With a signature from Governor Pence, Indy‘s City-County Council will shrink by four members in the 2015 election, in a move Democrats blast as a “power grab.”
On a 33-16 vote, the Senate sent Pence a bill eliminating the council‘s four at-large seats, and strengthening the power of Indy‘s mayor over appointments and budgets.
Democrats‘ current one-seat majority on the council is made possible by their control of the four at-large seats. Without them, Republicans will be defending a 14-11 council edge in the 2015 election, which will be the first under new district maps. Democrats are challenging the Republican-drawn map in court.
Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) contends that map would lock in a Republican majority they cannot win any other way.
“That’s the only way they can win the council,” he says. “If this is how they want to play, that’s how they’ll play. But everything comes around. We’ll keep trending. One day we’ll have the council back. We’ll have the mayor’s office back, and maybe they’ll come to the General Assembly and change it again.”
Senator Mike Young (R-Indianapolis), the bill‘s author, argues Indy‘s 29-member council gives it one councilor for every 35,000, which is four times the average for big cities.
“When you get from a councilor from one party and an at-large from another, it’s a fight,” he says. “Neighborhood associations, the one that testified, did not like that. They wanted them working together.”
A House committee had deleted the change in the council. Democrats still opposed the bill, challenging a provision allowing the city controller to police the spending of county officeholders, all of whom are Democrats.
A House-Senate conference committee restored the council provision.