State Chamber releases rankings of legislators
By Maria Amante email@example.com/648-3072 July 12, 2012 2:47PM
Indiana Chamber of Commerce legislator rankings
Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 38%; two-year average: 38%
Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon (D-Munster) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 44%; two-year average: 40%
Rep. Tom Dermody (R-LaPorte) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 90%; two-year average: 85%
Rep. Chester Dobis (D-Merrillville) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 66%; two-year average: 61%
Rep. Earl Harris (D-East Chicago) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 46%; two-year average: 45%
Rep. Linda Lawson (D-Hammond) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 44%; two-year average: 39%
Rep. Don Lehe (R-Brookston) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 97%; two-year average: 95%
Rep. Charles Moseley (D-Portage) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 45%; two-year average: 42%
Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 47%; two-year average: 38%
Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 93%; two-year average: 87%
Rep. Dan Stevenson (D-Highland) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 36%; two-year average: 37%
Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh (D-Crown Point) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 50%; two-year average: 46%
Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 86%; two-year average: 91%
Sen. Sue Landske (R-Cedar Lake) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 86%; two-year average: 87%
Sen. Frank Mrvan (D-Hammond) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 81%; two-year average: 68%
Sen. Lonnie Randolph (D-East Chicago) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 64%; two-year average: 53%
Sen. Earline Rogers (D-Gary) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 72%; two-year average: 61%
Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) – 2012 pro-jobs voting: 68%; two-year average: 57%
Updated: August 14, 2012 6:15AM
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has released its annual rankings of pro-job legislators, and representatives from Lake and Porter counties received rankings across the board.
State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said he wasn’t surprised by his ranking from the Chamber — at 38 percent pro-jobs, pro-economy, he’s ranked the second-lowest in Lake County and the lowest in Porter County.
“I have always been at the bottom of support from the state chamber,” he said. “The state chamber has a different philosophy than the local chamber. I get support from the local chamber, but not the state. I’m usually in the bottom two.”
The chamber’s ratings are calculated by examining the voting record of each legislator and seeing how often the legislator’s vote matched the chamber’s position on a specific bill.
Brown said his low ranking is simply the result of a philosophical difference with the chamber, and he is not someone who is anti-job or anti-economic stimulus.
“The chamber is saying, obviously, their mission is to create jobs, but many of their efforts to create jobs are at the detriment to the middle class or those at the bottom of job applicants,” he said. “In fact, I think many of my constituents applaud me for my vote against the efforts of the chamber, and for certain I have now been elected 15 times, this is my 30th year in the Indiana General Assembly. This has not harmed me with the majority of my voters and constituents.”
State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, who voted with the Indiana Chamber 86 percent of the time during the 2012 session, and on average for the 2011-12 session 91 percent of the time, was pleased with his ranking.
“I do what I feel is best for my constituents, and No. 1 in the state of Indiana is jobs and job creation and economic development,” Charbonneau said. “Jobs are No. 1 for the state and the legislature and I think for everybody. If the ranking were higher, the prouder I would be, but am I ever going to be 100 percent? Probably not.”
Charbonneau said legislators do the best job they can to scrutinize each bill and to make the best decision for constituents.
A major part of the chamber’s ranking was the vote on right-to-work, which neither Brown nor Charbonneau supported.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable with the facts that were being presented, there was a lot of speculation with no hard statistics,” Charbonneau said.
The chamber counted the right-to-work vote twice in its calculations, because it was something its members believe is “very important to the business community and chamber of commerce membership,” said Cameron Carter, the Indiana Chamber’s vice president for economic development and federal affairs.
Carter said the chamber had done the same in the past when calculating legislators’ scores, for example, a law about property tax caps in 2010 and another about bringing guns into the workplace.
“This is a very important issue, and that’s why we double-weighted it,” he said.
However, the legislators who are opposed to right-to-work are not anti-job, said Ray Kasmark, business manager for Local 697 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
“Somebody that is against right-to-work is for good-paying jobs and jobs for benefits and jobs that build families and communities — that’s what union jobs are, those are jobs that benefit small business,” Kasmark said. “The chamber represents all small business, and the best thing for small business is a good-paying job and disposable income to patronize that small business. Right-to-work benefits the Walmarts of the world, rather than small businesses. By lowering income, it forces them to shop at stores like Walmart, and who suffers? The small business.”
He said right-to-work ultimately kills small businesses.
Still, with Indiana’s status as a right-to-work state, more companies want to locate in the area, which provides more opportunities for job creation and growth, Carter said.
“(Up to 40 percent of companies) write off non-right-to-work states,” Carter said. “We were not getting the opportunity to talk to one in three business opportunities. This takes that factor out of play, and now we get to talk to everyone that wants to relocate in Indiana.”
Kasmark said the chamber’s claim that companies don’t want to locate in states without right-to-work is “intangible” and without support.
A $10-an-hour job will not raise a family and will not allow someone to patronize small businesses, he said.
“Is that the kind of jobs we want to bring into Indiana?” he said. “It’s a totally different view on it.”