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Democrats give GOP mixed grades

Niki Kelly and Brian Francisco

House Republicans received mid-term grades Thursday from their House Democratic brethren.

Democratic Leader Scott Pelath said it was time to critique the majority’s performance during the first half of the legislative session.

He first gave them an incomplete for focusing on the middle class, noting the caucus avoided or voted against tax cuts that could have helped the middle class. But he acknowledged the body defeated a few provisions that would have further hurt Hoosiers.

“You haven’t done that great, but you’re trying,” Pelath said.

Next, he gave Republicans a D- for reinforcing traditional public schools.

Pelath said the legislature continues to fund three school systems – traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools (through a voucher system) – that fractures progress.

Finally, he gave the group a B+ for avoiding divisive social issues.

The chamber did not take up the gay marriage constitutional amendment and heard no abortion bills. But there is a bill, which would regulate medical abortions with drugs, coming from the Senate that threatens the silence on the issue.

“When you bring up divisive social issues, it creates bad feelings here in the chamber and makes it harder to work together,” Pelath said. “If we start talking about transvaginal ultrasounds, this one turns to an F.”

GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma said he thought Pelath was respectful, even humorous.

And he said that while Democrats don’t want public schools to receive letter grades, the policy is apparently different for their colleagues.

Bosma also said the medical abortion bill will get a hearing in the House.

Details, details

Fort Wayne City Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, has always been the body’s numbers man. Government high finance that leaves others bleary-eyed doesn’t faze him.

So when he says something is complicated, you should get nervous. But when he describes something like he did Tuesday night, you know it’s going to a doozy.

For months, the city’s Fiscal Policy Group has been grappling with ways to deal with both a looming cash crunch caused by property tax caps, and a growing $60 million shortfall for road projects because of drops in gas tax revenue. But the group is just about to start making its recommendations. Here’s how Crawford described the process:

“Starting next week, Controller (Pat) Roller’s going to start doing sort of a primer for everyone who hasn’t been in on those meetings (to explain to them) and the public and the citizens, all the constituencies, all the other jurisdictions, that everything we do will effect, in a very complicated, four-variable, subvariable, three-dimensional-algorithm way,” he said. “So we’ve got a lot of work to do in the next four months.”

Leading Democrats

The Indiana Democratic Party is getting new leadership.

John Zody of Monroe County will take over as chairman after an official vote next Saturday. He is the only one who filed for the position.

Longtime Democratic chief Dan Parker is stepping down.

The only vice chair candidate is Cordelia Lewis Burks of Marion County.

Two people applied to be treasurer: Sherrianne Standley of Vanderburgh County and Alison Zuidervliet of Fort Wayne.

Zuidervliet, 27, works at North Side High School teaching the Jobs for America’s Graduates program. She is originally from Portage but spent some time in DeKalb County, where she was chairwoman of the county party there.

She moved to Fort Wayne last summer and has been a delegate at both state and national conventions.

“I wanted to become a member of the state central committee because I want to make sure young Democrats are getting their voice heard,” Zuidervliet said. “I chose treasurer because I have experience in DeKalb doing financial reports and fundraising, and I also teach business math.”

Interestingly, she won’t be able to attend the vote. Someone will speak on her behalf instead. She is assistant track coach at North Side and one of her students qualified for a state indoor meet the same day.

“I made this commitment to her, and I’m going to honor that,” Zuidervliet said.

Three people are in the running for secretary: Vera Mileusnic of Lake County, Kathi Shronce of Montgomery County and Daqavise Winston of Delaware County.

Sticking to his guns

Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise announced that Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, will head the newly created Second Amendment Initiative for the 113th Congress’ Republican Study Committee.

“President Obama’s radical anti-gun agenda is a threat to our constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” Scalise said. “We will not allow President Obama and liberals in Congress to take away our right to bear arms, and I am glad that Marlin Stutzman agreed to spearhead the RSC’s 2nd Amendment Initiative where we will fight each and every day to protect our constitutional right to self-defense.”

Stutzman said he is honored by the selection.

“The president’s out-of-touch agenda is based on misinformation and will infringe on the freedoms of everyday Americans,” Stutzman said. “The RSC has held the line on conservative, common-sense principles for years and I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with my colleagues in this cause.”

Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook by e-mail, 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.

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