The elections are over and we can all finally watch TV without campaign ads. In Indiana legislators are getting ready to roll up their sleeves and begin the work of the 118th General Assembly. There will be many new faces in the State House when they convene on January 7. No doubt this will change some of the dynamics in both the House and the Senate. How will the 25 new representatives and four new senators fit in with incumbents?
Gaining a net nine seats, the Republicans now hold a super majority in the House and with no incumbents being defeated in Senate races, still hold a quorum proof majority of seats at 37 to the Democrat’s 17. This means neither chamber will have to curtail business if there is a walkout by the minority party. I think the “super majority” of Hoosiers are simply hoping that everyone can play nice … reach across the aisle and get down to business.
As with all things new, there is both a downside and an upside. In the upside category, perhaps amongst the 29 freshman legislators there are enough middle-child type personalities to shift to an environment of building relationships and doing the work of the people. For the Society and our members, the upside is actually opportunity knocking at our door.
Combining this election’s freshmen with 2010’s, 43% entering the State House have less than two years of experience in office. In addition, the House was the victim of brain drain when Reps. Jeff Espich (most recent chair of the House Ways and Means Committee) and Bill Crawford (former chair of the Ways and Means Committee), two long-time fiscal leaders, retired. The Democrats in both chambers will also have new caucus leadership.
So what is the opportunity? As trusted advisors in the business community, Society members can reach out to these new legislators offering expertise on many issues with which legislators may not be familiar. This is also a chance to renew relationships with incumbent legislators, reminding them of the resource that is only a phone call away – YOU.
If you have never talked to a legislator before, it is not as intimidating as it might seem. Indiana’s legislators are teachers, business owners and professionals in your community just like you. They face the same challenges you and your clients face every day. Their children go to school with yours, their parents visit the same health-care facilities … need I go on?
If you are up to the challenge, a great first-step is to invite your representatives to the Society’s Legislators Breakfast on January 17 at the Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. Plan to spend a few minutes over breakfast getting to know them as people from your community. It really is that simple.
Another easy step is to become a Legislative Key Person. By doing so, you will learn more about the Society’s advocacy efforts and have access to resources to help you understand issues and facilitate change in the profession.
Opportunity is knocking … will you answer the door?