HB1073 (Public Mass Transit) was dealt a heavy blow today when it went down 10-11 in the House Ways & Means committee this morning. Partisan bickering erupted early on with Representative Crawford singling out the labor language in the bill. Jeff Espich, committee Chairman, pointed out that he had stripped half of the labor related language out but it appeared the Democrats on the committee were not going to budge and continued to vote no. To be clear, the transit portion of the bill never seemed to be at the heart of the debate over HB1073; it was always the labor.
The bickering could be see as an extension of the passionate debate of the past few weeks over Right to Work legislation which passed the House yesterday with Democrats coming up on the losing end of that debate.
This officially puts HB1073 in the failed bills category but does not altogether bury it from being passed in some other form this session. Ron Gifford, executive director of the Central Indiana Transit Task Force, has said that he will do his best to get the transit language reinserted into another bill later in the session; perhaps in a couple weeks. According to his comments in the Indianapolis Star, this is not the best way to get the job done, but is not unheard of and given that the transit portion itself seems to benefit from bipartisan support, may have some hope of passage.
However, the over-arching theme today and indeed this entire session, has been passion from both sides that seem to have been deeply routed in their philosophical political beliefs; only one Democrat (Peggy Welch) voted in favor of the legislation while claiming to not like the labor language. Apparently my offer of dinner was not enough to sway any other legislators to think cooperatively about transit.
Urban Indy will continue to keep everyone up to date as more develops regarding transit during this session. Stay tuned. If there is a call to action in the next few weeks, we will provide the details.