- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Evansville Courier & Press. May 26, 2015.

Same-sex marriage fight costly for Indiana

It has been a most expensive venture for the state of Indiana to try and block the legalization of gay marriage, reports USA Today. In all, Indiana had to pay $1.4 million in plaintiff legal fees as part of failed efforts to ban same-sex marriage, reported the state attorney general’s office.

In a lead report, the national newspaper reminded us that same-sex marriage became legal in Indiana last year. And five lawsuits were resolved in favor of the plaintiffs, leaving the state to pay the bill for their legal costs.

Same-sex marriage became legal in Indiana when the U.S. Supreme Court decided to let stand two federal court rulings that said the state’s ban and refusal to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere was unconstitutional, reported the Associated Press and the Indianapolis Star newspaper.

Of the various cases, the most costly was $650,000 involving a Munster, Indiana, couple who fought to have their marriage recognized as one of them was dying of cancer,

Indiana should have left well enough alone, but at least, for now, Indiana is not involved in the U.S. Supreme Court’s current review of same-sex marriage. Given Indiana’s expensive bills on court cases mentioned above, the state best let the issue go without further challenge.

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The Times (Munster). May 28, 2015.

Unfair trade threatens U.S. steelmakers

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky and U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly want stronger foreign trade protections for the domestic steel industry, and for good reason.

Foreign steel has captured a third of the market in the United States so far this year.

U.S. Steel has warned that up to 9,000 jobs - one-fourth of its nationwide work force - could be eliminated this year, and those cuts already have begun.

Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal is looking at all its U.S. operations, especially finishing facilities. The company says it needs to eliminate inefficiencies because of record imports, increased competition and high legacy costs.

“Our USA business is not getting a return on its investment,” Andrew Harshaw, ArcelorMital USA Flat Carbon president and CEO, wrote in a recent blog post. “Since 2010, the company has invested an average $1.5 billion per year into our USA facilities in both capital investment and the long-term maintenance of our assets. During those same five years, our USA business lost nearly $1.5 billion dollars, an average loss of $293.8 million per year.”

U.S. Steel CEO Mario Longhi even questioned whether the domestic steel industry can survive without tariffs on steel imports.

Global overcapacity is to blame for the domestic steelmakers’ troubles, but don’t shrink that capacity by pulling the plug on the domestic steel industry. The steel industry is vital to our national security.

We’ve said before that given a level playing field, the U.S. steel industry can compete with counterparts around the globe.

So what’s driving all those cheap imports? It’s a tilted playing field. China, South Korea and other countries are subsidizing exports sold at a loss in the United States, where domestic steelmakers don’t receive similar government aid.

The Congressional Steel Caucus said this week that House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has promised to include protections for the U.S. steel industry in a customs and trade enforcement bil being considered in the House. Sen. Robert Portman, R-Ohio, made a similar pledge.

The caucus wants a way for the U.S. Department of Commerce to move forward when foreign steelmakers don’t cooperate with unfair trade investigations. The group also wants consistent enforcement, not just when domestic steelmakers are losing money.

We have heard these concerns voiced loud and clear from Visclosky and Donnelly. Let’s hear from Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and others in the Indiana delegation - and let’s especially hear from the White House on this.

The domestic steel industry is too important to see unfair trade cause further harm to domestic steel operations and to the economy in Northwest Indiana and other steel-producing areas.

________

South Bend Tribune. May 26, 2015.

Invest in the future

After hearing about the huge reaction to Indianapolis’ preschool initiative, it’s hard not to think, “What if …?”

What if Indiana had gone all-in, and made a major commitment to preschool that would allow a large number of children from low-income homes - including several thousand in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties - to have the early learning experiences and opportunities that are so critical to success?

In Indianapolis, after long and passionate debate, a new preschool program for low-income families has generated an overwhelming response: More than 5,000 applications poured in, and nearly all qualified for the program.

In a Matthew Tully column earlier this month in the Indianapolis Star, the city’s deputy mayor for education calls the numbers “a demonstration of the overwhelming demand for high-quality preschool” and “an affirmation of common sense.”

That sort of common sense is sorely needed on a statewide level. Indiana’s preschool commitment - a pilot program pushed through the General Assembly in 2014, modestly built upon in this year’s session - is much smaller, affecting a limited number of children in a handful of counties. It was a good start, but the chance to do so much more was inexplicably denied when Gov. Mike Pence rejected the state’s bipartisan-supported bid for an $80 million preschool grant. It was a huge disappointment and a setback for all who understand the value of quality early childhood education.

If there’s any good news to be found, it’s that preschool advocates see a plan for pushing the state to do the right thing in the future. A comprehensive and regular analysis of Indy’s program will demonstrate the benefits it offers to low-income children - and, in the long run, the entire state. State leaders would be hard-pressed to deny such opportunities to all low-income Indiana families.

Perhaps then, Hoosiers who have been waiting in vain for the state to finally start making this critical investment in the future can stop wondering “What if?”

______________

Terre Haute Tribune Star. May 28, 2015.

Progress in stemming HIV epidemic

Monday marked a significant milestone in Indiana’s attempt to control, slow and reverse the state’s gargantuan outbreak of new human immunodeficiency virus cases. Monday was the day Scott County - the epicenter of the epidemic - could begin to legally distribute clean needles to IV drug users for the next 12 months. Sharing of dirty needles, according to health officials, is fueling the crisis.

The clean-needles program comes because of a new state law that passed in April by a combined bipartisan vote of 117-31 in the Indiana Senate and House of Representatives and that was signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence, who earlier had said he would veto such a law.

Scott County is the first county in Indiana to take advantage of the new law, after its officials submitted a convincing application, which Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams approved last Thursday. The year-long program comes after two 30-day executive orders under which Pence allowed temporary needle programs. The second of those 30-day periods expired Sunday.

And while the approval of the needle program for Scott County was a positive and needed development, it is born from a display, as one wag has called it, of Pence leading from behind on a crisis that became worse as he failed to act positively enough, soon enough.

The first new HIV case in Scott County, which historically has had fewer than five new HIV cases per year, came in December. By Jan. 23, there were 11 new cases; by Feb. 23, 26; by March 20, 55.

By March 26, nearly four months into the year, Scott County’s new HIV case number rose to 79 - a 618 percent increase in two months. And on that day, Pence’s first 30-day clean-needle order came. But by that time, the governor had delayed for those same two months. It should have been apparent, as early as January, that a crisis was taking place and that the state needed to come urgently to a small county’s aid. While reasonable heads urged him to approve clean needles, Pence stuck to a mantra about clean needles not being an effective anti-drug policy.

The real point, of course, was about public health - people getting sick and sicker, and maybe dying - not about being tough on crime. HIV, which is transmitted person to person by exchange of bodily fluids, is a potentially lethal infection. If left untreated, it can cause AIDS. Among its primary transmission methods is sharing of needles by IV drug users and unprotected sex with an infected partner.

By the time Pence issued his second 30-day order in late April, new cases had risen to about 130. But by then something good was happening: The rate of new cases was slowing. While new HIV cases had doubled (or more) each month since January, the cases had grown from 135 on April 23 to only 160 by the end of last week.

Clean needles are working - or at the very least there is very good evidence they are.

And they would have worked faster if they had been approved earlier, as was urged by doctors in Scott and Clark counties and most especially by a thoughtful, active, influential Republican representative, Ed Clere of New Albany.

Clean needles are working for at least two reasons:

- No longer must an addict rely on shared dirty needles.

- And to get those clean needles, the addict is exposed to the opportunity to get drug treatment, which has at least some chance of driving the user’s addiction into remission, saving a life, helping a family and improving a community.

Unfortunately, Scott County is now the only county in Indiana that can be approved for clean needles. That’s because the law requires that an epidemic (the law’s word) exist before a county can get approval for a needle exchange. Not that an epidemic is imminent or forecast or likely. It must exist. That is an unfortunate part of the law that makes a response reactive rather than preventive. It’s a requirement that keeps counties such as Vigo from taking part in a program it may well need. (Vigo, in 2014, had the state’s sixth-highest number of new HIV cases in the state, 11; had the seventh-highest number of persons living with HIV, 274; and had the fifth-highest number of HIV death cases since 1981, 147.) Vigo and perhaps the top one-fourth of counties in HIV should have the option of pursuing clean needles.

Yes, the clean-needles law is a step forward, and, yes, the governor deserves credit for seeing his way to approve the 30-day orders and to sign the bill.

In March, the governor said, “This is not a Scott County problem. This is an Indiana problem.” Indeed, the crisis is an Indiana problem. But while the new law represents progress, it is primarily only a Scott County solution.

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