Political Notebook


Long backs assembly of states

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, is at the center of an effort to band together the states for future action on amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

He was one of six lawmakers from around the country to jointly send an invitation recently to all 50 state legislatures seeking participation Dec. 7 in what is being called the Mount Vernon Assembly at George Washington’s estate near Washington, D.C.

“In light of the federal government’s struggle to effectively execute the will of the people combined with the imbalance of power that currently exists between the federal and state governments, we respectfully request your state’s participation in a bipartisan gathering of state legislators to be known as the Mount Vernon Assembly,” the letter said.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss and draft an agenda for a “Convention of the States” for the sole purpose of writing the rules that would govern any Article V Conventions for proposing amendments, a constitutional convention.

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 purpose of the Dec. 7 gathering is not to promote any specific Article V subject matter, the letter said.

A constitutional convention has been bandied about in recent years, specifically in reference to limiting Congress’ power to tax and regulate commerce – i.e., the Affordable Care Act.

But critics claim such a convention could get out of hand and try to rewrite vast parts of the Constitution at once.

By putting rules in place first, it would allow any future use of the convention to be “analyzed solely on the merits of its subject matter,” the invitation said.

The purpose of the Mount Vernon Assembly is to convene in a “politically pure environment” composed only of sitting state legislators free from the influence of outside organizations.

Each state is asked to send a bipartisan delegation of up to three lawmakers and will have one vote at the meeting. To ensure no “undue influence by third parties,” each state legislature and legislator will be responsible for their own expenses.

Dirt on a tarp

Let’s start by admitting that groundbreakings are purely ceremonial. They contribute about as much to the actual work of construction as HealthCare.gov appears to be contributing to signing people up for health insurance, or even less.

And as social affairs go, groundbreakings can also be a disaster: They force people in suits and uncomfortable shoes onto construction sites, which is never a good idea. And for what? To turn one shovel of dirt in front of a bulldozer that can scrape the entire site clean in one swipe.

Thankfully, the Fort Wayne Housing Authority decided to skip the charade and take the groundbreaking to where logic should have taken it all along: indoors.

With temperatures in the 20s and snow on the ground, officials moved the groundbreaking for the South Side Senior Villas into FWHA headquarters, which was conveniently next door. In a nod to tradition, there was a tarp spread on the floor and a pile of dirt on the tarp, but the gold-painted shovels remained leaning against the wall, untouched.

Instead, officials offered a few words of thanks, they posed for a few photos, and everyone got down to the real business of the affair, which was eating lunch. No mud, no cold, no dirty pant legs, no pretending.

And what did people think of the warm, dry ceremony? Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry came away a believer.

“That is a great idea,” he said. “I really like that a lot.”

Bayh joins board

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy has announced that Evan Bayh, a former Indiana governor and U.S. senator, has joined its board of advisers.

The institute describes itself as “an independent, nonpartisan research institution that seeks to advance a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East and to promote the policies that secure them.”

Existing members include former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, ex-CIA Director James Woolsey and U.S. News & World Report publisher Mortimer Zuckerman.

Poinsettia sale

While preparing next year’s budget, the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service of Allen County requested an additional $2,500 from Allen County Council to support community educational programs, including 4-H, environmental and natural resources, agriculture and food and nutrition.

The council denied the request, suggesting the extension office raise the needed funds on its own.

On Friday, Vickie Hadley, health and human services extension educator, passed out fliers of the extension office’s latest fundraising venture – a poinsettia sale – to Allen County commissioners at their meeting.

“We’re just following their (County Council’s) instructions,” Hadley said.

Commissioner Nelson Peters told her to make sure she passed along the fliers to council members.

“I just want to make sure all County Council members get a copy of this and that they place orders,” Peters said.

Poinsettias can be ordered until Dec. 2 and will be available for pickup Dec. 10. Red, pink and white 6-inch potted plants are available for $15 each. To order, call 481-6826, email allences@purdue.edu or stop by the office at 4001 Crescent Ave.

How much difference will a few flowers make? Consider this: If all seven council members ordered 24 poinsettias each, that would solve the extension’s budget crunch.

More awards

A seemingly endless string of awards continues for former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar.

On Tuesday night in Indianapolis, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce gave Lugar its Government Leader of the Year award. He won the inaugural award in 1990.

“ ‘Government Leader of a Lifetime’ might well be a more appropriate designation,” Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar said in a statement ahead of the presentation.

Lugar was in the Senate for 36 years, leaving this year after losing the 2012 Republican primary election. He also was a two-term mayor of Indianapolis.

Recent winners of the Chamber award have included state Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, in 2012, and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, in 2011.

As previously announced, Lugar will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony Wednesday. The medal is the country’s highest civilian honor.

Lugar, 81, also has been knighted by a representative of Queen Elizabeth II, received the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit from Germany and been given awards by the Pentagon, the U.S.-Central Asia Enterprise Foundation and the Hoosier Environmental Council.

Pond’s highway

The Allen County commissioners approved a resolution Friday asking the Indiana General Assembly to name a portion of U.S. 24 in honor of former Indiana Rep. Phyllis Pond of New Haven.

Pond, who was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1978 and was the longest-serving female legislator in the state’s history, died Sept. 22.

The commissioners asked that the section of U.S. 24 between U.S. 30 east of New Haven and State Line Road be designated as the “Representative Phyllis J. Pond Memorial Highway.” The resolution will be submitted to the General Assembly for consideration when it convenes in January.

In the resolution, commissioners noted that Pond “was a strong advocate for the construction of the U.S. 24 Fort to Port project between New Haven, Indiana and the Indiana-Ohio state line.”

Swiss friends

Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, has joined the Friends of Switzerland Caucus.

“I have the honor of serving Berne’s vibrant and historic Swiss-American community and I’m proud to be a member of the Friends of Switzerland Caucus,” Stutzman said on his House website.

The group was formed in 2003 by then-Reps. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. Both are now members of the Senate. The caucus includes six senators and 35 House members, including Reps. André Carson, D-7th, and Peter Visclosky, D-1st.

Vivian Sade and Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

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