The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, December 08, 2021 1:00 am


Open questions

As lawmakers' surveys tout their priorities, it's worth reminding them of your own

EDITORIAL BOARD | The Journal Gazette

Interested in a preview of what's ahead in the next session of the Indiana General Assembly? According to House and Senate representatives' constituent surveys, look for bills to prohibit mask and vaccine requirements, to ban the participation of transgender students in high school sports, to require the partisan election of school boards, to add new restrictions on school lesson plans and to allow permitless handgun carry.

All ideas to move Indiana forward, right? It's worth the effort to share where you stand on those issues, but more important to use the comment space for your thoughts on what lawmakers should do to improve the state. Their survey questions represent very different objectives:

• In spite of a message on some legislators' survey indicating the questions should not be interpreted as “a reflection of my views on the issues,” some are precisely that. Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, has already announced he wants to separate school board candidates into Rs and Ds. 

“When you vote for a person that is nonpartisan in a school board race, you're not sure exactly who you're voting for until they start voting, so then you need to wait four years until you can figure out and go back to the ballot and affect this person ... so I think it's something definitely that I'm going to put my name on to ensure that there is change when it comes to school board races,” Morris told Fort Wayne'sWPTA-TV in August.

• Some questions seem to be included to ward off primary election challenges. Most GOP House members surely don't want to anger Indiana teachers by intruding further into their lesson plans, but many included this question: “Would you support legislation requiring schools to post online any instructional materials used in the classroom so parents can easily access the content being discussed?”

That's a signal to the handful of parents who have been incited by organized political interests to search textbooks and other materials for evidence of critical race theory instruction or social-emotional learning. Those groups have been recruiting extremist candidates to challenge incumbent legislators, so more-moderate incumbents are doing all they can to acknowledge threats they know do not exist.

• Surveys are a tool to spin a message. “Do you believe Hoosiers who are legally permitted to possess a handgun should be able to carry a handgun in public without first applying for and obtaining a state-issued license?” reads a question on Fort Wayne Republican Rep. Martin Carbaugh's survey. “This proposal is often referred to as 'lawful carry.' ”

In fact, it's referred to as “lawful carry” only by the gun lobby. The mostly Republican law enforcement officials who derailed last session's effort to legalize permitless carry call it a threat to the lives of police officers. With no database to access, officers would have to approach drivers they've pulled over without knowing whether they might have a gun.

• A question about the legalization of marijuana, which has growing bipartisan support, is likely an honest effort to weigh voters' thoughts. But several legislators have included a second question regarding support for the legalization of medical marijuana. Those lawmakers are looking for a clue to how far Hoosiers are willing to go on the issue. 

Voters can use the survey tools to their own advantage by including direct messages in the open-ended comment section of the surveys. Why, for example, are lawmakers not focused on gender pay equity, where the state ranks 44th in the nation?

Why is Indiana the 10th most difficult state in which to cast a ballot? Or, why does the state have the third-highest maternal mortality rate in the nation, higher than only Georgia and Louisiana?

Why does Indiana have the second least-diverse state economy, according to Bloomberg's Economic Diversity Index? How is it that Indiana has fewer 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool than all but one other state? Why does Indiana trail Tennessee for educational attainment, at 43rd in the nation?

Fill out the taxpayer-supported surveys, but send along some messages and questions of your own.

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