in court, and it is no longer just about what Hill did. The victims’ assertions about what lawmakers did do amid the scandal make them look cowardly, out of touch and, in some cases, pathetic. Some of these elder statesmen and women, of course, blamed the victims for dressing immodestly. Some spurned them on the job. Others just yucked it up among themselves in that good-old-boy (and -girl) Hoosier lawmaker way. Allegedly.

Point is, these lawmakers’ names and deeds are now entangled in Hill’s web, just as his victims gained solid legal footing to dig into this failure of leadership, this entire sordid episode, like a late-summer potato field. This was entirely predictable and avoidable, given leadership. And once again, taxpayers will be on the hook for God knows how much due to this latest official boondoggle.

2. Gambling shenanigans. Gov. Holcomb took some free private plane flights courtesy of high-roller donor and Spectacle Entertainment CEO and chairman Rod Ratcliff, whose company later just happened to become a beneficiary of the greatest rewrite of Indiana gambling laws since the state took up the habit back in the 1980s. Whatever happened between Holcomb and his casino magnate pal on those plane flights stayed on those plane flights. And, of course, the Legislature let it ride. Perhaps that’s because House Speaker Brian Bosma also played Hoosier Hold’em with gaming interests, raking in some chips for himself. Allegedly.

But ethical issues or conflicts of interest concerning these things are inconceivable, and how dare you. Move along; nothing to see here.

3. Marijuana. General Assembly leaders continued to assertively stick their heads in the sand regarding marijuana legalization. Numerous bills were filed by lawmakers in both parties. None were even called for discussion by committee chairs who wield power as if this state was called Indianastan. Their intransigence is unconscionable and actively harmful. Worse, many of them know this. What are they afraid of?

Three-fifths of states have legalized marijuana for either medical or recreational use. Three-quarters of Indiana’s neighboring states have. The 2018 Hoosier Survey poll found more than 80 percent of people favor legalization in some form. But your Indiana General Assembly leadership won’t even discuss it.

Sometimes, saying nothing and doing nothing speaks volumes.•

Dave Stafford[email protected] — is editor of Indiana Lawyer. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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