Caught in the crosshairs of controversy

Legislators share their experiences helming some of the biggest bills

By: - September 13, 2022 7:00 am

Sen. Sue Glick sponsored the near-total abortion ban in the special session, a bill that quickly attracted national attention, but this wasn’t the legislature’s first foray into controversy. (Photo from Indiana Senate Republicans)

LaGrange Republican Sen. Sue Glick, author of the state’s near-total abortion ban, felt the spotlight of the nation’s attention as lawmakers sparred in the summer special session – but she wasn’t the first Hoosier lawmaker to court controversy.

Whether abortion access, Indiana’s decision to lease its toll road or the battle over “Right to Work,” one legislator usually takes the brunt of fervor.

Some politicians have lost their seats; others have withstood protesters at their homes and churches. These lawmakers were unexpectedly caught in the crosshairs of public opinion and even saw personal consequences.

Major Moves draws major attention

In 2005, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels prioritized leasing northern Indiana’s 157-mile toll road to a private, foreign company to the tune of $3.85 billion. Since enacted, funding from that 75-year lease allowed the state to build and complete 87 roadways, construct or reconfigure 60 interchanges, all without debt or tax increases, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation. 

Randy Borror, now a lobbyist with Borror Public Affairs, authored the legislation, which ultimately passed the House 51-48 and Senate 31-19.

Randy Borror (From Borror Public Affairs)

At the time of its passage, the toll road’s lease was one of the largest private-public partnerships in the country, garnering national attention. The attention narrowed in on Borror, who represented the Fort Wayne area at the time.

“One guy said, ‘Don’t go to lunch with Borror anymore because the media is all over him’… I mean people from the New York Times, the LA Times, the Detroit Free Press, etc. It was crazy,” Borror said. 

Though his Fort Wayne district was close to the toll road, Borror said he didn’t get as much pushback at home or on social media, which some lawmakers experience today. However, with roughly 17 hours spent in testimony before various Statehouse committees, Borror had little time to chair his own committee, Commerce, or be at home with his wife and young daughter. 

“I didn’t see a lot of them during that time. It just required all of my attention,” Borror said, thanking his wife for her support during that time. “I had one singular job and nothing else was going to matter at that point in time.”

Former representative Brian Bosma, the House Speaker at the time, recalled telling a handful of members that they wouldn’t come back to the chamber if they voted for the bill, which did happen to some.

“We polled in every district that was adjacent to the toll road during the session, got all of those members in – including Jackie Walorski… Dave Wolkins, Steve Heim – just about every Republican from that area and shared polling data with them that showed if they voted for it, they likely would not return and would be defeated in the next election.”

Daylight Savings Time sunsets one lawmaker’s career

Bosma, the longest-serving House Speaker in Indiana history, held that position twice, from 2004 to 2006 and 2010 to 2020, both during tumultuous times with bills that sparked controversy. 

Just one year after the toll road lease, House Republicans decided to adopt Daylight Saving Time, an issue Bosma said ultimately cost his party the chamber supermajority.

According to Bosma, several large companies in Indiana pushed the legislature to adopt DST like other states, saying it created a logistical issue. Though it had bipartisan votes, Bosma said he had to leave the voting machine open for an unprecedented five hours until it hit 51 ‘yes’ votes.

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Troy Woodruff, a freshman lawmaker from Evansville, famously lost his seat after voting for the bill when he said he wouldn’t. 

“(He) had strict instructions not to vote for it because we knew that it was a losing issue in his community,” Bosma said. “I said later, he was like a Marine who saw a grenade and leapt on it.”

Woodruff didn’t respond to an interview request from the Indiana Capital Chronicle.

“We did lose the majority in the next election and then retook it in 2010,” Bosma said. “I went from speaker to minority leader with full knowledge that was likely to happen.”

Toiling over ‘Right to Work’

Republicans didn’t wait long after regaining the majority before acting on their list of priorities.

In 2011, House Republicans introduced the “Right to Work” bill, designed to allow employees to work at unionized companies without paying union dues. In protest of the bill and several others, Democrats fled to Illinois, denying the GOP the legally required quorum to conduct business. 

Former House Speaker Brian Bosma (Photo from Kroger, Gardis & Regas, LLP)

“It was definitely a unique experience,” Bosma said. “The Statehouse filled up with up to an estimated 15,000 protesters daily and we had protesters at our home – a couple hundred on our lawn – (Rep.) Jerry Torr (R-Carmel) had them in his neighborhood as well.”

Bosma received death threats during the session and was assigned a specific capitol police officer as a security detail, which he said wasn’t a big adjustment.

“I waded out into the protests several times just to talk to people and it made the state police pretty nervous,” Bosma recalled. “For me, it was an invigorating time.”

After the nation’s longest legislative walkout of five weeks, Democrats returned and Republicans tabled Right to Work until 2012, when it passed on a party line vote.

“They received so much negative press on the (2011) walkout, we knew they could not walk out again,” Bosma said. 

Bosma said that the controversies for both the Toll Road lease and Daylight Savings Time had prepared caucus members for the extreme pressure of Right to Work. 

Pressure on abortion ban

More recently, Indiana came into the national spotlight when it passed a near-total abortion ban in a two-week special session that ended in early August. Glick, R-LaGrange, carried the bill, which she said came after consulting with the Republican caucus in each chamber.

Unlike other issues, such as road funding or teacher pay, Glick said the raw emotions over abortion made the bill more difficult to negotiate. 

Anti-abortion and abortion rights activists line up on the Indiana Statehouse steps on July 25. (Whitney Downard/ Indiana Capital Chronicle)

“I knew this was going to be difficult but that’s kind of what lawyers do… I’ve dealt with issues like adoption and divorce and in some cases the termination of parental rights as well as criminal cases all of my career and it’s an issue that gets down to fundamental beliefs,” Glick said. “That’s kind of the way I approached this legislation.”

As opposed to a regular session, where lawmakers file roughly 1,000 bills, the summer’s special session heard just four bills – three from the Senate, including Glick’s, and one in the House. Glick said it helped that lawmakers identified the pre-existing issues with an abortion ban and attempted to address those in an accompanying bill for wraparound services.

“There weren’t any distractions that you have in a normal session… because we were in such a condensed period of time,” Glick said. “I didn’t want to personally take (the abortion ban) if we couldn’t have (wraparound services) to go alongside it.”

Despite the vitriol, Glick said it didn’t feel directed toward her and her career as a prosecutor had prepared her for tense situations. 

“To be sure, people were angry and they were extremely emotional about it but they really didn’t threaten me personally,” Glick said. “People have a right to come forward and speak their mind. I went to college in the late 60s and the 70s, I’m used to large groups of people shouting at each other and chanting throughout. I’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt.”

But Glick said the discussion over Daylight Saving Time was the most contentious issue she’d ever seen, more than a decade later.

“Even still, it generates a lot of controversy every time you bring it up,” Glick said.

Protesters spill into legislator’s private lives

But others have had anti-abortion protesters come to their homes and churches, including GOP lawmakers like Bosma and Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn in 2017.  Smaltz, as chairman of the House Public Policy Committee, blocked hearing a full ban on abortion several years when Roe v. Wade was still settled law in the nation. 

Smaltz declined to comment for this story, but Bosma said protesters held signs calling for him to repent and holding graphic photos of bloodied babies.

“I thought that one was out of bounds. People, they were on the sidewalk, so people have the right to free speech. But is it appropriate in my view? No. But there are a lot of things that are inappropriate that people do,” Bosma said.

Bosma said the job of a lawmaker spilled out to families, often creating uncomfortable situations like the above.

“Politics, particularly at the legislative level, is a family sport. Your kids get lobbied, your spouse gets lobbied and maybe not in a positive way,” said Bosma, the son of former lawmaker Charles Bosma. “I don’t know that our kids will ever go into politics… but it didn’t ruin their lives and it certainly didn’t ruin mine when I was a kid but it is something that people need to be aware of.

“Families go through it as well.”


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Whitney Downard
Whitney Downard

A native of upstate New York, Whitney previously covered statehouse politics for CNHI’s nine Indiana papers, focusing on long-term healthcare facilities and local government. Prior to her foray into Indiana politics, she worked as a general assignment reporter for The Meridian Star in Meridian, Mississippi. Whitney is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University (#GoBonnies!), a community theater enthusiast and cat mom.