For decades, the nation could expect pragmatism from most Indiana elected leaders, rather than knee-jerk ideology.
Richard Lugar and Lee Hamilton shone in Congress as voices of reason and wisdom. Otis Bowen and Evan Bayh earned bipartisan respect as governors of Indiana, and later serving in federal offices. Bill Hudnut became Indianapolis’ longest serving mayor and transformed the once sleepy capital of Hoosier into a mecca for amateur, college and professional sports through progressive economic development initiatives.
Sadly, the days have passed when these Indiana officials compromised across party lines or made decisions that defied expectations. The responses from the state’s congressional contingent to nearly every question are, predictably, partisan.
In his five-plus years as governor, Eric Holcomb provided insight into this previous generation of open-minded Hoosier leaders. A prime example is Holcomb’s generally cautious handling of Indiana’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly through the trust and respect of state public health experts. For that, of course, Holcomb received resistance from the Indiana General Assembly — led by far-right lawmakers from his own Republican Party.
HOLCOMB WALK in the lightly trodden middle ground once again on Tuesday.
The governor has vetoed a culture wars bill that would ban transgender women in K-12 from participating in girls’ sports. That same day, Holcomb also signed a bill eliminating the state license requirement to carry handguns in public.
Both decisions left Holcomb wide open to criticism.
The bill banning transgender women from participating in girls’ sports was unnecessary and motivated by national political parties’ efforts to create “wedge” issues to rally voters behind Republican candidates. The Indiana High School Athletic Association already has a policy covering transgender students and also said no transgender girls have finalized an application to play on an all-girls team, the Associated Press reported.
Holcomb cited exactly that situation in his veto letter Tuesday.
“The presumption of the policy set forth in HEA 1041 is that there is an existing problem in K-12 sports in Indiana that requires further intervention by the state government,” Holcomb said. “This implies that the goals of consistency and fairness in women’s competitive sports are currently not being achieved. Upon careful examination, I find no evidence to support either assertion, even if I support the effort as a whole.
The only real motivation for the bill was to carry water for a national political party, not to meet a pressing need among the Hoosiers.
Mike Braun, the junior US senator from Indiana, responded in a more predictable and likely way with future electoral aspirations in mind. “Girls’ sport should be for girls, and allowing biological men to compete with them robs female athletes of a chance to compete and win,” Braun said on her official Twitter account. “I am disappointed that Governor Holcomb vetoed a bill to enact this law in Indiana, and I support a waiver of the veto to protect women’s athletics.”
Indeed, the Indiana General Assembly can override Holcomb’s veto with a simple majority, and could do so in its one-day session on May 24.
THE HOLCOMB SIGNATURE of the repeal of the handgun license requirement contradicts the objections of many leaders and law enforcement groups throughout Indiana, including the State Superintendent of Police in the ‘Indiana, Doug Carter. These groups have argued convincingly and rightly that ending the state licensing system would endanger police officers, removing a tool they use to quickly screen and identify dangerous people who should not be armed. . In signing this bill, Holcomb said he “entrusts Hoosiers who can legally carry a handgun to do so responsibly in our state.”
Indiana’s existing licensing system grants Hoosiers the right to own a firearm and adds a layer of protection for police officers, so repeal was not necessary.
That said, Governor Holcomb clearly pondered his two decisions on Tuesday, as it was the last day for him to do so legally. A more partisan office holder would have made these decisions more quickly and with less consideration.
The Tribune-Etoile, Terre Haute