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Conservatively speaking – a flood of bills

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Over the years, I’ve heard conservative commentators and politicians praise lack of action in Congress and state legislatures. The fewer bills they pass, goes the reasoning, the less the government does to regulate the actions of its citizens.

Two of northeast Indiana’s most conservative lawmakers, however, apparently don’t buy into that theory. Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, has filed more legislation than any other state lawmaker this year – 58 bills, plus three resolutions. In second place is Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, who is beginning just his third year in the Indiana General Assembly and has authored 33 bills and six resolutions.

(Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, has technically “authored” 42 bills, but 29 of those are blank “vehicle” bills that lawmakers can insert language into later. Kruse’s and Banks’ bills are actual proposals.)

Both Kruse and Banks have identified with the tea party, and many of their proposals are conservative measures that have already stalled. Kruse, for instance, has authored a clearly unconstitutional school prayer bill. Banks wants students at public universities to be able to carry guns around campus.

Kruse – beginning his 10th year in the Senate after serving 15 years in the Indiana House – is chairman of the Senate Education Committee, and a number of his proposals are education bills. Banks, a comparative novice, will find no more than a few of his proposals, if that, become law. Both seem to be taking an approach of throwing everything on the wall and seeing what sticks – making it difficult for constituents and fellow lawmakers to decipher which proposals they truly want to emphasize and which are just ideas.

In the House, representatives have an annual filing limit of 10 bills each. Perhaps the Senate should consider a similar rule. If every senator filed the same number of bills as Kruse, senators would be considering 2,900 bills this year.

ERASER Head

State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, is another frequent filer, writing 29 bills. One getting attention is called ERASER for “eliminate, reduce and streamline employee regulation.” The goal is to reduce the number of professions the state licenses and regulates by establishing a committee to review each licensed and regulated profession.

Trouble is, the legislature already has assigned those duties to a committee. In late 2011, that committee recommended ending the licensing of security guards, hearing aid dealers, barbers and beauticians, among others. But after the beauticians revolted, the 2012 legislature refused to touch any of the regulations or licensing, leaving them intact.

This committee is systematically reviewing all the other regulated professions – but so far, its work has been in vain.

ERASER may sound clever, and it does change the dynamics by making the General Assembly vote to keep regulating a profession rather than vote to stop regulating it. But the legislature has been there and hasn’t done that.

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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