‘Sen. Safety’ stays true to mission to the end
This year’s legislative session, which ended Friday, was the last one for Sen. Tom Wyss, who has represented Fort Wayne and served Indiana since 1985.
The 71-year-old Republican was honored at the Statehouse Tuesday along with four of his colleagues who also have chosen not to run for re-election.
During the tributes, fellow Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, explained why he calls Wyss Senator Safety.
Everything he does, Merritt said, from the gates at the parking lot to security around the Statehouse, to keeping babies safe in car seats, to having seat belts on to his homeland responsibilities, to his 0.08 history – everything in Sen. Tom Wyss’ career deals with safety.
Indeed, Wyss is best known for his 11-year battle to lower the legal blood-alcohol limit to 0.08 from 0.10. The measure has undoubtedly saved lives, and perhaps more importantly, the battle itself changed the way Hoosiers view drinking and driving. He also championed other efforts to make driving safer, including a no-texting law.
During much of his nearly 29-year Senate career, Wyss also served in the Indiana Air National Guard, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1997.
His passion to keep Hoosiers safe, combined with his military experience, led him to chair the Senate Homeland Security Committee and to become a nationally known expert on security issues.
School bullying was another of Wyss’ deserving targets, though his efforts over a number of years to get the legislature to address that issue ultimately were scuttled by bullies from the religious right.
A fatal bus accident in Indianapolis spurred Wyss to one of his last Senate crusades – an effort to empower state police to conduct safety inspections of private buses that was passed this session.
Serving in an institution that often loses focus on what’s truly important, Wyss kept his eye on goals that were both achievable and significant. Indiana is a safer and better place to live because of his efforts.
Gun bill produces some unintentional irony
From the Department of You-Can’t-Make-This-Stuff-Up comes this startling news:
Former state lawmaker Mike Murphy has filed a police report for a missing AR-15 assault rifle and .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun, both stolen from an unlocked truck parked in his driveway. The report indicates the theft took place sometime between 5 a.m. and 4 p.m. on March 7.
Murphy’s weapons were stolen, it must be noted, just as Republican legislators were plotting their final efforts to ram through legislation allowing guns on school property. Rep. Jim Lucas offered a House bill that was rejected, but he and other lawmakers scrambled to add the language to a Senate bill on gun buyback programs.
Proponents of the legislation argue that responsible gun-owners shouldn’t be prohibited from leaving weapons locked in their cars on school property. The law would apply to students if they’re members of a shooting team and have permission from the school principal.
These are common, everyday, peaceful, sensible people that just want to be able to defend themselves, said Lucas, a Seymour Republican. This bill gives them a common-sense solution of how to store their firearms on school property.
It’s a good bet that Lucas would describe Murphy, his former House colleague, as sensible.
So, explain to us how a sensible former lawmaker could allow an assault rifle and handgun to be stolen from his vehicle and how we’re all safer with those weapons on the street?
Senate Bill 229 awaits a signature from Gov. Mike Pence.
The final bill allows parents, teachers and other adults to carry guns on school property, provided they have legal carry permits and keep the firearms out of sight in locked vehicles. If the gun is visible or the vehicle is unlocked, the gun owner would be subject to a misdemeanor charge, not a felony.