Something to keep in mind about the “rules” of a legislative body: They are not set in stone. They are adopted by the body and can be interpreted by the body’s leader. Sometimes there is a good reason for a rule, sometimes it is there just because “that’s the way we’ve always done things.”
Majority Leader Harry Reid reminded U.S. Senate Republicans of that fact when he suspended the 60-vote rule for certain matters in favor of a simple 51-vote majority. Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may re-remind Democrats.
And Indiana Senate Democrats got their reminder from President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne).
They are upset that a bill to make the Indiana schools chief an appointed position is under consideration in the Senate again. The fate of the legislation seemed to be sealed earlier this session when the Senate unexpectedly rejected their chamber’s version of the bill 23-26. A Senate rule stipulates that 26 or more “no” votes means similar language cannot be considered again that session.
Some Democrats say that means a House version of the bill authored by Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) shouldn’t even be considered.
But a legislative panel has approved the House version, and added some changes in an amendment. That, says Long, means the legislation is different enough to allow it to advance.
The amendment changes the date the law would go into effect from 2021 to 2025 and requires the schools chief to have lived in Indiana for at least two years and earned an advanced degree. It also says the chief must either be employed as a teacher, principal or superintendent at the time of selection, or have worked in one of those positions or as an “executive in the field of education” for at least five years.
We’ll leave it to the parliamentarians and Senate historians to debate the finer points of procedure.
To us, the important question is whether the change of the education chief from an elective to an appointive position is a good idea.
We continue to believe that it is. The job of superintendent of public education is to administer the policies decided on by the General Assembly and State Board of Education, not create the policies. Taking the position off the ballot does not deprive Hoosier voters of a meaningful say in education policy.