- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The (Munster) Times. December 1, 2016

Political barbs hit judiciary.

It’s a shame when partisan squabbling has an impact beyond the wounded or emboldened egos of political leaders who participate in the fray.

It appears we’re seeing just such a potentially adverse impact on the Hammond City Court, and there’s blame to go around.

As a parting act before leaving the governor’s office to become vice president, Gov. Mike Pence has named former St. John Republican Party Chairwoman Amy Jorgensen to replace former Hammond City Court Judge Jeffrey Harkin, who died in April.

This appointment smacks more of a parting shot.

By all accounts of members and leaders within the Lake County Republican organization, Jorgensen is a cordial party member and leader. She exhibits a fair and sensible demeanor.

But privately, even some members of the local GOP organization believe her appointment to the Hammond City Court bench is a jab at Democratic Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., a frequently vocal critic of Pence.

For all of the good qualities we hear about Jorgensen, her resume lists nothing about professional law experience.

Though she possesses a law degree from Valparaiso University, she’s actually been involved in other business ventures that don’t appear to involve courtroom practices.

Practical legal experience should be a prerequisite for any jurist. So it’s hard not to see this appointment as a political barb.

Of course, McDermott has lobbed his own political bombs at Pence over the years, particularly on social media, where he’s been a constant critic of the governor.

We agree with McDermott that Jorgensen’s appointment as city court judge is questionable. We’ve heard similar overtures from some Lake County Republicans, who like and respect Jorgensen but aren’t enamored with her legal resume.

Jorgensen did not return our calls seeking comment about her level of legal experience.

We have no reason to doubt her integrity, but the system used to appoint her to the Hammond bench has left plenty of room for doubt in her experience.

It appears to be an unfortunate sign of political sniping that should have no place in deciding who will preside over criminal and civil cases in a city courtroom.

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The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. December 1, 2016

Delayed rule on overtime still needed.

Earlier this year, we wrote in this space that the new Department of Labor guidelines on overtime pay that were supposed to take effect today constituted a mostly positive step for workers but could have unintended consequences.

Last week, though, a federal judge in Texas granted a preliminary injunction that has delayed if not outright stopped implementation of the new rules. It’s anyone’s guess what the new Trump administration and its Department of Labor will do in regard to these work rules once they assume their roles in January.

Right now, a lot of employers, including many in the Hoosier state, have done a lot of work that will be wasted if the rules don’t go into effect in some form. More important than that, a lot of employees who were set to be paid more fairly will continue to get the proverbial shaft from employers who work them a large number of hours without appropriate compensation.

Under the now-on-hold rule, employees who perform specified management duties would have been required to be paid overtime for time worked over 40 hours, unless they make a salary of $47,476 or more. The current labor rules say those who make $23,660 annually and are given certain managerial duties can be required to work until the job is done.

The change would have helped many managers at retail shops, restaurants, nonprofits and numerous other businesses who make much less than $47,476, are ineligible for overtime and often work well beyond 40 hours.

As we noted in our previous editorial on the subject, some companies pay “managers” as little as they can get away with and work them as much as they can. The result is a brand new manager gladly accepts a title and responsibility and possibly even a raise to, say, $11.50 an hour (based on 40 hours) at a place where everybody else makes $8.50. But when the 60-hour weeks start to become normal, the hourly wage becomes $7.67. Who wins? Not the manager.

The proposed rule wasn’t perfect. It’s major problem was the size of the leap before managers could have been exempt from overtime pay. The $23,660 level is ridiculously low and needs to be raised. But more than doubling the required pay level did put a hardship on businesses and would have kept many people from easily gaining management experience at a young age. The increase may have been too much too soon.

Still, when this issue is finally resolved, new rules need to be in place to raise by a significant amount that $23,660 figure. Employees who make so little must have the opportunity to make overtime pay if required to work more than 40 hours. Otherwise, hard-working people will continue to be treated poorly by employers who will take unfair advantage of them.

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South Bend Tribune. December 1, 2016

Indiana’s new governor should act swiftly on pardon.

Indiana’s incoming governor should easily clear away a disturbing bit of old business that should have been handled by his predecessor.

More than two years ago, the state’s parole board recommended that Gov. Mike Pence pardon Keith Cooper, who spent nearly a decade in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Cooper was convicted and sentenced to 40 years for an October 1996 armed robbery in the Elkhart apartment complex where he lived, during which a 17-year-old was shot in the stomach. After the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned his co-defendant’s conviction, Cooper was given the choice of being set free with a felony conviction on his record or facing a new trial. He chose to go home to his wife and three children, who were homeless at times during his wrongful incarceration.

That decision has affected his ability to secure a better living. And his name isn’t truly cleared.

Despite the Indiana Parole Board’s recommendation - which is supported by a former Elkhart County deputy prosecutor and the victims in the crime - Pence has declined to act. In September, through his general counsel, he asked Cooper to first go through a potentially lengthy court proceeding first.

In effect, Pence, the vice president-elect, was punting the decision to whoever succeeded him in the governor’s office.

Turns out his successor, Eric Holcomb, is on the record on this subject. During a gubernatorial debate in October, all three candidates for governor, to some extent, said they would support a pardon for Cooper.

At that time, Holcomb said he would like to speak with Cooper and review the facts.

“Knowing the facts now, I would look forward to quickly pardoning him swiftly if the facts bear that out,” he said.

The incoming governor will have a lot on his plate come January. But the supportive facts are there, and he should indeed be swift in issuing this pardon. Keith Cooper - and the cause of justice - have been delayed for far too long.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. December 2, 2016

Separation anxiety.

With the IU Board of Trustees’ vote Thursday, it’s clear the proposal to “realign” IPFW’s governance will become a reality.

If, as expected, Purdue’s trustees approve the plan Dec. 16, the campus will be split into two smaller, separate institutions, one a part of IU, and the other a part of Purdue. IU, in conjunction with its School of Medicine here, will assume responsibility for nursing, radiography and dental education; Purdue, for everything else.

IPFW was born 52 years ago, when Purdue’s and IU’s operations here were consolidated on a single campus. The arrangement offered students seamless access to the resources of two top-rated universities.

Many of the students who studied at and graduated from IPFW in the ensuing half-century have remained here and used the education they received to enrich Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana in myriad ways.

Budget deficits, declining enrollment and the need to reassess coursework offerings have made for some tumultuos years and multiple proposals for change at the regional campus. Legislators and community leaders have weighed in at length on the perceived problems and ways to solve them.

Now, leaders in West Lafayette and Bloomington have settled on a solution that clearly is more comfortable for both university administrations.

Just what the separation will mean to our community and the students of IPFW is less clear.

The resolution approved by IU on Thursday is definitive about decoupling, but at this point there are more questions than answers on how all of this will be done.

How will joint resources be maintained? How will student activities and athletics be administered? How will donors react, and how will money given to the IPFW Foundation be apportioned? At a time when the state has many unfilled needs, how will two public universities find the money to cover the considerable costs of this institutional divorce? And what will become of the proposal to create a metropolitan university?

As such questions and many others are addressed, the needs of this community must be considered. Local input should be sought and some local decision-making assured.

IPFW’s beautiful campus along Coliseum Boulevard should be preserved and remain central to both schools’ missions.

Students who want to pursue their education here must be able to benefit from the shared resources of two great universities and pursue a wide range of studies without running into inter-university red tape.

We hope the universities that emerge from all of this effort will enhance this city and this region and produce graduates who are proud of where they studied and prepared to take on this region’s opportunities and challenges.

If the separation is handled with those values in mind, the arrangement that emerges might bear a striking resemblance to … IPFW at its best.

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