A Glimpse Inside the Senate
Writer / John Crane
“How’s it going in the Senate?” Hardly a week goes by when I am not asked that question. Just a matter of months ago I was on the outside of the Statehouse, not privy to the inner-workings of the legislative process.
Early on the morning of November 9th, after being elected the night before, I found myself sitting in a special meeting with six other freshmen Senators and the rest of the 41-member Senate Republican caucus. Since then, I have found myself with a dizzying sense of the surreal while navigating a Ph.D.-level crash course in public policy and the practical realities of our state government.
As an armchair political analyst (and critic) I was pretty well informed about policy issues and the legislative process before stepping into the Senate. But little did I know how little I actually knew. So, I set out to listen and learn, in order to eventually lead.
At the beginning of the session, for example, there were 571 bills filed in the Senate, combined with another 678 bills filed in the House for a total of 1,249 bills put into the legislative pipeline. I quickly discovered that keeping pace with the tsunami of information is much like being in language school. However, instead of learning just one new language, one is diligently striving to learn about 12 to 15 different languages simultaneously. Disseminating the multitude of issues within the limitations of the legislative process is like attempting to understand the complexity of a given situation in an adjoining room by looking through the keyhole.
As any effective leader understands, no one can please everyone all of the time. So, the challenge becomes how to make the best decisions possible within the reality of limited time and information?
For me there are four basic lenses which have guided my decision-making:
Conscience – As with any person, my deeply held beliefs frame the foundation of my worldview which informs my approach to all of life. To the best of my ability, therefore, I strive to be true to the principles of that worldview.
Constitution – When we legislators were first sworn in by the Chief Justice last November, I placed my hand on the Bible and promised to uphold both the United States and the Indiana constitutions. For these guiding documents serve as the primary plumb line for our republican form of government.
Constituents – The job of the public servant is to protect the interests of his or her constituency, which I strive to do in light of my conscience and our constitutions.
Caucus – Finally, as a part of a political team, whenever possible I seek to collaborate with the Republican leadership for the common good of our state.
As challenging as this experience can be at times, I have found it to be much more enjoyable than I even anticipated. This is due in large part to the exceptional people with whom I get to interact on a weekly basis.
My colleagues in the Indiana Senate are leaders of integrity with a genuine desire to serve. While we may not always agree on the best course of action on a given issue, our often spirited debates embody mutual respect as we work together to solve the myriad of problems with which we are confronted.
The young men and women who serve as our legislative assistants and interns ensure that the legislature operation runs with tremendous efficiency. Our ability to effectively do our jobs is made possible by the indispensable efforts of these high-caliber, thoughtful young leaders.
But most of all, I appreciate the many remarkable people who come down to visit with me. From parents to constituents, the most rewarding part of this experience is coming alongside people as they take in the whole environment, many for the first time. It is a constant reminder of the extraordinary honor it is to serve in such a place.
Each day as we open our Senate session in prayer and the pledge to our American flag, I find emotions welling up within me. For I cannot help but reflect on the countless brave men and women who have fought and died so that I may serve in this capacity. It is an extraordinary privilege that is not lost on me. And each day, as I leave to come home to Avon, I know I’ve done my best to steward this privilege well.