In which I respond to my legislative survey

If you live in Indiana and have a pulse, you probably received a legislative survey or two in the past couple of weeks. And having created these franked mail pieces and worked with these lists in my career, I’m not so sure you even need a pulse.

Today, I got my survey in the mail from my Senator, Mike Delph (R-Twitter). Each legislator sends a survey out before the year under the auspices of collecting valuable data about how their constituents feel. It’s hardly a scientific poll, but it can give lawmakers a sense of how some folks in their districts feel about the issues. Or, at least it can give them cover at a Third House meeting.

This year, I decided to post my responses here. Senator Delph, I hope you’ll be able to add them to your tally.

1. Do you support of oppose setting a cap on the amount of time spent on testing in schools?

The short answer is, yes, I would support a cap. You’ve got to draw the line on standardized testing somewhere. But the logical follow-up is what should that cap be? I couldn’t find any legislation around a cap this year, but President Obama in October called for a 2 percent limit (i.e. schools could not spend more than 2percent of instructional time in a year on standardized testing).

Now here’s a fun exercise: guess what percentage of time Indiana students currently spend on testing.

The answer, according to DOE’s website, is about seven-tenths of a percent (6.25 hours of testing out of 900 instructional hours…if you can do the calculations, congratulations, you’ve passed the Algebra ECA). But .7 percent is WELL short of the president’s benchmark. Even last fall, when ISTEP got drunk and tried to drive itself home, the test only ballooned to 12 hours, or 1.3 percent. If you added in practice tests, that’s another five hours (max), and we’re still under the president’s cap.

What I’m trying to say is the President’s cap may have sounded good and made great headlines, but I’m not sure how beneficial it was.

2. Do you support or oppose giving school boards more flexibility to approve higher pay for teachers in hard-to-fill positions like special education and science?

Support. As a general rule, if you’re proposing more flexibility, you’re doing something right. As a proponent of small, effective government, I think the state ought to have a compelling reason if it’s going to restrict or mandate something (side note: wanting to read the Constitution in cursive ain’t a compelling reason to mandate teaching cursive). While there may not really be a teaching shortage, there is a need for more teachers in certain fields. Why not reward those educators?

3. Do you support or oppose amending the Indiana Constitution to establish an appointed commission to draw state legislative and congressional district boundaries?

Amending the Constitution? Oppose. Article 4, Section 5 of the Indiana Constitution gives the power to draw district lines to the General Assembly. There have been numerous attempts to end gerrymandering over last decade, and not just here. All over the country. To me, the problem with non-partisan, independent commissions are that they are rarely truly non-partisan. Perhaps the bigger problem, though, is that if a non-elected commission sets the maps, there is no recourse if they suck at their jobs. One bad map, and Hoosiers are wandering in a gerrymandered haze for a decade.

I’d rather see an independent advisory committee adopting maps that the General Assembly can then amend and ratify.

Alternative solution: Create a committee of the 11 people in Indiana named “Jerry Mann”.

4. Do you support or oppose requiring all individuals to obtain a prescription before they can buy cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine?

Oppose. Thankfully, this bill was torpedoed before it got a hearing. There was a push this year by county prosecutors, among others, to join Oregon and Mississippi as the only states to require a prescription for these common over-but-actually-behind-the-counter drugs that are used to make meth. A recent Ball State study showed what should be obvious to anyone who has ever had to go to the doctor: it’s expensive.

5. Do you support or oppose requiring people convicted of drug crimes to obtain a prescription before they can buy cold medicine containing psuedoephedrine?

Support. Now, we’re talking. Completely logical step that doesn’t place an undue burden on your average Hoosier. Worth noting, however: under this proposal, Walter White would still be able to buy Sudafed.

6. Do you support or oppose regulating and taxing electronic cigarettes in the same way as conventional tobacco products?

Tax those bad boys. Look, if you want less of something, tax it. E-cigarettes make the American Lung Association nervous, and not just because it looks like you’re puffing on Kylo Ren’s lightsaber hilt. But, Jay, does it help people stop smoking? Not really. ALA says almost 75 percent of e-smokers still smoke regular cigarettes too. It’s not a big money grab. A proposal from Senator Brandt Hershman to tax e-cigs last year was only predicted to raise $9 million a year on the high end. We’re not going to get rich, but it isn’t a very desirable product, so let’s regulate and tax it.

7. Do you support or oppose allowing the sale of alcohol in licensed retail stores on Sundays, which is currently prohibited in Indiana?

Support. What can I say about this subject that hasn’t already been said with slurred words on a Thursday night at Ike and Jonesy’s? I don’t even drink, and yet I’ve never once thought, “Thank heavens you can’t by liquor today!” Give Hoosiers something else to complain about, and pass the law. And for the love of God, also let me buy a car!


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