Thursday, December 29, 2011

Redistricting Indy: Fair is foul

Posted by on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 7:00 AM

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz
  • Abdul-Hakim Shabazz

Fair is foul and foul Is fair

I know quoting Shakespeare's "Macbeth" when starting a blog post on the recent redistricting of the Indianapolis City-County Council maps might seem a bit odd, but trust me on this one. It will make perfect sense when I am done.

First, you have to understand the line. Not to turn into your 11th grade British Literature teacher, but in so many words it means things can be the opposite of what they appear. Such as it is with the recently approved CCC maps. I can say this because not only have I studied the maps and the data they are based upon, but I also have the dubious honor of being the only person in Marion County who attended every public hearing on the maps, the CCC committee and full Council meeting where the maps were approved.

In a nutshell, new maps have to be approved every 10 years because of the changing populations due to the census. New council districts have to be drawn and as close to equal population as possible. Ten years ago, Democratic Mayor Bart Peterson and the Republican council couldn't agree on maps so the Indiana Supreme Court ended up drawing them. This time around Republicans drew the maps in hopes that Republican Mayor Greg Ballard will approve them. Democrats have cried foul, arguing the maps are gerrymandered to favor Republicans, they violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, state law says the maps must be drawn in 2012.

2011 City-County Council Districts
  • 2011 City-County Council Districts
Unfortunately for my Democratic friends, those arguments hold about as much water as a bucket with a giant hole in the bottom. You see, instead of drawing a map that looked like a giant Rorschach test which diluted Democratic voting strength and impaired minority voting powers, the maps not only meet the legal requirements set down by the state and federal governments and doubles the amount of minority participation by creating six Council districts with minority populations of more than 50% and two with more than 45%; one of them is 24% Hispanic.

In addition, based on the 2010 Recorder's race numbers the maps at best create 10 districts each where Democrats and Republicans have a baseline of 55% of the voters and 5 districts which could be considered competitive. If you increase that number to 60% baseline, Democrats actually do better than Republicans.

Proposed changes to the City-County Council districts for 2012.
  • Proposed changes to the City-County Council districts for 2012.
The Districts aren't straight squares anymore, they look more like rectangles. However, don't forget that when the Indiana Supreme Court drew the maps 10 years ago there were about 900 precincts, now there are 600. I would also point out that in 2001 when new maps were drawn, then Mayor Bart Peterson spent about $170,000 on the process, adjusted for inflation in today's dollars that would be about $210,000. The contract to draw these maps was for about $225,000, and that included drawing new precincts which had to be done by law.

So let's do a quick recap, we have new CCC maps, which are competitive, don't dilute minority voting rights, but instead increases them, they protect communities of interest and were done at a cost slightly more than what was done 10 years ago when adjusted for inflation. As far the maps being drawn in 2012, if I were the Mayor I would sign them on the morning of January 1 before my term expired and that would be the end of that discussion.

Proposed council districts by population, race and party.
  • Proposed council districts by population, race and party.
What was the problem again? Ah, I know, Democrats were expecting Republicans to draw maps that were heavily in the GOP's favor, but it didn't happen. Instead that got maps that were legal, fair, competitive and increased minority representation. So when I hear them complain about the new maps, I immediately think of a line from another Shakespeare play, "they doth protest too much, methinks."


Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is an attorney, the editor of IndyPolitics.Org and a frequent political analyst for RTV 6.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bosma tells Rep. Hinkle to resign

Posted by on Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Rep. Phil Hinkle (R)
  • Former Rep. Phil Hinkle (R)

Speaker of the House, Brian Bosma has just released a statement regarding his plea for the resignation of Rep. Phil Hinkle.

"Over the past ten days I have had the opportunity to meet with Rep. Phil Hinkle and members of the House Republican caucus regarding the unfortunate course of events occurring several weeks ago.

While the entire House Republican leadership team has compassion for Phil and his family, it is clear that Rep. Hinkle would best serve his constituents and our state by stepping down immediately and returning to private life.

As we begin preparations for the 2012 legislative session and the significant challenges ahead, Rep. Hinkle should focus on his family and personal life. His continued service in the Indiana House is a distraction from that priority and a detriment to the continuing work of the legislature."

Phil has had a long and distinguished career of public service. However, on behalf of the House Republican leadership team, we strongly encourage Rep. Hinkle to step down and focus on what is most important at this challenging time."

The "unfortunate course of events" to which Speaker Bosma refers is Hinkle's decision to hook-up with a young man via craigslist recently and offer him cash in exchange for "a really good time".

You can read the lurid details over at the Indy Star, which broke the story a little over a week ago.

*Clarification: This story initially went live with an inaccurate headline stating the resignation had already taken place. While the resignation seems imminent, it has not happened yet. Our apologies for the mistake and any resulting confusion.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

Feds stand up for Hoosier health

Posted by on Mon, May 23, 2011 at 4:00 PM

  • Elizabeth Cromwell, Wikimedia Commons

While Indiana's government seems to have lost interest in the well-being of its constituents, the big names in Washington are speaking up. The New York Times reported Monday that President Obama's administration is raising objections to the recent enrollment of HEA 1210, which stripped Planned Parenthood and organizations like it of federal funds.

According to The Times:

The changes in Indiana are subject to federal review and approval, and administration officials have made it clear they will not approve the changes in the form adopted by the state.

Federal officials have 90 days to act but may feel pressure to act sooner because Indiana is already enforcing its law, which took effect on May 10, and because legislators in other states are working on similar measures.

If a state Medicaid program is not in compliance with federal law and regulations, federal officials can take corrective action, including “the total or partial withholding” of federal Medicaid money. The mere threat of such a penalty is often enough to get states to comply. Actually imposing the penalty would, in many cases, hurt the very people whom Medicaid is intended to help.

Administration officials said the Indiana law imposed impermissible restrictions on the freedom of Medicaid recipients to choose health care providers.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have said they are in the process of reviewing the situation. The scrutiny adds gravitas to the suit Planned Parenthood brought against the restrictions in a U.S. District Court; the report continues:

The federal government is not a party in the case, but the administration’s statement sends a signal to the court, which will hold a hearing in two weeks on whether to block the state law.

Though the law is technically in effect, Planned Parenthood of Indiana has used donated funds to extend services to Medicaid patients until May 30. The injunction hearing is scheduled for June 6 in Indianapolis.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gregg enters race for governor

Posted by on Tue, May 17, 2011 at 9:26 AM

  • Photo courtesy of the Gregg campaign

Former Democratic Indiana House Speaker John Gregg filed papers Monday to establish an exploratory committee for his gubernatorial campaign. Considered a "big name" for Democrats, he's generating significant buzz as next year's election pool starts to take shape — he joins Congressman Mike Pence and GOP businessman Jim Wallace.

Gregg's campaign video highlights Hoosier values and says he'll help Indiana "get to work." During an informal meet-and-greet Monday, the self-described moderate told 6News:

"I hear three main things Hoosiers are interested in. They're first and foremost interested in jobs, they're secondly interested in jobs, and, thirdly, they're interested in jobs."

He runs along party lines in terms of the economy and labor issues, but has set himself apart as pro-gun and pro-life. According to a profile by The Associated Press,

"Neither the extreme left or extreme right may fall in love with me, but I think probably 65, 70, 80 percent of the people will because we're going to guide down the middle of the road, taking ideas from both sides. It's going to be people, not politics. It's going to be people, not ideology."

Taking an optimistic approach to the Republican-dominated General Assembly session this year, he thanked the Right for unifying his party — "I think there's an enthusiasm out there among Democrats," he told reporters.

Gregg served as Speaker from 1996-2002, after ten years already in the House. He's worked as a lawyer in Vincennes, Ind., since 1984, stepping into a partner position in 2005.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Mike Pence has said he'll keep on top of Gov. Daniels' agenda if elected. The Post-Tribune reported Monday that Pence wants to "build on the strong foundation" laid by Daniels and the Republicans, focusing on education and government reform:

“Indiana has come so far in the last six years,” Pence said Monday before his speech at the Porter County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner at Strongbow Inn in Valparaiso.

It is the first time Pence has spoken to a gathering of Republicans since announcing his candidacy May 5 for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Pence touted the achievements of outgoing Gov. Mitch Daniels pointing to the fiscal responsibility that erased an $800 million deficit and transformed the state to a AAA bond rating.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monday, May 16, 2011

Penning update: DNR sued

Posted by on Mon, May 16, 2011 at 8:08 AM

  • Photo courtesy of the Alabama DNR

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, Project Coyote, the Animal Welfare Institute and concerned Indiana residents has filed a lawsuit against the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and its director, Robert Carter Jr. They’ve come together to challenge the Department’s decision to waive state permit requirements for a controversial Greene County “penning” facility just days before public hearings to address proposed new rules that would sanction coyote and fox penning year-round. ALDF Director of Litigation Carter Dillard considers DNR’s actions “a mishandling of public interest and a misuse of public funds.”

The Linton facility uses trapped foxes and coyotes for “field trials” and “training” of hunting dogs, which are released to chase — and some say kill — the animals during hunting season under field trial permits.

Animal activists complain that the facility lacks a permit to possess, or physically contain, wildlife outside of hunting season. The DNR’s response involves a complicated explanation that the animals are not technically possessed by the facility, due to holes or gaps in the poorly maintained fencing; thus, there has been no violation of the law.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Dillard, who calls DNR’s stance a “ridiculous misinterpretation of the law.” The law defines possession as having “direct physical control,” or “the power and the intention to exercise dominion or control.”

“The value of permitting is that it establishes a paper trail of animal and disease control,” Dillard continued. One concern is that removing the state’s wildlife permit requirement, a significant disincentive to possess wildlife, establishes precedent for others to skirt the possession requirement. That creates potential for an increase in harm to humans and wildlife, as well as the spread of disease. It also constitutes a slippery slope by allowing the complete abdication of responsibility through the simple, deliberate act of failing to maintain the security of an enclosure.

Pointing out that hunting licenses don’t include out-of-season capture and transport, Dillard said that possession surely occurs during transport. “The Department of Natural Resources is vested with the responsibility of protecting Indiana’s wildlife,” he added. “Instead, by ignoring the state’s permitting procedures, what they are doing is making it as easy as possible for this cruel operation to throw coyotes and foxes in a pen to be mauled to death. How is trapping wildlife for hunting a good use of wildlife?”

ALDF hopes the court will agree that the DNR misinterpreted the law regarding permitting and wildlife possession. “The question is,” Dillard said, “whether the Department committed wrongs in issuing other permits as well.”

The DNR did not return calls for comment.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Judge rules against Planned Parenthood

Posted by on Wed, May 11, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Planned Parenthood supporters rallied outside of the Statehouse earlier this year.
  • Lora Olive
  • Planned Parenthood supporters rallied outside of the Statehouse earlier this year.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt has ruled to deny Planned Parenthood's request for a temporary restraining order against a law cutting federal funds to the health care provider. Her decision to uphold the new law, which Governor Mitch Daniels signed into effect Tuesday, means that funding cuts apply immediately.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN) circulated a press release just after the announcement:

“We are deeply disappointed that the judge decided not to stop this unconscionable law from impacting Hoosiers seeking preventive, reproductive health care,” said PPIN President and CEO Betty Cockrum.

Cockrum continued:

“The court’s ruling today means that 9,300 Medicaid patients at our 28 locations have lost services from their preferred provider."

Though the State has provided a list of other similar organizations that accept Medicaid, PPIN noted it was unclear whether these providers offer all of the same services, or whether they are accepting new patients.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana stepped in to represent PPIN and its patients. ACLU leadership has made clear their assessment of the constitutionality of this particular law. In a press release Tuesday evening:

“Family planning dollars fund preventive health services that are critical to low-income and vulnerable women and their families,” said ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk. “It is unlawful, unnecessary and cruel to deny these populations health services that they desperately need.”

The ACLU of Indiana believes HEA 1210 deprives Medicaid patients of their preferred health care provider — a clear violation of federal law. It also denies PPIN contracts and grants involving federal money solely because it provides a constitutionally-protected procedure. Finally, it would force PPIN’s health care professionals to make statements to patients that are not medically and scientifically based — further violating the U.S. Constitution.

The court still must rule on the injunction. A hearing is set for June 6 of this year.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Planned Parenthood down, not out

Posted by on Tue, May 10, 2011 at 11:00 AM

As Governor Mitch Daniels takes his sweet time to sign off on HEA 1210, Planned Parenthood is gearing up for a counterattack.

In the final form submitted to Daniels, HEA 1210 would cut off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN) clinics across the state, denying some 22,000 Hoosiers of health care services.

Indiana Senate legislators approved the bill, 35-13, on April 19. That evening, PPIN circulated a press release vowing to immediately file for injunctive relief if the bill was signed into law. Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of PPIN, was quoted in the materials:

"This is not about PPIN. It’s about thousands of Hoosiers who will have reduced access to preventive, reproductive health care. We will continue to fight to protect our patients.”

House lawmakers were seemingly unfazed by the threat; a little over a week later, on April 27, they voted to pass the amended bill on to Daniels' desk, 66-32.

The Huffington Post picked up the story on Monday, reporting that the Planned Parenthood Federation of America had stepped in to offer PPIN some much-needed backup:

“We're going to file a lawsuit in federal court as soon after the governor signs this bill as we can get into court,” said Roger Evan, director of litigation for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The funding ban is scheduled to take effect immediately, and we see Medicaid patients every day, so we will be seeking instantaneous relief against the law taking effect while we pursue the litigation.”

The HuffPo report pointed out that the Hyde Amendment, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, has blocked taxpayer dollars from funding abortion for more than 30 years. The provision limits tax deductions for the costs associated with abortion in addition to blocking clinics from using federal funds to perform the procedure. Last Wednesday, May 4, the U.S. House voted to approve HR 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would make these restrictions permanent.

Monday's article continues:

Further, Evan said, since abortion is legal on a federal level, the bill violates the 14th Amendment by punishing those institutions that offer it.

“A very essence of something being a constitutional right is that the states cannot punish you for doing it,” he said. “The problem here is that Indiana is penalizing Planned Parenthood for providing women with access to abortion services — an obviously constitutional realm of conduct. They’re trying to cut off more than a million dollars worth of funds. It's punishment in disguise.”

Daniels has drawn considerable national attention over the last several weeks as he remains coy about his decision to run for president. Though he began the year saying he'd avoid focusing on social issues during the legislative session, he's since backtracked on that restraint. "I supported this bill from the outset," Gov. Daniels said shortly after HB 1210 passed in both the House and Senate, "and the recent addition of language guarding against the spending of tax dollars to support abortions creates no reason to alter my position." Planned Parenthood supporters can only guess as to whether the carrot of the conservative vote, if he does embark on the presidential campaign trail after all, will push him to follow through on the enrollment.

If signed into law, the bill's impact would be immediate —Â Medicaid patients with existing appointments would have no way to pay for them, and would likely be forced to simply go without the health care services they need. According to The Huffington Post:

Daniels’ office did not respond to calls for comment on whether the state legislature has a plan to alert patients of the immediate policy change or whether the state legislature is concerned about the new law violating federal rules. Evan said it's clear from his perspective that Indiana lawmakers proceeded on this bill without any consideration of the practical or legal consequences.

"The legal precedent is already there, but I don't think that penetrates the reasoning of right wing legislators who have an agenda and a vendetta," he said. "They just plunge forward."

Update: Gov. Daniels signed HEA 1210 late Tuesday afternoon. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana promptly filed a request for an injunction and temporary restraining order in the U.S. District Court "on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and its patients."

According to a press release from Planned Parenthood of Indiana:

The temporary restraining order was requested to prevent HEA 1210 — a law barring the state from entering into contracts with, or granting to, any entities (other than hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers) that provide abortions — from being enforced. In addition to the ACLU of Indiana, PPIN is also being assisted in this legal action by attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA).

“By signing this bill, the governor has put the health care of thousands of Hoosiers who rely on federal funding at risk,” said PPIN President and CEO Betty Cockrum. “And by signing when he did, he put patients with appointments tomorrow at PPIN health centers in danger of not getting their birth control or physical exams. However, we’re not going to let that happen. We will see all patients who rely on federal funding that have appointments until we receive a ruling in this case, and will cover those costs out of our Women’s Health Fund.”

Planned Parenthood will continue offering its services, following through with Free Pap Days this week.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, May 6, 2011

It gets worse: Pence for governor

Posted by on Fri, May 6, 2011 at 8:00 AM

While Governor Mitch Daniels has been dodging questions about presidential aspirations, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Columbus) is already eyeing his cushy seat inside the Statehouse.

Pence told supporters Thursday in a conference call and across several media platforms that he will run for governor in the 2012 election. He had originally planned an earlier declaration, but so graciously held the announcement when the monumental news of Osama bin Laden's death broke Sunday.

According to a WTHR report Thursday morning:

Most already expected Pence to run after he ruled out a White House bid and resigned his No. 3 GOP House leadership position.

Pence is considered the favorite in the race because he carries strong name recognition, a network of supporters and campaign cash that could help him clear the field of other Republicans considering a run.

If recent developments are any indication, Pence's ideals are decidedly in line with those found in Indiana's overwhelmingly conservative legislative chambers these days. The congressman is known for aggressively pursuing the defunding of Planned Parenthood on the national level; Hoosier lawmakers just approved HB 1210 to strip Indiana's branch of the health services provider of all federal funds. The bill now awaits signature from Pence's potential predecessor.

Ultra-conservative Pence, who voted against the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and has been a thorn in the side of the immigration amnesty movement, is wasting no time in embarking down the campaign trail. Reuters reported Thursday afternoon:

The conservative Republican also filed papers with the Indiana Secretary of State forming the "Mike Pence for Indiana" committee.

Pence said a formal campaign kickoff will follow but said he wanted supporters to know "I'm in this race." Making reference to the Indianapolis 500, he told supporters "any real Hoosier knows that every big race begins in May anyway."

It's a pretty pathetic attempt to rally the Hoosier vote. What's even sadder, though, is that it just might work.

Though they've already voiced their displeasure with the development, Democrats have yet to put up a viable challenger. For now, former House Speaker John Gregg is only a rumored contender.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monday, April 25, 2011

The final countdown

Posted by on Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 1:35 PM


After a dramatic session for the Indiana General Assembly, we've come to what should be the end. The official deadline to adjourn is midnight Friday, April 29th. Though major changes have already been made in some areas, there's still much to do in five short days.

Chief among the week's goals, and perhaps the most urgent for Governor Daniels and the legislators, is the state budget. The Senate and the House each have their own versions of the $28 billion, two-year proposal. According to a Herald Bulletin article Sunday, fiscal leaders from both chambers will confer this week to compromise on several outstanding disparities:

The House version contains a proposal backed by Daniels to create a rebate plan that would give money back to taxpayers if the state’s reserves ever exceed 10 percent of state spending. The Senate version raises the trigger to 12 percent so that some of those reserves would go to fund the state’s underfunded public employee pension program.

The House version slashed the amount of gambling revenues from the state’s two racinos — the race-track-based casinos — funneled into a program that promotes the state’s horse-racing industry. The Senate version restores much of that funding.

There’s disagreement among Daniels, the Senate and the House on the details of a cut to Medicaid services for low-income Hoosiers. Daniels’ budget plan eliminated dental, chiropractic and podiatry services for adults; the House plan restored the cuts; the Senate plan cut Medicaid funding for dental and chiropractic services for adults but kept them for children.

And just days ago, Senate Republicans stuck an “anti-bolting” provision onto their budget bill that would allow any citizen in the state to sue state legislators who engage in the kind of quorum-busting walkout that House Democrats staged earlier this session. Under the provision, legislators could face $1,000-a-day fines if their absence stops legislative action for three days or more. It also allows a citizen to sue legislators who walk out in the final week of the session for any length of time.

Meanwhile, a few procedural votes are all that are left to write redistricting changes into law, and according to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette on Monday, just one vote in the House is needed to create the state-funded private school voucher program. Daniels has already signed off on limits to collective bargaining for teachers. Legislators still need to make a final decision on the contentious expansion of charter schools across the state.

Several social issues, including corporate tax cuts as well as bans on synthetic marijuana and texting while driving, also need settling before Friday's deadline. According to the Journal Gazette's overview of some remaining concerns:

A restrictive abortion bill is headed back to the House that would, among other things, strip Planned Parenthood of Indiana of millions of dollars in funding. It also would require doctors performing abortions to have hospital privileges; limit abortions to before 20 weeks of pregnancy and add numerous informational items to the state’s informed consent law.

House Republicans support the bill, but [Indiana House Speaker] Bosma is concerned the Planned Parenthood provision might violate federal law and raise constitutional concerns.

A gun pre-emption bill would void most local firearm ordinances and is a shoo-in for passage in some form, though the GOP author is concerned there are now too many exemptions in the bill.

Legislation cracking down on illegal immigration likely will be approved easily after much of the controversial language was removed — partly at the behest of Daniels.

Despite their best efforts following the Dems' return post-walkout, legislators are scrambling to fulfill their duties in the statehouse.

“The goal since we returned was to move things forward expeditiously,” Bosma said. “Long nights with dinners at the desk so we would not have the last week with the big backlog that could be used as leverage and it looks like we’re there.”

Following conference committee meetings this week, all new versions of bills must be approved once again by both chambers before landing on Gov. Daniels' desk for consideration.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lawmakers vote to defund Planned Parenthood

Posted by on Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 10:15 AM


Indiana senators voted Monday to allow an amendment to HB 1210 that would prohibit the state from contracting with or providing funding for Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN). The added measures were authored by Sen. Scott Schneider (R-Indianapolis) as a part of Rep. Matt Ubelhor's (R-Bloomfield) HB 1205, which never made it to a House vote as a result of the Democrats' walkout.

The Senate voted 36-13 in favor of the legislation that still included original provisions that would make abortions after 20 weeks illegal, moving the cut-off up from 24 weeks.

Federal grant funds at stake are responsible for supporting eight PPIN health centers in northwest and rural southern Indiana — Gary, East Chicago, Michigan City, Elkhart, Bedford, Seymour, Scottsburg and New Albany. According to numbers put out by the organization, this still leaves a $90,000 gap, which PPIN fills with private fundraising.

In a press release Monday from PPIN headquarters:

The proposed legislation would also eliminate Medicaid reimbursements for patient services at health centers around the state. PPIN estimates that if funding were eliminated, the state could pay an additional $68 million in Medicaid expenses because of reduced access to contraceptives and the resulting increase in unintended pregnancies. PPIN serves a total of 85,000 patients at its 28 health centers around the state each year.

In response to the legislators' decision, president and CEO of PPIN, Betty Cockrum, warned that the legislation would make Indiana one of the most "anti-choice and anti-woman" states in the country. Cockrum also broke down the immediate impact of the bill on PPIN services for Hoosiers:

“This measure will eventually cause abortions to rise in Indiana because of the reduced access to birth control it will create. It may take several years for the increase in unintended pregnancies to show up on the State Department of Health records in the way of more abortions, but it will happen. There is no doubt. Taking away the $3 million in federal family planning and Medicaid funds that PPIN receives means low-income women and men will have reduced access to birth control, STD testing and treatment, Pap tests and breast exams. It is basic preventive health care, available at PPIN locations across the state. Not a penny of this money goes toward abortion.

"If they want to reduce the number of abortions, it makes no sense to make birth control harder to get for thousands of Hoosiers who rely on Planned Parenthood of Indiana for their preventive health care.

“It is particularly offensive that the bill contains an emergency provision. Proponents may argue all day long that there are other providers, but rest assured, there is no chance they will be there for PPIN’s patients anytime soon, especially for those who already have appointments booked."

The U.S. Senate voted last week to continue using federal funds to support Planned Parenthood. HB 1210, along with its newest amendments, now faces the full Indiana Senate.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, April 15, 2011

This week at the Statehouse

Posted by on Fri, Apr 15, 2011 at 3:05 PM


Indiana legislators made a number of game-changing adjustments to key bills this week, including some of the most controversial proposals for this year's session.

For better or worse, the two chambers are in the home stretch — Monday, April 18, marks the deadline for Senate committee hearings on House bills, followed by Wednesday's cutoff for Senate consideration of House proposals. Business must conclude by midnight on April 29, unless Gov. Mitch Daniels calls a special session, which may be likely given the slow progress of nailing down a state budget for the next two years.

Garnering the most media attention were amendments to the Arizona-esque immigration bill, SB 590. The loudest objections to the original bill seemed to come from the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association (ICVA) along with several other businesses around the state. Indianapolis' Convention Center has reportedly received phone calls from potential clients concerning the bill's progress. Several have threatened to take their planned conventions to other cities if the legislation is enacted. Lawmakers apparently heeded their warning, removing some of the harsher provisions.

To protect the city's reputation and avoid detrimental loss of business, legislators removed a particularly contentious bit that would have required police officers to ask persons of interest for proof of immigration status, as well as the English-language only section. The bill now focuses more heavily on imposing tax penalties for businesses employing undocumented immigrants.

A WTHR report Thursday quoted Rep. Bill Davis (R-Portland) to summarize the significance of these adjustments:

Davis says the bill now focuses on "the things that we have control over. Employers, unemployment, education, those types of things where we're gonna ask that employers verify the employment of their employees, that people who are in our higher education [who] are using state tuition are here legally; we took out of the bill language that was a concern for those who haul children. They may be hauling them for hire because that's their business but they're not hauling them just to be hauling them. We didn't want folks caught up in those kinds of things. We're gonna make sure we focus on issues that the state has control over, and that we can make an effect on and that we can make a difference."

Davis believes the revised bill is more in line with Gov. Mitch Daniels' agenda.

"I think that the governor also wants us to be focused on the things that Indiana has some influence on," he said.

The Senate has already approved the bill, voting in favor 31-18; a House committee followed suit Friday morning with a 6-5 vote.

The General Assembly also turned its attention to the hotly debated issue of Hoosier women's reproductive rights. Wednesday saw a Senate panel's approval of the controversial bill that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and would require doctors to inform patients that the procedure could result in infertility. Notably missing from this version of the bill was the provision demanding that physicians tell women seeking abortions about a link to breast cancer.

In an Indianapolis Star article Thursday:

"Requiring a physician to inform a woman about the relationship of abortion and breast cancer," Dr. Larry Einhorn told the committee, "is illogical and scientifically incorrect."

He said it would be a "cruel and egregious deception" to tell women who developed breast cancer that it might somehow be linked to their decision to have had an abortion.

Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, offered the amendment that eliminated that language.

"We listened to what some physicians have said about the breast cancer issue and decided it would be best to take that out," said Miller, a co-sponsor of the bill.

The bill must still be approved by both the full Senate and the House before landing on the governor's desk to be signed into law.

Key education bills also received the amending treatment. The House Education Committee moved forward SB 1, which would hold teachers accountable for student performance and test scores using annual faculty evaluations. Schools would then be empowered to withhold salary increases should teachers earn poor ratings.

Meanwhile, the Senate Education Committee approved HBs 1003 and 1369 — the first would allow the use of state taxes to provide vouchers for students to attend private or religious schools, while the latter would repeal a standing prerequisite that superintendents have five years of successful teaching experience under their belts.

The Senate approved HB 1002 with a 29-20 vote after making significant changes to the legislation which would allow for significant expansion of charter schools in Indiana. According to a wrap-up on the blog of the Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus:

Included in the Senate changes is the elimination of teacher approval needed for a traditional public school to be converted to a charter school. The bill now allows conversion of a traditional public school to a charter school by either a school board decision or if 51 percent of the parents sign a petition requesting the conversion. The Senate amended language providing new charter sponsorship privileges to state universities and private colleges or universities, limiting that privilege to only those schools with education programs. The Senate also added education service centers to the list of entities that can sponsor new charters and increased from 75 to 90 the percent of teachers at a charter school who must be licensed.

The limit on virtual charter schools (schools where courses are taught primarily online) was eliminated and state funding available to those schools was increased. In addition, the bill now allows the sponsorship of a charter school to be transferred if the school remains in the lowest performance category for 5 years. Opponents expressed serious concerns about how the expansion of charter schools could negatively affect the future of traditional public education in Indiana.

The House will now reconsider the bill with the Senate's changes.

To keep track of these and other bills as they move through the legislative process, check out the General Assembly's website, and keep an eye out for NUVO's comprehensive recap in May.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

© 2014 NUVO | Website powered by Foundation