question #4 from manfred of manfredeye was "what do you think of the increasing trends toward privatization and corporatization in government?"
- brown mentioned that he came from state government—he worked for governor o'bannon and then spent a couple years at the dept of workplace development—and that people generally don't go into government to get rich. but "you don't get the same feeling from corporations". in other words, people go into public service in order to help other people; corporations get involved with public service because they think there's a profit to be made.
- orentlicher explained his opinion that sometimes privatization can be good; other times it can be bad. but this administration seems to be ideologically driven to privatization, even when it doesn't make sense.
- barnes argued that it's dangerous to privatize public services. "talking about the bottom line instead of compassion is a mistake," he said. barnes drew on his experience as a teacher, explaining that running schools "like a business" doesn't work because "education is not a business."
#5 from rob of confessions of a hoosier democrat was a question about how representatives can avoid conflicts of interest, considering that indiana has a part-time legislature and most legislators need to work another job to get by.
- dr orentlicher explained that it's a difficult balance. since he is a doctor and a lawyer and also teaches at IU, he couldn't possibly recuse himself from all issues that touch on those fields (or there wouldn't be much left to vote on). but he believes legislators should recuse themselves from voting on bills that will directly benefit them financially, which not all do. (without naming names, he cited a couple legislators, like one who works as a pig farmer and proposes laws that fatten his pocket.
- barnes noted the irony that the original intent behind the part-time legislature was to bring diversity of opinion. he went on to lament that the legislature gets too tied up in unimportant pet projects and "wedge" issues to get more important reforms passed.
- brown commiserated that conflict of interest is tricky, but he believes the state senate does well at ethical issues.
#6 from steph at commonplace book was "what are the first bills you would propose/pass upon your election?" (in other words, name your top three issues.)
- brown: #1, full-day kindergarten, preferably statewide.
#2, graduate retention: incentives for graduates of indiana schools to stick around.
#3, state-sponsored access to health insurance for small businesses.
- orentlicher: #1, full-day kindergarten.
#2, property tax reform (to be replaced with other taxes that make more sense).
#3, health insurance reform. (orentlicher thinks the VA health care system would be a good model to follow)
- barnes: #1, health care, especially on the east side, which is particularly poorly served.
#2, education funding. (barnes noted that administrators at warren township schools are thrilled he's running.)
#3, property tax reform.
#7, don sherflick at bilerico asked candidates what they thought about SJR7 (the proposed amendment to the indiana constitution banning gay marriage) and in particular the SJR7's puzzling "second part".
- orentlicher thinks SJR7 should not pass. it should either not come back, or come back in a new, reworded form.
- brown dislikes the entire amendment, but in particular dislikes the second part, the part that has gotten other states in trouble. brown complained that the language is so ambiguous, the bill's sponsor, on the floor of the senate, could not explain what it means.
- barnes complained that the amendment is a redundancy. gay marriage is already illegal, so why do we need an amendment banning it? he also wondered whether the state has ever repealed an amendment to its constitution. (anyone know?) also, yeah, the second part of the amendment is "troubling".
#8, bil from bilerico asked whether the candidates would support legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation/identity in fields like health care, employment, housing, etc. throughout the state.
- barnes said he would support such legislation.
- orentlicher: when passing statewide laws, we must be careful that the laws do not override local ordinances. orentlicher said he considered passing a statewide smoking ban, but anti-cancer organizations were against it because it would override local smoking bans. for example, marion county cannot pass tight gun laws because state law won't let them. but if a nondiscrimination ordinance could be worded so it wouldn't override local ordinances, he'd support it.
- brown: "yes! that's my answer."
#9, gary from advance indiana asked candidates' opinions of the indiana voter id law.
- brown said there are lots of voter reforms he'd love to enact; for example, our polls close too early. requiring voters to show id isn't a bad idea per se, but the indiana law is way too restrictive: the most restrictive in the state.
- orentlicher said the indiana law wasn't a good-faith effort to improve voter integrity. most voter fraud involves absentee ballots, which are not affected by the law. the law was written in such a way to disproportionately disenfranchise democrats.
- barnes: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." what's the motivation behind the law? the law causes long lines at the polls, and long lines disenfranchise: people will go home rather than wait hours to vote.
- brown again: loaded voter rolls is a problem, but rokita hasn't purged the rolls like he should've. also, brown agrees that long lines disenfranchise. he's heard of people waiting in line for two and a half hours.
- orentlicher again: the more hoops people have to go through in order to vote, the fewer people will vote. election results are closely analyzed, so if there were significant fraud, it'd be noticed.
that was it for the questions. there were some closing remarks, which i won't go into other than to note that russell brown claimed that "i read most of your blogs every day". i don't think it was a bluff, either: he handed out folders containing all his press releases and clippings, and inside i noticed printouts of blog entries from advance indiana and bilerico, along with clippings from more traditional media sources like the howey political report and nuvo. it's kind of weird to think that these days, printouts of blog entries count as press clippings.
overall, it was a good event and i was pretty pleased with what i heard. obviously, this was a friendly audience—only democrat candidates and "progressive" bloggers—so it was non-confrontational. nothing like a debate, just a conversation between bloggers and candidates. even though i cannot vote for any of the candidates, i'm glad i got a chance to meet with them, and i hope more candidates reach out to bloggers in the future.¶