(INDIANAPOLIS) – The most powerful committee in the Indiana House will have two chairmen instead of one.
Fishers Republican Todd Huston will co-chair the budget-and-tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, as Chairman Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) continues his recovery from a serious motorcycle crash. Brown was in the chamber for last week’s ceremonial start to the new legislative session, but House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says he “wanted to make sure Representative Brown has the support he needs” as legislators write a new two-year state budget.
It’s not the first time the committee has had co-chairmen, but while the division of labor between Brown and Huston isn’t fully clear, it’s certain to be different from the last time. In 1989 and 1990, with the House split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, every committee had chairmen from each party, who presided on alternate days and pursued their own distinct agendas. Legislators have since changed the law to give full control of a tied House to the party of the newly-elected governor or secretary of state, whichever is more recent.
Retirements prompted Bosma to shuffle several other committee chairmanships. Attica Republican Sharon Negele will replace Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon) as chair of the Ethics Committee. The usually quiet committee has two big agenda items this year. It’ll finalize new sexual harassment rules for legislators and staff members, and consider whether Bosma violated any rules by spending campaign funds on a lawyer to handle a 26-year-old sexual misconduct accusation. Bosma has denied a former staffer’s claim of a sexual rendezvous, and has contended there was nothing improper in retaining an attorney nor in her handling of the case.
The ethics panel is the only committee with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. State Democratic Chairman John Zody suggests Bosma is “stacking the committee with loyalists to bury” the complaint.
No committee members besides the chair have been announced.
Steuerwald’s promotion to Republican caucus chairman also opened the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee, which will be filled by Carmel Republican Jerry Torr. And Roads and Transportation Chairman Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), who played a key role in writing last year’s road funding bill but was criticized by Senate Republicans after the failure of a bill on self-driving cars, will now chair the Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee, replacing former Albion Representative David Ober. The Roads chairmanship passes to Evansville Republican Holli Sullivan.
House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown (right) (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)