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Monroe County Dems Want More Party Voice in Statehouse Talks

This week may have seen the first of a series of skirmishes illustrating the gulf between minority Democrats and the Republican majority in the Statehouse.

3 legislators

Photo: Bill Shaw/WFIU-WTIU News

(from left) Peggy Welch, Vi Simpson and Matt Pierce address a group at Indiana University's DeVault Alumni Center.

Members of Monroe County’s Democratic Statehouse contingent say this week may have seen the first of a series of skirmishes which illustrate the gulf between themselves and the Republican majority in both houses.

The House spent two hours Thursday debating amendments to a bill which would change the way the state’s bankrupt unemployment insurance trust fund is administered.  One by one, Democrats proposed changes to the bill and each, in turn, was voted down by the chamber’s Republican caucus – if it got a hearing at all.

An amendment by State Representative Matt Pierce (D.-Bloomington) was judged not to be germane to the legislation and was thrown out.   State Rep. Peggy Welch (D.-Bloomington) acknowledged hers – giving greater credit to those companies who don’t lay off workers — needed re-writing, but bill author Dan Leonard argued against it on the grounds that it appeared to raise federal taxes on employers, even as it lowered their state taxes. Speaking at a legislative breakfast Friday, Pierce said some controversial topics — like unemployment insurance reform — appear to be “fast-tracked” to the governor’s desk, rather than open for change.

“Our goal is to try to make the point that you can have better policies; you can improve these bills a lot.  And it really shouldn’t just be a freight train of the majority party ramming their bills through,” Pierce said.

Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson (D.-Ellettsville) – who’d previously said she worried about some “silly” pieces of legislation under consideration — said Pierce’s concern is an important litmus test for how the rest of the session will go.

“I guess I was being generous when I called them silly – I don’t think they’re silly, I think some of them are downright dangerous,” she said. “One of the real issues of this legislative session is whether the new Speaker [Brian] Bosma (R.-Indianapolis) in the House and the President Pro Tem [David] Long (R.-Fort Wayne) in the Senate can keep some of the radical social agenda items off of the table so that we can not be distracted and stay focused on the issues that really count.”

Welch said she’s been saddened in recent days by activity in the House, but added she’ll reserve final judgment on bipartisanship for after a budget is passed.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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