- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. January 10, 2020

Crash course

Fewer people are dying in traffic accidents, both nationally and in Indiana.

Here in Allen County, the news isn’t as good. The Journal Gazette’s Jim Chapman reported Sunday that 40 people died in vehicle crashes here during 2019 – almost double the number of traffic fatalities 10 years ago.

Crash deaths generally have been dropping for decades, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. More people wearing seat belts, growing awareness of the dangers of drunk driving, such technical safety improvements as airbags and electronic stability control – all have saved lives and will continue to save more.



That makes the trend in cities such as ours all the more puzzling and disturbing. “Urban fatalities,” the safety administration reported, “increased by 34% since 2009; rural fatalities declined by 15%.” In 2016, for the first time, the safety administration reported that more people died in urban traffic accidents than in rural ones, and the disparity has grown in the years since. Even as driving elsewhere is becoming safer, it appears to be becoming more hazardous, in some ways at least, in cities such as Fort Wayne.

The latest safety administration report suggests that huge increases in pedestrian, bicyclist and motorcyclist deaths account for some of the problem. And in Fort Wayne at least, one doesn’t have to be a transportation expert to observe the latest fad in irresponsible motoring: the old sport of racing through yellow lights has evolved into the new, even-more-selfish-and-dangerous tactic of racing through lights that are already red.

And while the causes of vehicle crashes are myriad, there’s no reason to doubt that distracted driving is an additional hazard for motorists – and one that could be easily addressed. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s proposal to ban drivers from using hand-held electronic devices not only could save lives, it doesn’t raise anyone’s taxes. What’s not to like?

But anyone who tries to ascribe any degree of common sense to the state’s lawmaking process is apt to be disappointed. In their session-opening agenda presentations, neither House nor Senate leaders listed the cellphone ban as a priority item. As House Speaker Brian Bosma told The Journal Gazette’s Niki Kelly, some of his Republican Caucus members oppose the ban on libertarian grounds; indeed, Bosma himself said he is noncommital.

Seriously? The right to play “Words With Friends” as you swing around a traffic circle is a question of liberty?

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South Bend Tribune. January 8, 2020

The price Hoosiers pay when the state works in secrecy

The outcome of a six-year-old case regarding lethal injections drugs in Indiana could jeopardize the public’s access to information.

As we’ve said before, the public has a right to information about how the state is executing people. Such life and death decisions shouldn’t be made in the dark. The issue has nothing to do with your position on the death penalty - and everything to do with government accountability and transparency.

The state of Indiana sees it differently. In 2017, Republican lawmakers went so far as to quietly - stealthily - insert a last-minute provision into the budget bill authorizing the state to conceal details of the purchase of new lethal injection drugs. The measure wasn’t debated in committee and became public when the budget was released on the last day of the session in 2017.

These machinations were in response to a lawsuit filed after the DOC refused to release information regarding the drugs used in executions and any correspondence related to execution procedure. Katherine Toomey, a Washington, D.C., attorney who had made the request in 2014 under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act, won a non-binding decision by the Public Access Counselor and summary judgment in the Circuit Court in 2016. Indiana appealed and lost.

The law that was conveniently tucked into the budget bill - which was retroactive - was struck down last year by a Marion Circuit Court judge. The judge also awarded $538,000 in attorney fees to plaintiffs who had sued the DOC to obtain records about the means it would use to execute a condemned criminal.

The DOC is asking the Indiana Supreme Court to overturn the court’s order. The Tribune is one of several papers filing an amicus, or “friend of the court” brief, in support of government transparency and in opposition to lawmakers’ legislative efforts to subvert APRA.

The $538,000 in attorney fees awarded by the circuit court judge is just part of the cost to Hoosiers when state officials enact laws in secrecy. The greater price is exacted by the undermining of the public’s right to know.

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The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. January 10, 2020

Time to deliver on promise to voters

Ten years ago, Brian Bosma made voters a promise.

Put Republicans in charge of the Indiana House of Representatives, he said, and you’ll see an end to partisan redistricting. He said his party would create a nonpartisan commission and put the process in the hands of voters.

The voters did give Republicans a majority, and Bosma became speaker of the House, a position generally considered the most powerful in the state when the General Assembly is in session. His promise, though, seemed to get lost in the transition.

The redistricting effort in 2011 wound up exactly as it had always been, a process carried out by politicians almost entirely behind closed doors.

That’s not at all what Bosma was advocating when the Democrats were in charge. He argued then that the maps drawn by the majority party were giving the voters fewer choices.

Bosma noted that in at least 80 of the 100 House districts, the election was effectively over before the first vote had been cast. That left no more than 20 districts where voters had a real choice.

And that, he said, caused Hoosiers to lose interest in the process and stay home.

Bosma had reason to be frustrated. Twice in a row, Democrats had been in charge of the once-a-decade redistricting process, and they had done all they could to keep their advantage.

In 2002, the first election with a new set of Democratic maps, Republicans racked up nearly 60% of the vote in Indiana House races but won fewer than half of the seats.

Now, with the Republicans in charge, the balance has tipped in the other direction. In 2018, the four Republicans running statewide won somewhere between 51% and 59% of the vote. The party, though, controls 80% of the Indiana Senate, 67% of the Indiana House and 78% of the state congressional delegation.

And those one-sided districts where the election is over before it starts? They’re just as common now as they were when Democrats were in charge of the process.

Bosma, who announced in November that this session would be his last, already knows the solution to this problem. He has one more chance to make it happen, to deliver on that promise he made a decade ago.

It’s time for the speaker to convince his colleagues to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission.

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