Political Notebook

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Pence’s committee visit had precedent

Gov. Mike Pence pulled an interesting tool out of his arsenal last week, testifying before a legislative committee to push his preschool program.

Governors rarely visit lawmakers on their home turf – the committee room – and the tactic is usually saved for a key priority. It was the first time Pence used it since taking office in January 2013.

Pence delivered a succinct, polished speech on state funding for early-childhood education to the Senate Education Committee. He used the same talking points he had used in recent months and declined to take any questions from the panel.

Compare that with the last time a governor went before a legislative committee: Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2008.

He was pushing a property tax overhaul during a visit to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Daniels spent almost two hours being peppered with questions from the Democratic-controlled panel about his property tax overhaul plan. At least some of the questions were provided to Daniels beforehand. From income taxes to the constitutionality of tax caps, he handled them all.

To be fair, though, Daniels’ performance was not typical.

In January 2002, then-Gov. Frank O’Bannon also went to the House Ways and Means Committee, this time to support a budget deficit plan that included raising tobacco and gambling taxes.

A story then said his speech was short and repetitive of what he had said during the past month. He took no questions.

Then in May 2002 during a special session, O’Bannon went to Ways and Means again, citing an impending budget crisis in education and seeking the same tax increases again.

The end result of that 40-day special session was a tax-and-budget bill that raised cigarette and wagering taxes; increased sales and gasoline taxes; cut property taxes substantially; and set in process an elimination of the business inventory tax and the corporate gross income tax.

Evolution debate

The Kentucky auditorium audience at a debate between creationist Ken Ham and evolution supporter Bill Nye this month included Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd.

Stutzman’s Facebook page reported that he and his wife, Christy, attended.

“Very excited to get to see it in person,” she wrote.

A member of Stutzman’s staff confirmed that the second-term congressman was at the Feb. 4 debate at the Creation Museum founded by Ham in Petersburg, Ky.

“He enjoyed hearing both sides of the debate. He considers himself a creationist,” Stutzman’s staffer said.

Stutzman had been invited by a friend and “paid for the trip out of his own pocket,” the staffer said.

The U.S. House website shows that Stutzman missed no roll-call votes to attend the debate between Ham, a biblical literalist who contends the Earth is about 6,000 years old, and Nye, best known for his 1990s TV show “Bill Nye the Science Guy.”

According to news reports, more than 3 million people watched the televised debate.

One last challenger

Democrat Fred Haigh has also filed to run for the 84th House District seat.

Haigh’s name was not immediately updated on a secretary of state listing Feb. 7 following the noon filing deadline.

He has been an educator in public and private schools, a financial planner and adjunct faculty member to Manchester University and Ball State University.

“I am passionate about our community and the future of education in Indiana,” Haigh said. “Throughout my career, I have seen Fort Wayne grow and have been an advocate for the revitalization of our downtown. But I strongly believe that the 84th House District has not been represented fairly, wisely, or with an open mind. We need a new representative who will focus on area jobs, economic growth, and middle-class values, not someone who is focused on distracting social issues.”

He is unopposed on the Democratic primary ballot.

On the GOP side, incumbent Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, faces challenger Michael Barranda.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can also be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.

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