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11/20/2018 12:30:00 PM
Indiana Chamber tosses attorney general controversy on legislative agenda

Scott L. Miley, Goshen News CNHI Statehouse Bureau

INDIANAPOLIS -- As the Indiana General Assembly considers moving up the year when the superintendent of public instruction becomes an appointed position, it should also consider making the attorney general appointed rather than elected, the president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce said Monday.

Legislation passed in 2017 makes the state education boss an appointed position beginning in 2025. But with Superintendent Jennifer McCormick's recent announcement that she won't seek re-election to the four-year post, that timeline should be accelerated to 2021, Chamber President Kevin Brinegar said Monday.

In his speech to about 150 people at the Indiana Chamber's annual legislative preview lunch, Brinegar added, "Should the legislators choose to include the attorney general in that legislation, that would be a good thing, as well. 

"The attorney general should be the governor's lawyer and represent the executive branch. We've had several in a row now that sort of had their own agenda and gone off in different directions."

Brinegar later said that his remark was aimed at some previous attorneys general, not solely at current Attorney General Curtis Hill.

Hill was recently cleared of criminal charges for alleged misconduct involving seven women in an Indianapolis bar following the last night of the 2018 General Assembly in March.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) and others have called for Hill's resignation. If the attorney general position were appointed, a governor would have stronger influence over who holds the spot.

Within an hour of Brinegar's remark, Bosma responded to the idea of an appointed attorney general with one word: "Awkward." 

Bosma's comment drew laughter from the audience. In October, the Indianapolis Star reported that Bosma paid a law firm $40,000 in campaign funds in part to gather unflattering information about a former intern who allegedly had a sexual encounter with him more than 25 years earlier.

Bosma also said turning the attorney general post into an appointment would not be well received by legislators.

In response to the idea, Hill said in a statement, “There’s a good reason that 43 of America’s 50 states have attorneys general who are elected by the people. Namely, we have a rich tradition in our democratic republic of respecting the people’s wisdom in choosing their leaders.

"There will always be those who prefer to concentrate the levers of government in the hands of a powerful few, but I believe most Hoosiers value the freedom of electing their public servants by casting ballots.”

Bosma and three other legislative leaders said it's likely that legislation will be introduced to accelerate the timeline to 2021 for making the superintendent of public instruction an appointed position.

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