INDIANAPOLIS — – The new minority leader in the Indiana Senate has some advice for his Democratic colleagues in the other legislative chamber that goes something like: Keep your chin up and stay in the fight.
State Sen. Tim Lanane, elected last week as floor leader of the 13-member Democratic caucus in the Senate, has spent the past two years in the position that House Democrats now find themselves in – on the other side of a Republican supermajority.
It’s not a fun place to be. The super power of a supermajority means the party in power doesn’t need a single member from the other party to cast a vote, or even to show up, to pass a law.
“There is a tendency to say, ‘Oh well, it’s over. What can we do? We know we’re going to get our brains beat,’ “ said Lanane.
“That makes the role of the minority even more important.”
For Lanane, a 60-year-old attorney from Anderson, that role means making sure he and his members make their dissenting voices heard during the legislative session – in committee hearings and on the Senate floor – even if they can’t make their dissenting votes count.
“At all times, the duty of the minority is to challenge the majority on their thoughts and ideas,” Lanane said. “Because that’s what the public expects and that's what they deserve.”
Lanane brings that kind of intention and optimism to a job vacated by state Sen. Vi Simpson, an Ellettsville Democrat who gave up her minority-leader role when she became John Gregg’s running mate in the race for governor.
Gregg’s loss to Republican Mike Pence, plus the GOP’s take of 69 of the 100 seats in the state House, makes Lanane’s job all the harder.
But he doesn’t give much voice to discouragement. Lanane has spent all 14 years of his legislative career in the minority; while Republicans have only had supermajority control since 2010, they’ve had the majority of the 50 seats in the state Senate since 1978.