Speaker Brian C. Bosma
Organization Day, November 16, 2010
Before we start and talk about the challenges we face, I do want to recognize a dedicated public servant with whom I don't always agree, but who, like me and several other members of this General Assembly, is a second-generation public servant. An individual who has given generously to the public entity and especially the Office of the Speaker, former Speaker and Minority Leader, my friend, Speaker Pat Bauer.
We are gathered here together in uncertain times. We are facing the deepest recession that our nation has seen since the Great Depression, and, according to IU economist, the worst recovery on record. And it occurred to me recently that we are going to have the same discussions that are taking place at kitchen tables all across the State of Indiana; as families gather and decide where the next paycheck is coming from and how they have more bills than they have money. How they improve and protect the future of their children including their children’s education and who the next generation of leadership will be.
These are exactly the issues that we will be dealing with in this chamber and throughout this building in the coming months. And it's my hope that we can do what those families have done and that is gather together around the kitchen table—with the committee chairmen and in the committee rooms of this chamber and talk about those problems. Openly together, Republican and Democrat, minority and majority parties, like never before will have to work in a bipartisan fashion.
Our top priority is to protect Hoosier taxpayers and our state's economy by adopting a balanced budget that deals with our states critical needs, but does not raise taxes on Hoosier families or employers.
A few people said, family and friends, after the election when they called me, telling me that that I didn’t seem as excited as they thought I would be. And it may very well be because like some of you in this room I had a healthy understanding of how challenging that first goal is going to be. At no time in our state's history have we faced revenues that have gone backwards 6 years. We will be creating the 2011 budget with 2005 revenues, maybe less. This will require all of us to work on key priorities to protect education to the extent we can but to put everything else on the table and say “do we need to do this and if we do, are we doing it the right way and can it be done more efficiently, effectively, and cheaper in another fashion?”
Those are the discussions were going to have. But with leaders like Jeff Espich resuming as continued appointment as Ways & Means Chairman and Representative Bill Crawford at the helm and a new generation of young leaders on Ways and Means, I'm excited about the prospect and believe we’re up to the challenge.
But just as important as fiscal integrity will be the job of creating the environment for private sector jobs in this state as well. We've done a lot together and I mean that.
Over the last 10 years together, Republicans and Democrats, in almost every case, created the Indiana Economic Development Corporation; we repealed the inventory tax; we changed our corporate tax structure; we made permanent, the research and development tax credit and increased it. All of these initiatives drew jobs to the State of Indiana. In fact, this year 7% of the new jobs created in the country were created right here in Indiana despite the fact that we have only 2% of the population.
Together in what I believe is one of the strongest economic development statements we could make for our future, it was announced last week in the nation that Indiana now enjoys the lowest property tax burden in America, and we did that together—in this chamber.
There's a lot still to be done. Yes, we will deal with local incentives and will give the IEDC more authority if necessary. We'll look at those incentives that are in place and change them and revise them if we need to. We will deal with what is currently a bankrupt unemployment system that we're going to have to find solutions—big solutions—together. It will be a tremendous challenge but we need to do more.
I challenged our team together to take a look at Indiana's laws and statutes. Hoosiers are drowning in laws and regulations. In 1976, in the Indiana Supreme Court Library the data volume from 1976—the year I graduated from high school—I went down and looked at it earlier this week. It was 5 1/2 volumes, large print, and wide margins, double spaced. We burgeoned the Indiana code to 21 fine print volumes that bury employers, families, schools, and local government in regulation.
So as we adopt our rules in just a few minutes , we are creating a new committee—the Select Committee on Government Reduction—I am going to personally appoint some of our most experienced members in this chamber to that committee and ask Representative Bauer to pick his best as well and together that committee over the next two years is going to look at every aspect of regulation encoded in this day and prioritize where we can deregulate, where we can eliminate, where we can end duplicative and unnecessary regulation.
The same group is going to be charged with taking public testimony from every sector, including schools. They are going to be charged with receiving and acting upon, if appropriate, the Hoosier Grace Commission findings that we received four years ago and they're going to take a hard look at all the commissions—the hundreds of commissions that we have in this state to see if we really need them and if we don't—get rid of them. And we are going to do our own part to stem the avalanche of paper.
We have proposed and it has been accepted by the minority leadership a new bill limit in this chamber—limiting each member to 10 bills in the long session. That will gut the paperwork in the long session by one third. One third fewer bills drafted. One third fewer bills that require a fiscal analysis. One third fewer bills are parked on the roadside after this is all over.
My message to you is if you can’t get your agenda done in ten bills then, maybe your agenda is too long. But together we will make this institution work well.
We have important concerns, just as families do, about our children’s future. We have 1.1 million students in Indiana schools and about 100,000 students in private schools across this state. Many are receiving outstanding education, but outstanding education is not available to all of those students. We must take every action we can to make Indiana's public schools, public teachers and students the outstanding students, teachers and schools in the Midwest. It will require much compromise, a lot of discussion, a lot of action by this group.
“Charter schools” and “virtual charters,” “expansion of our education tax credit” shouldn't be nasty words in this chamber. Each of these options needs to be examined as important tools in making our state's public school classrooms excellent. We also have to concentrate on getting local schools administrators, principals and yes, teachers in universities, all the tools they need to have the best and brightest in our classrooms once again. To treat teachers as professionals and to bring the education system into the 21st-century.
All of these proposals means there is going to be a lot of discussion about education reform. The public education system is not the only institution that I intend for us to talk about reforming. I plan to talk about reforming our own institution as well.
We are going to create unprecedented transparency in the Indiana House. In 2005 we began that process by placing cameras in this chamber so that the public, wherever they might be, could see exactly what the debate and vote was on matters before us. In 2006, I expanded that to two key committee rooms. By the time we get back here for session, every committee room in which every committee needs to meet will be wired for transmission over the Internet and every action of every committee will be observed by the public.
I am also going to make some announcements that no one has heard yet. Even the committee chairmen haven't been told they’re committee chairmen yet. There are a few practices that need to change.
One, that has been very bothersome, is the black balling of members in the minority party, telling them they can’t carry bills. They can’t be an author, that they would have to hand their bills to someone else in order for them to be heard. It was a difficult time for the minority party to hear it and it’s not going to be the practice of the Republican majority of 2011-2012.
We will call upon our chairman to make our committees, once again the workhorse of this institution—the kitchen table I refer to—where problems are worked out, where ideas are exchanged with the minority having the full right to offer ideas, discuss and vote on amendments. There may be committee chairmen on my side that don't think that is such a great practice because they didn't receive that treatment. I'm telling you we must rise together to return to make committee the workhorse of the institution. We will also start our work on time every day and will end on time God willing and in April.
We are going to undertake the most difficult challenges of a decade—including responsibilities that occur every decade such as the responsibility of drawing maps. I pledge to you now, as I have everywhere I've been, that we will do our best to make them fair maps. Maps where those who win the election actually have the right to govern and we will do so in an unprecedented transparent fashion. I have been having discussions with Senator Long about having statewide joint House and Senate Election committee meetings so that we can talk to folks about their communities of interest and how they should be maintained. So that we can hear from the public the important issues that they believe need to be addressed in a map.
That effort is going to be led in our chamber by three people and two, I will announce now and one Representative Bauer will announce when he's ready. We are going to have a new chairman of the Elections and Apportionment Committee——Rep. Eric Koch will be the Chair and is someone who I believe is a person that both sides can work with. Rep. Koch is viewed not only as a legal expert, but as an individual with impeccable integrity, with the ability to work with Republicans and Democrats alike.
He will be working with a Republican Vice Chair of Apportionment Representative Kathy Richardson and a vice chairman of Apportionment of Representative Bauer's choosing. Those folks together along with the Elections Committee will do their best to get us through this process with new maps that will govern the House, the Senate and Congress for the next decade and do so in a fair fashion.
Finally, my personal goal and it may be my top goal; it wasn't an agenda item for us on the campaign trail. But it was something I spoke of on the floor of this House when we announced our agenda during the campaign season and that is to make every possible effort to restore civility, bipartisanship and respect for this institution and for each other.
We owe it to the public. Some think that the statement that was made on November 2 was a statement in support of one political party or condemning another. I disagree. It was the public in Indiana and throughout the nation saying “You have got to do it better.” We need to end partisan bickering, end the overreaching and work together to bring our institutions forward. I am fully aware that this is the toughest possible time to make this change.
There are 15 or 20 people that sit before me right now that had bare knuckle attacks on them and they don’t feel good about it. There are hard feelings among personal friends on both sides of the aisle. We have a history here in this Chamber of not seeking that bipartisanship outreach and doing the exact opposite in many cases. But I'm going to ask each one of us to put those two factors aside and to rise above concerns for self and to implement a new model here in the Indiana House of Representatives.
I'm not asking anyone here to do anything that I'm not willing to do myself. My team is used to me saying that. I won't ask them to do anything that I'm not willing to do myself. So it's not fair for me to say you all behave in a bipartisan manner and I not act that way myself. It would be easy to assume that this is the gratuitous normal speaker’s call for bipartisanship that happens every two years, but I told you there were going to be some surprises and I am going to announce one of them right now.
For the first time in our state's history, a majority speaker intends to reach across the aisle and appoint two committee chairmen from the minority party. Representative Steve Stemler, if he is willing to do so, will be asked and given the opportunity to lead our Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee. Joining him, if he's willing, will be another Southern Indiana businessman, Rep. Mark Messmer as Vice Chair.
And for the Select Committee that I mentioned earlier that will spend the next two years trying to figure out why we’re overregulated and how we can address it. If he will accept it, I'm going to turn to one of the most experienced members of this body Representative Chet Dobis to lead that committee with Representative Dave Wolkins agreeing to serve as vice chairman. This has not happened before in our state's history. I'm serious about bipartisanship. This is going to be tough Representative Bauer, a new model for all of us, but we will work through it and I intend to make it work for all of us together.
I know this is a lot to ask and with many challenges ahead of us. But I firmly believe, with tough challenges come great opportunities. And I believe right now we have the opportunity to really move Indiana forward. We each have our own motivation. Mine, most of it, is right here in the room. I was raised in a family that placed a high premium on public service. My mom and dad, by the bible I was sworn in on both today and before, they read the Bible every night together front to back for two years until they completed it together. My family, with my mother here right now and two sisters, both of whom have dedicated most of their lives to public service and a mother-in-law that dedicated her life to children in the classroom, as did my mother. And the best decision I ever made, my wife Cheryl who prays for me, who supports me, who encourages me, who smacks me on the back of the head when I get out of line, who is my true inspiration.
I have one more strong woman in my life—she is not here right now, but I believe she is watching on the internet—our daughter and son. Both of them are taking exams at Purdue and swore they were going to sneak out and watch this. Each of them has brought a different sense of responsibility and training in my life—perhaps my kids the most. They question everything and they insist on getting straight answers, but they never hesitate to see the best in those around them. I close my remarks today with the story about one more family member. It is a family member that is not with us today, but a family member that served in this Chamber and in the Senate for a total of 21 years.
Several of you in this room had the opportunity to serve with my father Senator Charles Bosma. Like many of you know—like Phil GiaQuinta—whose parents served in World War II. I would ask my dad, “What did you do in the war?” I knew he was in combat, I knew he spent time in the hospital with what we call “shell shock” or post traumatic stress syndrome today, but I didn’t know what his story was. And despite asking him constantly he would always just say “I just did my duty.” I was at my mother's studio apartment, which is actually smaller than the podium area. One night she told me to look through some papers, which was the first time she had asked me to do that.
She handed me a little box. It was the box she kept her checking account information, check book and insurance policies and such—and as kids we weren’t allowed to touch it. But she handed it to me for first-time and I’m 52 so I guess I can handle it now. I took a look at it and I said to my sisters, “Girls you have some insurance policies on you.” I said to mom, “What is this in the back?” There was a half inch stack of yellow papers with rusty paperclips around them. And she said “Those were your dad’s war orders.” “War orders, what are those?” I pulled them out and I began reading the story of a barely 21-year-old Beech Grove high school graduate that was a early junior chemistry student at Purdue and was an officer in the reserve Officer Training Corp. In late 1943, they were all called up because it wasn't going well overseas and I read the story of him getting his helmets and his tent, going to Arkansas for training as well as Colorado Springs. It wasn't in there but I knew that's where he met my mother in Colorado Springs, and by the way we found out they were engaged after three weeks. I presented Cheryl after five years and was told that wasn't long enough—and years later we found out they got engaged after three weeks. “But it was wartime”, is what they explained.
But I read a story about a young man that was sent overseas like hundreds of thousands of others. And in the very last page, was a letter, yellowed. It was a letter from Brig. Gen. WG Weinman Commanding General of the 71st Infantry Division. It was dated May 9, 1945 and for those of who know your history that was the day after VE day in May 1945. It was a letter that apparently went to every member of the 71st. The letter starts out with “The war has ended.” And it details a 1,060 mile march from France crossing the Siegfried line under fire, entering Nazi Germany, freeing 7,000 slave laborers from a camps, capturing 15 towns, taking heavy casualties, capturing 80,000 troops as prisoners—most of them according to letter “the hard way”—destroying Hitler's sixth SS Mountain division under heavy fire and casualty. This unit ended up being the most eastern located Allied troops in Austria, deep in Austria, at the end of the war.
And it occurred to me, that this then not quite 23-year-old man, who went on like his brothers and sisters in arms to enter this chamber, halls of Congress, city halls around this country to change the world, their home and the world it occurred to me that all he would ever tell me about what he did was that he did his duty.
Ladies and gentleman, no one writes our destiny here in America. We write our own. I want to write a new destiny for this chamber together with every member that is here. I pledge to you that as we do it we will walk shoulder to shoulder, I will do my duty and I am going to ask you to do the same. May God bless us and through us, bless the citizens of the State of Indiana.