Urban Indy has kept up to the minute with the goings-on of HB1011, mass transit, which was introduced in the Indiana House this year. Friday April 26th, it was reported that Representative Jerry Torr, author of the bill, had signed off on the Senate adopted version of the bill; that being all referendum authorizing language the original bill covered was stripped and replaced with a bi-partisan study committee being established to look into the issue over the summer.
As written, the study committee has a December 2013 deadline to report back to the state legislature its findings. Presumably, after this study is concluded, it will inform another bill next session which would attempt to authorize a citizen referendum in November of 2014. The sausage making it appears, still needs the right mix of ingredients to make it through the Republican dominated Senate.
This brings up a key point. HB1011 enjoyed considerable success early on in the session passing out of the house after steamrolling through two sub-committee hearings. However, the Senate immediately showed it’s conservative slant by taking shots at the bill at every stop.
Also, much like last year when transit legislation died in the right to work debate, HB1011 did not play well with SB621, which is a bill that passed eliminating the 4 at large Indianapolis City Council seats in 2015. It also grants expanded power to the Mayor’s office and city controller. Democrats were steaming mad at the actions and intent behind SB621 and threatened to vote against HB1011 which is kind of counter-intuitive since ultra conservatives have been cool to this bill since the beginning of the session. These tactics certainly weren’t moving the opposition.
The debate however, illustrates just how tenuous the legislative process can be. There is a lot of give and take.
Along the way, we learned a lot about the people deciding the fate of this bill. When the study committee amendment was introduced, post hearing press indicated the high level of ignorance involved with the decision making going on here. With cost as the backdrop, post conference comments seemed to indicate that the committee took zero stock in the figures used to construct the original bill; figures which were assembled by the coalition of business groups pushing this bill.
Why were these financial recommendations not taken seriously? Time after time, senators made comments about how they were not educated on the bill, asking if private business was willing to pay for the requested funding instead of a tax increase and other questions which only steered the conversation away from what really was being asked for. Senator Waltz of the south side of Indy, claimed he had been studying mass transit on his own and used his obviously different findings as a basis for not supporting HB1011 & Indy Connect. What those findings were, have never been revealed to my knowledge and certainly do not pass as official findings on the topic.
Another question in conference committee, asked my Marion County Democrat Senator Breuax, really served to underscore how little of importance this bill carried when she asked, “Where are the routes planned to go?”. For a Marion County senator to be asking these questions underscores the level of involvement local officials have had in this process.
So where do we go? Will the study committee this summer come to the same conclusions as Indy Connect? Will conservatives involved arrive at the same solution as the private sector; that tax dollars are the only sustained funding source capable of funding local, public transportation?
How can we convince our conservative elected officials to not derail an intended 2014 citizen referendum? Perhaps equally as important, how many of the same vocal cheerleaders of this bill will still have the energy and drive to sustain that needed to get this funding approved? Will they even live here then? This all remains to be seen months from now, when the 2014 session begins in January.