State legislatures met with the public in Corydon PDF Print E-mail

State Senator Richard D. Young and State Representatives Rhonda Rhodes and Steve Davidson met with the public at the Harrison County Justice Center in Corydon on the morning of February 4, 2012. The members of the Indiana General Assembly were in town for the annual Harrison County Legislative Update, an event co-sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and Farm Bureau of Harrison County, to answer questions from the audience and update them on current state legislation as the conversation directed. Peter J. Schickel, Legislative Coordinator, presided over the meeting.
It was standing room only in the upstairs Superior Court Room as a large and lively crowd amassed to listen and talk with the legislators, forcing a few people to stand around the doorway as the meeting proceeded.
Education legislation was one of the main, and most heated, topics that was brought up during the discussion. The reasoning for meal vouchers being funded by the school systems instead of the government, the fairness of matching sports teams from small schools with neighboring larger schools, and the logic of why citizens without children still have to help fund public education via taxes were among the many subjects concerned citizens brought up.
Charter schooling was also among the topics when accusations were made that the state government partially funded some private schools while major funding was needed elsewhere in the public school systems of Indiana. All three denied that claim and stated that assisting public schools is of the utmost importance to the General Assembly. “We’re obligated to provide a good public education,” said Senator Young. “My job is to fund public education, not private schools.”
Representative Davidson came under fire for his voting in favor of the Right To Work labor union bill, which was recently passed in both the State House and the Senate. Davidson was asked if his father, who lost his ring finger to an industrial accident in 1956, was still living and if he would approve of his son’s affirming vote on the bill. The answer to both was a firm yes.
Companies can no longer negotiate a contract with unions that would require non-union members to pay a fee for representation under the newly passed legislation. Supporters of the bill claim that more businesses would be willing to plant roots in Indiana without the small contractual negotiation to worry about.
One local union member blasted Davidson and Rhodes, both Republicans, calling them hypocrites for being in favor of the Right To Work bill and similar legislation that could threaten the livelihood of current union workers. “You claim pro-life...it’s hypocritical to make working in Indiana more dangerous.” He also claimed there would be a mass exodus of union laborers in light of the bill’s acceptance. Davidson replied that he has been talking with various union members about the bill and “doesn’t think there will be a mass exodus.”
The discussion on working laws turned toward the economic state of Harrison County and how the state plans to bring businesses and jobs back to the district. Senator Young responded that there were different projects in the works on the state level, briefly mentioning a $28 billion waste water project that he hoped would bring many jobs to the area. “Some of them aren’t being funded as well as I would like,” he admitted in frustration.
Rhodes threw in her two cents, stating that it was “important to have training in entrepreneurship” at the local level. She explained that if Harrison county residents who had business ideas could learn how to cultivate and grow a small business locally, they wouldn’t feel so compelled to relocate to larger cities like Indianapolis or Louisville.
They also took their turns venting about the trials of state politics after one citizen criticized the entire panel for their political spending and lack of concrete funding for many of the issues at hand. “Would a million dollars help?”, he sarcastically asked before claiming that all three legislators combined had spent a total of $900,000 on their latest campaigns for office. He specified that $600,000 of that figure went into Rhodes’ campaign alone.
Rhodes responded by talking about the difficulty of passing legislation in a bipartisan environment. “There are two philosophies in legislature...only 12 members are non-bipartisan,” she said, “you try to represent people as best you can.” She also said that much of that $600,000 came from a PAC fund.
“We do have things we agree on,” Davidson chimed in, attempting to brighten the growingly sullen mood of the proceedings. “We try to work together.” He also recommended that citizens unhappy with current members of their state government should take the time to investigate and talk with all candidates who will be running for office in upcoming elections. “That will let you decide how you want to vote,” he said.
After the hour and a half meeting went half an hour over the allotted time limit,  Schickel finally stopped taking questions and concluded the 2012 Harrison County Legislative Update. For more information on the Indiana General Assembly and current state legislation, visit their website at http://www.in.gov/legislative/.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 09:14