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State Journal: Divided we stand; Sugar-coated lesson

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A house divided against itself can, in fact, stand, or so hope Indiana lawmakers.

Under an unusual power-sharing arrangement adopted early Thanksgiving morning, the 100-seat state House--which is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats--will be presided over next year by a different party member on alternating days.

House members were forced to devise the so-called "speaker du jour" plan after Democrats picked up two seats in the chamber in the Nov. 8 election--a development that created the first partisan deadlock in the legislature since the Indiana constitution was ratified in 1851.

The pact, which was sealed with a handshake between the House's party leaders shortly after 2 A.M., ended two days of negotiations. It will take effect when the legislature's regular session begins in January.

In addition to alternating speakers, the agreement calls for co-chairmen and equal party membership on House committees. Each co-chairman will be granted five "wild cards," which will allow him to permit a bill to be heard in committee over the objection of his counterpart.

Another rule change will allow bills that receive a tie vote in committee to advance to the floor with no recommendation. Previously, a tie killed a measure. Also, individual representatives will have the power to demand floor action on their bills once the measures have been passed by committees. Under the old rule, only the House speaker could call down a bill for a full vote.

The party caucuses selected Paul S. Mannweiler, a Republican, and Michael K. Phillips, a Democrat, as their co-speakers. The co-chairmen of the education committee were expected to be announced by late last week.

Each of the nation's 50 governors marked National Geography Awareness Week last month by visiting a school and teaching a lesson on the topic.

Most of the state chief executives probably relied on a map, globe, or other tried-and-true visual aid to help get his or her message across. But Gov. George Mickelson of South Dakota used a a more unusual tactic to try to give his charges a taste of foreign culture.

Upon his arrival at the Washington Elementary School in Pierre, Mr. Mickelson handed out candy bars to his class of 26 for the day. He then asked them to read the list of ingredients on the label and to name some of the countries and states that produce them.

"I want you to keep the candy bar, and as you eat it, think of all the places it came from," he said.--tm

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