It might surprise some of you, but I occasionally got into trouble as a young person. Who am I kidding? That shouldn’t surprise anyone who reads this blog or knows me very well at all. If anyone ever had an authority problem, clearly it is me.
My childish scrapes were generally not harmful or dangerous, but did occasionally provoke governmental intervention. I tell you this because these were the experiences that motivated me to earn my B.S. in Public Affairs/Criminal Justice, and why my first post graduate job was at the Indiana Boys School. I just knew I could deal with bad kids better than the government dealt with this bad kid. Turns out I was right. I was great at my job at the Boys School, and I felt like I played a vital societal role in a long list of ways. The B.S. I have should stand for Boys School, instead of the more common misinterpretation. I actually did learn a lot there. And I really miss that job.
After the five years I spent working there, and I want to be clear that I was never a resident there, I spent seven more years in public service. I got to do more important stuff, was pretty good at that to, but it was nowhere near as fun. Oh well, the State of Indiana wasn’t paying me to have a good time–at least not intentionally. In any case, I am glad I had the opportunity to serve and I am uniformly proud of what I contributed. I never lost track of whom I was there to serve: the people of Indiana.
There is a point. While at dinner with friends Friday night I made the suggestion that too many of our elected officials have lost track of why they first decided to serve. Or maybe they have erroneously convinced themselves that they only serve the people who voted for them. Whatever.
I truly believe that the vast majority of our state legislators originally decided to run for office because they wanted to help. They wanted to help someone who needed it. They had a passion for an idea that would make Indiana a better place. They knew they could do it better–just like I did at the Boys School.
Now, obviously the state legislature, like the U.S. Congress, is not viewed favorably by the public. Why is that? Well in the example of Congress, the last six years have featured a group of people that seem to only know how to be against things, starting with anything our President favors. Likewise, our legislature seems to be in a rut of taking things away, keeping things away, or throwing things away. (Editors note: the reader has to figure out to what I am referring here).
Seriously, no one really ran on the platform of keeping a $2 billion budget surplus did they? Or was it the ousting of our superintendent of public instruction from the Board of Education chair? How about the protection of fenced hunting preserves? If I had to run on this stuff, I would vote for my opponent, twice.
Having said all of that, I searched for the worst example of enacted legislation in Indiana for purposes of the blog this week, and came across what might be the best.
House Enrolled Act 1509 calls for a study committee on obsolete statutes. That’s right, we are about to have a new law designed to identify all the laws we shouldn’t have. This study committee might last a while. Rep. Heath Van Natter (R-Kokomo) filed it, and while he and I have a good time arguing about gun control, it is even more fun when we agree. I texted him about it this weekend and we both agree 1509 is the bill of the session. I think it’s a great idea. I just hope we could start with our newest obsolete statutes and work our way back in time. That might not be what Heath originally meant by this one–but lets see where the study leads.
I will report back.
House Enrolled Act 1509 aside, we aren’t doing enough as a people to produce a collective legislative product of which we can be proud. The ending of this year’s legislative session is certainly something many will celebrate. This time the celebration actually is just because it’s over. In fact, we might think about having a first ever “Sine Die Parade.”
But back to my time at the Indiana Boys School. It’s a place that is infamous for being one of the early facilities that housed a fledgling young criminal named Charles Manson. And yes, that was before my time on staff there. After more than a century as the Boys School, in the last ten years the facility became an adult reentry facility for a time and now is known as the Short Term Offender Program (STOP) facility. Adult offenders. Yawn.
I’m old enough to miss the good old days. Admittedly, I think the Juvenile Corrections strategy today is better than the one in place when I was just an ambitious young counselor, thinking that my energy and intellect was changing the world. The fact is, it did change the world a little. And a lot of my co-workers back then changed the world a little also. Because we wanted to help someone. We wanted to be proud of our service.
Nothing profound here. Remember why you came here. Do your best to accomplish that. It’s really that easy. And I hope you weren’t looking for some comparison of the juvenile delinquents I used to counsel to the elected officials on my current caseload. That would be professionally dangerous for me.
At least until after the parade.