GOP shouldn’t toss entire Democratic agenda

(Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel

With only 29 of 100 House seats and 10 of 50 Senate seats, Democrats have no power in the current session of the General Assembly. They can’t even create a lack of a quorum by walking out.

But that hasn’t stopped them from unveiling an ambitious legislative agenda or caused them to be shy in promoting it. Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said his duty is to remind “the Republican leadership here in Indiana that even though they may have 71 percent of the seats, that does not mean that 71 percent of people agree with their vision of the future.”

Well, actually, it’s 74 percent, but why quibble? Still, the Republican supermajorities would be wise not to dismiss the entire Democratic agenda out of hand.

Republicans and Democrats already seem to be on the same page on ethics reform. Pelath and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, plan to co-author the bill. That’s a good issue on which to praise bipartisanship. After years of tinkering with conflict-of-interest rules, it’s time to get serious. A couple of high-profile embarrassments last session will have Hoosiers closely watching for similar lapses of judgment.

There are some areas the GOP will probably want to stay away from. On economic issues, for example, Pelath lays out standard Democratic boilerplate — increase the minimum wage, stop demonizing unions, eliminate tax cuts for the evil rich. The Republican approach of making taxation and regulation reasonable is much more likely to strengthen the economy to the benefit of all Hoosiers.

But on some issues, there could be plenty of room for agreement. Education springs to mind. The suggestion to eliminate textbook fees is a good one — as long as we have them it’s ludicrous to talk about “free” education here. More transparency on where education dollars go is also not a bad idea.

When the session ends, voters won’t be keeping score of how many Republican and Democratic ideas became law. They will judge the session based on how much it improved or hurt their lives.