- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Munster Times. Feb. 12, 2016

Alcohol permits could remove hurdles to progress at state parks.

Government bodies frequently relax rules and lower hurdles in the name of inducing progress and development.

Our city and town councils sometimes offer tax breaks or other amnesties in the name of attracting businesses that bring new jobs, a broader tax base or a higher quality of life for residents.

The goal is no different under a bill, which already passed the Indiana House and is in the hands of the Senate, that would create a new tool for attracting visitors and generating revenue at Indiana State Parks.

The measure would allow the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to obtain a new “state park” classification of alcohol permit to sell liquor at any or all of its facilities. Alcohol and other sales are an important part of the formula for repairing and developing the crumbling Indiana Dunes State Park pavilion into a destination spot.

The bill would allow the DNR to bypass traditional rules for obtaining alcohol permits - including local review.

The issue looms large for the future fortunes of Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, where developers plan to renovate the old pavilion with a banquet hall, restaurant and other amenities.

Indiana senators should consider passing this bill on to the governor as a bipartisan measure to invigorate our state park system as a whole.

The Indiana Dunes State Park pavilion represents a public-private partnership that could make a beautiful state park more user-friendly and attract more users - which should be the goal of any government recreational facility.

Some Region folks, opposed to the development of the pavilion in general, argue the pending House bill would bypass the ability of people to oppose such liquor licenses in traditional hearings.

But the reality is a number of these critics already testified against the bill in House committee earlier this year. They’re getting their say on the matter, as they should in any democratic system.

In the end, our state parks, like any other entity trying to survive and attract attendance and revenue, must evolve with the times, or they most certainly will crumble and fade.

The concept of a new classification of state park liquor permits could provide an evolving way of growing attendance and commerce.

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The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Feb. 12, 2016

Ballot Botch.

If the Indiana Election Commission decides Republican Todd Young failed to meet ballot requirements for his U.S. Senate bid, it will be an interpretation of election law - not partisan politics - that determines the outcome.

Indiana code clearly spells out ballot access requirements as a means of ensuring fair and manageable elections. It’s the balance of politics and law that makes for fascinating election turns - and no one should know better than state-level party officials, who have seen the law applied to the advantage and disadvantage of both Democrats and Republicans.

Young appears to have come up three signatures short of the 500 required from each congressional district. County clerks certified a razor-thin 501 signatures in the 1st District, prompting Democrats to request the signature sheets. A subsequent count by six reporters, including The Journal Gazette’s Niki Kelly, tallied 497 signatures.

Ballot petitions are serious business. In 2013, Butch Morgan, the former head of St. Joseph County’s Democratic Party, was convicted and imprisoned for conspiring to forge signatures on petitions to place Democratic candidates on the state ballot in the 2008 primary.

There’s also precedent for disallowing a candidacy for lack of certified signatures. Party leaders challenged businessman Jim Wallace in 2012 when he came up short on Marion County signatures in his bid for the Republican nomination for governor. Mitch Roob, a top official in Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration, filed one of the challenges to Wallace, hiring attorney Tom John, a former Marion County GOP chairman, to handle the case. The election commission voted 3-1 to disallow Wallace’s candidacy.

A different election rule sidelined a GOP candidate in 1994. State Auditor Ann DeVore was the establishment favorite for the 2nd District congressional seat when Phil Sharp, a Democrat, announced he would not seek an 11th term.

A young attorney named Mike Pence had challenged Sharp in 1988 and ‘90, but was just starting a new career in broadcasting after a stint heading up the Indiana Policy Review. A Kendallville native, David McIntosh, moved into the 2nd District and filed to run as a Republican, along with a handful of other candidates.

The state auditor’s office was about 50 steps from Secretary of State Joe Hogsett’s office, but DeVore was out of town when the noon deadline passed. Hogsett, ironically, was the leading Democratic candidate for the open House seat. He was spared the difficult decision of ruling on his likely opponent’s candidacy when DeVore gracefully bowed out, apologizing to her supporters for missing the filing deadline.

“Neither I, nor my campaign, will try to find a loophole in this law,” she said at the time.

McIntosh went on to defeat Hogsett, of course, ushered in with Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Republican Revolution. McIntosh served until 2000, when he unsuccessfully challenged Frank O’Bannon for governor, and was succeeded in Congress by … Mike Pence.

Today, McIntosh heads up the Club for Growth, which is backing Marlin Stutzman for the GOP Senate nomination. Todd Young’s other challenger in that contest, Eric Holcomb, pulled out just a day before the ballot signatures came into question.

He was tapped to serve as lieutenant governor by Pence.

If Young doesn’t make the ballot, Stutzman emerges as the only opponent to Democrat Baron Hill, who lost his9th District seat to Young in 2010. Hill last ran for Senate in 1990, when he lost to Dan Coats, whose retirement announcement a year ago set off this week’s events.

Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long said this week that, if true, Young’s ballot mishap would be “one of the most colossal mistakes” he’s seen.

It’s at least up there with Ann DeVore’s mistake.

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The South Bend Tribune. Feb. 12, 2016

The right path to an infrastructure fix.

Indiana is considering two routes to address its neglected infrastructure.

Two plans currently in the General Assembly offer solutions to pay for the state’s roads and bridges.

The Senate plan, supported by Gov. Mike Pence, is a $1 billion funding bill that spends more than $200 million from the state’s budget surplus to support state road maintenance funding. It would allow the state to bond for road projects.

The House plan, conceived by Republican leaders, would raise the cigarette tax by $1 and increase the gasoline tax.

The focus on Hoosier roads is welcome and long overdue: The state spends less per capita than most states on highways and transit - and hasn’t raised the state gas tax, a major source of highway funding, since 2003. But there’s an important difference between the two plans: the Senate plan would last about four years, while the House plan provides a long-term fix. That sustainable funding solution, according to House Speaker Brian Bosma, “would cost the average Hoosier driver about $25.”

Bosma has expressed the hope that both chambers can develop a single road funding package.

We hope so too - and when they do, legislators should go for a permanent fix. For years, lawmakers have searched in vain for a long-term answer, considering ideas but reluctant to do anything that included any sort of tax increase. That reluctance has led to the current unacceptable state of affairs. The condition of Indiana’s infrastructure is finally being considered a priority. The right path is one that provides a sustainable answer, as the House plan does, with its modest tax increases.

Those unwilling to make such investments in the maintenance of the crossroads of America should understand by now that Hoosiers will end up paying the price, one way or another.

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The Bloomington Herald-Times. Feb. 11, 2016

Lt. gov. job shouldn’t be a political game piece.

Politics has trumped governing again in Indiana.

That’s the best explanation for a shake-up this week in which Gov. Mike Pence announced Eric Holcomb is his choice to replace Sue Ellspermann as lieutenant governor.

Ellspermann, mind you, still has the job - the second highest job in state government, a job that often leads to the governor’s office or higher. She apparently has said she’ll step down soon, after an orderly transition.

It’s all very awkward. It’s been made known that Ellspermann would like to be the next president of Ivy Tech Community College, and Pence has backed her bid for that job. To hear them tell it, she just decided to switch jobs from the one Hoosier voters selected her for.

That would be like Joe Biden saying, “Barack, I’d rather be president of the University of Delaware than vice president of the United States, so please, give me your blessing and go find someone else to do the job.”

Things like that don’t happen. But they especially don’t happen if the two leaders, running mates in the previous election, agree on policy and vision.

But it’s happening in Indiana, and Hoosiers deserve better.

In thinking the worst of Ellspermann, she just decided she didn’t want the job after Hoosiers gave it to her, meaning voters were suckered into supporting a ticket that didn’t fulfill its duties. More gently, perhaps she strongly disagreed with Pence on social issues and made it clear she didn’t want to team with him in a re-election campaign, so they decided to split.

In thinking the worst of Pence, the governor tired of a person who didn’t agree with his socially conservative and less than inclusive actions and pushed her out. Possibly, if she said she wasn’t up for another four years, he decided to move quickly on a replacement so he could go into the fall election with a team in place rather than a governor and new candidate.

Whatever happened, Hoosiers lose. That’s not meant as a criticism of Holcomb, but clearly, voters didn’t elect him to be lieutenant governor - or to become governor should anything happen to Pence.

When he visited Bloomington the last week of November, Holcomb said he was “full steam ahead” on his quest of replacing U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, who’s retiring. Until a few days ago, Holcomb was all in on his Senate bid, filing his official paperwork before last week’s deadline. Apparently, this opportunity came up and took the risk out of landing a high-level government job. So he took it.

He has strong experience in unelected roles, working in the administration of Mitch Daniels, as chief of staff to Coats and as chairman of the state Republican Party. Politically, it was a savvy move for him and Pence.

Governing be damned.

.

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