- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

South Bend Tribune. March 20, 2015.

What’s the problem?

In his State of the State address in January, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence placed a proposal sure to draw attention in his rundown of priorities and achievements.

To the surprise of many, he called for a balanced budget amendment to the state constitution - to “assure Hoosiers that today and tomorrow, Indiana will spend wisely, protect our state from an economic downturn, and unlike Washington, D.C., we won’t bury our children and grandchildren under mountains of debt,” in his words.

An impressive-sounding goal, indeed, but, as more than a few have pointed out, perhaps not a necessary one, given that Indiana’s constitution already prohibits the state from taking on debt except in limited circumstances.

The proposal was criticized by Democrats as an obvious appeal to a national audience by Pence, who’s mentioned as a possible presidential contender. And Republicans seemed underwhelmed by the idea, with both House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long saying it was worth discussing, but that they’d take a “minimalist approach” to the issue.

Bosma described his reaction this way: “I considered it more of a footnote, really.”

That footnote is making its way through the General Assembly. Republican Sen. Brandt Hershman says Senate Joint Resolution 19 gives the Legislature guardrails and an “escape hatch” for emergencies. The amendment is awaiting action in the House.

Two separately elected General Assemblies would have to pass any proposed amendment before the issue could go to voters for final approval.

Fiscal responsibility is a worthy and commendable trait, but spending even a minute of precious time on addressing a problem that doesn’t seem to exist? That - like SJR 19 - is unnecessary.

___

The Herald-Times, Bloomington. March 19, 2015.

Powdered booze? An idea we just don’t need at all

There surely have been products as unnecessary as powdered alcohol.

Offhand, however, we can’t think of any.

Thanks to Indiana State Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, and rest of the General Assembly, Hoosiers appear on the verge of being spared from one more way to get wasted.

Alting has authored a bill that would ban the product in the state. The bill would offset an action in which the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved sale of the product, which could be mixed with water or other liquids to create a cocktail.

The man from Arizona who invented Palcohol says it would be the perfect partner for active folks who don’t want to lug around liquor bottles or beer cans when they’re hiking or biking … as if hikers or cyclists are demanding to be able to drink alcohol when they’re on a workout, taking a break or just out enjoying nature.

No, Alting is right when he sees this as a product that would be attractive to underage drinkers or others who wanted to be surreptitious about drinking in public.

Just add water.

“Put your common sense hat on and think of all the different ways it could be abused,” Alting said. “It could be the secret alcohol, so to speak. This is bad public policy, everybody can see that.”

All of his Senate colleagues could, as they passed his bill unanimously. Hopefully, the House will have just as much clarity.

___

The Times, Munster. March 18, 2015.

Lake County, especially, should join ethics movement

The Shared Ethics Advisory Board’s annual summit this month was a good experience for participants. It showed the value of ethics training to people who figure there should be some innate acceptance of right and wrong, not seeing there are many gray areas that need to be thought about.

More than 200 community leaders, many of them elected officials or government employees, discussed three make-believe, but realistic, scenarios in which ethical issues can come up in everyday situations.

One, for example, involved parks workers who cut up trees following a tornado, then used town trucks to deliver the firewood to their homes and to that of the park director, who said it was OK for them to take the firewood for their personal use.

That case, along with the others, highlights the difference between what’s legal and what’s ethical. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it ethical.

This is the kind of education all elected officials and government employees should undergo on a regular basis.

We are encouraged by the moves Valparaiso and Porter County have made to join the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission. They are joining a number of other units of local government in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties that want to promote ethical behavior in government.

Noticeably absent is Lake County government.

The County Council spoke its support of joining but was vetoed by its attorney, who argued that the decision to join was unconstitutional. Hogwash!

If Porter and LaPorte counties can join, so can Lake. And given past peccadilloes, Lake County definitely needs to join.

Lake County residents should demand their council representatives vote again to join the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission. And this time, remember the attorney is their adviser, not their supervisor.

Candidates in the May 5 primary, and in subsequent elections as well, should sign the commission’s ethics pledge.

The training the commission can provide is invaluable. And who really wants to say they don’t want their employees to be taught how to behave in an ethical manner?

___

Evansville Courier & Press. March 17, 2015.

Clinton entitlement too much

Hillary Clinton’s rare appearance to answer questions from the press was intended to dispel the controversy over her exclusive use of personal emails, stored on a server in her private home in an upscale New York suburb, to conduct a mix of government and private correspondence.

Instead, as so often happens with the Clintons, it set off a round of new questions, disrupting what was supposed to be the smooth kickoff to her presidential campaign and an unimpeded stroll to the Democratic nomination.

Instead it was a reminder of what even fans of Bill and Hillary Clinton found distasteful about their years in the White House: the sense of entitlement and that the normal rules governing conduct in office didn’t apply; the legalisms, parsing and outright evasions; and that her “convenience” trumped the government’s irksome rules governing the retention and archiving of her records.

We have only her word that there was no classified material on her emails. She has set herself as exclusive arbiter of that issue. She insists that the communications were secure because the server “was on property guarded by the Secret Service.” That was security in the sense that snoopers couldn’t break into the Chappaqua property and physically make off with the server.

Computer types say that, considering what happened to Sony Pictures, even a moderately skilled hacker could have gained access to her emails. There is a Washington outcry, and an Associated Press lawsuit, that the emails be made public.

Even the GOP’s highly partisan sleuth Rep. Trey Gowdy, who still is determined to drag Clinton before his committee to grill her about Benghazi, says a retired judge or government inspector general should be retained to screen the emails for classified material.

The email flap may be only a speed bump on her route to the nomination. So far, she faces only token opposition from former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who seems better positioned to be a running mate, and war hero and former top Defense official Jim Webb, who perhaps fatally sidelined himself by declining to run for a second term as U.S. senator from Virginia.

Clinton still is far and away the Democratic front-runner, but she is no longer inevitable.

If Vice President Joe Biden, traditionally the next in line for an incumbent in the White House, isn’t calling around to his supporters, he should be after Clinton’s unconvincing email explanation news conference, which if not a disaster was close to it.

And nobody ever accused the ebullient Biden of being secretive.


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