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Same-sex ban forces await Pence signal

Bennett

Leading Indiana Republicans’ hesitancy to proclaim support for winning legislative approval of a gay marriage amendment to the state constitution may well indicate they are waiting for a signal of support from Gov.-elect Mike Pence.

After all, they most likely want to win favor with the new governor, and pushing an agenda ahead of their governor of the same party can be bad form.

But they also could be pursuing a strategy of lower expectation, forewarning social conservatives that an amendment restricting marriage to a union of one man and one woman isn’t a priority, at least for 2013.

House Speaker Brian Bosma previously said the amendment could be an early order of business that wins quick passage. But Bosma’s more recent Republican agenda for the upcoming General Assembly made no mention of the amendment. State Rep. Eric Turner, a leading House conservative who pushed the measure last year, is noncommittal about offering the resolution in the next session. Some reports indicate Pence may keep a hands-off approach to the amendment.

But the lack of enthusiasm by important Republicans may reflect yet another divide between GOP social conservatives and those who emphasize fiscal conservatism. Pence, undoubtedly, knows that two hugely important Indiana employers – Eli Lilly and Cummins Engine – oppose the amendment because of problems it will create in recruiting a qualified workforce. A state that wants to attract members of the creative class doesn’t want a “gays not wanted” sign at the state border.

If the General Assembly approves the amendment in 2013 or 2014, it will go to voters as a referendum in 2014.

Bennett’s future

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett surprised virtually no one Monday when he announced he had applied for Florida’s top education post. Bennett apparently just met Friday’s deadline, and although he is competing in a pool of about 50 applicants, he is the only one who held similar authority in another state.

Some Florida education officials had expressed hope he would apply for the job after his loss to Democrat Glenda Ritz on Nov. 6. Many of the major education changes Bennett pushed in Indiana were modeled on Florida’s, and Bennett and ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have something of a mutual admiration society.

“Bennett is part of Chiefs for Change, a group of state education leaders whose work is promoted by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s education foundations,” the Orlando Sentinel reported Monday. “Bennett spoke at Bush’s annual education summit last week in Washington, D.C.”

Florida’s state board of education appoints the education commissioner, and finalists are scheduled to be interviewed Dec. 11 with a decision expected later that day or the next.

Gov. Mitch Daniels spoke to the same conference in Washington last week and blamed Bennett’s loss on teachers’ “illegal” use of school emails to encourage others to vote against the incumbent.

Tracy Warner, editorial page editor, has worked at The Journal Gazette since 1981. He can be reached at 461-8113 or by email, twarner@jg.net.

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