State Superintendent Needs to be Appointed, On Same Page with Governor

It’s about good public policy. It’s about what’s best for students and teachers.

For nearly 30 years, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce has supported having the state superintendent of public instruction be an appointed position. We did this when Republicans and Democrats controlled the governor’s office. And we have been far from alone.

In years past, the state Democratic and Republican parties have included it in their platforms. And in 2004, both Gov. Joe Kernan and challenger Mitch Daniels had it among their campaign proposals.

It may be surprising to some, but the Indiana State Teachers Association used to support having an appointed superintendent. However, the group changed its tune once its 2012 endorsed candidate, Glenda Ritz, was elected.

The Indiana Chamber has remained consistent with its position and believes politics should be put aside.

Having an appointed superintendent came oh so close to happening in the late 1980s during Gov. Robert Orr’s administration – passing the House and falling only one vote short in the Senate. Since then it’s mainly been a parade of governors and superintendents not on the same page on major education policy (regardless of which party held either office). That situation doesn’t serve the state, students, parents or teachers well.

Our governor campaigns on education issues and sets an education agenda. In order to be held accountable for that, he needs to be able to appoint the superintendent of his choosing. That way, we can be assured there is alignment with respect to education policy. Hoosiers can then hold the governor truly responsible for education and factor that into his performance assessment come election time.

Appointing a superintendent also means the person chosen comes from a broader pool of qualified candidates. And the selection should then be based on the person’s education and leadership merits, not political backing.

Many have known for a long time that the current system isn’t conducive to getting things done. That’s only been exacerbated the last two years with the divergent philosophical opinions of Gov. Mike Pence and Superintendent Glenda Ritz. Too often this has resulted in the State Board of Education at a crossroads, if not a standstill. That’s entirely unacceptable.

What’s more, the superintendent, as head of the state Department of Education, should be treated like every other agency leader. We don’t elect the superintendent of the Indiana State Police, commissioner of the Department of Revenue and so forth. All of those officials are appointed at the discretion of the governor. The Department of Education should be the same.

Indiana is already behind the times – and more than 35 other states – in acknowledging that an appointed superintendent serves citizens best. Our preference would be that realization happen sooner rather than later. We recognize the political sensitivities and pressures currently in play – though we don’t agree with bowing to them – and want to see serious discussion and action taken on the issue this legislative session.

IBRG’s Brantley: Election a ‘Mini-Mandate’ in Indiana to Stay on Course

UOur friends at Inside INdiana Business interviewed Jeff Brantley, the Indiana Chamber’s VP of Political Affairs and our PAC, Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG), about Tuesday’s election (the link includes an audio clip about the federal elections as well). Here’s the synopsis (edited for accuracy):

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of political affairs believes Hoosier voters in yesterday’s mid-term elections delivered a “mini-mandate” to legislators to continue focusing on job growth and the business community. All Indiana Congressional incumbents won re-election and Republicans swept the contests for secretary of state, state auditor and state treasurer. Jeff Brantley says voter turnout appears to be higher than anticipated and believes results in Indiana General Assembly races demonstrate Hoosiers like the direction policy makers are going.

Only one U.S. Congressional race, the 7th District between Representative Andre Carson and challenger Catherine Ping, was within 15 points. The winners are:

Peter Visclosky (D-1)
Jackie Walorski (R-2)
Marlin Stutzman (R-3)
Todd Rokita (R-4)
Susan Brooks (R-5)
Luke Messer (R-6)
Andre’ Carson (D-7)
Larry Bucshon (R-8)
Todd Young (R-9)

Statewide office winners were Secretary of State Connie Lawson (R), Suzanne Crouch (R) for State Treasurer and Kelly Mitchell (R) for State Auditor.

Jeff Brantley says, with only one exception, all candidates the organization endorsed were victorious.

Some incumbents in the Indiana General Assembly were unseated. They include Sen. Richard Young (D-47), who was beaten by Republican Erin Houchin, and Senator Tim Skinner (D-38), who lost to Republican Jon Ford. Incumbent Reps. Mara Candelaria Reardon (D-12) and Shelli VanDenburgh (D-19) also fell.

Kansas Independent Could Be Wild Card in Senate (Or Not, We’ll See)

AAccording to Huffington Post polling, there’s a 79% chance the GOP takes control of the U.S. Senate today (and The Washington Post contends there’s a whopping 98% chance). No surprise it’s likely to happen if you’ve been following along.

But, perhaps most interesting, is that HuffPo also calculates a 9% chance that Greg Orman, an independent in an extremely tight race against Republican three-term Senator Pat Roberts, could determine which party rules based on where he decides to caucus (should he win his race).

Read this Politico piece to find out why Republicans think he’ll actually caucus with Democrats, and what that could mean going forward. (And this may shock you, but Vice President Biden reportedly let the ol’ cat out of the bag on this matter earlier today.)

At any rate, Orman’s campaign is making for interesting theater during this mid-term election season.

Nate Silver: GOP Has 60% Chance of Taking Control of Senate

Nate Silver has built a brand as a successful prognosticator of U.S. elections — and fantasy baseball projections, for the record. So Democrats are understandably concerned about his prediction that Republicans will regain the U.S. Senate in 2014. The Huffington Post writes:

Cue the hand-wringing in Democratic circles everywhere: Nate Silver says the GOP will probably re-take the Senate in November’s elections.

After he ran the table in 2012, correctly predicting the electoral outcomes in every single state, Silver has become something of a modern-day oracle to political junkies.

On Sunday, Silver took to his new FiveThirtyEight website—and his new TV home on ABC—to deliver one of his breathlessly awaited prognostications.

Republicans need six seats to regain control of the Senate chamber. How many seats did Silver think the GOP would win? “Exactly six,” he told ABC’s Jonathan Karl.

Silver gave Republicans a 60 percent chance of wresting the Senate out of Harry Reid’s hands—a big blow to the final two years of the Obama presidency. In Silver’s words, that only makes the GOP “slightly favored” to win, and there are still very many months to go until November.

Way Too Early for 2016 Hype, But…

It’s way too early for this, but I can’t help myself. Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie appear to be favorites as nominees for the 2016 election, and NBC News reports on a recent poll showing Clinton had the edge thus far. She also appears to benefit from more cohesive support from her party than Christie, as Tea Partiers don’t seem to be enthusiastic about the Springsteen-loving East Coaster.

Christie vs. Clinton

Christie’s challenges extend beyond his own party: The poll finds Clinton getting the support of 44 percent of all adults in a hypothetical match up against the New Jersey governor, who gets 34 percent. The rest of respondents either preferred another candidate, said they would not vote, or were undecided.

And while Election Day 2016 is still more than 1,000 days away, the survey shows Clinton benefiting from the same demographic trends that helped propel President Barack Obama to win the election in 2008 and re-election in 2012.

Clinton leads Christie among African Americans (83 percent to 4 percent), respondents ages 18 to 29 (45 percent to 31 percent) and Latinos (44 percent to 33 percent).

Clinton also holds the advantage with residents from the Northeast (52 percent to 35 percent), West (43 percent to 30 percent), the South (43 percent to 35 percent) and Midwest (41 percent to 37 percent). And she has a narrow edge among independents (39 percent to 35 percent).

Christie, meanwhile, leads among whites (41 percent to 37 percent), seniors (44 percent to 41 percent) and respondents with an annual income of $75,000 or more (46 percent to 34 percent).

Throwback Thursday: Old School Governance

Our annual Legislative Directory remains the most in-demand product from our legislative services department. (And stay tuned, because this year it will be offered as a fancy new app for your mobile device!)

The directory features pictures and bios of the members of Indiana's House and Senate, and is a handy tool for lobbyists and politicos to know their reps. So imagine our delight when we found a Legislative Directory from 1945!

Here are some fun facts:

Governor Ralph Gates: Gates, a Republican, hailed from Columbia City. He was Indiana's sixth wartime governor, and attended the University of Michigan. He was also an ensign in the U.S. Navy in World War I, and made his living as an attorney. (I later read that Gates died in 1978 of natural causes, and is best known for helping to rebuild the GOP after it came close to collapsing following the KKK scandal of the late 1920s.)

Lt. Governor Richard James: Also an attorney, James was from Portland. He attended Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Party breakdown: The Senate consisted of 37 Republicans and 13 Democrats. The House held 69 Republicans and 31 Democrats. Oddly enough, the exact same splits exist today in both houses in 2013!

Women: There were eight women in the legislature at the time (one senator; seven reps). Contrast that with 2013, as 31 women (eight senators; 23 reps) help shape legislation in the Indiana Statehouse. Our Lt. Governor, of course, is also a woman now (Sue Ellspermann) — as was the last person to hold that position (Becky Skillman).

The Political Brain: Can Brain Scans Predict Your Affiliations?

Found this interesting article on Huffington Post about how brain scans can predict political affiliation. This does make sense; my experience is that after interacting with someone only for a brief period of time, I can accurately guess which way they lean. Not always, of course — and some turn out to be centrists or libertarians, who wouldn't necessarily fit into the left/right model. But it's an intriguing scientific approach to the madness.

Comparing the Democrat and Republican participants turned up differences in two brain regions: the right amygdala and the left posterior insula. Republicans showed more activity than Democrats in the right amygdala when making a risky decision. This brain region is important for processing fear, risk and reward.

Meanwhile, Democrats showed more activity in the left posterior insula, a portion of the brain responsible for processing emotions, particularly visceral emotional cues from the body. The particular region of the insula that showed the heightened activity has also been linked with "theory of mind," or the ability to understand what others might be thinking.

While their brain activity differed, the two groups' behaviors were identical, the study found.

Schreiber and his colleagues can't say whether the functional brain differences nudge people toward a particular ideology or not. The brain changes based on how it is used, so it is possible that acting in a partisan way prompts the differences.

The functional differences did mesh well with political beliefs, however. The researchers were able to predict a person's political party by looking at their brain function 82.9 percent of the time. In comparison, knowing the structure of these regions predicts party correctly 71 percent of the time, and knowing someone's parents' political affiliation can tell you theirs 69.5 percent of the time, the researchers wrote.

Some Legislators Pushing to End U.S. Senate Elections

For politicos, Indiana's 2012 U.S. Senate primary and election had it all: Drama. Faction rivalries. Gaffes. But if it was up to some legislators, the ultimate victor would not be left up to the general voting public.

Some Georgia Republicans are seeking a repeal of the 17th Amendment, and want state legislators to start appointing Senators in order to bring more power back to the states. The Huffington Post writes:

The resolution calls on Congress to begin the process of repealing the 17th Amendment, passed in 1913, which provided for the direct election of senators. State Rep. Kevin Cooke (R-Carrollton), the main sponsor of the resolution, told the Douglas County Sentinel that moving the power back to state legislatures would allow for the original intent of the Constitution.

“It’s a way we would again have our voice heard in the federal government, a way that doesn’t exist now,” Cooke told the paper. “This isn’t an idea of mine. This was what James Madison was writing. This would be a restoration of the Constitution, about how government is supposed to work.”

In the text of the resolution, Cooke cites Madison's writing in the Federalist Papers, specifying that members of the Senate would be "elected absolutely and exclusively by state legislatures."

The resolution says the 17th Amendment has prevented state governments from having a say in federal government and that repealing the amendment would hold U.S. senators accountable to the states. The federal government has grown in "size and scope," it says, in the century since the amendment was adopted.

The 17th Amendment was adopted out of concern for state-level corruption influencing Senate elections, which Cooke said would not be the case now.

“It’s the responsibility of each and every citizen to make sure of who gets elected to office, that they’re principled people,” Cooke told the Douglas County Sentinel. “You can look at the current state of ethics and transparency. Anybody has the ability to look at money being donated to campaigns. It would keep anything from being done out of the public eye.”

Chamber Statement on the Fiscal Cliff Deal

President Obama and a divided Congress have come to an agreement on the so-called fiscal cliff. Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar reacts:

"The Indiana Chamber applauds the President and Congress for their ability to compromise in the eleventh hour. However, the measures agreed to are inadequate, some potentially counter-productive, and fall far short of addressing the long-term fiscal challenges facing our federal government.

"Despite tax increases, long-term spending remains unsustainable and a threat to our economic and national security. We must rigorously reform entitlement and social welfare programs and look for real, lasting savings across all federal activities. We can no longer borrow and spend as if there were no consequences, because the day of reckoning fast approaches. We look forward to working with our congressional delegation in the weeks and months ahead to fashion workable and responsible reforms."

In early December, the Indiana Chamber released the results of a federal tax survey, done in in partnership with Congressman Todd Young (R-9th District), who is a new appointee to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. The survey of Hoosier businesses revealed a willingness to share the tax burden, provided there is real and significant reduction in federal spending and substantive reform to simplify the tax code. The press release and charts detailing the results can be found online at www.indianachamber.com/federal.
 

Pennsylvania Grapples with Transportation Solutions

How to pay for future transportation infrastructure needs and what to do about mass transit options. While these are issues Indiana legislators will soon be debating, the battle in Pennsylvania is slightly different. Mass transit involves alternatives already in place and the question is whether funding for both topics should be considered together or separately. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:

Faced with critical needs in Pennsylvania’s transportation networks, the Republicans controlling both legislative chambers are divided on whether to uncouple the issues of infrastructure and mass transit.

Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, has said he is considering all recommendations of an advisory commission that issued a report in August 2011 about how to fund improvements to the state’s roads, bridges and mass transit.

During an appearance Monday in McCandless, the governor said he expects to lay out a proposal when the new Legislature begins work in mid-January.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, said in an interview at the event that his members want to address transportation infrastructure and separately deal with public transit systems.

"We want it focused on roads and bridges," he said. "So many reforms have to be brought to mass transit that it needs to be disentangled. They need to be separate pieces."

House Republicans want to bring checks and balances to spending on mass transportation, said Steve Miskin, a spokesman for the caucus.

But Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Republicans, said he believed legislation addressing only one component of transportation would have an uncertain path through the chamber.

"Our read of the Senate is that it will be very difficult to move funding for one part of that — either roads and bridges or mass transit — without the other part," Mr. Arneson said. "But whether that is one bill or two bills or three bills, we’re not concerned about that as much as we are the timing."

He said he believed the Senate could pass separate bills if they were moved together.

Asked about disconnecting the components of a transportation plan, Steve Chizmar, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said Mr. Corbett has kept his options open.

"At this point the governor said that everything is on the table," Mr. Chizmar said. "He’s really dedicated to finding a long-term solution that’s going to move through the Legislature."

Democrats, meanwhile, denounced the idea of extracting mass transit from a funding plan. Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, said that while funding plans could be presented in separate bills, lawmakers from cities would not support legislation aimed at roads and bridges without an accompanying proposal for the transit systems serving their communities.