Hockema challenges Klinker for House District 27 seat
Republican Chuck Hockema grew up in Lafayette. He went through the Tippecanoe School Corporation and graduated from Purdue and then Brigham Young University Law School.
He says he has two major strengths that will serve him well as a state representative. The first is a background in business.
“We need substantive bills that are going to create that climate that everyone talks about for job growth," he says. "I have created jobs. I have created businesses here in Lafayette and West Lafayette. That’s definitely an area that’s going to be a big plus.”
Hockema also says his legal education will help when it comes time to draft bills at the Statehouse. He says, while the Legislative Services Agency writes the legislation, the lawmaker needs to know what the impact will be.
“And unless you have legal skills to look at the language and ask the right questions, sometimes you’ll get a law that isn’t as narrowly drafted as it should be," he says. "That sometimes leads to other administrative offices having a field day with that particular law. Sometimes, you end up with unintended consequences.”
However, Hockema says he’s challenging Democrat Sheila Klinker because he wants to do more for the area. He thinks she’s not doing enough for constituents in a meaningful way.
“We have a good representative and she’s done a lot of good work here in the area. We need, however, some substantive legislation that’s going to really have an impact on our economy," he says. "This last session, there were eight bills that she introduced. Five of those did not make it out of committee and the three that did, were good bills, but they were bills to recognize people in the community.”
Hockema also disagrees with the walk-out staged by Klinker and other House Democrats. He pledges to never do that if elected.
“It was a very difficult time for most of us," says Klinker. "I didn’t like it. I thought it was too long.”
She says the Democrats staged the walk-out protesting the Republican majority’s inability to fairly work out a compromise over serious pieces of education and labor legislation.
“I do want to emphasize the two times the Republicans walked out, we never, as a group in the Democratic Caucus, ever thought of fining them or taking money away from them," she says. "It was the democratic process that allowed them to do that. Where most of us were fined more than $4,000. I think it’s important for folks to know they left twice and were never fined.”
Klinker is referring to the two days GOP members walked-out in 2001 over redistricting. She says despite the use of that tactic, members from both parties can work in a bipartisan way. Klinker says it’s that process of compromise, and the committee system, that explains the number of bills she’s responsible for during the legislative session.
“Probably what my opponent doesn’t understand is that when it’s 60-40 (Republican majority), you usually ask a Republican to be on that bill first," she says. "Just having your name first on a bill is not the key to getting through when it’s 60-40 Republican and 37-13 (Republican majority) in the Senate. You work together to make sure your idea gets through."
Klinker says all of her work on the House Ways and Means Committee may not be that noticeable, because proposals she offers during the budget process are amendments.
Both candidates have plans for the next session if they’re elected. For Klinker, it is resolving issues caused by the recent education reforms signed into law.
“What I’m finding is that maybe your teachers who are ready to retire will take student-teachers, but those in the middle of their profession that know any pay they receive is going to be merit pay depending on test scores that are made by their students, are very reticent to take a student teacher. And you can understand why.”
Hockema says there’s a specific proposal he wants considered. It deals with the personal property tax.
“Which currently costs us more money to collect than we actually receive in revenue from it, when looking at a certain threshold," he says. "If we were to have a credit of a certain amount, we could eliminate the need for the majority of small businesses to report and pay that tax. And it would simultaneously save the state money. No one loses in that scenario.”
For now though, Hockema is focused on winning over voters in House District 27, trying to convince them he’s a better choice than Klinker, a long-time lawmaker with wide name recognition.