News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Indiana Legislature

February 28, 2011

A noisy and contentious week at the Statehouse

And would you believe it: posturing, political theater and pontificating?

INDIANAPOLIS — Noisy. That’s the first word that came to mind when I sat down to write this column.

Last week, the sheer volume of noise generated by legislators — both those who stayed and those who fled — and the thousands of protesters who gathered there daily seemed amplified by two things: architecture and emotion.

On the first: The Statehouse is a high-ceilinged, four-story building in the shape of a cross, designed around a central and soaring domed rotunda.  When you walk in the main public entrance on the second floor, you can look up and see the next two floors above you. The marble staircases on the south and north end are wide and open —  and the elevators are so small and few — that visitors seem naturally drawn to them.

Add in another element: The House and Senate chambers on the third floor are fronted by big windows along the main hallways, so that anyone walking by can see what their lawmakers are doing — or not doing — while in session.

So what that means is that when a couple thousand fired-up protesters gather inside the building, you can’t help but notice. Ditto for when 37 of the 40 House Democrats vacate the place, as they did last week when they fled the state to kill the quorum needed to do business in the House.

The protesters weren’t only the ones making a lot of noise. There was a lot of figurative fist-pounding and chest-thumping from some legislators, and no lack of voluminous words of condemnation from both sides.

It would take more words than I have room for in this column to explain the complexities of what led to this epic fight, but in short: Pro-business Republicans, emboldened by last November’s election victories that gave them power in both the state House and Senate, were on a path to push through some game-changing legislation that horrified the minority Democrats and the labor unions to which they’re beholden.

There are legitimate arguments on both sides for why each has staked its claims, and why neither wants to budge.

But there have been plenty of theatrics as well, with no lack of pontificating and performance art.

All of which leads me to this: There are days when it’s so hard to tell what’s real and not real in the Indiana Statehouse.

Let me give you a small example: The thousands of protesters who streamed through the Statehouse this week all had to pass through security for a weapons check. When they stood outside the chambers of both the House and Senate, loudly chanting their disapproval, they did so behind bullet-proof glass.

But these lawmakers are likely to pass a gun bill that would deny local elected officials the same kind of protection. The bill would bar local communities from restricting firearms in most public buildings and properties. The bill backers contend that the more armed the public is, the safer the public will be.

It seems they just don’t want that armed public to be too close to them

Maureen Hayden is statehouse bureau chief for CNHI’s Indiana newspapers. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Indiana Legislature
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Raw: Obamas Attend Easter Service Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Crowds Rally at '420' Celebration in Denver New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Transcript Reveals Confusion in Ferry Evacuation Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus
NDN Video
Jabari Parker's Top 5 Plays From Duke Career Kourtney Kardashian Is a Bikini Babe More Manpower Than Ever Expected At 4/20 Rally Debunk'd: Miley Cyrus AIDS, Cheeseburgers Cause Cancer, Military Warning Bill Previewing the NBA playoffs Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite My name is Cocaine Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity