Home > News > Headlines (page 6)

Category Archives: Headlines

Feed Subscription

Daily Local News Headlines

Critics Say Agricultural Amendment to Indiana Code Priviliges Rights of Agriculture Industry

Play

The Indiana General Assembly is moving to enact a bill that critics say will privilege the rights and interests of the agricultural industry.

Senate Bill 186 has recently been approved by the agriculture and natural resources committees of both houses of the legislature. The short bill will add an amendment to a part of the Indiana Code dealing with agriculture.

The first sentence of the first section of SB 186 states that it is the state’s policy to promote the agricultural sector. The second says that the Indiana Code shall be construed to protect the rights of farmers to choose among all generally accepted farming and livestock production practices, including the use of ever changing technology.

The second section states that the state department of agriculture pursue this policy by assisting agricultural businesses with the permit process required to conduct business in Indiana, serve as a liaison between agricultural businesses, state agencies, and local units of government.

Kim Ferraro, of the Hoosier Environmental Council is an opponent the bill. She claims that, if passed into law, SB 186 would compel judges, legislators, and regulators to interpret state law to favor agriculture businesses in any legal conflict with other individuals, business, or local government. She also claims that the bill is meant to serve big agricultural operations, in particular those that have recently come under attack for polluting the land, water and air around them, and for contaminating neighboring farms with their genetically modified seeds.

Yesterday, Ferraro said several owners of family farms also expressed opposition to the bill during the legislative hearings.

“There were eight or nine traditional famers who were there to say that the farm bureau and Big Ag lobbyists don’t represent their interests,” Ferraro says, “There are family farmers who are testifying said they don’t need a right like this and that this only hurts the rights of other people. I thought there were some really moving testimonials but it fell on largely deaf ears.”

Andy Dietrick of the Indiana Farm Bureau argues that SB 186 will not privilege the rights of agriculture businesses over other rights. He says it simply reiterates the mandate of the state’s agricultural department to promote farming.

“I think this is just a reaffirmation in the context of the state Department of Agriculture’s role to promote the farmers’ rights to use technologies and practices that are considered generally acceptable practices,” Dietrick says, “Things change over time and practices change over time and I think the state does affirm the right to use those practices.”

Dietrick claims that the bill will not impair local governments’ rights to pass zoning ordinances and regulations that might impact farm operations.

He also thinks that SB 186 was not intended to benefit large agricultural businesses such as CAFO’s – Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation – which in Indiana is defined as a feed-lot with over 4,000 pigs, for example. These businesses have been proliferating in southern.

“Where in the language does it say anything about CAFO or large operations, specifically?” Dietrick says, “It could be GMO or non-GMO. It could be organic. It’s about farmers’ rights to use ever-changing technologies.”

Senate Bill 186 has now passed out of the agricultural committees of both Houses. However, no date has been scheduled for it to come up for general debate.

HJR-3 Update

Play

Today, the Indiana Senate had its final vote on House Joint Resolution 3, the same-sex marriage ban. The Senate was voting on a version of the bill as amended by the lower house. A vote in favor of HJR-3 would effectively suspend the attempt to put a ban on same-sex marriage before voters on this fall’s ballot. A vote against the bill would defeat it. Either way the issue will be suspended until another legislator might propose something similar. Most senators spoke against the same sex marriage ban as a civil rights issue. One of these was local Democratic Senator Mark Stoops.

“When I first started hearing about this discussion at the state house, obviously I wasn’t a legislator at the time,” said Stoops. “But my first thought wasn’t just that ‘oh, this is going to be embarrassing for the state, it puts us in the spotlight’. It’s not the fact that we’re going to lose out on economic development because people aren’t going to want to come here. It seemed to me that the main issue with a resolution like this is basic civil rights.”

Senator Stoops went on to explain how placing a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution would entrench discrimination in what should be a rights document:

“I mean, we all have friends, co-workers, and family that we know are gay. Are we as legislators, and are you as senators, going to look at those friends and those co-workers and those family members and say, ‘With this vote, I am saying I’m a better person than you, I am more moral than you, and I’m more deserving of basic civil rights’? Because if you support this amendment, that’s exactly what you’re going to be saying.”

Another legislator, Democratic Senator Greg Taylor from District 33 in Central Indiana, drew parallels with prohibitions on interracial marriage.

“Nineteen sixty-seven in Indiana,” began Taylor,  “I met a couple, a friend of mine’s mom and dad, the first interracial couple to be married in the state of Indiana. You want to know why? Because it was illegal. That was supposed to protect the institution of marriage.”

He then talked about how such prohibitions would have affected him personally:

“Nineteen ninety-nine, I had the opportunity on May 15, 1999 – I hope my wife remembers I said that because I remember our anniversary date – to marry my wife. She happens to be caucasian. Folks, times change. Times will always change. I love my wife to death. I don’t care what culture she has, I don’t care what race she has. Can you believe that there was a time in this state when me and my wife couldn’t be married? Now we sit here with this issue.”

Shortly after his speech to the Senate, the majority voted for the amended version of HJR-3. Despite voting for legislation to discriminate against same-sex couples, this vote makes makes it impossible to place a referendum on the 2014 ballot for voters to constitutionally entrench the same-sex ban. However, it does not preclude attempts by state legislators to attempt to enact such a ban in the future. While Indiana has been debated such discriminatory legislation, other states and the federal government have been moving to permit same sex marriage and extend the benefits of marriage to these couples. While the courts have taken the lead in striking down discriminatory laws and regulations at both levels of government, legislators have stopped trying to resist the tide in what has become the civil rights issue the age. The pressure of public opinion and organization interest in favor of expanding marriage rights is forcing governments here and abroad to either resist calls to legalize sexual discrimination or revisit such laws already passed.

 

Latest on Indiana’s HJR-3 Amendment

Play

A second reading of House Joint Resolution 3 on the Senate floor today was without incident. If the Senate adopts the resolution on its third reading next Monday, it will reconcile with the amended version that came out of the House, and provide that only marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana.

This matches current Indiana law, which also states that marriage is only legally recognized in heterosexual couples, but the proposed constitutional amendment would be a much more permanent statement forbidding gay marriage in Indiana.

The second reading of a proposed bill or resolution is the point when amendments can be made, and it was uncertain if republicans would offer an amendment trying to reinstate the second sentence of the original resolution that the house of representatives deleted earlier this year.

District 40 Senator Mark Stoops says he was confident that reinserting the second sentence would be defeated. However, there were other aspects to the reading that were surprising.

“The fact that they chose not to call the amendment at all was a real surprise,” Stoops says “It was a very strange session in that HJR-3 was called for the second reading and then there was silence. Everyone waited to hear if the amendment was going to be called and it wasn’t. That was the end.”

The 2014 legislative session has centered around HJR-3. Chambers of commerce, education institutions, and politicians statewide have joined civil rights advocates in voicing their dissent for the resolution.

“I’m sure what happened is that it became completely obvious to the Republican caucus that there were not enough votes for the second sentence,” Stoops says, “They didn’t want to get beaten up further on that bill. I think a lot of Republicans are pretty embarrassed that this bill is moving forward.”

Governor Mike Pence has supported the effort to amend the constitution in regards to marriage in Indiana, and called for it to be on the 2014 ballot. The soonest HJR3 would not be sent to referendum is 2016 – if the general assembly at the time adopts it exactly as it is stated now. Stoops speculates that Pence will try to avoid timing the ratification with his reelection.

“Governor Pence wanted this HJR-3 on the ballot in 2014 because he didn’t want it pushed until 2016 because he’s running for reelection that year,” Stoops says, “He knows that it’s a device of issue and that it will pull a lot of independents and democrats out to vote who might not normally have voted, which means he’d probably lose the reelection.”

Stoops predicted the third reading of HJR-3 will occur on Monday.

United Way of Monroe County Launch Free Community Tax Service

Play

United Way of Monroe County and the Financial Stability Alliance for South Central Indiana and partners have launched the Free Community Tax Service for this year in Monroe and Owen counties. Community Initiative Director, Ashley Hall says the program started four years ago.

“A lot of our sites in the community had been offering volunteer tax assistance many years before that, but they hadn’t come together as a cohesive program,” Hall says, “United Way came on board to bring together these people working on it and to bring on board people we had hoped to get involved.”

As the service continues to grow it has been able to provide help to more people in the community.

“The program expands every year we offer it,” Hall says, “There are more sites and options. Not only are there full-service, one-on-one options, there are self-service sites and an online option you can do anytime. We have continued to utilize more volunteers from the community, and we already have about 200 IRS-certified volunteers.”

Individuals can file their own taxes for free at a self-service site at WorkOne or online at MyFreeTaxes.com/Bloomington. A few locations that the Mobile sites will visit include Bloomington Housing Authority, LifeDesigns, Positive Link and Stone Belt. Hall says the purpose of the program is to offer free tax preparation and to make sure residents know they are eligible for valuable credits.

“The credit is important because we know that about 25 percent of people eligible don’t claim their credit,” Hall says.

For more information on the Free Community Tax Service you can visit MonroeUnitedWay.org/FreeTaxes.

Dean of IU’s SPEA Testified In Support of EPA ‘Secret Science’ Bill

Play

John D. Graham, dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University and former senior official in President George W. Bush’s Office of Management and Budget, testified on Tuesday in support of a bill that prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, from using what backers of the legislation call ‘secret science.’

The bill, introduced by U.S. House Republicans, would prohibit the EPA from proposing new regulations based on science that is not transparent or reproducible.

“Most of the EPA-related studies that may not satisfy the reproducibility standard are in the air quality area,” Graham said, “The environmental epidemiology field does not yet have a strong position in favor of public access to data, which is necessary for reproducibility. The transparency standard is more widely accepted.”

The measure is sponsored by Subcommittee Chairman David Schweikert, a Republican from Arizona. In discussing the bill’s future, Graham said, “There is a mid-March meeting at the National Academy of Sciences where the reproducibility issue will be discussed in more detail by multiple stakeholders. Once that meeting occurs, it will become apparent whether the scientific community will support or oppose the bill.”

Bloomington Approves New Commercial Building At 3rd and Washington

On Feb. 10 the Bloomington Plan Commission approved a plan for a new building downtown that would include a convenience store. The four-story building would also contain three apartments and room for additional businesses.

The new structure is planned for the southwest corner of 3rd and Washington streets, on a site that has most recently been the location of a laundromat, CrossTown Cleaners. Doug Bruce, who has done architecture work on the project, said the owner’s idea is for the convenience store to serve people waiting for buses downtown.

The building is owned by Song Kim, who also owned the laundromat. It is just north of the current Bloomington Transit building, and it’s just east of the new Transit building under construction at 3rd and Walnut streets. Commission member Pat Williams asked how deliveries to the convenience store could affect nearby traffic.

The site is smaller than most downtown lots, and Bruce said there would be no room for large trucks to pull in. Williams said she is skeptical about the delivery plan.

Trish Sterling, who owns a commercial building just southeast of the proposed store, said she is also concerned about the building’s effects on traffic and parking. The plan for the four-story building includes seven parking spaces. Sterling said her building’s spaces are already used frequently by other businesses.

A lack of parking in the area caused the failure of a recent project just two blocks east of the proposed store. The owners of the Taste of India restaurant on 4th Street tried to relocate to 314 East 3rd Street, but the commission rejected the plan largely because there wasn’t enough parking. Commission member Chris Smith addressed Sterling’s concerns, but said the city would like to see the site developed and they have limited options.

The commission later voted to approve the building, including six different waivers from the city’s zoning rules.

 

Work Begins Soon On New I-69

Work will begin on the new interstate that will traverse Bloomington and Monroe County as soon as weather allows.

According to Cher Elliott, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesperson at its Vincennes regional office, contractors are to remove trees and other natural obstacles, with attendant remediation, on the right-of-way along section 5 of I-69 before March 31. The section 5 corridor runs from the south, where section 4 of I-69 will intersect with 37 at that road and Fullerton Pike, north to just south of the Highway 39 turn-off near Martinsville.

However, the current tree clearing contract is for the portion from the end of section 4 up to the Walnut Street and Old Highway 37 interchange. The construction phase is slated to begin during late summer of this year, with substantial completion of section 5 by late 2016.

Will Wingfield, at the head office of the Department of Transportation in Indianapolis, said the 21 miles of existing state road 37 will be updated to interstate standards.

“What these changes mean is that traffic entering or exiting will now be on ramps,” Wingfield says, “Four new interchanges will be built. In addition, to provide additional local access, there will be four new exchanges across the interstate.”

For properties that currently have direct access to Highway 37, the department will either purchase them outright or build some other means of vehicular access for them. Wingfield describes lane capacity along various parts of the highway, as it skirts around Bloomington’s west-side.

“There will be added lanes on what is now 37, at the south-end of the project near the Bloomington area based on the forecasted need in urban Bloomington,” Wingfield says

The department has already received proposals from four private sector consortia to design, build, operate, and maintain section 5 of I-69.

INDOT spokespeople have promised that this so-called public-private partnership, or P-3 arrangement for section 5, does not allow the private operator to establish tolls.

“It will generally follow the state road corridor,” Wingfield said, “We are hoping to extend the life of this corridor and road.”

During the construction phase, the route will remain open to public traffic, but with periodic lane closures, delays, and diversions. INDOT and the private sector group responsible for this sector will also be responsible for informing the public of these obstructions.

The Strike Mic – February 11, 2014

PlayPlay

This week on The Strike Mic, an anonymous source offers speculation on the recent news that Indiana University will no longer offer a summer tuition discount for its Bloomington campus.

ERAC Looking To Fill Natural Resource Management Positions

The City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department is looking for individuals to fill two Special Member seats to serve two-year terms on the Environmental Resources Advisory Council, or ERAC.

The ERAC acts in an advisory capacity to the Board of Park Commissioners, on policy matters pertaining to the operation of city-managed natural areas or facilities.

To fill these positions, the ERAC specifically needs people who have expertise in the field of outdoor recreation and environmental education programs, and people who have expertise in natural resources management. Special member applicants must reside or own property in Monroe County. More information about the positions is available online, at Bloomington.in.gov/parks

Senator Steele’s Proposed Hunting and Fishing Amendment Passes

Senator Brent Steele’s proposal to amend Indiana’s constitution to guarantee residents the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife passed on a 43 to 4 vote by the full Senate on Monday.

Steele’s Joint Resolution 9 provides that the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife is a valued part of Indiana’s heritage, and should be preserved for the public good. SJR-9 states that hunting and fishing are the preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.

This constitutional amendment does not limit the application of any law relating to trespass or property rights. 17 other states over the past several years have added the constitutional right to hunt and fish.

The Indiana government, along with seven other states, is considering bills in 2014 that propose the creation of a state constitutional amendment to protect the same right.

SJR-9 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Scroll To Top