Tim Lanane

Q&A: Former Sen. Tim Lanane on why he retired and what else he wanted to accomplish

Jan 09, 2023

This interview is part of a series of Q&As from outgoing lawmakers as they reflect on their time in the Statehouse.

Tim Lanane was a constant in the Indiana General Assembly for 25 years. The former state senator became a leading voice for Democrats in that time, even serving as the minority leader for eight years. 

Then came his decision to retire.

As the legislative session begins this week, the 70-year-old Lanane is not there. He is one of 19 state lawmakers, according to a Capitol & Washington database, who will not be returning. 

In 2021, Lanane announced he wouldn’t run for reelection to serve District 25. The district’s shape has changed a few times over the years, but most recently Lanane represented parts of Madison and Delaware counties. Redistricting this year switched the boundaries to encompass Madison County plus a little bit of Hamilton County, pushing its makeup toward Republicans. 

In the week before Christmas, State Affairs spoke with Lanane about his decision and asked him to look back at his more than two decades in the Legislature. 

The conversation is edited for clarity, brevity and length.

Why did you decide to retire?

People have asked me that many, many times. Basically, it felt like it was the right time. Twenty-five years, six elections. The district was always competitive enough that it really took, as far as the politics of it and the election goes, you really had to give it 110%. And I just in my own mind felt like I wasn't quite there. I was maybe 75% or 80% there in terms of really what was needed to run a proper campaign. And that wasn’t fair. I didn’t think that was a way to go out. So it just seemed like the right time. 

I’m 70 years old and I’d like to have some more time to do things within the community and to dedicate more time to my family. Those types of things. 

What were you most proud to accomplish or witness during your time in the Legislature?

There's certainly some individual bills that I was very happy to work on and to actually be a major author on some bills, like the telemarketers Do Not Call list. We were able to, in a bipartisan way, work together. I know that’s changed with technology and we still get all these calls on our cell phones. So that’s still an issue. But that was a real good bipartisan bill. 

Also, here locally in Madison County and Anderson, we have Hoosier Park and it was a horse race track for a long time, but we were able to get the legislation passed to allow it to become a casino, too. That brought a lot of jobs into Madison County and to Anderson, so I felt really good about that.

There’s many other bills. One bill that I really felt like was something that could be helpful was the work I did on concussion injuries by student athletes. That was an example of a bill that was brought to me by a constituent over in Muncie, who was very interested, and still is interested, in the treatment of student athletes who sustain concussions. We had a bill which put into place some protocols that the schools have to follow when those types of injuries occur. 

I'd say the most satisfactory thing was being able to work with both sides of the aisle to get something done that was an improvement for the state of Indiana.

When you look back, what else do you wish you could have accomplished? 

I had a bill for a long time which said that when it comes to legislative redistricting, it should not be done by the legislators themselves but there should be a commission that handles that, like some other states do, to hopefully try to minimize the gerrymandering that goes on. I've never been able to get that to go anywhere. 

It's too bad we've not been able to get some reasonable gun safety legislation passed in Indiana. It was very disappointing when we passed the bill last year on permitless carry that endangers the public and law enforcement. But now we’ve gone too far. We spend too much time on those issues now, it seems like to me. 

It just sort of seems like the NRA sets the policy at the General Assembly and unfortunately that’s the way it is. 

In what ways has the Indiana Statehouse evolved during your 25 years? 

Because of the overwhelming discrepancy in the balance of power, I think it's taken on a little bit more of an extreme approach to the issues. Look at what we did this special session with this abortion bill — one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the country. Anti-choice.

When I first came into the General Assembly, the numbers were a little bit more even. I think there was more of a middle-of-the-road type of approach to things back then. Now, just because of the very few competitive districts, the competition is more in the primary. And it seems like that promotes more extreme positions than when I first came in.

How has Indiana as a state changed in those 25 years? 

It seems like in some ways we have changed. If you look at the polling on things such as LGBTQ rights, it seems like there was some evolution there. When I first came into the General Assembly there was no idea or thought that there would be equality when it came to those issues. Some of that, of course, was due to the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, but it just seems like there was a lot of movement even in conservative Indiana on the issue of same-sex marriage and equal rights.

And interestingly enough, I think there’s pretty much been a wholesale change, too, on reasonable marijuana reform.  If you believe the polling that’s done on it, there's overwhelming support for some sort of modification of Indiana's policies on that.

So there has been some change, but in other ways we seem to elect a lot of people that don't support those policies, too. Of course it's remained still a very conservative state, if not even more conservative than it was in many other ways, at least politically, it seems like.

In other ways we’re still stuck. Indiana’s health standings have not improved that much since when I first came in back in 1997. We’re still towards the bottom, at least, when it comes to our overall health. Wages have increased some, but still we have many places in Indiana where there’s a lot of poverty. And the environment hasn’t improved that much over time. So that’s disappointing, too. So in some ways we make progress and in other ways we just seem to stay the same. 

What do you wish more Hoosiers understood about what’s happening at the Statehouse? 

I do wish people understood the importance of fair redistricting. I know that’s a very specific issue, but it’s led to these supermajorities, which I don’t think are good. It stifles debate. It encourages extremism. It certainly makes the idea of a bipartisan approach to a lot of things just irrelevant. There’s too much of a concentration of power in the Republican Party, to be honest with you. That’s just the way it is, and that’s the result of the gerrymandering. 

I wish people realized and insisted more on things that they do feel strongly about because most people don’t think gerrymandering is good and they think we should have reforms in that regard. 

People need to really get beyond the cult personality politics that exists and really start paying attention to the issues and voting accordingly. 

What suggestions would you give to the incoming lawmakers who are new to the Statehouse?

A couple things. You're not going to change the world overnight, number one. Number two, work on issues that really do have an impact on people's incomes, their health, their education, and stop spending all this time on some of these hot-button issues.

We spent more time in the last couple sessions dealing with who can carry a gun and making sure there’s free access to guns in the state and also taking away a woman's right to choose to control their own health care choices. I wish legislators would really find out what's on the minds of people and listen to them and really try to work with that, then we can see more progress in our state.

What’s next for you? 

I am still a lawyer, so I still practice law here in Madison County. And there’s a bicentennial project going on here and we’re going to have celebrations over the next year, so I’m heading that up and doing a lot of work on that. And hopefully Cindy (Lanane’s wife) and I will be able to spend time with our family and maybe get some travel in too. 

Anything else you wanted to add?

I spent some time there griping, but overall I really enjoyed my time in the General Assembly. And, for the most part, overwhelmingly got along well with the other side of the aisle. We disagreed on politics a lot, but there’s only 50 members of the Senate and you get to know the people pretty well. And so it’s been really rewarding and I’ve enjoyed working on the issues and helping the constituents.

Have questions or comments about the upcoming legislative session? Contact Ryan Martin on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or at [email protected].

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Header image: Former Sen. Tim Lanane served in the Indiana General Assembly for 25 years. (Credit: Indiana Senate Democrats)

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