Eastern Indiana lawmakers anticipate same sex ban vote in 2014

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) -  Indiana lawmakers talked about same sex marriage, Sunday liquor sales and declining state revenue amid projections of a slow economy in 2014.

 The gathering was the Noon Rotary Club lunch along with members of the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce at the Suzanne Gresham Center.

State Reps. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City, and Jack Lutz, R-Anderson along with Sen. Doug Eckerty, R-Yorktown, had plenty to say about the upcoming short session where all 100 House members and half the 50 member Senate will face re-election.

Top of their list was giving Hoosier's a vote on an Indiana Constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage - which would include a clause to stop civil unions.

Lutz, a member of House Public Policy Committee, anticipated a vote in both houses to put that on the ballot. in November 2014. Eckerty said he would give voters the right to decide if the constitution should be amended.

Mahan, the third Republican, said he voted to put the ban on the ballot two years ago, but found opinion had a 180 degree turn to let the issue die.

Everyone from his 70-year-old neighbor to many surveyed on legislative issues now believe the issue and especially the constitutional amendment should be dropped.

Errington said same sex advocates now had help from state universities, Eli Lilly and Cummins who don't want Indiana to be intolerant of sexual preference.

That intolerance has been at the top of conservative, fundamentalist views that control super majorities of Republicans at the Statehouse - like Republican Gov. Mike Pence.

Bebe Bahrami, a social activist, could not believe interest groups from fundamentalists to those tolerant of choice would spend millions of dollars trying to sway lawmakers to put the ban on the ballot.

With issues like unemployment, homelessness and child care so important, Bahrami said leaders should focus on what impacts people the most.

The issue of Sunday liquor sales saw hope that State Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland stepped down to take a job with the state. Davis, former chair of the public policy committee, refused to call the issue for a vote.

Lutz reminded the primarily conservative group of business and community leaders that Indiana still had lots of "blue laws" like no Sunday auto or motorcycle sales.

Eckerty, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, focused on money and Pence's pronouncement this week that the state has a $141 million shortfall in tax revenue and spoke of a slow 2014 with little new growth. Pence already is talking about cutting government spending and money for higher education with as much as a $2 billion surplus.

More troubling is that sales tax revenue also is on the decline, meaning consumers are not spending and businesses are not selling.

Eckerty, like other Republicans, still blame Affordable Care Act as the reason small businesses are not hiring or growing.

With seven percent unemployment, and many part time and minimum wage jobs, Indiana still is not producing revenue as it did six months ago. 

Other issues like getting more revenue to tax strapped government and schools besides how to preserve public education amid growing charter schools and voucher transfers could reach the threshold of the short session. 

Errington said she would push for relief to cash poor Muncie schools while trying to preserve public education. All four lawmakers will be on the ballot in 2014.