The Indiana Daily Insight's Ed Feigenbaum speculates that the resignation of State Senator Sam Smith of Lake County might just happen to be related to the end of the legislative perk of fully paid health care insurance... and that there may be other state senators comtemplating taking the same route out.
Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Samuel Smith, Jr. (D) of East Chicago will resign from his Senate seat in SD 02 effective June 6. Smith says that recent growth in his family business, Divinity Funeral Home, has demanded his full time attention and presence. Some folks tell us to see a spate of additional retirements announced before the July 31 take it (and leave) or leave it deadline for the lucrative old legislative health insurance benefit package.
It was Fort Wayne's David Long, who as President Pro Tem of the Indiana State Senate, eliminated the retirement pay package at the start of this legislative session. As Senator Long noted in a recent interview with the Journal-Gazette's editorial page:
I started out by eliminating the retirement health-care plan that Sen. Garton had put in place with former Speaker John Gregg. There was then the historic opportunity to address something that had vexed the legislature for 22 years, and that’s how do you deal with a pay raise that is reasonable that also makes sure that it’s not just wealthy people or retired people with pensions and time on their hands to serve. We collaborated … with the goal of creating a level of pay that will allow people from all walks of life in Indiana to serve in their legislature. I think we achieved that. And it should be remembered that this does not go into effect until 2009.
While there may be, as Mr. Feigenbaum notes, other senators who will resign before July 31, there's a twist in the Smith's story. Reporter Patrick Guinane of the Northwest Indiana Times writes today:
State Sen. Sam Smith, D-East Chicago, said he is resigning to focus on an expansion of his family's funeral home and wants his wife to serve the remaining 18 months of his term.
[ ... ]
He is asking fellow Democrats to select his wife, Diane Smith, to complete the remaining 18 months of his term.