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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ind. Gov't. - "Social issues face GOP-controlled Indiana legislature"

Two stories this weekend:

Some quotes from Kevin Rader's WTHR 13 story, "Social issues face GOP-controlled Indiana legislature":

When Governor-elect Mike Pence takes the oath of office in January, he will have a Republican super majority in both houses of the Indiana legislature.

That has some people questioning what will happen with social issues like gay marriage and a woman's right to choose. * * *

House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says the issues will be presented when the 118th session of the Indiana General Assembly gavels in on January 4.

"There is no doubt. This will be my 14th General Assembly and they have been presented in every one of those sessions. They will be presented, I am sure, again," Bosma said.

A constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage has already passed out of one General Assembly and now must be passed by another in either 2013 or 2014 before it can be presented to Indiana voters on the ballot.

New Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) acknowledges Pence's conservative bent, but he hopes the Governor-elect will temper that and concentrate on kitchen table issues like jobs, the economy and education.

"It's all a matter of whether they want to pursue the things that divide people or do they want to pursue the things that bring us all together. I hope they do the former," Pelath said.

With super majorities in both the House and the Senate, Republicans may have to learn the most difficult lesson in politics - how to discipline themselves.

A lengthy column today in the Lafayette Journal-Courier, by David Bangert, is headed "The evolution of Gov. Pence starts here; another creation science bill looms: An old fight over science will get a new look in 2013." A sample:
Indiana will have another discussion in the 2013 General Assembly session about how evolution is taught in the state’s science classrooms.
Same issue, new approach

“We’re going to try something a little different this time,” state Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said this week.

Kruse was behind last session’s Senate Bill 89. In its original form, the bill offered to give local school boards the option to “require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science.”

Though not all prone to focus on the merits of sticking with the scientific method in science classrooms, senators were moved to water down the bill largely because of the presumed price tag. Creation science — even offered as a school board choice rather than a state mandate — adds up to a losing church-and-state proposition in the high courts. Rulings have been clear, not to mention expensive: Teaching creation science and intelligent design in public schools amounts to pushing religion, not science. And that crosses the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

A compromised SB89 that made it through the state Senate allowed schools to add courses that looked at the origin of life, provided they included theories from multiple religions. Considering that school districts already could do that with their non-science elective courses, the Indiana House took a pass.

This year, Kruse said, he’ll carry a bill designed by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based public policy think tank. According to its website, the Discovery Institute “seeks to counter the materialistic interpretation of science by demonstrating that life and the universe are the products of intelligent design and by challenging the materialistic conception of a self-existent, self-organizing universe and the Darwinian view that life developed through a blind and purposeless process.”

More from the story:
Louisiana has had a similar law since 2008. Tennessee followed suit in 2012. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam declined to sign it, saying it would bring confusion instead of clarity, according to the Tennesseean news­paper in Nashville. Civil libertarians, the Tennessee Science Teachers Association and members of the National Academy of Sciences warned about what came to be called the “monkey bill,” named for the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial that went after a Tennessee teacher who dared to teach evolution against state laws at the time.

Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, told Nature magazine that the law was simply a “permission slip for teachers to bring creationism, climate-change denial and other non-science into science classrooms.”

The law took effect in April without the governor’s signature.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Sunday, November 11, 2012
Posted to Indiana Government | Indiana Law

Environment - "Couple drop bid for hog farm"

Aubrey Woods reported Nov. 9th in TribTown.com (Seymour/Jackson Co.) in a story that begins:

Steadfast opposition from some nearby property owners led a rural Seymour couple to withdraw their request to operate a 4,000-head confined animal feeding operation in Hamilton Township.

Jackson County Board of Zoning Appeals was scheduled to consider a request for a special exception for the hog barn from Nathan and Gwendolyn Newkirk during its meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Instead, the Newkirks will appear to withdraw the request, Jo Forister, secretary of the Jackson County Department of Planning and Zoning, said Wednesday.

Opposition from neighboring property owners led to that decision, Nathan Newkirk said Thursday. Public reaction to a similar request this summer concerning a proposed hog farm near Brownstown likely hurt his plans, he added.

More of the story can be found here at WISHTV.

The ILB had a story earlier this year headed "Hog farm expansion fought in Southern Indiana" about a similar expansion effort in Harrison County.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Sunday, November 11, 2012
Posted to Environment

Ind. Gov't. - "Around the state, sympathy for Monroe County clerk — but much quicker election results"

The Bloomington Herald-Times ($$$) has a good process story today, reported by Laura Lane, on absentee ballot counting in not only Monroe County, but Tippecanoe County and Delaware County, homes respectively of Indiana, Purdue, and Ball State universities. Brown and Greene counties are also discussed. A few quotes from the long story:

The tedious process of hand counting hundreds and thousands of absentee ballots can hold up final election results.

Beth Mulry and Susan Fowler sympathize with fellow county clerk Linda Robbins, who on Wednesday afternoon still faced boxes and boxes containing 10,000 absentee ballots that had not yet been counted.

Final Monroe County vote totals remained a mystery. Counting and cross-checking continued into Friday evening.

Mulry, the clerk of Brown County, said election workers there started counting 2,159 absentee ballots at noon Election Day and finished just as the polls closed at 6 p.m. In Greene County, where Fowler is the clerk, workers processed about 1,200 absentee ballots between 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. the day of the election.

Mulry got Brown County’s election wrapped up by 10:15 p.m. “We’d still be counting if we had as many absentees as Monroe County,” she said. “I cannot fathom the number of people it would take to get it done on time.”

Brown County has used paper ballots and scanners since the early 1990s, although there is an electronic machine at each polling site for voters who want to use it.

Fowler and Greene County election workers were finished counting votes at 8 o’clock and would have been done 30 minutes earlier if not for a delay in Beech Creek Township. “I was in bed by 9:30 Election Night,” Fowler said. The county has used MicroVote electronic machines since 2004.

Since absentee ballots cannot be counted until after the mail arrives on Election Day, their volume can contribute to how quickly election results are compiled. The purpose of waiting until Election Day to tabulate them is to weed out any early ballots submitted by people who voted but died before the official election was held.

When Mulry gets notification of a death from the health department or if a family member brings in a death certificate for someone who voted early, she reports that to the local election board for permission to pull the ballot. There were none this year.

Fowler, in Greene County, also waits for death notifications from the health department. But in a rural county where she knows a lot of people, confirmation of a death might come from actually attending a voter’s wake or funeral. “If I know for sure that someone died and that they already voted, I would go ahead and take that ballot out,” she said.

[More] An editorial today in the Herald-Times, titled "We should all agree: Election process broken," concludes:
So can’t we all just agree, calmly, that we have a significant problem? Let’s admit that and take the next 18 months before the 2014 primary to restore order and confidence.

County officials first must itemize the issues that led the the latest delays. It’s likely they will come up with a long list, which they should work through one item at a time beginning as soon in 2013 as possible.

Here are three issues for starters.

The equipment apparently had significant limitations. Is different equipment needed? If so, what equipment would allow us to get an accurate count earlier? And are the paper ballots really necessary?

The state law on dead voters was cited as one of the problems. Should the law be changed? If that would help, current Monroe County commissioner and soon to be State Sen. Mark Stoops could take up the issue in the Legislature.

Is it the best idea to have more than 21,000 early and absentee voters? If so, and we believe it is, how can counting those votes start earlier — so the counting can end earlier?

We truly hope Democrats and Republicans alike recognize the last two general elections have produced unacceptable delays in counting votes, and that they join together to develop solutions while there’s plenty of time to avoid a third straight meltdown of our election process.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Sunday, November 11, 2012
Posted to Indiana Government