Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

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Associated Press

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 2:00 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Star. Feb. 22, 2013.

Camera-curbing bill out of focus

Secret cameras have exposed numerous instances of unhealthful, inhumane and illegal conditions on farms and in other businesses over the years, often leading to highly beneficial corrective action.

Still, videos and photos have been shot and posted on the Internet at times by unscrupulous or irresponsible intruders who succeeded only in making undeserved trouble for the proprietors.

Indiana Senate Bill 373 seeks to address the latter at the expense of the former. The measure is unnecessary and the cost is too great, not only to investigative journalists, animal rights activists and other keenly interested parties, but also to the general public.

Approved by a vote of 7-2 in the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, the bill is up for a full Senate vote this week.

The legislation would impose criminal penalties on anyone who, without permission, shot and distributed videos or pictures on someone's property "with intent to harass, defame, annoy, or harm."

Those perceived intentions amount to "a very, very low threshold for a criminal investigation," says Stephen Key, general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association. "A farmer could come in and say 'This person intentionally annoyed me.' "

If that person truly were in the wrong, Key points out, several existing remedies could be used against him. Laws already guard against trespassing and libel, for example. Employees and visitors could be made to sign agreements not to take pictures, and sued if they violated them.

Responding to concerns about the broadness of the legislation, the author, Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, amended it to exempt from prosecution those who turn their photos or videos over to law enforcement or a state regulatory agency within 48 hours. Critics point out, however, that some exposes have been undertaken precisely because the authorities failed to do their job. Sometimes, they have spotlighted conditions that were not illegal but were disturbing enough to inspire new laws.

When government fails to fulfill its watchdog duty, citizens, especially but not exclusively in the news media, must take on that role. A law that preemptively criminalizes that process does a disservice to the public as a whole by blocking the flow of information that may be vital to health and safety. The First Amendment guarantee of press and speech freedom exists to maintain that flow. Senate Bill 373 would do the opposite, in pursuit of a goal that can be met without it.

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Tribune-Star. Feb. 20, 2013.

Should defeated candidate be part of party's future?

Richard Mourdock is back on the political trail, speaking at Republican Lincoln Day Dinners around the state and telling GOP faithful that he hasn't ruled out another run at elective office.

He apparently is being well-received by party faithful, some of whom buy the line that Mourdock's astonishing defeat last fall was caused by unfair coverage by "liberal" media.

But Republicans need to think long and hard before aligning with a Mourdock candidacy again.

Mourdock, you will recall, caused a national firestorm when he said during a televised debate two weeks before the 2012 election that a pregnancy resulting from rape is something "God intended to happen."

When ballots were counted the night of Nov. 6, Mourdock lost by about 6 percentage points to Democratic Congressman Joe Donnelly. After winning the GOP primary over longtime Sen. Richard Lugar in the spring, Mourdock proceeded to lose what should have been a slam-dunk election for a seat that had been in Republican hands for 36 years.

How did that happen? It certainly wasn't because of mistreatment by the "liberal" media. Nor was it because it was a Democrat year. It was anything but that. Mitt Romney won the Hoosier state easily. Mike Pence held the governor's office for the GOP. With few exceptions, Republicans dominated the state.

So, how did it happen? Thousands upon thousands of Republican-leaning voters split their ticket when it came to Mourdock. These were conservative Hoosiers who voted for Romney, Pence, their Republican congressman, etc., but when it came to the Senate race, they opted to cross over and check Donnelly's name. They did so for a variety of reasons, including their dislike of the way Mourdock treated Lugar, or his hard-core, uncompromising views on key issues.

It's also important to note that Mourdock's election was in jeopardy before his controversial debate comments. Polls had Donnelly pulling ahead. There was a good chance Mourdock would have lost the race anyway, although the vote count might have been tighter.

Two years remain in Mourdock's term as state Treasurer, so it's possible he could find his way back onto a statewide ballot after that. But it's puzzling why Republicans would even consider embracing him.

The GOP does not need candidates with Mourdock's history and baggage. In fact, the Republican Party on all levels will be better served when it distances itself from the tea party-fueled rage to which Mourdock catered.

Cultivating diverse political interests will make GOP conservatism more palatable to broader constituencies in the future. If the Republican Party hopes to sustain its current level of success, candidates' such as Mourdock can't be part of the plan.

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Journal & Courier, Lafayette. Feb. 20, 2013.

Just how scared is Indiana GOP of school Supt. Glenda Ritz?

Say what you will about Tony Bennett, Indiana's one-term, whirling education reform dervish. But he made a historically weak state school superintendent position strong enough that his fellow Republicans fear the woman who took him down in the 2012 election.

To watch some Indiana House Republicans angling, you'd think Glenda Ritz was some sort of superhero able to bend education reform steel with her bare hands.

Come on.

Republicans, who hold a supermajority in the Indiana House and Indiana Senate, promised to play nice with Ritz, a Democrat who scored a stunning upset in November with the help of a groundswell of bad will toward Bennett.

But from Gov. Mike Pence to key Statehouse leaders in the General Assembly, there has been little desire to walk back the reforms — from teacher evaluations to A-through-F grades for schools to private school vouchers — Bennett championed so effectively.

This week, Republicans started flexing some paranoid muscles in a series of bills aimed at control of education policy. ...

Part of Bennett's problem was that he didn't size up Hoosiers' feelings about a comfortable speed on education reform. And he paid the price. (At least he paid the price in Indiana; he's since been hired state superintendent in Florida.)

If Ritz's election said anything, it was: Slow down, partner. Let all of those education reforms simmer and settle out.

Some GOP House members seem to have the same problem that felled Bennett, who during the campaign promised more reform at greater speeds. Lawmakers aren't reading election results that simply couldn't be more clear.

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Evansville Courier & Press. Feb. 19, 2013.

Drones coming soon to a sky near you

Perhaps it's a good thing we have made extensive, if controversial, use of drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, because it has allowed us to build up substantial expertise in operating the pilotless aircraft.

We'll need that valuable experience at home because the Federal Aviation Administration has taken the first steps toward making drones a standard feature of the American skies — an estimated 10,000 in civilian use within five years, according to the FAA.

The agency began soliciting proposals for six drone sites scattered around the country. Plans are to start small, with drones weighing less than around 55 pounds. The Global Hawk, perhaps the drone most widely used in military operations, weighs 15,000 pounds without fuel or payload. However, there's no technical reason a drone couldn't be as large as a full-size airliner.

Small drones are in limited use in the United States now for law enforcement, border surveillance and academic research. Industry experts told The Associated Press they anticipate a multibillion-dollar market for civilian drones once the FAA finishes drafting regulations to ensure that the drones are designed and operated so they don't create a hazard for other aircraft and population centers.

The FAA, too, has drafted a privacy policy. Originally, the drones were developed for surveillance and intelligence purposes, functions in which they've been almost eerily successful.

The AP noted, "Privacy advocates worry that a proliferation of drones will lead to a 'surveillance society' in which the movements of Americans are routinely monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities."

It may not be too much of an exaggeration to say that the horse is already out of that barn.

With a society as wired as ours, when seemingly no event goes unrecorded by camera phones, GPS units track your location and the social media generation seems indifferent to personal privacy, the drones — even misused — are only a modest addition to the growing capability for snooping.

The problem for the FAA is to keep a wayward drone from crashing through your picture window rather than peering through it.

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