- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Evansville Courier & Press. May 13, 2014.

Indiana may study gambling changes

At the very least, the Indiana legislature owes it to itself this coming summer to study ways to help its riverboat casinos become more competitive. In our view, that means allowing riverboats to build on land, in their own footprints, if they desire.

Such a change would do double duty for Evansville, allowing its Tropicana Casino to save on some of the cost of maintaining a floating riverboat, and it would possibly make space for LST 325 to relocate from Inland Marina to the more visitor-accessible Tropicana space near Dress Plaza.

Alas, such an idea has not set well with some Indiana leaders, among them Gov. Mike Pence, who sees moving the riverboats to land as an expansion of gambling in Indiana. We see making such move as doing nothing more than staying even with the competition - hardly an expansion - and allowing Indiana’s riverboat companies to keep an edge.

Regardless, Chelsea Schneider of the Courier & Press reported last week that Senate President Pro Tem David Long said that Indiana lawmakers may study ways to give Indiana riverboats that edge over the competition.

“The whole issue seems to revolve around the expansion of gaming and what do you interpret that to mean,” Long said.

As we said, we don’t see moving to land as an expansion.

Long said an area the committee would explore is the diminishing revenue the state receives from riverboats.

State Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, who supports the study, said a change could be the move to land.

We certainly hope so.

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The Times, Munster. May 13, 2014.

End confusion on same-sex marriage

Same-sex couples married elsewhere but living in Indiana are in a legal limbo that needs to be resolved soon.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young on Thursday extended the preliminary injunction that requires Indiana to recognize the marriage of Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney. Their wedding was performed in Massachusetts. Quasney, of Munster, is terminally ill.

Indiana is fighting this ruling because state law currently defines marriage as male-female.

Young’s ruling requires Indiana to recognize the out-of-state marriage so Sandler can be named as spouse on Quasney’s death certificate.

There’s not just a matter of paperwork involved. The preliminary injunction means Sandler will be able to make decisions, as the surviving spouse, that affect everything from the funeral arrangements to settling Quasney’s estate.

“We are so thankful that we can move forward and concentrate on being with each other,” Quasney said in a statement issued by Lambda Legal, the gay rights group that represented the couple in court. “Our time together and with our daughters is the most important thing in the world to me. I look forward to the day when all couples in Indiana have the right to marry.”

When or if that day might come is anyone’s guess. Judge Young’s ruling applies only to Sandler and Quasney.

Federal court rulings elsewhere have struck down laws similar to Indiana’s. Some, but not all, states are appealing those rulings.

“The court is not persuaded that, at this stage, Indiana’s anti-recognition law will suffer a different fate than those around the country,” Young wrote in his decision.

States regulate marriage and domestic relations, but the state and federal constitutions must be obeyed. Whether same-sex marriages must be recognized is one of the key constitutional law questions of the century.

This is a major culture shift for the nation, with polls showing rapidly growing support for recognizing same-sex marriages.

The Indiana General Assembly this session grappled with the issue of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, only to reject the clause that would have prohibited civil unions as well.

Even as the legislators deliberated on this issue, many of them expressed their hope that the federal court system would decide this instead.

They’re right. This is a question of such importance that the U.S. Supreme Court must provide clarity. The high court needs to settle this once and for all to finally end the confusion.

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Tribune-Star, Terre Haute. May 10, 2014.

Leave 17th Amendment alone, let voters do their job

It goes without saying that members of the Indiana General Assembly are empowered to make state-based decisions affecting Hoosier citizens.

But should those same legislators usurp the 101-year-old authority of the state’s voters and be the sole body to select the candidates who would run against each other for the position of U.S. senator?

Should the General Assembly pick and choose which Republican and which Democrat should run for U.S. senator in the General Election, taking that nominating choice away from voters?

If you say yes to that proposition, you agree with Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who late last month told a northern Indiana newspaper that he believes the legislature should select U.S. Senate candidates and then still allow voters to choose between the nominees. The difference is that voters would not choose the nominees for each party.

That, it seems to us, would effectively replace a primary election for U.S. senator, in which Republican A is elected over Republican B and Democrat C is elected over Democrat D. You know, the way most elections work.

Zoeller, as have other conservatives across the country, advocates a so-called “soft repeal” of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution - an alteration to the original document, which was declared adopted by Secretary of State William Jennings Bryant in 1913 after the necessary two-thirds of the states had ratified the measure.

(Indiana was the 24th state to have ratified, Illinois the 21st, just six days earlier in February 1913. Only two states rejected the change.)

The 17th Amendment establishes the direct election of U.S. senators by popular vote in each state. The original Constitution called for senators to be chosen by state legislatures.

The argument Zoeller advances, as he told the Times of Northwest Indiana, is that U.S. senators would be more accountable. “If they (senators) have to come back … and get renominated each six-year cycle, they’ll be less likely to pass statutes that stuck it to the states.”

But, of course, senators already have to meet that test of accountability every six years. It’s called standing for re-election, justifying one’s record to the voters, running in a primary and defeating one’s opponents.

By and large, that works well in doing the will of the electorate.

Even when the electorate chooses poorly, idealistically at least, it is the people’s choice. We fear that a process of state legislators selecting candidates would infuse only more political and lobbying influence into the process.

Our electoral process can always be improved, but the model of voters selecting candidates to run against each other is better than the one Zoeller curiously espouses. He has deserved citizen support for several of his actions in the time he has been in office, but this is one that the public should reject.

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The Star Press, Muncie. May 9, 2014.

Indiana sees welcome drop in teen pregnancy rate

A new report shows Indiana has made great strides in reducing teen pregnancy, but the costs borne by the public are staggering.

According to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Indiana has seen a 38 percent decline in the teen birth rate between 1991 and 2010 for teen girls ages 15-19. That saved taxpayers an estimated $192 million in 2010, compared to what would have been paid if rates had not fallen.

However, teen births cost taxpayers $227 million in 2010. Expenses were incurred in public health care, increased participation in child welfare, and increased rates of incarceration and lost tax revenue caused by decreased earnings and spending.

Despite the birth rate dropping to historic lows, Indiana taxpayers shelled out an estimated $6 billion between 1991 and 2010 for the 214,623 teen births recorded. In 2012, there were 33 Indiana births per 1,000 girls, according to The National Campaign. On a positive note: The report indicates about 87 percent of teens use any type of contraceptive method, regardless of grade level or whether they were male or female.

Although the numbers are encouraging, we hope public health officials, schools, parents and teens do not become complacent about spreading the lesson that teen pregnancy and birth can have major life-changing consequences - mostly for the bad.

It’s difficult to pin down specific reasons for the decline, but it’s plausible that getting the message out about the consequences of teen pregnancy is succeeding. Sex education in schools, the availability of birth control, a poor economy, and yes, even the popularity of MTV’s “Teen Mom” have had an impact. Let’s not diminish the importance the role parents can have in their teen child’s life, too.

It bears repeating the teens who become mothers are likely to face a difficult road. The National Campaign reports one-third are likely to drop out of high school; 67 percent who move out of the family home are likely to live below the poverty line; 63 percent of teen mothers are likely to receive public assistance, with less than one quarter receiving any type of child support.

Statistics can go on, but the picture we face today is one of declining teen births, and that is a fantastic thing. That said, complacency at this point could quickly translate into hardships not only for teens giving birth, but for the taxpayers who shoulder the burden.

Do your part. Keep the trend moving in the right direction.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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