Political Notebook

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    In the end, it was the lure of playing the hallowed grounds of Augusta National Golf Club that brought then-Gov. Mitch Daniels and a tight-knit group of friends and supporters together in the fall of 2009 to discuss whether he should run for
  • 2 Hoosiers named to U.S. House Energy Committee
    Reps. Susan Brooks, R-5th, and Larry Bucshon, R-8th, have been named to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee for the 114th Congress.
  • Indiana House sets leaders for session
    The Indiana House has tapped leadership and committee chairs for the 2015 General Assembly.

Long pushes federal-overreach limits

Fort Wayne Senate President Pro Tem David Long is moving forward with a package of legislation to exert states’ constitutional rights and place a check on federal government overreach.

Several measures passed the Senate Committee on Rules and Legislative last week and will be acted on by the full Senate this week.

Long’s legislative initiative includes Senate Joint Resolution 18, exercising Indiana’s ability under Article V of the U.S. Constitution to call for a “convention for proposing amendments” to the Constitution.

SJR 18 calls for an Article V amendment convention specifically confined to the topics of limiting Congress’ power to tax and regulate commerce.

Though the U.S. Constitution allows for the maneuver, it has never happened. And two-thirds of all state legislatures would have to sign on to make it happen.

“The framers of the U.S. Constitution provided a tool for states to use in the event the federal government failed to stay within the scope of its enumerated powers,” Long said. “That tool is an amendment convention called for and led by the states.

“I believe we are at a time in the life of our nation that requires states to exercise this constitutional tool. The rampant growth of the federal government is encroaching not only on states’ rights, but on the rights and freedoms of individual citizens across the country.”

The state Senate committee also passed two companion bills authored by Long – Senate Bill 224 and Senate Bill 225 – that outline the process for selecting Indiana’s delegates to an Article V amendments convention and to limit the duties and authority such delegates would have.

The move comes after Long has been the subject of pressure from state and national conservatives for blocking several bills from his caucus challenging the federal government. One unilaterally would have deemed the federal health care act unconstitutional, a move Long said was questionable since the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled on the matter.

Pence’s private visit

The news release was headlined, “Governor Pence to spend time in Fort Wayne today.” It didn’t mention that all of that time would be behind closed doors.

Gov. Mike Pence met Thursday with Mayor Tom Henry at Citizens Square, but the meeting was not open to the press and a request for an interview was denied. The governor was also scheduled to attend the quarterly meeting of the Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana – a jobs-focused governor meeting with regional job creators – at Ivy Tech Community College.

Media were initially invited to attend but early Thursday the event was updated as closed to the press.

Pence did have one public event in northeast Indiana Thursday: speaking at a Decatur Rotary gathering, where he apparently spoke with some television reporters.

Henry said he appreciated his first face-to-face meeting with the governor, noting Pence has also called him twice. It was an informal, cordial conversation, the mayor said, focusing on families and getting to know each other.

The only specific topic discussed was the infrastructure challenges cities face and how it’s going to be hard for the legislature to find a way to pay for them, Henry said.

“He said if I ever need help, his office is just a phone call away and he hoped that I felt the same way. I thanked him for reaching out,” Henry said.

“I’d never had a chance to sit down face-to-face with his predecessor, so the fact that this governor – who’s only been in office two months – has called me twice already and now sat down with me, was really impressive. He told me he plans to visit (the other 91 counties) and sit down with the officials there, and I really admired that.”

A true conservative

Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, has scored a 100 percent rating with the American Conservative Union for his voting record last year.

Stutzman was among 41 federal lawmakers – seven in the Senate and 34 in the House – to receive a perfect rating from the ACU, which calls itself the nation’s oldest and largest conservative organization.

Stutzman also scored 100 percent in 2011, his first full year in Congress.

Former Rep. Dan Burton, R-5th, scored 100 percent for 2012. Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who last year represented Indiana’s 6th District in the House, scored 100 percent but missed votes on four of the 25 bills that lawmakers were graded on and thus did not qualify for the ACU’s Defender of Liberty award, given for a perfect score with no more than two missed votes.

The ACU reviewed lawmakers’ votes on legislation in areas such as tax cuts, domestic energy production, environmental regulations, government subsidies and religious freedom.

Pence finished his 12-year House career with a 99 percent conservative rating. Burton compiled a 97 percent score over 30 years.

Former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., scored 64 percent last year and nearly 77 percent for his 36-year career.

Lugar’s successor in the Senate, former Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, scored 58 percent last year and 34.5 percent for his six years in the House.

Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., scored 80 percent last year and has a career score of 89.5 percent spread over his 12 years in the Senate and eight years in the House.

Another conservative group, Americans for Prosperity, issued scores and letter grades for members of the 112th Congress, covering selected votes taken in 2011 and 2012. Stutzman and Pence scored 96 and Burton scored 95 for A’s, Coats scored 86 for a B, Lugar scored 69 for a C, and Donnelly scored 13 for a D.

Pricey inauguration

Gov. Mike Pence’s related nonprofit raised $1 million for inaugural weekend activities and transition expenses.

Indiana Works received the money from hundreds of donors, though a large amount flowed from law firms that have existing state contracts.

First lady Karen Pence recently gave a $100,000 contribution to the Indiana National Guard Relief Fund that came from a portion of the proceeds raised by the organization.

“Hoosiers from all corners of the state participated in the inaugural weekend activities and we appreciate the financial support of all those who contributed to our efforts,” said Bob Grand, president of Indiana Works.

Indiana Works will use remaining funds to close out activities related to the inaugural weekend and pay for ongoing transition expenses.

Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can also be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.