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Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennet Under Scrutiny For Questionable Tactics While In Office

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State Democrats are keeping the pressure on Indiana’s Inspector General as an investigation continues into former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett’s actions while in office.

Yesterday, Tom LoBianco of the Associated Press reported that Bennett’s office had kept Republican party campaign contributor databases on Education Department computer servers.

The AP report also alleged that Bennett directed Education Department staffers to parse a campaign speech by Glenda Ritz, his opponent in last November’s election. If true, the actions would violate state election and ethics laws.

Indiana Democratic Party Chair John Zody wants answers.

“I think it’s important that Hoosiers have trust in their government and their elected officials,” Zody says, “There are all kinds of things going on in state government that raises questions. There have been a number of articles about Mr Bennet and how he operated in office. There was a definite lack of transparency when he was in office and now we’re seeing these details come out.”

Zody calls for a quicker and more thorough investigation into the charges against Bennett. He also asks that Indiana Inspector General David Thomas reveal more details about the investigation.

Bennett told the Associated Press that the databases were for his personal use, and that he hadn’t directed his staff to do political work while on the job.

Cindy Carrasco of the Inspector General’s office confirmed that Thomas is looking into Bennett’s actions, but added that the investigation is confidential.

These latest charges follow questions about Bennett’s actions in grading a charter school run by a prominent Republican campaign contributor.

In July, the Associated Press reported that Bennett allegedly alerted his staff that the performance grade of the Christel House Academy in Indianapolis was unacceptable. Christel House, owned by Republican donor Christel DeHaan, had earned a “C” grade for its performance during the 2011 – 2012 school year. After a series of e-mails had been sent by Bennett to various staffers referring to the problem of Christel House’s rating, its grade was raised to an “A”.

DeHaan had contributed $2.8 million to Republican campaigns from 1998 through last year’s elections, including $130,000 for Bennett’s campaigns.

Bennett left Indiana after he lost to Glenda Ritz in November.

He served as the Florida education commissioner after leaving office in January, but resigned last month after the emails were published.

Daily Local News – September 12, 2013

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State Democrats are keeping the pressure on Indiana’s Inspector General, as an investigation continues into former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett’s actions while in office; The Indiana University Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Alumni Association has launched the nation’s first-ever scholarship campaign devoted to assisting GLBT students and promoting leadership on GLBT concerns; The Bloomington Walk to End Alzheimer’s, put on by The Alzheimer’s Association, is this Saturday; The City of Bloomington’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration Commission is accepting submissions for a video contest.

 

FEATURE

Art in the Digital Age

A new report commissioned by The Wallace Foundation, called “New Opportunities for Interest-Driven Arts Learning in a Digital Age,” explores young people’s interests in art, and how that interest has changed –and is changing – along with advancements in technology. WFHB reporter Nash Hott spoke with Kylie Peppler, assistant professor of learning sciences at Indiana University and author of the report, about her research on the subject for today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

 

VOICES IN THE STREET

Our weekly public opinion feature Voices in the Street asks what you think of the Affordable Care Act.

 

CREDITS

Today’s headlines were written by Mike Glab, Yvonne Cheng, and Jalisa Ransom.

Our feature was produced by Sarah Hertick, with correspondent Nash Hott

Voices in the Street was produced by Kelly Wherley,

Our engineer is Sarah Hettrick

Our editor is Drew Daudelin,

Executive Producer is Alycin Bektesh

Daily Local News – September 11, 2013

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Last night in an unanimous decision, the Monroe County Council renamed the Community Services Grant Program in honor of the late Sophia Travis; The Monroe County Airport will close its main runway for two months to repair a sinkhole, according to officials who spoke to the County Commission last week; On Monday, a city utilities engineer said construction crews were running about a week behind on a repair project at the Griffy Dam.

FEATURE
Remembering September 11th
For today’s WFHB feature, we bring you The City of Bloomington’s commemoration ceremony, which took place this morning, downtown at Showers Plaza.

BLOOMINGTON BEWARE
The elderly are particularly juicy targets for swindlers and con artists, and the problem is getting worse as the country’s aging population grows. Young people need to know more about cons, just as much as senior citizens, on a new edition of our consumer watchdog segment Bloomington Beware!

CREDITS
Anchors: Cathi Norton, Kelly Wherley
Today’s headlines were written by Casey Kuhn
Along with Joe Crawford for CATS week, in partnership with Community Access Television Services
Today’s Bloomington Beware was by Andrew Huddleston and produced by Richard Fish
Today’s feature was produced by Ilze Akerbergs
Editor is Drew Daudelin
Executive Producer is Alycin Bektesh

Local General Electric Plant To Layoff One Third Of Employees

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Management at the local GE Appliances plant has informed its hourly employees that one third of them will be laid off.

Carven Thomas, President of Local 2249 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers at the Bloomington plant, confirmed this today.

He told us that he wouldn’t be able to provide us with much detail on the layoffs until he had met with his fellow members to discuss the issue.

He did agree to give us some basic information, such as the numbers they were given.

“They’re going to take our numbers down from 496 hourly employees to 360,” Thomas says.

Thomas says the employer cited a thirty percent decline in side-by-side refrigerator production since 2010 as the root cause for these layoffs.

Several years ago, the Daily Local News covered reports about GE’s plans to close its Bloomington plant entirely and move production to Mexico.

The local union and the company negotiated a collective agreement, wherein the company agreed to upgrade the plant, to enable it to make more energy efficient and competitively priced side-by-side refrigerator, in return for pay concessions from the union, thereby retaining and even increasing hourly jobs.

Thomas says GE has turned its back on this agreement.

“They decide they’re not going to make the investment so they’re going to turn that wage freeze,” Thomas says.
The Bloomington GE plant is one of the few remaining consumer goods manufacturing facilities in the region.

Local 2249 members will meet tomorrow afternoon to discuss the employers’ announcement and their response to it.

People’s State Bank Robbery Suspect Apprehended, Money Recovered

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Following a bank robbery Monday afternoon, a suspect has been apprehended and detained by the Bloomington Police Department, charged with two counts of robbery and a charge of resisting law enforcement.

According to Captain Joe Qualters with the Bloomington Police Department, money was taken from the People’s State Bank located at 301 East Winslow Road, and all of that money has now been recovered.

Judge Claims “Right to Work” Law Violates Indiana Constitution

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The controversial ‘Right to Work’ pushed through by the State Republicans last year suffered its first legal setback last week.

This law forbids unions from forcing employees covered by their collective agreements to pay dues or service fees to the union which negotiated and enforces the particular employment agreement.

On Thursday, Judge John Sedia, of Lake County, ruled that the law violates a provision of the state constitution. We spoke to Professor Ken Dau-Schmidt, of the Maurer School of Law here in Bloomington, who is an expert on U.S. labor law and has studied the ruling.

“They challenged the law under several constitutional provisions. They argued that it violated Equal Protections Act, that it infringed on free expression, and they also argued that it violated a provision of the Indiana constitution that prohibits requiring people to provide services without compensation. The judge ruled against all of them except the last one.” Dau-Schmidt says.

The specific provision of the constitution is meant to protect individuals from having their property seized without compensation or their labor taken without payment.

“The problem with Right To Work Laws, under our Federal Labor Law, unions are required to represent everyone in the bargain unit, whether that person is a member or not,” Dau-Schmidt says.

He also says that a union has to cover the cost of representing the workers, and that it can get expensive.

The National Labor Relations Act prohibits unions from requiring workers covered by their collective agreements to join the union or to pay the union dues.

However, it does allow unions to include clauses in the agreement allowing the union to charge these non-members to pay agency fees for union collective agreement services.

The Indiana ‘Right-to-Work’ law makes it a crime to negotiate these service agreements in the state of Indiana.

“The unions in this state are required to provide services like this and can be sued if they don’t. This state law says you don’t have to compensate them for this, and the Judge said this was a violation of Indiana’s constitution,” Dau-Schmidt says.

Judge Sedia was actually appointed by former republican governor Mitch Daniels. The office of the Indiana Attorney General has announced that it will appeal Judge Sedia’s ruling to the state supreme court. Four of the five members of this court were also Republican appointees, three of them by Daniels. Nevertheless, Professor Dau-Schmidt does not think a ruling in favor of the state is a done deal.

“I suspect this will be struck down by the Supreme Court, I can’t guarantee that. I think there will be a lot of careful consideration of this matter,” Dau-Schmidt says.
We will continue to follow this and other similar challenges to the state right-to-work law as they make their way through the courts.

Senator Coats Proposes Legislation To Delay Obamacare

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Senator Dan Coats has proposed legislation to delay the implementation of Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) until at least 2015.

Coats says the Act’s mandates are driving up insurance premiums and forcing businesses to cut workers’ hours or even jobs so that employers can avoid the act’s expensive legal requirements.

Moreover, he says, some families are having to switch their health insurance plans due to government requirements.

Coats’ plan is to delay the Obamacare mandates until the 2014  election.

Coats’ legislation, proposed yesterday, mirrors legislation in the House of Representatives put forth by Indiana’s Republican member Todd Young, which passed.

According to Senator Coats, “Congressman Young and I agree that rather than delay a bad policy for some, all Hoosier families should  be exempted from Obamacare’s taxes and mandates.”

 

Brown County State Park To Host Photography Workshop

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Brown County State Park is offering a workshop for photographers on October 19th. Gary Moore will teach some of the tips and techniques he used to document landscapes in his photo book called Brown County Mornings.

Park Naturalist Jim Eagleman says the workshop is open to all photographers, including novices.

“It will start with a 7:30 a.m. Lake Straw visit. He’ll visit it with interested students to learn how to take early morning pictures. Gary will also present a talk on photo techniques and there will be a book signing after,” Eagleman says.

Eagleman reminds participants to be aware of the weather, and to dress appropriately for walking through the park.

The workshop is open for registration until October 19th.

There is a ten dollar program fee, payable at the Brown County State Park on the day of the event.

To register, call the nature center at 812 – 988 – 5240.

 

Daily Local News – September 10, 2013

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The controversial ‘Right to Work’ pushed through by the state republicans last year suffered its first legal setback last week; Senator Dan Coats has proposed legislation  to delay the implementation of Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) until at least 2015; Management at the local GE Appliances plant has informed its hourly employees that one third of them will be laid off; Following a bank robbery yesterday afternoon, a suspect has been apprehended and detained by the Bloomington Police Department, charged with two counts of robbery and a charge of resisting law enforcement; Brown County State Park is offering a workshop for photographers on October 19th; Gary Moore will teach some of the tips and techniques he used to document landscapes in his photo book called Brown County Mornings.

FEATURE
Adventures in Pioneering a Model System of Symbiosis
Joan Wood spent twelve years in the Indiana University Department of Biology, and is the namesake of an annual lecture promoting women in the sciences. Biologist Margaret McFall-Ngai is in Bloomington this week and to present “Adventures in Pioneering a Model System of Symbiosis” – this year’s Joan Wood lecture. WFHB News Director Alycin Bektesh has the report for today’s Daily Local News feature exclusive.

INS AND OUTS OF MONEY
Interested in started your own business? Sarah and Ashley talk with Jason Carnes, the Assistant Director from the City’s Economic and Sustainable Development Department. Jason shares tips on how to get started and resources for success.

CREDITS
Anchors: Bill Daugherty, Shayne Laughter
Today’s headlines were written by David Murphy and Yvonne Cheng
Our feature was produced by Alycin Bektesh
Our editor and engineer is Drew Daudelin
The Ins and Outs of Money is produced by Jason Evans Groth
Our theme music is provided by the Impossible Shapes
Executive producer is Alycin Bektesh

Daily Local News- September 9, 2013

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Enrollment for the fall semester at Indiana University Bloomington is up, compared to last year’s numbers; Once again, the Bloomington campus of IU has announced a theme for this academic year’s cultural activities; Bloomington peace groups will hold a vigil on 9/11 to oppose the possible attack on Syria. Correspondent Chris Martin has more; The Indiana University Office of Sustainability has established an innovative partnership between Indiana University Bloomington and the Local Growers Guild.

FEATURE
Indiana Assess A-F
Indiana’s former superintendent for public instruction, Tony Bennett, was criticized earlier this summer after it was revealed he apparently played favorites when assigning grades to the state’s K-12 schools. Emails from Bennett showed he was upset that a charter school in Indianapolis, the Christel House Academy, was going to receive a C when he thought it should get an A. Christel House was founded by a major political donor, and Bennett helped change the grading formula so the school would receive a better grade. The revelations caused Bennett to lose his most recent job, as Florida Education Commissioner. Now, a 58-page report requested by the state legislature indicates that, although Bennett did change the rules, he then applied the new rules to other schools besides Christel House. For more on what that means, correspondent Joe Crawford talked today with the president of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, who is a critic of the state’s system for grading schools. We bring you that interview for today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

ACTIVATE
Alanna Lutrell and Jon Holland discuss the need for creative expression for all persons and describe how their Bloomington Arts for All tries to provide that expression for disadvantaged youth, and talk about how they would like to expand to help people recovering from mental illness and addiction.

CREDITS
Anchors: MAria McKinley, Doug Storm
Today’s headlines were written by David Murphy Yvonne Cheng, and Chris Martin
Our engineers are Chris Martin and Lauren Glapa
Our feature was produced by Joe Crawford
Our Editor is Drew Daudelin
Jennifer Whitaker produced Activate!
Our theme music is provided by the Impossible Shapes
Executive producer is Alycin Bektesh

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