Environment Greater transparency sought in Senate proceedings

Greater transparency sought in Senate proceedings

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State Senate committees will begin an unusual schedule of bill hearings on Wednesday. Senate Democrat Leader Vi Simpson (Ellettsville) says she is concerned schedule changes made by Senate Republicans will create a more complicated, even chaotic system that could limit the public’s access to follow or advocate on measures before the General Assembly.

Under the changes for Senate committees, announced last week by Senate Republicans, legislators expect to see multiple measures pushed into one bill during committee hearings. Also, House Republicans are invited to attend and participate in Senate committee hearings with the opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions along with the Senate committee members.

“I hope that decorum will be maintained in the Senate committees, and that a circus-like environment in those deliberations does not detract from the public’s ability to hear and be heard,” Sen. Simpson said. “The Senate should not create more confusion and chaos in this process or make it more burdensome for constituents to stay engaged on important matters that affect them.”

In a letter to the Senate President Pro Tem delivered Monday, Sen. Simpson asked that the bills to be offered as amendments be included in committee public postings, a courtesy that would provide 48 hours notice to the public and to other legislators. Procedural rules in the State Senate do not require any prior posting or notice of amendments offered in committee, a process that Sen. Simpson believes will put the public at a distinct disadvantage during these unusual proceedings.

Senate Republicans declined that request on Tuesday, noting that it will be up to committee chairs to decide whether any notice of the bills to be considered as amendments will be posted publicly before each hearing.

On Wednesday morning, the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee will consider combining ten different bills into a single bill. House Bill 1017, which now contains a plan allowing medication unused by incarcerated offenders to be returned to the pharmacy, could become the vehicle for nine other substantial measures on issues ranging from an increased co-pay for families in the First Steps Program for developmentally disabled children to changes in the Healthy Indiana Plan for adult low-cost health care insurance.

Sen. Simpson pointed out that in the case of the health committee, while the extensive amendments would complicate the process, at least the public had some notice of the measures that were going to be considered. Whether such prior notice will be available in other committees is unlikely.

For more information on Sen. Simpson, her legislative agenda or other State Senate business call 1-800-382-9467 or visit www.SenateDemocrats.IN.gov.