Political Notebook

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House lawmakers enjoy old-style vote

As the last evening of the legislative session was wearing on Friday night, lawmakers got a peek into life as a legislator before computers and other technological advancements.

The electronic voting board in the Indiana House froze while hearing a bill on alternative fuels.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, suggested the group recess for five minutes or so while the techs got the system up and running.

House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath suggested while the lawmakers were waiting it might be fun to go ahead and vote the old-fashioned way – calling out all 100 names individually and marking a sheet with a pencil.

The lawmakers seemed to enjoy trying to yell out their vote – aye or nay – in a fun way, including singing.

Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, brought the house down when he proclaimed “the distinguished gentleman from the great city of Bloomington votes aye.”

During the long roll call, Bosma also took time to point out that the $750,000 in renovations the House included in the budget would partly go to upgrade the old system.

For posterity’s sake, he also voted for the bill, which passed 99-1, even though the speaker generally does not cast votes.

“For the love of all that’s holy please tell me the machine is working,” Bosma said under his breath after the giddy members finished the vote, which took a full five minutes.

He was there

U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor mentioned a 2012 national election “that didn’t go our way” during his speech Monday at the Allen County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

Cantor was referring to the GOP’s loss in the presidential race and the party’s failure to win a majority of U.S. Senate seats.

Cantor did not mention Richard Mourdock by name, and neither did anybody else – even though Mourdock is the state treasurer and was attending the dinner a year after he was a featured speaker at the event.

The Journal Gazette noted Mourdock’s attendance in its coverage of Cantor’s speech.

Mourdock defeated 36-year incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar – the other featured speaker at last year’s dinner – in Indiana’s Republican primary election last May but lost to Democrat Joe Donnelly in the general election. Mourdock’s defeat was blamed in large part on his comment at a candidates debate that pregnancy resulting from rape “is something that God intended to happen.”

County GOP Chairman Steve Shine accepted all blame for failing to introduce Mourdock to the crowd at Ceruti’s Summit Park when Shine was identifying political figures in attendance.

“I am embarrassed by it,” Shine said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “I not only knew he was there, I talked to him at length.”

Shine said things were hectic for him because he had arrived late at the event after attending an off-site campaign fundraiser for Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, that featured Cantor. Shine was trying to fix a sound-production problem when he and Mourdock greeted each other, but the party chairman said he forgot to write Mourdock’s name on the list of people he would introduce after the meal.

Shine said he had an “uh-oh” moment when he realized the omission while driving home after the dinner.

“And I apologize,” he said, adding that Mourdock “did well in Allen County” in the November election and “continues to be a friend of Allen County.”

Common wages

Technically, Fort Wayne City Council members have Tuesday off. But for the past several years, the council has used the fifth Tuesdays that occur four times a year for in-depth discussions of various topics.

Tuesday, the discussion will be on the state law that often vexes conservatives: IC 5-16-7, which guides the manner in which a common construction wage is determined by a local board, how the board is composed and how the wage determination can most accurately reflect the true common construction wage of the community.

Guests will include representatives from the city, Allen County government, construction trade unions and Associated Builders and Contractors.

The law drives some people crazy because it often results in government agencies having to pay union wages on construction contracts, which they say unnecessarily costs taxpayers millions of dollars.

Others say that regardless of how you feel about unions and union wages, the law usually makes it impossible to pay less. Union supporters say that union wages are living wages and contribute to a stronger economy.

The discussion, lead by Russ Jehl, R-2nd, Geoff Paddock, D-5th, and Mitch Harper, R-4th, begins at 5:30 pm Tuesday in Council Chambers, downstairs in Citizens Square.

Expungement fan

Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, might be the only lawmaker who can take advantage of an expansive bill passed Monday that expunges criminal records.

That’s why he had a specific question when the legislation came up for the final vote.

Does the bill apply to his 2003 misdemeanor convictions for “helping a colleague”? The answer was yes.

Back then, Brown intervened in a 2002 traffic stop of Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, and both men eventually were arrested.

Smith was found not guilty of his charges, but Brown was found guilty of obstructing traffic and disregarding a police officer.

He received a suspended sentence, a fine and community service.

“I have a conviction for being a good Samaritan,” Brown said Monday on the House floor, noting this law could help him get his life back together after helping a colleague.

Many of the lawmakers on the floor weren’t around when the incident occurred, but most seemed familiar with the story and laughed accordingly.

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.