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  • A questionable 'no'
    The legislature is used to paring or turning down requests for more money. But the Indiana Department of Child Services’ decision not to ask for increased staff next year merits further examination.

Furthermore …

Associated Press
Speaker John Boehner and House GOP leaders discuss debt-crisis talks on Tuesday.

Lawmakers unlikely to see hit to their budgets

The failure by Congress to pass a budget for the past three years understandably grates on many Americans. Isn’t adopting a federal budget a rather basic job duty for U.S. representatives and senators? When most people continually don’t do their jobs, they eventually get fired. Why should members of Congress get paid?

House Republicans were undoubtedly tapping into this populist sentiment when they voted this week to extend the nation’s debt limit – with the provision that if the Democratic-led Senate doesn’t pass a budget by April 15, senators won’t get paid.

Give the House GOP credit. What’s not to like about that?

Typical Americans have been paying for congressional inaction through queasy financial markets; why not make the members of Congress pay? And isn’t April 15 – the deadline Americans have to file their tax returns – appropriate?

Though Senate Democrats and President Obama are likely to go along to avoid yet another fiscal cliff over the debt limit, it’s questionable whether their pay can be docked. Article I, Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution requires that “The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States.”

Delayed, perhaps, but permanently withheld? Doubtful.

And, it should be noted, while the Constitution makes clear the federal government cannot spend money without congressional approval, there is no requirement to pass a budget.

Another factor Americans will be reminded of as April 15 gets closer is that the Republican minority in the Senate can still block a vote on any budget that it doesn’t like.

So as much as some would like to link congressional pay with performance – no performance, no pay – don’t count on it really happening.

Culture warrior’s retreat

What a difference a decade makes.

In 2004, when Democrat Joe Kernan was governor and Democrats controlled the Indiana House, Republican minority leader Brian Bosma led a GOP walkout that brought business in the House to a standstill. Why? Republicans were incensed that House Speaker Pat Bauer would not bring a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to a vote.

Bosma said then that the amendment was “the most critical piece of the people’s business.”

This week, both Bosma – now speaker of the House – and Senate President Pro Tem David Long said bringing the gay marriage amendment to a vote this year simply isn’t a priority.

When asked by reporters this week whether he would bring the issue to a vote, Bosma – who nine years ago said the amendment was “the most important issue” in the state – replied: “Anybody have a real question, an important question?”

Unnecessary burden for the ill

A push in Indiana to require prescriptions for over-the-counter cold and allergy medications is nothing to sneeze at, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

The advocacy group opposes any effort by state lawmakers to require a doctor’s prescription for decongestant medications containing pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in Sudafed and many other decongestants. Indiana lawmakers are considering such legislation at the behest of the Indiana Conference of Mayors. The objective is to make it harder for criminals to get their hands on large supplies of the drug, which is used to make meth.

But the foundation, reasonably, thinks requiring prescriptions for these allergy and cold medications will be more burdensome on the people who have legitimate need for the medicine. It will make it more difficult and more expensive for allergy and cold sufferers to have access to safe and effective relief.

“Meth is a terrible illegal substance that can have a tragic impact on individuals, families and communities,” said Bill McLin, the foundation’s president. “All sides of this debate are committed to winning the war on methamphetamine, and we believe that a prescription requirement for allergy medications that don’t currently need a prescription is the wrong approach and would impose significant burdens on patients and families.”

Indiana already has laws that limit the amount of the drug that can be purchased at one time and require people to sign for the product at a drugstore.

If the legislation passes, “Patients would have to make appointments and visit a physician when they desire certain medications that are now available without a prescription,” said the foundation’s statement. “In some cases, they would have to take time off from work, visit a doctor and drive to the pharmacy. These additional steps add up to additional co-pays, increased fuel costs and the potential for lost wages at work.”