South Bend Tribune. June 22, 2016
Refine ethics policy at state level.
As if the public needed another example that Indiana needs stronger ethics laws, consider this latest incident.
A former Indiana Department of Education official took a job with a company involved in a $537,000 agreement he helped broker to develop a Web app for state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz's office.
A report by the Associated Press said David Galvin, formerly Ritz's communication director and IT manager, took a job in October 2015 with Atlanta-based N2N Services, two months after a $435,000 payment was requested for AT&T and N2N, the communications company software developer, in connection with the project. Galvin, who now is executive director of marketing and communications for N2N, had requested the two companies be hired to develop the app.
Galvin dismissed the concerns of some, saying he didn't understand the big deal, and that he listened to people who know state law and followed their guidance.
There have been other instances that have occurred at the state level in recent years.
In March 2015, House Speaker Brian Bosma and House Ethics Chairman Rep. Greg Steuerwald were criticized for revealing their ties to an $82 million stadium after the House voted in favor of it. Neither participated in the vote, but the fact that the lawmakers acted as they did even as they were pushing for stronger disclosure rules is troubling.
And in 2014, Rep. Eric Turner lobbied the GOP caucus to kill a proposed moratorium on new nursing home construction. Turner's behind-closed-doors dealings prompted one of his colleagues to disclose that Turner was an investor in his son's nursing home development company. The moratorium would have threatened multiple projects planned by a company owned by the lawmaker, his son and several others.
The state has taken some small steps, such as issuing fewer waivers that would let state employees take related jobs in the private sector before a year long wait. It's clear there are significant holes in the state's ethics laws. It's equally clear that it's past time for the state to take action on more significant ethics reform.
(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star. June 23, 2016
Equal representation for women in government overdue, at all levels.
Hillary Clinton became the presumptive Democratic nominee for the presidency this month, making her the first woman in American history to lead a major party ticket. That landmark moment should shine a spotlight on the need for more female representation in government at every level.
The situation should matter to any citizen, regardless of political preferences. Women comprise 50.8 percent of the U.S. population, including 50.7 percent of Hoosiers. Their intelligence (females earn 56.7 percent of bachelor's degrees today), talent, personal experiences, compassion and interests should be, at the very least, equally considered when Congress, state legislatures and city and county councils act. Yet, too often women must rely on male public officeholders to address their greatest concerns and govern accordingly, with mixed results.
Women tend to place a higher priority on some issues, such as the environment, health care and reproductive issues and education, according to the "Status of Women in the States" report by the Institute for Women's Policy Research. The number of female elected officials is growing, yet it is still too low to properly influence decisions made on those issues.
Of the 535 members of the 114th Congress, only 108, or 20 percent, are women. That's a record, though. Just a dozen years ago, a mere 74 of the Capitol Hill seat-holders were women.
Indiana fits that national pattern. Women occupy 31 of the 150 seats in the state Legislature, or 20.7 percent, including 22 in the Indiana House and nine in the Senate. Women hold four of the seven statewide offices, but that number dropped by one when former Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann resigned in March to pursue a college presidency and Gov. Mike Pence replaced her with Eric Holcomb. This fall, Republicans Pence and Holcomb are being challenged by Democrats John Gregg and Christina Hale, a current state representative from District 87 in Indianapolis.
The chances of Indiana's ratio changing much in the November election are slim. Among both parties, only 38 female candidates are on the ballot in the 100 House races. Six of those feature two women competing for the same seat. Thirty-six House district races include just one unopposed candidate, and 29 of them are male. Nine women of either party are candidates for the 25 Senate seats on the ballot; eight Senate district races involve an unopposed candidate, and just one is a woman.
Vigo County is even less balanced. Women hold only one of seven County Council seats, one of three county commissioner positions and two of nine Terre Haute City Council posts.
Certainly, public servants perform well, badly or in between, regardless of gender. Nonetheless, our nation's 240-year-old democracy is long overdue to tap into the abilities of a demographic group that accounts for half its population. Without significantly intensified action to recruit more women to seek public office, a 50-50 balance in Congress will not happen until 2117, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research. The United States, Indiana and Vigo County can do better.
The Indianapolis Star. June 22, 2016
Let's have courage to hold gun debate.
The stuff of nightmares has become the impetus for text alerts that wake us in the night. In America in 2016, the previously unfathomable has become common.
Blacksburg. Fort Hood. Binghamton. Aurora. Newtown. San Bernardino. And now Orlando. Each is among the 10 worst mass shootings in American history.
Each has broken our hearts and bruised our souls within the past decade.
It was only as far back as 2007 when a gunman stalked the campus of Virginia Tech University, killing 32 people. It is easy to forget, after all that's happened since, how deeply that attack shook our nation. It became the worst mass shooting in American history.
And remained so until this past Sunday. When we were shaken again, by another gunman who stalked a nightclub where only minutes before people had danced and laughed. This time 49 victims were murdered.
Every time such an outrageous act of violence breaks, we vow as a nation that things must change, that new laws must be passed, that we must not be complacent in the face of the unacceptable. But then time passes and our collective attention shifts elsewhere.
Until the next text alert shakes us from slumber.
Can it be different this time? Can we accept the risk of honestly wrestling with the policy changes that may help prevent another Newtown, another Blacksburg, another Orlando?
That honest wrestling may well include the need for further restrictions on the purchase of high-powered guns that can be fired in quick succession. When one gunman, armed with a rifle and a handgun, can kill 49 people and wound 53 others so quickly in a public place, it's evident that we have a public safety and national security problem.
But would a ban on so-called assault weapons deliver the needed results? That's uncertain. In 1994, Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed a federal ban on the distribution of assault weapons. But the new law allowed millions of people who had previously purchased such guns to retain their weapons, and gun manufacturers simply tweaked the design of their products to comply with the new restrictions. By the time the ban expired in 2004, most forensic analysts had concluded that the ban had had only negligible effects on reducing crime.
Yet, that doesn't mean that in 2016, we can continue to avoid a serious policy debate about what steps are needed to help prevent more senseless deaths. The 11 members of Indiana's congressional delegation should ensure that such a debate is allowed to happen on Capitol Hill and in local communities throughout the state and the nation.
It is unconscionable to refuse to even consider reasonable restrictions on the manufacture and sale of guns that by design enable a not even particularly skilled assailant to kill dozens of people in a few minutes. There will always be those who are determined to kill, but we can certainly make it more difficult for those would-be killers to get their hands on assault-style weapons.
So let's have the debate, and let's examine the facts without preconceptions. And then have the courage to do what is necessary.
The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. June 22, 2016
Secretary's tour of Crane today puts the spotlight on Indiana base, workers.
The Pentagon's best-kept secret is in the spotlight today.
NSA Crane will be visited this afternoon by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. He is the first Defense secretary to tour the south-central Indiana military base.
Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly organized the high-profile visit of the facility.
In anticipation of today's event, Donnelly welcomed Carter to Indiana in an open letter that was published in Saturday's Herald-Times. The letter is part Hoosier hospitality and part company fact sheet.
"Covering an area larger than Washington, D.C., NSA Crane is Indiana's biggest military facility and the third-largest U.S. Navy installation in the world.
"It employs more than 5,000 Hoosiers and adds approximately $800 million annually to our state's economy.
"The men and women of NSA Crane work to support some of our most important and sensitive military missions."
These efforts by Donnelly, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, to bring Carter to Crane is needed to showcase the values and talents of the landlocked base.
And while the last round of base closures known as Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) was in 2005, there is still worry of future closures in this time of budget cuts and military spending talks. That's why this visit — any visit — is so important for Crane and the entire area. It provides a chance for top officials to tour the base in action and meet the employees who too often might go unnoticed or forgotten.
So kudos to Donnelly and other politicians that advocate for Crane whether in Washington, D.C., or in Indianapolis. But more so, for their hard work in bringing military leaders such as Carter, who could help shape the future of Crane, here to witness Crane with their own eyes. That is the best testimony..