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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

January 30, 2018

The (Munster) Times. January 24, 2018

Momentum against opioids must not fizzle

It’s a Hoosier public health epidemic of epic proportions that’s getting the appropriate attention from all levels of state and local government.

Our leaders must ensure the growing verbal and policy attention surrounding the Indiana opioid crisis transforms into better treatment options for the afflicted.

Scores of Region and state police officers carry Narcan shots, capable of reversing the effects of heroin overdoses.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb made combating the crisis of heroin and prescription painkiller abuse a centerpiece of his State of the State address earlier this month.

Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush followed up on Holcomb’s concerns in her “State of the Judiciary” address to the General Assembly.

Rush, formerly of Munster and co-chairwoman of the National Judicial Opioid Task Force, noted “addiction has swept into every court — and not just in Indiana, but across our country.”

“People often ask me the same question they are asking you: What can we do about this crisis? I have one answer: Together we have to do everything.”

She’s right.

It’s encouraging to see government already responding to the admonitions of Rush and many other political and public health leaders.

Teams from each county are set to convene in July to participate in extensive training on treatment for substance abuse. This is key as availability and access to effective treatment continue to be a major challenges in the Hoosier state.

Judges, prosecutors and public health officials together are building bridges to treatment options for offenders as part of their sentences.

The emergence of special drug and veterans courts in the Region and state are shining examples of this newfound priority.

It’s a growing problem affecting people of all ages, destroying families, livelihoods and countless future prospects for some of our state’s most vulnerable residents.

Our state must unite to “do everything” to fight this battle and ensure the momentum we’re seeing today translates into treatment options tomorrow.

We can’t afford to let the momentum fizzle.

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The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. January 25, 2018

Blizzard of 78 inspired stories of selflessness

Today marks the 40th anniversary of another huge January news story in our area’s history. This one, the Blizzard of 1978, centered on a natural phenomenon and the selfless ways women and men of this region reacted to it.

The snow began to fall late in the afternoon of Jan. 25 that year, but this was to be no ordinary snow storm. Winds that various weather reports clocked at 50 to 80 mph swept through Indiana. Wind-chill temperatures plummeted. Ice formed. Snow drifted. Streets and roads were closed.

In fact, only one major highway in the state, I-64 near Evansville, remained open after the storm subsided. Many city streets and county roads were impassable. Indiana Gov. Otis Bowen called a state of emergency. So did Bloomington Mayor Frank McCloskey.

Indiana University canceled three days of classes: Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The H-T, then called The Herald-Telephone, gathered news and published a newspaper on Thursday — but only about 1,000 out of 26,000 copies were delivered.

The stories in that Thursday newspaper focused on what people needed to know, and on what people were doing to help each other. The stories from the front page reported on drivers who had to be called in from their jobs keeping roads cleared because their vehicles were getting stuck and, besides, drivers couldn’t see beyond an estimated five feet of visibility.

Men and women who had four-wheel drive vehicles gathered at the Monroe County Jail on Thursday morning to help make rescue runs and deliver food kits prepared by social service organizations such as the Red Cross and the Area 10 Agency on Aging. Robert F. Mullis and five extended members made it in his International Scout to the Salvation Army on Rogers Street, and then went out to rescue some other people who were stranded without electricity. There were a lot of people without electricity, especially in rural areas.

Members of the National Guard went to work helping others. City and county government agencies responded in numerous helpful ways. A downtown grocery, Ralph’s T-Mart on West Fourth, opened on Thursday and had served 850 customers in four checkout lines by the middle of the afternoon.

The storm raged for more than 24 hours before starting to dissipate early Friday morning. But it would be days before Bloomington got back to anything close to normal, and more than a week before some rural roads in Brown, Greene and Owen counties were passable.

One lesson from the storm involves the power of people helping other people. Coverage of the storm in the H-T identified the selfless actions of many community residents during a very dangerous situation. That’s really worth remembering.

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South Bend Tribune. January 23, 2018

Get serious about Hoosier wage gap

State Rep. Linda Lawson has been proposing an equal pay bill for 20 years, so it’s not surprising the Hammond Democrat is trying again this session.

This time there is bipartisan support for the measure. Two Republicans, Sen. Vaneta Becker, who represents portions of Vanderburgh and Warrick counties in southern Indiana, and Rep. Julie Olthoff, of Crown Point, have signed on as co-sponsors.

Both the House and Senate measures would charge employers with discrimination for failing to equitably pay female and minority workers. The bills also would give the Indiana Civil Rights Commission the power to investigate and resolve wage complaints.

A study by the Indiana Institute for Working Families showed the wage gap widened in 2016. That means, on average, full-time working women earn 74 cents for every dollar full-time working men earn. That’s the sixth worst pay gap in the nation.

During the course of a 40-year working career, a working woman will be shortchanged, on average, more than $500,000 in earnings, according to the Center for American Progress.

That gap over the course of a working lifetime significantly undercuts a woman’s ability to provide for her family, let alone trying to save enough money for retirement.

“Here we are in 2018, still talking about fairness — why do we not treat the women of Indiana fairly?” Lawson said during a news conference last week at the Statehouse.

Given the history, it’s unlikely an equal pay bill will make it out of the General Assembly, especially during this short session. But having one of the country’s largest wage gaps should be unacceptable to every Hoosier, including those who serve in the legislature.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. January 26, 2018

A dim view

The use of solar power as a clean and economical way to generate electricity is growing worldwide, with the United States and China leading the way.

Indiana Senate Bill 309, enacted last year, cast a shadow over the solar industry’s prospects in Indiana by cutting the reimbursement rates paid by electric utilities to their customers who generate excess power. Already this session, it appears a bill to correct some of the flaws in that misguided law will die without a hearing.

Homeowners, companies and institutions that were able to get a solar-generating system operating by the end of 2017 were grandfathered in for 30 years of higher long-term reimbursement rates. Pictured above, the million-watt, 3,500-solar-panel system at Reliable Production Machining and Welding in Kendallville became operational in December and thus qualified for 30 years of the reimbursement rate. The system, designed and installed by Renewable Energy Systems of Avilla, is expected to save Reliable $170,000 annually by generating 85 percent of its power.

But new solar users for the next five years will be grandfathered in for 15 years, and the timetable will drop again after that.

Electric utilities, which say they favor alternative power but want to develop it at their speed, were behind SB 309. They argued higher solar reimbursement rates amounted to a “subsidy” other electric customers had to cover. Solar advocates argued their ability to produce electricity during peak-usage summer days only made the whole system stronger. Republican legislators ignored pleas from representatives of schools and churches, plus homeowners and even some members of their own party to reject the anti-solar measure.

It’s not yet clear how costly SB 309 will be to Indiana on solar development and jobs as states with friendlier policies continue to surge forward.

Renewable Energy Systems’ owner, Eric Hesher, said Thursday business is still strong at his company, which serves northeast Indiana and nearby portions of Ohio and Michigan. He noted recently announced tariffs on foreign-made solar cells probably won’t have to be passed on to customers. But reporting on solar projects at schools in Antwerp, Ohio, and Warsaw recently, The Journal Gazette’s Ashley Sloboda noted that a recent national report showed Indiana 39th among the states in the percentage of schools using solar power.

Before the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee approved SB 309 last year, committee Chairman David Ober, R-Albion, promised disheartened opponents he would revisit the measure to correct any flaws. This year, Ober introduced House Bill 1069, which would allow schools and other institutions that convert to solar power to be grandfathered in at the highest reimbursement rate for the next five years. Repealing this wrongheaded law would be the best solution, but Ober’s bill was at least a step in the right direction and his efforts were applauded by several environmental groups at a hearing last week.

Unfortunately, the bill’s prospects are dim. It has not been scheduled for a committee vote before next week’s deadline for consideration of bills during this short session.

“It looks like the bill is dead,” Kerwin Olson, executive director of Indiana’s Citizen Action Coalition, said Thursday. “It’s a shame.”

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