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League of Women Voters Held Open Forum With State Representatives

State legislators representing the Monroe County area gave their views on more than a dozen pieces of proposed legislation at a forum last Saturday.

The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Bloomington-Monroe County, which holds monthly legislative updates when the state legislature is in session.

State Senator Mark Stoops, as well as representatives Bob Heaton, Peggy Mayfield, Matt Pierce, and Eric Koch participated. The group was asked first about HJR-3, the measure to ban same-sex marriage in the Indiana Constitution. The question came from Bloomington resident Trish Kerle, who is also a host on the WFHB program Interchange.

“It is illegal to destroy a gun in Indiana, but it’s not illegal to limit a woman’s right to choose, nor to limit the rights of two adults to marry if they are the same gender,” Kerle said, “My question is to the representatives who voted in favor of HJR-3. What specific evidence do you have that my marriage to my partner will be detrimental to you or any of your constituents?”

Like many other issues, the support for the marriage amendment broke down along party lines.

The three Republicans — Heaton, Mayfield and Koch — all voted for the amendment. Heaton said he only wants to give voters the chance to decide on the issue in a referendum, which is required before an amendment can pass.

“As far as with you and your partner, I don’t care what two individuals do in their home,” Heaton said, “I’m being consistent with my message in that I will let the people to vote for it, or not, come this fall.”

Kerle tried to press Heaton further, because he didn’t provide the evidence she asked for, but the moderator stopped her.

Koch and Mayfield also declined to answer the question, saying it didn’t apply to the current debate over HJR-3.

“This question is not what the debate surrounding HJR-3 is about,” Koch said, “We’ve had a definition of marriage since the 80’s, that’s current law. The discussion surrounding HJR-3 is whether the people of Indiana should be able to use a mechanism given to them in their constitution to prevent that law from being overturned by the judicial branch, by unelected judges. So, the policy has been in place since the 1980’s, and that’s not what this discussion is about.”

Mayfield added that the process the amendment is going through is the topic of the discussion, not its merits or lacktherof.

The marriage amendment has passed the House of Representatives, but a portion of the text was removed. Unless the Senate changes the language back to its original form, the measure won’t be on the ballot next year.

The legislators were also asked about a bill that would require drug testing for people receiving benefits through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Pierce opposed the bill, and he said similar measures in other states have been expensive and have led to very little discovered drug use.

“The saddest thing for me, is that I think the bill is based on an attempt to drum up the worst stereotypes people have about those on public assistance,” Pierce said, “Most people on public assistance are working hard, and they are the exact people my Republican friends like because they are out working hard and not just waiting for a hand-out. They are trying to get ahead.”

Heaton defended his support for the bill, saying he recently surveyed his constituents about the issue.

“The question was, ‘Do you believe Indiana, like some other states, should submit random drug testing as a requirement in receiving government assistance,” Heaton said, “81 percent said yes, and I know you don’t like to hear that, but that’s just who I represent and who I vote on behalf of.”

Karen Green-Stone, from Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan, asked the group about Medicaid expansion. So far Indiana has declined federal funding offered through the Affordable Care Act, which would expand Medicaid coverage to approximately 350,000 people who have incomes too low to afford insurance through the federal exchange. Stoops said the state loses millions of dollars a day by refusing the expansion.

“In a state where we have high unemployment rates still, we are actually turning our back on 30,000 healthcare and other related jobs that this Medicaid expansion would have brought to Indiana,” Stoops said.

Mayfield did not say she was opposed to Medicaid expansion, but she said she supported Governor Mike Pence’s delay in accepting the funding.

“Governor Pence made that decision early on and I think that he has a cautious approach,” Mayfield said, “I think that there is something between the broad expansion of Medicaid and maybe a more limited expansion using just HIP, and honestly I think that’s what they’re investigating and I think they need to continue that.”

HIP is the Healthy Indiana Plan, which provides subsidies for some low-income residents to buy private insurance. There is a long waiting list for the program, but Pence has proposed expanding it to cover more people.

Pierce said there are problems with that approach, but he is willing to negotiate with conservatives on the issue.

“I said I think that there are a lot of politics involved with this is because it’s an Obama program and a lot of voters don’t like Obama or the program,” Pierce said, “I think that the Governor knows that something needs to change in order to get this done. I expect something will happen before the end of the year, which is unfortunate because people won’t have coverage. It’s not tenable to be an island of the uninsured.”

The next legislative update sponsored by the League of Women Voters is scheduled for March 1 at 9:30 a.m, in the Bloomington City Council chambers.

EcoReport – February 6, 2014

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In today’s EcoReport feature, Elisa Pokral discusses the Monroe County recycling program for the district and talks about the impact sustainable management practices have on the environment.

EcoReport is a weekly program providing independent media coverage of environmental and ecological issues with a focus on local, state and regional people, issues, and events in order to foster open discussion of human relationships with nature and the Earth and to encourage you to take personal responsibility for the world in which we live. Each program features timely eco-related headline news, a feature interview or event recording, and a calendar of events of interest to the environmentally conscious.

Anchors: Trish Kerle and Dan Young
This week’s news stories were written by Joe Crawford, Linda Greene, Norm Holy, and Stephanie Stewart. This week’s feature was engineered by Stephanie Stewart. This week’s calendar was compiled by Kristina Wiltsee. Our broadcast engineer is Dan Withered. Producers for EcoReport are Kelly Miller and Dan Young. Executive producer is Alycin Bektesh.

Bloomington Beware! – Top Ten Scams: Part 2

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Our weekly consumer watchdog segment Bloomington Beware!

Todd Young Talks about His Re-Election Platform

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Todd Young has thrown his hat into the ring for re-election to Indiana District 9 in the federal House of Representatives. Correspondent David Murphy spoke with Representative Young to ask him about his upcoming election campaign. He talked about potential challengers to his nomination for the Republican Party ticket in District 9 – which covers most of south-eastern Indiana including greater Bloomington – as well as his campaign platform. The issues he focused on included incentivizing job creation and work, proposals for reforming the financing, operation, and authority of the federal government, promoting non-governmental delivery of social services, and his criticism of Obamacare. We bring you that conversation now for today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

OUCC Accepting Public Comments On Increased Utility Rates

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The Indiana office of utility consumer counselor is accepting public comment regarding a Vectren Energy request to increase utility rates for improvements in the transmission and storage of natural gas in Indiana. The OUCC is a separate agency from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission which oversees monopoly utilities in Indiana. When a regulated utility seeks a rate increase it brings its case to the IURC, which is required to balance utility interests with consumer interests. The OUCC has a team of attorneys economists and engineers to file testimony and make recommendations on behalf on consumers. Vectren has filed a request seeking approval of a seven year plan for infrastructure improvements and approval of rate adjustments every six months to reflect the costs of the project. OUCC spokesman

All consumer comments are reviewed by OUCC’s technical staff and attorneys, and the testimony of all public comments are filed into the formal case record as evidence. While government regulated utility companies do have the right under Indiana law to pass costs of infrastructure improvements on to the consumer, the IURC and the OUCC are tasked with making sure those rates remain fairly balanced.

Regulations on utility services began when nationwide railway networks were being developed. Utility companies are uniquely regulated because the unique nature of delivering their “product” typically ensures a monopoly on that service, and an opportunity for abusing that monopoly if the government does not ensure that prices remain fair.

Consumers can view Vectren utility’s full testimony and exhibits online on the OUCC website, under the heading “We are reviewing Vectren gas infrastructure plans.” Written comments can be submitted directly on the website, or by email, fax, and postal mail.

Bloomington Wants Public Feedback on ADA Transition Plan

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The City of Bloomington is seeking feedback from the public on a new update to its ADA Transition Plan, as part of a regular process to comply with the requirements and intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA requires public agencies with more than fifty employees to maintain an up-to-date Transition Plan, which they say should survey accessibility barriers in programs and services and provide a plan to remove them. Bloomington prepared its first ADA Transition Plan in 1990, and has updated it several times since.

Barbara McKinney, Director of Human Rights and Assistant City Attorney for Bloomington says sidewalks and curbs often become a focus, due in part to shifting requirements. Public feedback, she says, is helpful for many of the small details around town that those working on the update might miss.

When cities like Bloomington don’t reach compliance for ADA regulations, McKinney says, the Department of Justice handles the response.

A draft version of the update is available now on the City of Bloomington’s website, at Bloomington.in.gov/planning.

Public comments will be collected, via email or by mail, until February 28th.

Daily Local News – February 5, 2013

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Emergency Management Director James Commerford announced an easement to “yellow” this afternoon; The City of Bloomington is seeking feedback from the public on a new update to its ADA Transition Plan; The Indiana office of utility consumer counselor is accepting public comment regarding a Vectren Energy request to increase utility rates for improvements in the transmission and storage of natural gas in Indiana.

FEATURE
Todd Young has thrown his hat into the ring for re-election to Indiana District 9 in the federal House of Representatives. Correspondent David Murphy spoke with Representative Young to ask him about his upcoming election campaign. He talked about potential challengers to his nomination for the Republican Party ticket in District 9 – which covers most of south-eastern Indiana including greater Bloomington – as well as his campaign platform. The issues he focused on included incentivizing job creation and work, proposals for reforming the financing, operation, and authority of the federal government, promoting non-governmental delivery of social services, and his criticism of Obamacare. We bring you that conversation now for today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

BLOOMINGTON BEWARE
Our weekly consumer watchdog segment Bloomington Beware!

CREDITS
Anchors: Cathi Norton, Kelly Wherley
Today’s headlines were written by Alycin Bektesh and Drew Daudelin,
Bloomington Beware was produced by Richard Fish,
Adam Reichle produced our feature.
Editor is Drew Daudelin,
Engineer and Executive Producer is Alycin Bektesh.

Brown County Hour – Episode 23

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Hosted by Dave Seastrom and Vera Grubbs.

First aired Sunday, February 2, 2014 at 9 AM on WFHB.

In this episode of the Brown County Hour:

  • Vera Grubbs interviews Artist Michele Pollock of Lost Lake Studio
  • Charlie Cole continues his commentary on Yellowwood logging
  • Dave Seastrom – essay on Groundhog Day
  • Bill Land – Land and Lore of Brown County
  • Poems by Chris Curtain, Rick Fettig, Gunther Flumm and Tramp Star
  • Top ten reasons to visit Brown County by Rick Fettig
  • and our musical guest, fifth-generation Brown County singer/songwriter, Robbie Bowden.
Theme music by Slats Klug & Friends.

The Tar Sands of Time – The 15 Year Tipping Point of Climate Change

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Demonstrators holding signs reading “No KXL” and holding model wind turbines held a rally on the courthouse square yesterday evening, as part of a nationwide demonstration against the Keystone XL pipeline. Jack Brubaker, the local contact for the nationwide resistance group, introduced speaker Rabbi Brian Besser to speak about the power of many voices coming together to form a resistance, and encouraged those present to write to the State Department, which is taking public comment now that their latest review of the construction project has been released. WFHB News Director Alycin Bektesh was on hand to bring us this report for today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

Interchange – Below Zero and Homeless

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Host Alycin Bektesh speaks with Police Chief Mike Diekoff, Forest Gilmore of the Shalom Center and Elaine Guinn of New Hope Family Shelter about options for warm shelter in Bloomington.

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