I-69 and the unfunded
mandate of pavement
The state continues its aggressive push to pave through the
farms and forestland of southwestern Indiana despite multiple lawsuits
questioning the rationale of the current approach to the new-terrain route for I-69.
Construction is underway on several sections linking
Evansville to Crane Naval Base through Daviess and Greene counties. That
portion of the highway is targeted for completion by December 2012.
Bloomington continues to battle the section running through
Monroe County even as state and federal officials continue to argue that locals
have no right to stop the highway. Potential retribution for the city's
audacity could result in the state withholding millions of dollars in federal
aid for Bloomington's public bus system.
The State of Indiana and the local governments it supports
could not fund the existing backlog of bridge and highway infrastructure
repairs without selling 75 years of revenue rights from Indiana's northern toll
road to a private company. But project proponents — in a chorus started
by the Democratic governors that proceeded him and continued by the GOP's
Daniels — insist the economic boost the highway offers will offset the roughly $3 billion cost
$3 billion cost, the unwelcome appropriation of private property and the
Other hot infrastructure news of the year included the
closing of the Sherman Minton Bridge connecting New Albany and Louisville.
Thousands of drivers continue to be diverted each day as engineers work toward
a seven-figure bonus if they can restore structural integrity by a March
Hungry to be known as the most pro-life state in the
country, the Indiana General Assembly
General Assemblypassed new, stricter abortion restrictions that would also
withhold federal funds from one of the state's largest healthcare providers to
Despite restrictions already in place preventing Medicare
funds from being used for abortions, HB 1210 denies any federal funds going to
any facility offering abortions. Nearly 10,000 mostly low-income women rely on Planned Parenthood
Parenthoodas their primary medical provider, many of whom are at risk of
losing out on many of the other services the organization offers, including
cancer screenings and health check-ups.
The bill also caps the number of weeks at which a woman can
get an abortion,
reducing it from 24 weeks to 20, and requires abortion providers to inform
patients the fetus can feel pain.
During the deliberation process, state legislators were
warned that the bill might be in violation of federal statutes and could lead
to a costly court battle for the cash-starved state. But they pushed forward
anyway, hoping to create the "most pro-life state in America,"
according to bill author Eric Turner
The warnings proved to be prophetic. In June, a federal
court granted a temporary injunction preventing the law from taking effect, and
the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services disapproved the measure that same
month. The 7th U.S. Court of Appeals is currently weighing the case.
The Workforce Blues
It's been a rough year for Indiana's labor force —
unemployment has consistently hovered around 9 percent, hiring has slowed to a
crawl and the General Assembly is preparing to mount a full-scale offensive to
pass a right-to-work bill similar to the measure passed by Wisconsin last year
— and it looks like the war against workers will continue into 2012.
Gov. Mitch Daniels says the right-to-work measure, which
would limit unions' abilities to require membership or collect dues, would help
make Indiana more attractive to new companies. Labor advocates counter that
employees' wages and working conditions would suffer. Conservatives have been
laying the groundwork for passing the controversial measure throughout the
year, and Daniels has said the bill will be one of his legislative priorities
The biggest target in Daniels' sights this year was the
powerful Indiana Teachers Union. In addition to his support of charter schools
and voucher programs, Daniels sought to limit teachers' collective bargaining
rights to only salary and benefits issues and would strip them of their ability
to negotiate evaluation procedures and criteria. The measure passed the
Republican-dominated General Assembly and was signed into law in April.
In January, NUVO highlighted the plight of security guards
at Securitas in Indianapolis. Despite the pro-union, pro-social justice
platform of its global parent company, local corporate officials fought against
even listening to workers' complaints or requests for a living wage.
The Indianapolis Star
reported on much of the labor strife, but when more than 60 Star employees were
laid off in June, the news was buried deep in the paper — or as deep as
the increasingly slim Star could hide it. Months later, the remaining employees
launched a Save the Star campaign, hoping to highlight the obscene financial
shell games played by corporate parent Gannett. The money the media Goliath
saved in the thousands of laid off employees would later be funneled to
departing Chief Executive Officer Craig Dubow's pockets; the failed CEO walked
away with a more than $37 million severance and retirement package when he left
the company earlier this year.
-Robert Annis and Rebecca Townsend contributed to this report