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Commentary: Steele: New day, new government for Indiana

Updated: January 15, 2013 12:28PM



Governor Mike Pence gave by most accounts a fine speech upon his inauguration Monday. The one question you hear about it, as with his campaign, is, what legislation will accomplish the lofty goals he’s expressed?

My sense is that there aren’t a lot of places left for significant reform, and we’d be better off if the state’s government thought more about consolidating, reviewing, and reevaluating the changes its made in recent years.

The temptation to do something for the sake of doing something is always there, but sometimes the more important work is managing, rather than reforming.

The only thing that bothered me in the speech was this line (quoted from a transcript): “There’s nothing that ails our schools that can’t be fixed by giving parents more choices and teachers more freedom to teach.”

This is a lofty line from a good speechmaker, but one cringes to think people actually believe it. For schools that are struggling, there are a deep social and economic troubles that won’t be fixed by charter schools. These reform catch-phrases are such severe understatements of the problem that they’re irresponsible in any context.

Meanwhile, the silly-season bills proposed in the Indiana General Assembly are still working their way through the process, most to die, but one should never assume.

One bill proposed by Sen. Dennis Kruse is intended to limit federal law enforcement officers’ power of arrest in Indiana. They’d need the permission of the local sheriff to make an arrest, except in emergencies and under certain exceptions.

One of those exceptions, I was glad to find, regarded the arrest of state and county elected officials, or any employee of the sheriff’s department. I can’t imagine this bill becoming law, but if it were to, township and municipal officials might be well included as exceptions, too.

Nothing against any particular sheriff, but any measure that ties the hands of the feds, especially in this part of the state, seems to be something that only has the potential of hindering the pursuit of corruption and large-scale crime, rather than aiding the people in any way.

And where does this hostility to the feds come from? Some of the unlikely-to-be-passed legislation has a clear target. Trotting out the old southern slave-state idea of “nullification” — the authority of a state government to nullify a federal law by a state government within its boundaries — is aimed explicitly at the health care reform law. It’s desparately unconstitutional, but it’s aim is explicit.

Perhaps the limitation on federal agents’ arrest power is motivated by a fear of officers swooping in to take away people’s machine guns, or something similar.

At any rate, it’s odd, and the underlying implication that the federal government is some “other,” rather than something in which Indiana residents are part, is as disturbing as it is antiquated.

It’s probably just a phase, but all this seems so heavy-handed and very Hoosier (in the sense people from other states use the word).



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