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Opening Arguments

Dark days for Democrats

Most of the attention for the November elections is going to the presidency and the U.S. Senate race. Let's not forget the General Assembly. Russ Pulliam in the Indianapolis Star:

With Democrats in division and disarray, Republicans hope to boost their 60-40 Indiana House majority even further in November.

Several veteran Democrats have retired, expanding the map for potential Republican victories. Democrats also have been distracted by a leadership battle that threw out veteran minority leader Pat Bauer. They still carry the self-inflicted wounds of their disastrous 2011 walkout to Illinois as well.

[. . .]

Republicans haven't held a super-majority of at least 67 seats, which would allow them to conduct business even if Democrats boycotted the session, since 1973-74. Republicans won 73 seats in the 1972 election. That opened the door for a new governor, Otis Bowen, to win passage of popular property tax reform legislation. In turn, the restraint of property tax increases helped Republicans dominate state politics for nearly 15 years.

This sounds like a dream-come-true year for Republicans, but I'm not sure how good it will be for Hoosiers in general. The Senate is going to stay overwhelmingly Republican, and GOP gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence has an overwhelming lead. The only leverage Democrats have at all is the ability to deny the House a quorum, which, as we've seen in the past two sessions, is a weapon best used sparingly. If Republicans get a super-majority, they will be able to do absolutely anything they want to.

There are times when an overwhelming edge might be desirable -- Washington's fiscal excesses are not likely to be tamed, for example, until there are enough Republicans there (especially the tea party types) to make reversing course a priority. But as a general political rule, it's unhealthy for one party to dominated overwhelmingly. Questions about policy initiatives that ought to be asked aren't asked, and when lawmakers know they face no opposition to anything they want to do, the inclination to legislate carefully and deliberately is greatly diminished.