The Washington Times-Herald

January 23, 2009

Messmer learning ropes at Statehouse

INDIANAPOLIS — Rep. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, grabs his suit coat and pulls it on as he leaves his wooden-encased cubicle on the second floor of the House of Representatives’ office. He goes to the first floor and to a similar cubicle inhabited by one of his 99 House colleagues, Rep. Dennie Oxley Sr., D-Taswell.

He peers in. “Are you ready?” he asks Oxley.

“Yep,” Oxley responds, standing. “Let’s go.”

It’s Monday afternoon, their third day on the job, and they leave their office and head to the clerk’s office in the House chambers. Their goal is to file a bill they have jointly authored. The proposed legislation would amend a law that allows disabled veterans to purchase a hunting and fishing license for the same fee assigned to senior citizens to allow that for certain other Hoosiers with a disability.

As they mount the stairs, Oxley asks Messmer, “Have you done one of these yet?”

“No,” Messmer responds. “Have you?”

“Nope. I guess it will be a learning experience for us both.”

While they come from different political parties and live in different counties, the two legislators have at least two things in common. They both represent a part of Dubois County. And they are both new to this job, having won their seats in November.

They are part of the freshman class that encompasses 23 new legislators: six senators and 17 representatives.

The Statehouse is full this afternoon with chattering visitors, wide-eyed schoolchildren and smooth-talking lobbyists. Though there are even more people here than normal — due to the inauguration ceremonies of state officials — the building is alive with noise every day.

“There’s always a hum in the building,” Messmer says as he carries copies of bills he’d like to get support for from other legislators. “In December, you could hear a pin drop in here.”

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