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Excerpts from recent Indiana editorials

The Associated Press

The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne. May 3, 2011.

Hypocritical gun law

The majority of Indiana's lawmakers care a lot more about gun lobbyists _ and themselves _ than they do about the concerns of mayors, librarians and many Hoosiers.

How else to explain their vote to prohibit local government from banning guns in many government properties, including libraries and parks? Or to explain their decision to set up new and costly roadblocks to banning guns in city halls and city council chambers?

Lawmakers heard plenty of concerns from local officials worried about the prospect of permitting gun-toting citizens who may be upset with local decisions into council meetings and mayor's offices. What they didn't hear was a groundswell of public demand for Hoosiers to be able to carry their TEC 9 semi-automatic weapons with a 32-round magazine or their .44 Magnum revolvers into libraries, zoning board meetings and parks.

No, the only voices that counted were those of the National Rifle Association and gun lobbyists who are paid to try to influence state legislatures to pass as many pro-gun laws as possible, whether or not they serve the public.

Legislators did respond to the concern of cities by allowing them to ban guns in city halls _ but only if the building has metal detectors and security officers. Even then, Hoosiers with valid gun permits are allowed to carry their weapons into the buildings.

But state representatives and senators did not show similar concern about Hoosiers' Second Amendment rights when it comes to protecting themselves. They did not give licensed Hoosiers the same ability to carry weapons into the Statehouse, where the lawmakers and governor work. Legislators can carry weapons into the building but not other citizens.

The ban presumably applies to government-owned buildings such as Parkview Field or Memorial Coliseum. However, teams and promoters leasing the buildings can impose firearms bans _ giving tenants more rights than owners, and giving businesses more power to regulate firearms than elected officials.

"We're going back to the wild, wild West," said Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis.

Lawmakers apparently believe they are safer with a rule banning people from carrying guns into the place where they do business.

Sadly, they don't believe local officials should have the same measure of safety.


The Indianapolis Star. May 2, 2011.

Indiana lawmakers must research how to dole out dollars for schools

State legislators approved recently a $28 billion, two-year budget, about half of which is dedicated to Indiana's public schools.

On top of the state dollars, school districts also collect billions from the federal government and from local taxpayers.

Based on dollars spent, it's clear that Indiana, as is the case in most other states, has set K-12 education as its highest priority.

Yet fundamental questions about how to most effectively spend all of that money have never been answered. There's a consensus, for example, on the fact that more dollars are needed to educate children from low-income, high-risk families than those who come from wealthier backgrounds. The state funding formula has long reflected that fact, as it should. But how many additional dollars are needed for each at-risk student? State leaders, school superintendents and other educators don't know the answer, despite perennial arguments over how to distribute education dollars fairly.

For that matter, what is the optimum dollar amount dedicated to the education of a child in Indiana who has a stable home life, a moderate family income and ready access to books, libraries, museums and other amenities that aid education? The default answer typically has been as much as possible, balanced against other state budget needs. But at what funding level does the return on investment begin to fall off? What is the baseline, can't-fall-below-that-level-without-serious-consequences, dollar amount that the public and lawmakers need to keep in mind? And what is the ideal ratio between a school district's administrative and classroom costs?

As state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett noted in a meeting with The Star's Editorial Board, it's critical that Indiana finally begin finding answers to those questions. It's not just a state or local issue, however. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings pointed out that little in the way of definitive research has been done on optimal funding levels for schools.

Instead, the same pointless arguments are raised year after year with one side accusing the other of "not caring about children" or "trying to destroy public schools." Their opponents, meanwhile, wail about schools wasting enormous sums of money.

It's time to move beyond tired arguments built on emotion and anecdote. State legislators have made Indiana a leader in education reform. Now the state needs to take the lead on serious research into how to effectively and efficiently spend money dedicated to education.


Journal and Courier, Lafayette. April 29, 2011.

Proposed gas tax holiday bad for state

It's cruel to give false hope to those struggling economically, which is precisely what Indiana House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer did recently.

Bauer, D-South Bend, suggested suspending Indiana's gasoline tax over the summer, which he estimated would lower gas prices by 40 cents a gallon. But Indiana's coffers would lose an estimated $300 million _ roughly the amount cut from K-12 education during the budget that ends in June.

Bauer says the lost revenue could be taken from the rainy day funds. But that money isn't there yet. It's a prediction estimating $1 billion in reserves in two years at the end of the next budget. If the economy hits the skids, as it did in 2008, that money will never materialize. That's a huge gamble, and Bauer knows it.

He's preying on the economic pain of struggling Hoosiers in order to curry political favor from the very people his proposal would hurt most.

Recent history proves that gasoline tax holidays don't work.

Gov. Frank O'Bannon tried such a holiday in 2000. He got re-elected, and the state sank into fiscal disrepair because of the lost revenue. The state's red ink didn't vanish until 2006.

Jill Long Thompson, the 2008 Democratic candidate for governor, supported a gasoline tax holiday in 2008, and Bauer favored dipping into rainy day funds during the biennial budget created in 2009 amid the economic slowdown. Hindsight shows that both ideas would have brought Indiana to financial ruin, resulting in higher taxes, deeper spending cuts and likely higher unemployment.

But Bauer ignores this history.

We welcome new, innovative ideas to help Hoosiers cope with the higher gasoline prices, but any proposed gasoline tax holiday without offsetting spending cuts is irresponsible.


The Times, Munster. April 26, 2011.

Finally, transparency effort gained visibility

The Indiana General Assembly has finally approved something for which state Sen. Frank Mrvan and The Times editorial board have pushed for years _ transparency for money distributed through casinos' local development agreements.

Mrvan and the Legislature deserve credit for finally making this happen.

Senate Bill 325, Mrvan says, is not the culmination of his efforts, but it's an important milestone.

The bill, which now awaits the governor's signature, requires an accounting of how casino money distributed under a local development agreement is spent.

This is, of course, a response to the local development agreement that channeled money to the for-profit Second Century Corp. in East Chicago as well as to the city and to the nonprofit Foundations of East Chicago. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and his predecessor, Steve Carter, have pursued ongoing litigation for years to try to force Second Century to open its books to the public.

Second Century received $16 million in casino money.

Zoeller made the effort to force the disclosure of that money a part of his legislative agenda, which helped the effort pass this year.

Mrvan's persistent efforts should be praised as well.

"I've been trying since 2006," Mrvan said. "I guess it's just like being a preacher; you win a few every year."

The legislation that passed had Sens. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, and Mike Delph, R-Carmel, listed as authors and Mrvan, D-Hammond as a co-author. But Mrvan has been forceful in pushing this reform initiative.

With Senate Bill 325, his persistence paid off. "Basically, I think it's just little by little, they got more comfortable with it," Mrvan said.

This is a welcome reform and should be signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels.