GOSHEN — An exchange of opinions will occur Saturday morning, continuing a tradition that stretches back decades.
The Elkhart and Goshen Chambers of Commerce will host their Third House sessions with the public and state legislators. The Goshen event will begin at 8 a.m. and the Elkhart event will begin at 10 a.m. The sessions will be at the Chamber offices in each city.
“These are valuable opportunities to hear from people in the district and hear about legislation that is currently going through the session and what they think about it,” said Indiana Rep. Tim Wesco, a Republican who represents District 21. “I highly value them and attend as many as I can.”
Wesco said he has attended Third Houses in Goshen in the past but will be at the Elkhart event Saturday.
“We’ve had them a long time,” said David Daugherty, president of the Goshen Chamber of Commerce.
He said the first Third House was held at the Muncie Chamber of Commerce 37 years ago. The town hall-style meetings have since spread throughout the state. Daugherty said when he worked in Ohio and Colorado those states had nothing similar.
“They are very valuable for the Chamber and for businesses to meet with the legislators and find out what is going on in Indianapolis and talk with them about ideas,” Daugherty said.
Throughout Daugherty’s years leading the sessions, the atmosphere has almost always been civil.
“People do respect each other,” Daugherty said. “Very few people have ever been rude at these meetings. One or two, on rare occasions, come in and use it as a platform for their positions and cannot hold back on their emotions.”
But usually people simply discuss the issues at hand, he said.
“So it’s a respectful discussion and the legislators appreciate that and the towns people also appreciate that as well,” Daugherty said.
He said legislators take note of the public’s opinions expressed at the meeting and may use the input to make decisions in the Statehouse.
“You can impact the debate on issues,” Daugherty said. “You really can, but it starts with respect.”
Both Wesco and Daugherty expect this week’s action on House Joint Resolution 3, which would put Indiana’s law that recognizes marriage only between a man and woman, on the ballot for a vote to make it a constitutional amendment, to be a topic of discussion.
“I am sure it will come up,” Wesco said, “and my views on the issue are well known. I have always been up front and sincere about my stance.”
Wesco favors the resolution, which he co-sponsored in the House along with Goshen Rep. Wes Culver.
“I think there will probably be people there on both sides of the issue,” Daugherty said. “And I hope they are as respectful as they been in the past. I have no reason to believe they wouldn’t.”