- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The (Munster) Times. October 6, 2017

Electronic court filing moves state forward

If there is any place in the annals of state government in which electronic records can help an antiquated system become more transparent, it’s the court system.

Indiana already has made great strides in recent decades in getting the records of a growing number of county court jurisdictions into searchable databases with online access.

Now a growing trend for mandatory electronic filing of court documents promises to create even more efficiency and transparency in our state courts, eliminating mountains of paperwork.

We applaud this effort and challenge Lake County to get on board as quickly as possible.

Within the past 15 months, courts in 55 of the state’s 92 counties, as well as the Indiana appellate division, have adopted mandatory electronic filings for most new criminal and civil lawsuits and case-related paperwork.

Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties already require e-filing. Lake County hopes to be on board in 2018.

Already, an estimated 2.1 million court documents have been electronically filed statewide since July 2016.

Ultimately, it’s believed this will save our courts money on copying, paper and filing costs. It also allows for quicker access to court documents by attorneys - saving time, money and gridlock in clerks’ offices.

And the public benefits in the availability of non-confidential court documents online at mycase.in.gov.

With more than 12 million online hits during the 2017 budget year, the public clearly is using the service.

The system is a big win for efficiency and transparency that should be duplicated by other government entities that maintain records of public interest.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. October 5, 2017

Blue-collar job opportunities are abundant

National Manufacturing Day is Friday, which doesn’t usually send ripples of excitement through northeast Indiana. But maybe it should.

Manufacturing is big here. Musical instruments, auto parts, RVs, medical devices - the list of things made in this area is long and diverse. Those products affect the lives of people here, and elsewhere, in many ways. But we should be clear, too, about the crucial role these industries play in the collective future of our communities and the personal futures of many of the families who live here.

“Manufacturing is the engine that drives the economy,” Rick Farrant, director of communications for Northeast Indiana Works, observed in an interview Wednesday. “It did help, in a significant way, pull us out of the recession.

“In our region,” he continued, “there are almost 85,000 people in manufacturing. It’s the No. 1 industrial employer in northeast Indiana. Health care is a distant second, with about 52,000 employees.”

Moreover, the manufacturing industry is expanding - faster than the jobs can be filled. The employee base of 84,568 is expected to grow by 5 percent - 4,592 more employees - by 2027. That will mean a total of 89,160 jobs, according to Northeast Indiana Works’ calculations.

But even that doesn’t tell the whole story of the job opportunities in manufacturing here over the next few years. “Right now,” Farrant said, “19,346 workers - 23 percent of the workforce - is 55 or older. Maybe all of those people are not going to retire, but many of them will.

“Add that to the 4,592, you get the number 23,938 - which means that almost 24,000 people will have to be hired in manufacturing in the next decade.” Even now, Farrant said, there are “hundreds, maybe a couple of thousand, jobs that can’t be filled right now.”

“We need to drop the image that manufacturing is a dirty, dark occupation of yesteryear,” he said. “Instead, it’s generally a clean, high-tech occupation with good wages and opportunity for advancement.”

Manufacturing employees earn an annual average of $65,328 in wages and benefits - the highest of the top 10 industries in northeast Indiana by number of employees.

And certification for many of those jobs can be obtained in less than a year or while a potential employee is still in high school.

Young adults also have the option of building-trade apprenticeships, many of which teach skills such as welding that could lead to a job in either manufacturing or construction.

Companies recognize their future depends to a large degree on persuading more young people in Indiana to take a serious look at what they have to offer.

The annual survey of Indiana manufacturers released Wednesday by Katz, Sapper & Miller says even the rapid pace of automation in many industries won’t suffice.

“How do you continue to grow and prosper in today’s new era of rapid technological advancement while your skilled workforce pool is continually shrinking? … (A)utomation alone won’t be enough to sustain the growth in the industry,” the report says.

The key is getting the word out about what such jobs have to offer, which is why National Manufacturing Day is worth a nod from all of us.

“We need to get young people interested in manufacturing careers,” Farrant said. “All the money in the world isn’t going to help if you don’t have candidates for training.”

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South Bend Tribune. October 4, 2017

Hoosier voice on national opioid task force

As Indiana seeks solutions to its crippling opioid crisis, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court is taking a national role in the battle.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush will lead a group tasked with examining the justice system’s role in fighting the opioid addiction scourge. She will co-chair the panel with Tennessee court administrator Deborah Taylor.

The task force will hear from state and national experts on what’s working and what’s not working in the area of prevention. It will also establish partnerships that focus specifically on the impact of opioids on foster children and families.

Rush, a member of the state’s Commission for Improving the Status of Children, has long been a voice for protecting Indiana’s abused and neglected children. While serving on the Tippecanoe Superior Court, she helped create the county’s Court Appointed Special Advocate program, implemented a juvenile drug treatment program and initiated a 24-hour assessment center for youth.

The task force plans to develop guidance for state courts to promote collaboration among treatment providers, criminal justice systems and child welfare agencies. It also will identify laws, policies and rules that aid or inhibit response efforts.

In discussing her new role, Rush noted that, “While much attention has deservedly been focused on this epidemic’s health impact, we cannot ignore the significant legal issues it also raises. It has become a recurring theme throughout our nation that this crisis is crippling our communities and overwhelming our courts.”

The eight-member panel is set to hold its first meeting next month in Washington, D.C.

The task force fits with the sort of collaborative, comprehensive approach that is desperately needed to fight a drug crisis that has swept through Indiana, where overdose deaths have increased but treatment programs are scarce. The involvement of people such as Rush inspires confidence that the battle will be won.

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The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. October 4, 2017

Hearing Protection Act should be silenced for the sake of lives

It appears the horrific events in Las Vegas this week have slowed efforts in Congress to make gun violence even more dangerous than it is now.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday he won’t call forward the Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act to the floor, at least at this time. The wide-ranging NRA-supported bill had been expected to come up for a vote soon.

That was before a gunman sprayed gunfire from a Las Vegas hotel, killing 59 people in the largest gun-related massacre in modern U.S. history. The random shooting into a crowd at a country music concert also caused more than 500 injuries.

A serious problem with the bill is this: Tucked into it is something called the Hearing Protection Act of 2017, which lifts restrictions and a transfer tax on firearm silencers and would stop state or local laws from taxing or regulating the firearm accessory.

Imagine the additional chaos if the maniac shooting into the crowd in Las Vegas had been legally able to equip his guns with silencers, blocking the sounds that alerted thousands of people to the carnage he was inflicting around them.

Here’s something Hoosiers should know about this: Six Republican congressmen from Indiana are sponsors of the Hearing Protection Act, which they say would protect the hearing of hunters.

Ninth District U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, who represents Monroe County, is one of Indiana’s Silencer Six. So is Rep. Larry Bucshon of the 8th District, who represents parts of Greene and Owen counties. So are Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, who are the frontrunners in the effort to be the GOP’s U.S. Senate nominee to represent all Hoosiers. The others are 3rd District Rep. Jim Banks and 2nd District Rep. Jackie Walorski.

Republican Rep. Susan Brooks and Democratic Reps. Pete Visclosky and Andre Carson are not sponsors of the bill.

Ryan told reporters in Washington Tuesday: “That bill is not scheduled now. I don’t know when it’s going to be scheduled.” It’s not dead; just in a holding pattern.

This particular bill isn’t even about toughening restrictions on firearms, a debate that’s sure to come with unlikely success in the Republican-controlled Congress. It’s about taking away common-sense hurdles to mayhem that are already in place.

We encourage Rep. Hollingsworth and his Hoosier colleagues to stand down on this bill. Hearing protection simply does not compare to endangering more innocent lives. Pick people’s safety over gun politics.

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