Stay ahead of the curve as a political insider with deep policy analysis, daily briefings and policy-shaping tools.Request a Demo
Former Sen. Tim Lanane on why he retired and what else he wanted to accomplish
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.
Q. Why did you decide to retire?
A. 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.
Q. What were you most proud to accomplish or witness during your time in the Legislature?
A. 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.
Q. When you look back, what else do you wish you could have accomplished?
A. 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.
Q. In what ways has the Indiana Statehouse evolved during your 25 years?
A. 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.
Q. How has Indiana as a state changed in those 25 years?
A. 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.
Q. What do you wish more Hoosiers understood about what’s happening at the Statehouse?
A. 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.
Q. What suggestions would you give to the incoming lawmakers who are new to the Statehouse?
A. 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.
Q. What’s next for you?
A. 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.
Q. Anything else you wanted to add?
A. 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.
Gov. Holcomb taps Boone County Council president to serve out remainder of Comptroller Tera Klutz’s term
Republican Elise Nieshalla, president of the Boone County Council, will serve out the remaining three years of State Comptroller Tera Klutz’s term.
Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the appointment of Nieshalla, a real estate investor, on Tuesday. As state auditor, Nieshalla will oversee the balancing of Indiana’s checkbooks and payment of all state employees.
“My appreciation runs deep for the strong financial standing of our state and the integrity in which the State Comptroller’s Office is run,” Nieshalla said in a statement. “It is truly my privilege to receive Gov. Holcomb’s appointment to serve our great state and local units of government by upholding the highest standards of fiscal responsibility and offering tremendous Hoosier service.”
Earlier this year Klutz announced she would resign Nov. 30, roughly a year after she was reelected. Klutz, who was first appointed by Holcomb in 2017, is the fourth state auditor in a row to not finish their term, enabling the sitting governor to choose a replacement.
Nieshalla was already well-known within Republican circles. She previously ran for treasurer in 2022 against three other Republicans, losing to current Treasurer Daniel Elliott at the state Republican convention. At the time, the convention loss of Nieshalla and other Republicans more closely aligned with the party establishment was seen as a rebuke of the Holcomb wing of the party.
Nieshalla, who lives in Zionsville, is also president of the Indiana County Councils Association and the chairwoman of the Association of Indiana Counties’ 2023 Legislative Committee. She has a bachelor’s degree from Oral Roberts University and a master’s degree from Indiana University.
She’ll be sworn in on Dec. 1 and will serve until at least the 2026 election when voters will have the option to choose the next state comptroller.
Holcomb praised Nieshalla in an emailed statement.
“Elise is a dedicated and proven public servant who has committed much of her professional life to bettering her community through service,” Holcomb said. “She has shared her financial expertise to help steer and shape the bright future of Boone County which gives me great confidence she’ll do the same serving Hoosiers as our next State Comptroller.”
On Tuesday, Indiana lawmakers returned to the Statehouse for Organization Day, the ceremonial start to the legislative session, ahead of what legislative leaders are saying should be a low-key, short session.
“We’ll probably take a pretty measured approach on what we address … , maybe fine tune some things,” House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said during an Indiana Chamber of Commerce legislative panel on Monday. “Short sessions are supposed to be for emergency items only.”
Not only will 2024 be a non-budget-writing legislative session mandated to end by mid-March, but this session also falls in the midst of a heated Republican gubernatorial primary. There’s no obvious assumed winner who can lead policy discussions ahead of the election, nor has Gov. Eric Holcomb laid the groundwork for any major policy changes in his last legislative session.
Plus, recent criminal corruption charges against a former lawmaker — and the potential for other lawmakers to be charged in connection with the case — has put a cloud over the Indiana General Assembly.
Still, some minor bills are expected to move, and something can always pop up. Here’s a breakdown of some of the issues State Affairs expects to be debated, and three that probably won’t move.
Both Huston and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said they want to limit the situations in which schools allow third graders to advance to fourth grade when they fail the IREAD-3, the state’s reading comprehension test.
During the 2021-2022 school year, more than 18% of students failed the test because they were not reading at a third grade level.
“When you pass that kid on, and they aren’t prepared to succeed, you’re not doing that kid a favor,” Huston said, following his Organization Day speech in which he laid out his caucus’ priorities.
Huston’s goal is to make Indiana the No. 1 state in the nation for third grade reading proficiency by 2027.
Democrats cautioned that it may be too soon to make major changes to how IREAD scores are handled in Indiana. During the 2023 legislative session, lawmakers passed a science of reading bill.
“We need to make sure that schools have the opportunity to train their teachers, to implement these strategies across the board before we start throwing new legislative hurdles in the way,” said Sen. Andrea Hunley, D-Indianapolis. “We have to give [new recommendations] time to work before we start, say, failing all children or retaining a whole class of children.”
Continuing to re-think K-12 education
Last legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill seeking to expand work-based learning in high school, but Huston emphasized during his Organization Day speech that legislators can still do more to transform the K-12 school system.
Huston said House Republicans will push to allow state money typically set aside for students pursuing a college education to be used to obtain certificates and certifications for “high demand, high wage jobs.”
“We must continue to adjust the way we think about K-12 education in order to meet the needs of all students, including those who aren’t interested in pursuing a two-or four-year degree,” Huston said. “Let’s use this session to build on skill and work-based learning, and let’s align our funding to this goal.”
This fall the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce took a delegation of Indiana lawmakers and others to Switzerland to see how the country’s apprenticeship program operates. Expect more changes in the coming years that would enable Indiana’s K-12 system to more closely mirror that of Switzerland’s.
Child care access
During his own Organization Day speech, Bray emphasized a need to expand affordable child care options for young children.
“Day care is a constant challenge from the Ohio River to the Michigan line, trying to find day care at all if you can find it and whether it’s affordable,” Bray said.
He pointed to a legislative study committee on the topic which recommended some minor reforms to the system, such as lowering the age requirement for working unassisted in an infant or toddler classroom to age 18 from 21 and requiring the state to review how it can streamline child care regulations to increase availability.
Don’t expect lawmakers to throw more money at the child care system since 2024 isn’t a budget-writing year.
Health care costs
Lawmakers passed multiple bills during the 2023 legislative session aimed at cutting health care costs, ranging from limiting physician noncompete agreements to creating benchmarks for how high hospital prices in the largest hospital systems should be.
But Bray said he expects lawmakers to offer more legislation on the topic this year in order to help drive down costs long term.
A legislative study committee on the topic backed recommendations to require more disclosures by insurance companies on their “prior authorization” process for medical care, as well as require medical providers to give lawmakers a six-month notice for mergers or acquisitions.
It’s unclear whether legislation on water access will actually pass either chamber, but the topic is almost certain to come up in discussions.
Earlier this year, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. announced plans to pump water from the Wabash River aquifer to the LEAP district in Lebanon. Tippecanoes citizens have been vocal in their opposition to the plan, and just this week the Tippecanoe County Commissioners voted to put a moratorium on high volume water exports.
Legislative leaders say they want to avoid legislating on the issue until they get more data. The Indiana Finance Authority and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce are studying the issue.
“We’re not going to take any other steps until we have an opportunity to study to make sure that there’s ample water for the projects that we’re trying to bring into the state of Indiana,” Bray said, “and we understand just how much is too much to take away from a particular community.”
But, even if leadership would rather wait to address the elephant in the room, lawmakers are almost certain to file legislation.
Issues that won’t move: Gaming
For at least the past two legislative sessions, lawmakers have filed bills to legalize internet casino gaming, or iGaming. It appeared momentum was on proponents’ sides. Until this month.
Earlier this month former state Rep. Sean Eberhart agreed to plead guilty to criminal fraud charges that federal prosecutors say stem from influencing casino legislation in return for the promise of a $350,000-a-year job.
Both Bray and Huston said Monday they don’t expect any gaming legislation to move in 2024.
During Monday’s Chamber panel, Bray said the federal investigation “makes gaming extremely hard to engage in.”
“It taints the Statehouse, it diminishes the confidence that people have in the integrity of the Statehouse, it causes an awful lot of problems and it makes it particularly difficult to engage in that kind of policy,” Bray said.
Issues that won’t move: Marijuana
Lawmakers studied the impact legalizing marijuana would have on the workforce and youth in an interim committee this fall, but the committee never issued any recommendations for legislation.
Both legislative leaders and Holcomb have emphasized their reluctance to legalize marijuana until at least after the federal government reschedules it. Huston reiterated his hesitation on Monday.
“No one has made a compelling case to me yet on why legalizing marijuana or having more people use cannabis in the state of Indiana is a positive thing,” Huston said. “So until I hear that answer, I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of change.”
Likewise, Bray said its passage “seemed unlikely.”
The ceremonial start of the legislative session is just that. Lawmakers won’t start moving bills until they return to the Statehouse in January.
The gist Destiny Wells, the 2022 Democratic secretary of state nominee, announced she is running for the Indiana attorney general’s office next year, hoping to oust Republican incumbent Todd Rokita. Earlier this year Rokita, a vocal supporter of social conservative causes, announced he was seeking reelection. This race could be among the more competitive races …
Indiana’s unemployment rate remained steady for October at 3.6% after inching up each of the five previous months.
The state’s jobless rate was unchanged from September, following a slow rise from April when it was 3.0%, according to an Indiana Department of Workforce Development report released Friday.
August’s rate is Indiana’s highest since August 2021 but still remains below the national mark of 3.9%. Indiana’s rate is the same as Ohio’s and below those in Michigan (4.1%), Kentucky (4.2%) and Illinois (4.6%), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Indiana’s rate was tied for 34th highest in the country.
Indiana had about 123,000 job seekers during October, with nearly 3.3 million people employed, according to preliminary federal data.
Indiana’s October private employment topped 2.8 million people, which the Department of Workforce Development said is a new private employment peak. Industries that showed employment increases for October included construction (+2,500), private educational and health services (+2,400) and leisure and hospitality (+1,900).
“Indiana’s labor market continues to show strength for both workers and employers,” Workforce Development Commissioner Richard Paulk said in an agency statement. “Though the state set a private employment record, employers still need to fill many more critical jobs.”