Longtime legislator won’t run again

As a lawmaker for nearly 20 years, Bedford attorney Brent Steele had the ability to work on legislation that affects the people he represents in court.

He’s going to lose that because of his recent decision to not seek re-election in 2016 as the District 44 state senator. District 44 includes much of Jackson County except for Grassy Fork, Vernon and Washington townships; all of Lawrence and Brown counties; and parts of Bartholomew and Monroe counties.

“I’ll miss the ability to say this law sucks, and I’m going to fix it,” Steele said on Thursday when talking about his decision to not seek another term.

Steele said he decided not to run for office again because he wants to devote more time to his family, including his grandchildren, and his law practice.

“I’m in great shape — I think — at 68, and I’m still able to keep up with my 10-year-old grandson,” Steele said.

He knows, however, that eventually his time is going to run out and long before his grandson’s.

Steele, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and assistant majority floor leader, plans to finish out his term next year. He was appointed to the Senate in 2004 to replace Republican Becky Skillman, also of Bedford, after she was picked to be the running mate for former Gov. Mitch Daniels. Steele was a state representative from 1994 to 2002.

Besides the ability to try to improve what he said are poorly drafted state statutes, he’s also going to miss one other thing about serving in Indianapolis.

“I’ve always loved standing firm for the constituents of my district no matter what,” he said. Even if his own party disagreed, he added.

“Not too many politicians can say that,” Steele said.

Steele said he is particularly proud of two pieces of legislation — one that protects veterans and their families from harassment during funerals and a second requiring insurance companies to classify breast cancer reconstruction as necessary and not cosmetic.

That law also forbids insurance companies from the use of genetic testing to determine a person’s predisposition of developing breast cancer.

“It was a landmark,” he said.

He enjoyed every trip he made to Indianapolis and walking into the Statehouse, he added.

“I was like a kid on the first day of school,” he said.

“I look up at that dome, and I am amazed people trusted me to go and represent them.”

But he won’t miss the nights he spent away from home and his family, he added.

“I tried to count it up one time, and it was thousands,” Steele said.