TERRE HAUTE —
The gesture by the extreme conservative Republicans in the Legislature seems astonishingly generous.
Their political arch-rival, the Indiana Democratic Party, lingers mainly through its name recognition. It wields no force in state-level government, with Republicans holding super majorities in the House and Senate, and the governor’s seat. Most of all, the Hoosier Democratic Party has long lacked an identifiable personality with whom voters can identify. With Evan Bayh — the former governor and U.S. senator — out of public life, Democrats have no equivalent of a Mitch Daniels or a Mike Pence.
The hard right of the GOP is working on that.
By appearing to be controlling, paranoid and politically vindictive in their legislative response to Glenda Ritz becoming the new state superintendent of public instruction, those zealous Republicans have unwittingly highlighted the stark contrast of her rational, likable style for millions of Hoosiers to see. Once she defeated charismatic and controversial Tony Bennett in the lone Statehouse Democratic victory in November, stunned Republicans could have let Ritz drop the GOP education reform steamroller into a lower gear — as voters overwhelmingly chose her to do — and return the superintendent’s role to a less-headline-grabbing situation.
The extremists chose otherwise. As a result of their intransigence on the public stage, households from Angola to Mount Vernon now know Glenda Ritz. She is the new face of the Indiana Democratic Party.
It would be hard for Hoosiers to dislike what they are seeing in her. She is appealing in ways that those trying to undermine her are not. Ritz has treated Republicans in power as if she and they are members of the same team. (Such a concept is rare nowadays, but in Ritz it is a virtual reality; she was a life-long Republican before switching parties to take on Bennett.) Ritz solicits Republicans’ input on policy changes and has promised to properly manage reform programs she opposed. She has focused on common-ground education improvements, backing Gov. Pence’s push for revitalized vocational training in high schools.
Yes, Ritz has no choice but to accommodate the majority party, given the political realities in the Statehouse. Still, Ritz has sincerely embraced compromise — a trait the people want but party-line politicos detest.
Last week, Republicans unmoved by her outreach forged ahead with bills to strip her authority and pointlessly penalize teachers unions that supported her campaign. House Bill 1342 threatened to shift oversight of the private school voucher program from the Indiana Department of Education (headed by Ritz) to the Office of Management and Budget (controlled by Pence). Why? To guarantee that vouchers would be handled by an “impartial” manager, the bill’s author told the Indianapolis Star.
Impartial? Really? Pence, a staunch voucher proponent, is no more impartial to the concept than Ritz, who opposed them. To her credit, she told the Star, “I took an oath to uphold the law. I may not personally agree with vouchers but I have a responsibility to uphold the law.” Pence told the Star he supports the takeover bill.
Admirably, House Speaker Brian Bosma — increasingly a voice of reason in the capital — interceded and dropped HB 1342, for now. But two other political payback bills — one forcing Ritz to share oversight of the grading system of schools, and another prohibiting districts from permitting voluntary payroll deductions of teacher union dues — stayed alive.
Through it all, so far, Ritz has stuck to the high road, approaching quality education as a nonpartisan issue. Her detractors look petty and manipulative. Hoosiers are noticing. Those images will be hard to forget.
As a target, Ritz’s profile brightens
TERRE HAUTE —
The gesture by the extreme conservative Republicans in the Legislature seems astonishingly generous.
EDITORIAL: Legal marriages should be honored
An eager and probably nervous couple stands before a minister or a judge or a county clerk and exchanges vows, accepting the legal, moral and ethical obligations of a marriage.
Readers’ Forum: July 14, 2014
• Where did the 61 cents go?
MARK BENNETT: Filmmaker captures late uncle’s walk through illness and into ‘whatever is next’
Paul Fleschner sensed a remarkable strength as he filmed his beloved uncle one final time.
EDITORIAL: Dysfunctional relationship with schools chief doesn’t bode well for potential Pence presidency
A window to the future may be unfolding in Indiana.
Readers’ Forum: July 13, 2014
• Telling the truth about smoking
• Larger energy bills on the way, thanks to EPA
• Embrace the compassion, not self-righteousness
• Wondering about country’s leaders
• New amendments have hurt country
FLASHPOINT: EPA proposal will have little impact on environment, but could hurt coal industry
I recently signed on as an original co-sponsor to a bipartisan bill led by one of my Democrat colleagues from West Virginia that would stop the newly released Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on existing coal-generated power plants.
RONN MOTT: Troubled history in that place called Iraq
People are dying, again, in Iraq. And, again, people other than Iraqis will ultimately make the decision about what happens to this ancient land.
Editorial: The Bennett ‘settlement’
It takes a special kind of arrogance to flout ethics laws in the manner which former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett has violated them. Even when he finally admitted his transgressions, he claimed he could have avoided the matter altogether had he just changed the department’s ethics policy before engaging in the troublesome conduct.
In essence, this was the old “mistakes were made” acknowledgment of wrongdoing. And the real mistake to which Bennett admits was apparently not changing the rules before he violated them. This is a truly Nixonian moment.
- Readers’ Forum: July 11, 2014
RONN MOTT: That Old Man River
I was surprised to learn the people in Cairo are now taking water taxis to avoid the traffic, the confusion and the dangers that are appearing on Cairo, Egypt’s, streets. I mean, I was surprised the people in Cairo, these native Egyptians, were surprised they could take a water taxi and get to where they wanted to go using the Nile River as a highway. So, for the Egyptians living in Cairo, everything old is brand new again.
EDITORIAL: A green idea worth pursuing
It sounds like a blue-ribbon idea.
READERS' FORUM: July 10, 2014
• Herb Faire a great success
• Appreciation for a ‘lovely angel’
• Thanks for stirring fireworks show
EDITORIAL: Be safe, be responsible
The Independence Day weekend brought a brief respite in construction work on area roadways. In particular, it provided needed relief to the congested segment of Interstate 70 in Clay County that is undergoing resurfacing this summer.
Readers’ Forum: July 9, 2014
• Don’t eliminate our six-day mail
• Zamperini death stirs memories
RONN MOTT: Black Dog
We had some excitement around our house the other day and it was not the good kind.
There was a small dog, black in color with a spiked collar on his neck, and he was the spitting image of a small Doberman. I don’t know if they have miniature Dobermans but this dog could have been a mixed breed that came out looking like a Doberman although smaller.
Readers’ Forum: July 8, 2014
• T-S ignores common decency
• Lighten up on Donald Sterling
• Time to reject Dems in Congress
• Fueling the EPA
MS. TAKES: Great music is made during all generations
Number Two son tells us that his 20-year-old son has been listening to “Big Band” music with apparent enjoyment. As if that wasn’t enough of a surprise, I was talking with a young girl, barely out of her teens and she told us that she really wasn’t into rap. She said, “It isn’t really music, it’s just talk.”
Readers’ Forum: July 7, 2014
• The moral issue is major issue
Editorial: City financial health demands an open, honest discussion
Obscured by the recent rift over use of departmental funds in the city of Terre Haute’s budget are serious issues related to our city government’s overall financial health. The answers may be mired in the complexity of municipal finance, but coming to grips with the situation is important to the city’s future.
Readers’ Forum: July 6, 2014
• Coats ignoring climate science
• Do those mustache posters exist?
• Utility rate freeze took determination
• What perversion is next in line?
• Opinions vary, but voters will decide
• This preaching must stop — now
• Golf fundraiser a huge success
Flashpoint: State’s lawyer has duty to represent state in marriage lawsuit appeal
Recent federal court actions that first struck down Indiana’s statute limiting marriage to the traditional definition, and then stayed that order pending appeal, have left many in our state in legal limbo. As the attorney who represents state government and defends its laws, I know this difficult case stirs many people’s deeply held beliefs that touch their lives in very personal ways. Not since my office had to represent the state in lawsuits arising from the State Fair disaster has a dispute been so seemingly impossible to address in a way that the public would accept as being fair to all concerned.
Flashpoint: The Supreme Court decision and ‘closely held’ corporations
The much awaited Supreme Court decision in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby came down this week. The court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the 1993 Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) does cover “closely held” corporations, even if those corporations are for profit.
RONN MOTT: Learning more about Jefferson
During this Fourth of July weekend, I’ll be reading John Meacham’s biography of Thomas Jefferson.
EDITORIAL: Celebrate your independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
As eloquent and declaratory as that statement is, implementing its principles has been a decades-long pursuit for these United States of America. Our nation, it seems, is the quintessential work in progress, even though what this country has created in terms of a stable, collective society is, let’s face it, pretty darn good.
- Readers’ Forum: July 4, 2014
RONN MOTT: The Men Who Made the Country
The Fourth of July is the day we celebrate our independence from Great Britain. It reminds me of something David Ben-Gurion would say, at a much later date, about British rule: “If you have to have a master, the British are about as good at it as anybody.” Of course, we really don’t need a master.
GREG ZOELLER: State’s lawyer has duty to represent state in marriage lawsuit appeal
Recent federal court actions that first struck down Indiana’s statute limiting marriage to the traditional definition, and then stayed that order pending appeal, have left many in our state in legal limbo.
Readers’ Forum: July 3, 2014
• Over the top on immigration
FLASHPOINT: HIP 2.0 gives consumers better choices
On Wednesday, the State of Indiana submitted its proposal for the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
MIKE PENCE: HIP 2.0 gives consumers better choices
Today, the state of Indiana submitted its proposal for the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
If approved, the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 would replace traditional Medicaid for low-income, able-bodied Hoosier adults. Unlike traditional Medicaid, which is government-driven, HIP 2.0 is consumer-driven.
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- EDITORIAL: Legal marriages should be honored