1969 report on legislature rings familiar 50 years later


While the world always changes, some things seem to stay constant. Following is part of a legislative report written by then HSPA General Counsel Dick Cardwell on April 11, 1969, after the conclusion of that year’s General Assembly:

“It will be an immediate relief to you that I do not intend to go back over and discuss all the legislation in which the newspaper industry was interested during the 1969 session. …

Rather, in these remarks, I want to make some general observations …

Among those interesting occurrences during the session was the response to my little “pep session” message … In it, I outlined our mutual responsibilities during the legislature. A few letters which came in made it rather clear to me that we still don’t understand each other completely.

One said that everyone knew I represented the newspaper industry, so, in effect, I had their proxy to do what I thought best; in other words, I was on my own.

You should realize that we do not have an altogether easy task in the legislature because of the nature of our activity.

— HSPA General Counsel Dick Cardwell, April 11, 1969, after the conclusion of that year’s General Assembly

Another said: “If a bill were about to pass the legislature which threatened freedom of the press in Indiana, you wouldn’t have enough room for all the publishers who would be there.” He suggested I should make it more clear what the chances of passage of a bill were, so newspapers would not have to be needlessly alarmed.
I sincerely wish a proxy was all I needed, but the legislative process does not work that way. Lobbying is the art of applying political pressure in he most effective way, and it presupposes a power base from which pressure can be applied. Every lobbyist depends almost entirely on the structure behind him for support.

Certainly there are many things I can accomplish during the session by proxy, and did so. However, there are other times when I can not apply the necessary political pressure without hometown support. …

On the matter of the chances for passage of a bill … unless it is something completely ridiculous like “LaMere’s Folly,” there is no way of knowing what its chances for passage are for the simple reason that chance of passage is almost directly proportional to the pressure exerted against it.

So, the question is, when should we get excited?

The statistics I have set out through the Bulletins should supply the ready answer to that question. The time to get excited is when a bill is first introduced and assigned to committee. At that time, it has only a 50-50 chance. Full committee coverage means that you have a 50% chance that a favorable bill will die.
If you don’t get excited until it is out of committee and up for vote on the floor, then you have only a one or two percent chance of defeating it. So, while we have been uncommonly successful on floor votes over the past few sessions, it is at the initial stage when the pressure should be applied.

You should realize that we do not have an altogether easy task in the legislature because of the nature of our activity. In most cases, it is the process of amending measures we would not otherwise be interested in but for an objectionable provision.

For example, the teachers’ salaries publication repeal bill, proposed by the Indiana School Boards Association, went to the House Education committee. The ISBA concentrates on and cultivates the good will of the Education committees almost exclusively, while we come in as a stranger, more or less. Similarly, the commissioners’ allowances repeal bill, supported by the Indiana Association of Counties, was in the House County & Township Business committee, which that group cultivates.

The Indiana Association of Cities and towns deals most often with the Cities and Towns committee, to which most publication bills go. …

The Judiciary committee is more likely to listen to judges and prosecutors, with whom it regularly deals, than to newspapers. And so it goes.

Therefore, you should realize that if we are to continue to succeed in these forays into rather strange surroundings, contending against groups which are concentrating in those areas, we absolutely need your support.”