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March 4, 2012

Maureen Hayden: Bosma cools down hot rhetoric of GOP cohorts

INDIANAPOLIS —  Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma is a conservative Republican but he’s exerted a moderating effect over some members of his caucus this session.   

He confessed to having to do so, during an early evening meeting with Statehouse reporters late in this legislative session.

Bosma said being a leader in a party with the kind of power the GOP has in Indiana — controlling the House, Senate and Governor’s office — means he sometimes has to cool down the hot rhetoric of some of his fellow Republicans.

Democrats would say he didn’t do enough to moderate the forces behind the contentious right-to-work legislation that embroiled the Statehouse earlier this year. The bill, dubbed an attack on labor by opponents, outlaws labor agreements that require workers to pay union dues.

But Bosma did publicly kill a “creationism” bill that was lampooned on a Comedy Central blog, and he aggressively used some humor to neutralize the headline-grabbing remarks of a Republican lawmaker who likened the Girl Scouts to a radical feminist organization that pushed Communism along with cookies.

More quietly, he made sure some GOP gun bills that came out of the Senate — including one that would legalize sawed-off shotguns and another that would make it easier to take guns to school — were dead on arrival by the time they reached the House.

Bosma said as a party leader, he had to take a more pragmatic and “dispassionate” view than some of the true-believers that seem to be increasing their numbers in the Indiana General Assembly.

His decisions, he said, had to be driven by multiple factors: how they would reflect on the Republican Party, how they would reflect on the Indiana General Assembly as an institution, and how they would reflect on the state of Indiana.

He added another factor: Some things you do, he said, because “it’s just the right thing to do.” There’s wide room for disagreement on what’s the right thing to do, and plenty of his colleagues would argue he’s been wrong to kill some of their favored legislation.

So it will be interesting to see how successful Bosma is with his next effort to exert a moderating influence on his colleagues.

He told reporters that he wants to see a more civil campaign season this year — when every seat in the Indiana House and half the state Senate seats are up for election — than in years past.

He said political campaigns have become more vitriolic, and therefore more dangerous to democracy because good candidates for office are repulsed by the process.

He likened political campaigns to an arms race, with each side feeling justified when they escalate their arsenal of weaponry.

“We need an arms race treaty,” Bosma said. “We need to get back to the way campaigns used to be.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at



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