State Senator Jim Arnold was elected to fulfill the unexpired term for Senate District 8 in March 2007. A longtime public servant, Arnold retired as the LaPorte County Sheriff on January 1, 2007, after serving 36 years in law enforcement.
How does being a senator compare to your former job as a county sheriff?
When I was a sheriff and worked in law enforcement, I enjoyed the luxury of saying I don’t write the laws, I just enforce them. Now, the buck stops here. Being sheriff I was on call 24 hours a day and the phone never stopped ringing, and now while the phone starts ringing earlier in the morning it stops around 9 p.m.
Has anything surprised you about your job as state senator?
I knew that after 36 years in county government when I completed my service there the only position I was interested in taking after that was state senator. It seemed like a natural progression to me.
After I became a state senator there were a few things that came to the forefront that I hadn’t realized before I started the job. First of all the amount of reading involved to understand the bills that will affect people’s lives is huge. Secondly, the amount of time it takes to do this job is daunting if you’re doing it right. Very few people understand the time and commitment involved.Can you tell me about some particular legislation you have played an active role in creating that has helped Indiana residents over the years?
I’m particularly proud of the bill I authored that mandated an eight-hour, in-custody cooling off period for anyone taken into custody after a domestic violence incident. This bill gives families the time they need to access services, as well as giving the accused time to “cool off.”
I’m also proud of a provision nicknamed Ben’s Law, which was included in House Bill 1468 and makes killing a domestic animal a Class D felony if a person knowingly or intentionally kills the animal without the owner’s consent. The law is named after a draft horse that was wrongfully killed in LaPorte County last November. Previously, state law imposed punishment for the beating or torturing of an animal, but not for the killing of an animal. I received strong backing for this bill from animal rights supporters.
In this session, what are some of the issues you fought for most that might affect people living in District 8?
People living in District 8 have tremendous interest in the education bills dealing with vouchers and other issues concerning teachers. This session has been a terrible blow to public schools. These huge changes to public education have been brought on by legislators too fast without enough thought or input. More time and consideration should have definitely played a part in these drastic changes.
It’s amazing to me that everyone in the statehouse campaigned on jobs, but we have seen no legislation to encourage jobs in the state. We had already chopped unemployment benefits, and now people want to know where the jobs are. We may be financially stable as a state, but we’re not bringing in jobs. The governor’s claimed job numbers haven’t been proven to be quite as strong as we were led to believe.
How would you encourage people to get involved with the legislative process and engage with you?
People need to pay more attention to who they elect. They need to look at the individual candidates and ask if that person is prepared for the job. The only job I ever wanted in politics was county sheriff, and this job as state senator is icing on the cake. I ran for county sheriff three times before I was elected, and I kept coming back because I wanted the job so badly. I was prepared for the job and motivated to do it well. People need to not vote for a party label, but instead on preparedness. Elections are critical events that affect our lives in every way– public awareness plays such a vital role.
Nationwide, we have to return to civility. Legislators need to argue their issues and take a stand, but make it professional instead of personal. We need to do the job we were elected to do. If someone has a good idea we need to vote on their bill for its merits, and not discard it because of their political party. I only hope I live to see that day.