Leo Morris: Time’s short for the short session

Aren’t you tired of all those predictably boring ceremonial solemnization stories in the news?

The 5th or 10th commemoration of this, the 25th or 50th anniversary of that.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a remembrance in an off year?

So today, let us celebrate the 51st – nearly the 52nd – birthday of momentous events from the year 1970. And, in keeping with the spirit of the times, let’s focus only on those things that have had a lasting negative impact:

The first Earth Day proclamation was declared, which, concurrent with the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, set the stage for Why Aren’t We More Like Europe globalism and We’re All Going to Die climate panic.

The Vietnamization plan of President Nixon was unveiled, letting us know that this country could undertake no commitment so enormous, so invested with blood and treasure, that we could not just walk away from when we got tired of it.

The Beatles broke up, and Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin both died at the age of 27. Grunge, punk and hip hop were waiting in the wings.

The Chicago Seven were found not guilty of conspiring to incite a riot, which started the normalization of urban mayhem, and the Public Broadcasting Service was born, a seminal event in the fitting of unpleasantness such as urban mayhem into the approved narrative.

The Indiana General Assembly voted to add every-other-year short sessions to its usual biennial gatherings, which ensured that even fiscally prudent, skeptical-of-authority Hoosiers could never escape the grasp of government.

The inclusion of that last item, relatively insignificant, mostly unknown to the nation at large, might seem inappropriate. But, like the other events, it shows the long-term consequences, some unintended, of every act. And, unlike the other acts, this one can easily be remedied, which is a dead horse a certain columnist has been beating for decades.

The framers of Indiana’s 1851 Constitution, still cognizant of the country’s founding principle of the “least government” necessary to protect life and liberty, reckoned that one legislative session every two years would be sufficient, except when the governor, determining that the general welfare required it, called a special session.

But in 1970, legislators decided a two-year budget was too fraught with uncertainties, so decided to enact the short sessions.

The were meant to deal only with emergencies and unexpected contingencies, but of course that didn’t last. No tax ever goes away, and no public official is ever satisfied with the amount of government we already have. If 2022 is like previous short-session years, about 800 bills will be introduced, roughly 20 percent of them reaching the governor’s desk.

Does the state really have that many “emergencies” to deal with? Do Hoosiers really need, 205 years after Indiana’s founding, that much fine-tuning of their daily lives?

I say again, as I have every year in my journalistic history, let’s stop the madness.

If there ever were a time to end the short session – at least on a one-year experimental basis – this is certainly that time.

For one thing, state coffers are chock-full of cash. Tax receipts have been much higher than anticipated, and the government’s rainy day fund has exploded. Furthermore, billions are coming in from federal pandemic and infrastructure measures. There is no possible emergency that cannot be handled.

For another, legislators have already staked their claim on autonomy, picking a big fight with the governor over whether he alone can call a special session. If lawmakers take the position that they can meet whenever they want, they can’t balk at not meeting whenever they want.

So, come, on, senators and representatives.

Thanks to Covid and the policies you have embraced, Hoosiers have been able to take time off from work and family gatherings and eating out and shopping in public, and many of their children have even had a year off from school. Take your turn. Enjoy a break.

And give the rest of us a few anxiety-free months.

Let somebody’s 51-year anniversary list in 2072 include this item:

“Indiana legislators informed columnist Leo Morris that his decades-long quest to end the short sessions would be the subject of a summer study committee.” See also, “Horse, beating a dead.” *

*Note: The phrase, not the posthumous Jimi Hendrix album, his 123rd, with that title.