With the 2015 legislative session of the Indiana General Assembly coming to a close Wednesday, many have been looking back on what was and what wasn’t achieved with mixed opinions.
A number of state representatives and senators have expressed their satisfaction with the results of this legislative session, and State Rep. Greg Beumer R-Modoc, epitomized the opinions of most of these state officials.
“This session we worked diligently to ensure that Indiana remains one of the best places in the country for businesses to locate and expand,” Beumer said in a press release. “This was accomplished through the passage of a two-year budget that is honestly balanced and lives within our means.”
Gov. Mike Pence also held a press conference Thursday morning to recap all that had happened throughout the legislative session, addressing what he considered to be his greatest accomplishments of this year: Indiana’s education, the recently passed state budget and the economy.
“First and foremost we do remember this was a budget session, and it was imperative that Indiana do once again what so many states find it very difficult to do so, and that is pass an honestly balanced budget,” Pence said. “We did that, and we held the line on spending ... and we protected reserves in a manner that will ensure that Indiana will continue to be the fiscal envy of the country.”
After referencing what he perceived as successes for education in the budget, Pence opened the conference up to questions. It soon became evident that not everyone was as pleased with this legislative session as he seemed to be.
Reporters asked provoking questions about Pence’s use of personal funds to draw up support for the repeal of the common wage construction law. His handling of the ordeal that accompanied Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act was also questioned.
“Looking back, I wish I could have foreseen the controversy that would have ensued,” Pence said, answering a question about his signing of RFRA. “I regret the difficulty that Indiana passed through during a time of great misunderstanding about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I was pleased to support the legislation to clarify what the bill was and what the bill wasn’t, and I was pleased that it calmed the storm and that we were able to move on as a state.”
Some other major policy issues that weren’t addressed but were focal points in the legislative session included the dismantling of the proposed state-run news agency JustIN and the complete reorganization of the State Board of Education and the removal of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz from her seat as chair of the SBOE.
John Zody, the chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, was immensely dissatisfied with this year’s legislative session and the agenda Pence was pushing.
“The 2015 legislative session is an embarrassment,” Zody said in a press release. “The potential to solve problems and move Indiana forward was there. Unfortunately, Gov. Mike Pence and statehouse Republicans chose to push an out-of-touch, socially-divisive agenda that served special interests over working in a bipartisan manner to grow our state’s economy. The results speak for themselves.”
Jason Pitt, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, had similar opinions to Zody’s.
“When you look back at the session, it seems Mike Pence was more focused on creating chaos and controversy than he was on helping Hoosiers,” Pitt said. “Pence has made a career of promoting policies that help himself and not the middle class.”
Coincidentally, two prominent Indiana figures made announcements today in regards to the 2016 Indiana gubernatorial election.
Ritz, a Democrat who has been in political tangles with Pence in the past, announced Thursday she was considering a bid for governor, elaborating on Pence’s move to push her off of the SBOE.
In a recent poll that pits Ritz and Pence against each other in a simulated election, Ritz earned 39 percent of the vote with Pence earning 42 percent.
Another strong potential candidate that announced his bid for the governor’s seat was John Gregg, the Democratic rival who narrowly lost to Pence in the 2012 election and spoke in a campaign announcement video about his poor opinions of Pence’s handling of RFRA.