Last week I blogged about the current Indiana property tax revolt and the connection to Indiana's constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage and civil unions. While the story got tons of local coverage, a few thought I had gone off the deep end. I repeated a rumor I'd heard that the Indiana Republican party (or a faction inside the party) were wanting to play hardball with Democrats over the mounting property tax fiasco. The Pubs would help solve the tax problem in a special session of the legislature if the Dems would agree to pass the amendment.
Word on the street is that the Governor is considering calling a Constitutional Convention - the first since 1851 when the current Constitution was written. With taxes spiraling out of control and problems everywhere with Indiana's antiquated government style, the Governor has formed a blue ribbon commission to study how to best achieve government reform. One of the questions posed to the commission is whether or not we should just scrap the entire constitution and start over by writing a new one.
Suddenly the possible triangulation of property taxes, same-sex marriage and the Constitution has become clear to several others around the state. Kudos to Evansville Courier Press reporter Bryan Corbin for today's article that directly addresses the issue.
But the risk of unintended political consequences concerns state Rep. Dennis Avery, D-Evansville.
"If we have a constitutional convention, there's no guarantee (the delegates) would do the things the governor wants," Avery said. "You're creating an unwieldy animal that could do what it wants to do, as long as the public supports the final project."
Avery recalled controversial social issues that special-interest groups have tried to amend into the state constitution in recent years. Much of this year's Legislature was consumed by debate on one proposed constitutional amendment, SJR 7, the same-sex-marriage ban, which was approved in the state Senate but did not pass in an Indiana House committee.
A constitution rewrite would open the door to adding SJR 7 while bypassing the time-consuming amendment process. But one of the most vocal supporters of SJR 7, lobbyist Eric Miller of the conservative group Advance America, said he opposes a convention.
"You could have a constitutional convention that could get into many more areas other than finding ways to streamline government," said Miller, who ran for governor in 2004. He said he prefers to pursue SJR 7 as an amendment, not through a convention.
So does state Sen. Brandt Hershman, the Senate sponsor of SJR 7.
"I don't believe in mixing issues," said Hershman, R-Wheatfield. Senate President David Long says the "tried-and-true" amendment process allows time for deliberation.
"There's some wisdom in that. You don't race to a conclusion," said Long, R-Fort Wayne, who opposes a convention.
I've been hearing all kinds of rumblings and mumblings lately about possible outcomes and reasons. Let's see what we already know. Maybe we can draw some conclusions...
- Mitch Daniels ran against Eric Miller in the primary election for Governor. Mitch ran as a moderate. Miller as a conservative.
- Miller, who runs the faux-religious organization Advance America, has long advocated for SJR-7, the constitutional amendment against civil unions and same-sex marriage. Most of Miller's focus has been on property taxes lately. Every bit of messaging carries the Miller mug and name; even the Advance America site now reflects how much God loves to meddle in tax code.
- Miller and other religious right organizations in the state have taken swipes at Daniels lately for sending a letter for Indianapolis Pride and not supporting the marriage amendment.
- Mitch Daniels is not a popular governor. The Republicans are not a popular party currently. Mitch is worried about a possible rematch with Miller.
- Mitch swings right and announces that while originally saying he thought an amendment was divisive and unnecessary, he didn't mean it and he supports it.
- The Governor starts looking into ways to appease the right to try and keep control.
One of the most popular rumors I'm hearing goes like this... What better way to ensure that voters will keep you around than scrapping the entire Constitution and starting over from scratch? After all, will you want to vote out the guy that's working like a dog to reform your ancient government? You don't change horses in midstream and Hoosiers aren't big on change to start with. The current "Throw the bums out!" feeling would pass right over Daniels if reform that dramatic were to start happening. Add in the "feel good" special interests amendment for the religious right and he's got himself a wide and easy path to re-election.
The only way for this to get screwed up would be for Miller to announce he's running. Miller - with his face and name on everything - swears he won't be running. (Wonder what Daniels appeased him with? I'd hazard a guess...) Miller also says he doesn't support that constitutional convention. But he doesn't have to, does he? He can sit back and say "Hey, it wasn't me that called this convention. But while we're having one already, could we look at the pretty birdie over here in the gilded cage?" It gives Daniels the prop he'll need from the right while shifting some of the focus off of Miller, a noted lobbyist, who can quietly get the deed done.
So is it game-set-match? Not yet. As I said earlier, Hoosiers are slow to change. After all, this commission still has to study the question and come back with a recommendation. They might not be in favor of a convention. We don't know. But I'll certainly be keeping an eye on it and my ear to the ground.
So whattaya think? Conspiracy theory? Or possible situation?