Indiana


Editor’s Note: This was originally published in this morning’s edition of the Muncie Indiana Star-Press.
 
By Rep. Mike Pence

The Fourth of July is a time of great tradition across Indiana. It means watermelon passed around the family picnic table, communities gathered together at parades and blankets laid out on freshly cut grass to enjoy fireworks displays.

And so it should be. As President John Adams wrote of the first Independence Day, “It ought to be commemorated as a day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other…”

We would be remiss if we did not take time, as individuals, as families and as a nation, to commemorate and reflect on our independence. Today we celebrate that day over two centuries ago, when America stepped out from the shadow of tyranny, and founded a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

We remember the courage of our founders, who took this stand in the face of the most powerful empire in the world. And we pay tribute to the sacrifices made in places near and far by the men and women who have worn the uniform to defend the freedoms we enjoy.

America’s love of freedom is deeply ingrained in our nation’s history. We live and breathe the cause of liberty. Freedom is at the very core of an American spirit that is alive and well today.

We have seen it at tea parties, town hall meetings and gatherings across America. It is a force in America great enough to redeem our national government and reaffirm our revolutionary ideals.

This Independence Day, let us take to heart the decree of our second president. Let us celebrate our great gift of freedom with pomp and parade and the joy that befits a free people. Let us also commemorate this day with thanksgiving to God for the liberty and blessings we enjoy in our great nation.

Mike Pence represents Indiana’s Sixth District in Congress.

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In November the three Republican state Senate candidates in District 17 completed questionnaires from the Allen County Right to Life seeking information about their individual positions on a number of critical pro-life issues. The questions asked were straightforward and two of the candidates did a solid job of providing clear answers. Reviewing the final essay question, however, one would probably have to conclude that Jim Banks, an experienced pro-family and pro-life advocate with national experience, provided the most thorough and persuasive explanation of his pro-life philosophy.*

Candidate Tom Wall, currently a Huntington County Commissioner, checked “unsure” in responding to two of the questions on his questionnaire. Each of the questions he marked this way were very simple questions dealing with two common pro-life issues faced by legislators around the country. Anyone familiar with the cursory elements of the pro-life position and philosophy would have been able to make a final judgment about his or her support of the position stated in the question.

The first area of uncertainty for Wall was the matter of conscience clause legislation that protects pharmacists from being legally liable for refusing to fill out prescriptions for abortion inducing products. This issue has come up in several states, including neighboring Illinois, and pharmacists have had to face a choice between violating their conscience and assuming serious liability for their refusal to comply with a consumer’s request. In Indiana legislation has been introduced in recent sessions of the General Assembly to protect pro-life Hoosier pharmacists from this morally and professionally difficult choice.

(Read more below the fold) (more…)

By: State Rep. Wes Culver

The American health care system is ailing and policymakers at the national level are experimenting with various prescriptions trying to determine which one will cure the patient.  If we are not careful though, in our search for a cure we may end up failing to fix what is wrong with the system and harming what is already right with it.  I believe that our health care system can be fixed by giving it a strong dose of patient oriented reform that puts individuals and their doctors at the center of the system and forces third-parties to take a back seat role.  Overreaching federal regulation, heavily regulated insurance companies, and overzealous trial lawyers should not be in the driver’s seat of this vehicle.

For years we have looked on the health care sector as something different and unique from other consumer products or services.  While it certainly possesses dimensions that other sectors do not have, it is not too unique to be exempted from the innovative mindset that has generated advanced technology and better products at a reduced cost in other areas of our economy.  If we can make high quality electronic devices widely available at an affordable price, I think it is time for us to look at harnessing the principles that made that happen and put them to good use lowering the cost of health care and increasing our accessibility to that care.

The problem we must grapple with today in improving our health care system is not one of quality, but of affordability and accessibility.  Today, 85% of Americans are satisfied with the quality of care they receive from doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.  Yet even as the majority of our population approves of the job that our medical professionals and institutions are doing, no one is satisfied with the rising cost of that care.  From 2000 to 2008 the annual cost of employer provided health insurance rose from $6,438 per family to $12,680 per family.   Our nation annually spends $2.4 trillion on health care.

According to the President and Democrat members of Congress, the best way to control rising health care costs and increase accessibility to health insurance is to create a “public option” insurance plan that puts the federal government in charge of your medical care.  Observing the incompetency of Medicaid and the trillions of dollars in unfunded obligations in Medicare, expanding the federal government’s role in the health care sector is a bad idea.  Furthermore, our neighbor to the north, Canada, has been on a sort of public option health care program for decades and they recently concluded that the system has failed and now they are moving away from the direction the President wants to take us.

If the solution offered by Washington, D.C. is wrong, what can we do to fix our health care system?  I am proposing that Indiana do three things at the State level to lower costs, improve accessibility, and advance the quality of care that Hoosiers receive.  First, we should eliminate the mandate that our state places on insurance companies that their health insurance plans contain certain policy elements.  This mandate discourages insurance companies from competing in Indiana and limits Hoosiers to choosing from plans that might not be the best ones for them.  Second, we should allow Hoosiers to buy insurance from companies not located in Indiana and not currently competing in the Indiana insurance market.  By breaking down this barrier that surrounds our state, we can foster a more dynamic and competitive environment that gives Hoosiers access to more affordable health insurance.  Third, we can institute a system that calls for price transparency in all medical procedures.  Just as you expect to know what a particular item or service will cost you in another sector, you deserve to know what a particular health care procedure or service will cost you.

By moving forward at the state level with reforms that do not involve costly, inefficient and wasteful government programs that dictate how much health care you can access, we can make Indiana a leader in the area of affordable health care.  It’s time for us to once again become an innovator and build a better future for ourselves and those who will use the system after us.

State Rep. Wes Culver represents the 49th District in the Indiana House of Representatives.  Any questions or comments about health care can be directed to him by e-mailing healthcare@electwesculver.com.

By: Wes Culver (R-Goshen, Ind.)

Unless they work in education or state government, not many people know or understand the complicated formula that determines how much funding each school corporation receives each year.

Each school corporation receives a specific dollar amount per student. So, two schools with the same number of students will receive a different dollar amount because the amount per student is different.

The amount per student can be immense. The lowest amount received by a school corporation in 2008 was $5,414 per student in Northwest Allen School Corp. The school corporation with the highest rate per-student was Gary School Corp., receiving $9,010 per student.

Several community members have voiced their concern with this variation. Why, they ask, does the state give more money per student to some schools and less to others?

Generally, tuition support for schools is tied to the numbers of students — “average daily membership” in bureaucratic terms — in each school district. As such, districts with declining enrollments face decreasing amounts of tuition support.

However, districts are still provided partial funding for students who have left the district, which is known as “ghosting.” Ghosting may occur when a student was enrolled at the start of the school year and then left sometime during that year.

Keep in mind, school districts have five years before funding is completely phased out for that student — 100 percent the first year, 80 percent the second, then 60 percent, 40 percent and, in the fifth year, 20 percent.

School systems with declining student enrollments have benefited greatly from this method, while those with growing enrollments have suffered, even though both face the same problem of changing enrollment.

The governor’s budget wants to finally end ghosting to make sure the money follows the student. If the student is not there, the money for that student wouldn’t be, either. However, the House Democrat’s budget proposal includes the ghosting formula.

A declining enrollment creates no more problems than an increasing enrollment. Officials from schools with declining enrollments say the students leaving are not from one class, but rather a few from every classroom; therefore, they cannot get rid of any teachers. However, neither can a growing school corporation place all the new students in one classroom and hire one teacher.

Growing schools are forced to handle their greater enrollments by redistricting to most efficiently handle students; declining schools should do the same.

These are not easy problems for superintendents to resolve. But that is what their job is and why we put them in those positions. Tough decisions aren’t always easy for businesses and families either, but they have to make them when their income declines.

I don’t think we should ask our schools to do anything we wouldn’t do as families and business people. They should not be exempt from the struggles everyone else faces.

Wes Culver (R-Goshen) represents House District 49 in the Indiana House of Representatives.  His website is www.electwesculver.com.

By: Brian Sikma

The turmoil that has enveloped Chrysler Corporation has had a substantial impact on our state.  From the parts suppliers who employ Hoosiers at their Indiana factories to the dealerships that dot the state and provide jobs to local mechanics and sales personnel, many have been impacted by Chrysler’s inability to stay solvent and afloat amidst a serious economic downturn.  But what has happened to the automaker also impacts Hoosiers who have never worked with or for the company or its many suppliers and vendors.  Because the state invested some road construction trust funds and some of the assets of the state’s police and teacher pension trust funds in secured Chrysler debt, the government’s mismanagement of the company’s reorganization has cost Hoosiers roughly $5 million.

The loss that these pension funds and the road construction fund have sustained has come about not because of Chrysler’s inability to stay solvent but because of the federal government’s decision to rewrite decades of bankruptcy law precedent.  Whenever a bond holder, such as these three state trust funds, invests in corporate bonds that are considered secured debt, they are investing in the company and, should the company fail, they are guaranteed a recovery of their investment by the sale of the company’s assets.  

When the federal government stepped in and began the process of organizing and managing Chrysler’s restructuring, they did so in a way that disregarded the fact that holders of secured debt are supposed to be first in line to recover their money.   This means that as Chrysler tries to restructure itself in the shelter of a bankruptcy court according to a blueprint forced on it by President Obama’s administration, it is jeopardizing the soundness and sustainability of trust funds that many Hoosiers rely on as part of their retirement.  Additionally, the state’s ability to build the roads that would generate jobs, improve the state’s transportation infrastructure and make Indiana a more attractive place for businesses to come to is threatened by the federal government’s actions.

Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock has used his authority as manager of the threatened funds to file pleadings against the currently proposed Chrysler restructuring.  Mourdock is rightfully arguing that retirees and state taxpayers should not be forced to bear the brunt of this loss imposed by the disturbing actions of the federal government.  While it is important that Chrysler rework its structure and prepare itself to emerge from bankruptcy, it must not do so while following a plan that destroys the very trust on which it will be able to rebuild its business.
By stepping in and causing a $5 million loss to Hoosier retirees and taxpayers, the federal government has not only hurt Hoosiers, but it has also hurt Chrysler and started the very concerning practice of rewriting contracts that impact the economic standing of many Americans.  Investors observing their investments being destroyed by the federal government not only suffer an immediate loss but are also put on notice that any decision they make based on the mutual agreement and trust of the private sector may be quickly overridden if a government bureaucrat disagrees with the terms of the contract.  The unilateral rewriting of business and financial agreements by the federal government is a practice that must stop because it undermines the process by which our country will emerge from this downturn.
Our economy will recover and our nation will bounce back from this downturn if the federal government understands its real role in the marketplace.  The appropriate role of the federal government, and the job it should rightfully assume if we are going to see an increase in economic activity, the creation of jobs and the expansion of wealth, is to fulfill the duties of a referee.  A referee does not participate in the game but he or she does make sure that the rules are enforced.   When the federal government tries to participate in the economy by using its power to rewrite the rules and nullify agreements founded on mutual trust, then it exceeds its proper authority.  When, on the other hand, it enforces the rules fairly on all participants and holds parties to their contractual obligations, it is a party to the creation of the trust that is so necessary and vital to the operation of our economy.
The American people will emerge from this downturn strengthened for what lies ahead.  Chrysler Corporation and other companies that are going through restructuring will be poised to lead the way in the growing economy of the future, but only if the obligations that they have are not ignored or destroyed by irresponsible federal actions.  President Obama and his economic team must immediately cease their misguided efforts to dramatically make the government, and not the individual, the most important factor in our economy.turmoil that has enveloped Chrysler Corporation has had a substantial impact on our state.  From the parts suppliers who employ Hoosiers at their Indiana factories to the dealerships that dot the state and provide jobs to local mechanics and sales personnel, many have been impacted by Chrysler’s inability to stay solvent and afloat amidst a serious economic downturn.  But what has happened to the automaker also impacts Hoosiers who have never worked with or for the company or its many suppliers and vendors.  Because the state invested some road construction trust funds and some of the assets of the state’s police and teacher pension trust funds in secured Chrysler debt, the government’s mismanagement of the company’s reorganization has cost Hoosiers roughly $5 million.

The loss that these pension funds and the road construction fund have sustained has come about not because of Chrysler’s inability to stay solvent but because of the federal government’s decision to rewrite decades of bankruptcy law precedent.  Whenever a bond holder, such as these three state trust funds, invests in corporate bonds that are considered secured debt, they are investing in the company and, should the company fail, they are guaranteed a recovery of their investment by the sale of the company’s assets.  

When the federal government stepped in and began the process of organizing and managing Chrysler’s restructuring, they did so in a way that disregarded the fact that holders of secured debt are supposed to be first in line to recover their money.   This means that as Chrysler tries to restructure itself in the shelter of a bankruptcy court according to a blueprint forced on it by President Obama’s administration, it is jeopardizing the soundness and sustainability of trust funds that many Hoosiers rely on as part of their retirement.  Additionally, the state’s ability to build the roads that would generate jobs, improve the state’s transportation infrastructure and make Indiana a more attractive place for businesses to come to is threatened by the federal government’s actions.

Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock has used his authority as manager of the threatened funds to file pleadings against the currently proposed Chrysler restructuring.  Mourdock is rightfully arguing that retirees and state taxpayers should not be forced to bear the brunt of this loss imposed by the disturbing actions of the federal government.  While it is important that Chrysler rework its structure and prepare itself to emerge from bankruptcy, it must not do so while following a plan that destroys the very trust on which it will be able to rebuild its business.

By stepping in and causing a $5 million loss to Hoosier retirees and taxpayers, the federal government has not only hurt Hoosiers, but it has also hurt Chrysler and started the very concerning practice of rewriting contracts that impact the economic standing of many Americans.  Investors observing their investments being destroyed by the federal government not only suffer an immediate loss but are also put on notice that any decision they make based on the mutual agreement and trust of the private sector may be quickly overridden if a government bureaucrat disagrees with the terms of the contract.  The unilateral rewriting of business and financial agreements by the federal government is a practice that must stop because it undermines the process by which our country will emerge from this downturn.

>Our economy will recover and our nation will bounce back from this downturn if the federal government understands its real role in the marketplace.  The appropriate role of the federal government, and the job it should rightfully assume if we are going to see an increase in economic activity, the creation of jobs and the expansion of wealth, is to fulfill the duties of a referee.  A referee does not participate in the game but he or she does make sure that the rules are enforced.   When the federal government tries to participate in the economy by using its power to rewrite the rules and nullify agreements founded on mutual trust, then it exceeds its proper authority.  When, on the other hand, it enforces the rules fairly on all participants and holds parties to their contractual obligations, it is a party to the creation of the trust that is so necessary and vital to the operation of our economy.

The American people will emerge from this downturn strengthened for what lies ahead.  Chrysler Corporation and other companies that are going through restructuring will be poised to lead the way in the growing economy of the future, but only if the obligations that they have are not ignored or destroyed by irresponsible federal actions.  President Obama and his economic team must immediately cease their misguided efforts to dramatically make the government, and not the individual, the most important factor in our economy.

Published in the South Bend Tribune and the Northwest Indiana Times.

By: Brian Sikma

When traditional marriage supporters advocated for a state marriage amendment in 2008, Speaker Pat Bauer argued that such a constitutional amendment was unnecessary and redundant in light of Indiana’s existing state law.  Proponents of the amendment responded by saying that the same judicial reasoning that allowed courts in Massachusetts and elsewhere to challenge the constitutionality of marriage laws could be used by Indiana courts.  The Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and impose that new definition on the state proves the Speaker wrong, and marriage supporters right.

Unlike Massachusetts, a state known in recent decades for being highly “progressive” in both fiscal and social policy, Iowa is a mid-west state whose citizens have many of the same values that Hoosiers have.  One may have expected courts in states like California and Massachusetts to have activist judiciaries more than willing to redefine the definition of marriage.  But Iowa is not a state that would have been considered a prime candidate for this sort of judicial misrule.

Indiana legislators and policy makers should take close note of the Iowa decision and realize that what happened there could happen here.  Marriage is a fundamental institution in society and the state must act whenever necessary to protect its status and definition.  Without its presence as a bedrock unit in the makeup of society, our state cannot expect to move forward into a prosperous future.  The strength of our state, the well-being of our children, and the prosperity of our communities depend on our ability to protect marriage from those who would redefine it into something it has never been, and will never be able to successfully be.

Although this session of the General Assembly failed to act on a marriage amendment, with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Bray (R) being responsible for his committee’s failure to hear the matter in the Senate, the Iowa ruling will hopefully spur legislative leaders to action next session.

Judge David F. Hamilton

Judge David F. Hamilton

By: Brian Sikma

Without a doubt one of the most contentious issues of President Bush’s two terms in office was his appointment of various individuals to serve in the federal judiciary. In Article 2 Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States, the President is awarded the power to appoint judges to the federal judiciary. When this power is viewed in light of the doctrine of judicial review, the reasoning that justifies the power of the courts to overturn laws passed by Congress and regulations imposed by the Executive Branch if they are found to be un-constitutional, the power of judicial appointment is understood to be one of the more important roles that a President fills.

Since the inception of the federal judiciary, federal judges and justices have had to wrestle with a number of disputes over the meaning, purpose, and intent of the Constitution, various federal laws, government regulations, and treaties that have been ratified by the United States. Their job has not always been a high-profile one, but perhaps since the uproar over President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “court packing” scheme in the 1930s, their time in the limelight has grown. This increased attention has also come about as a result of some of the more activist decisions that have been handed down in opinions since the middle of the 20th Century.

Because a judge on the federal bench today will probably at some point hear crucial cases relating to abortion, same sex marriage, 2nd Amendment rights, interstate commerce, religious liberty, and even property rights (recall the Kelo v. City of New London decision that touched off a firestorm of controversy over eminent domain), and because judges are appointed for life, their nomination has become a rigorously public and political affair.

President Bush frequently chose to nominate individuals to the federal judiciary who embraced an originalist interpretation of the Constitution and who viewed their prospective role as one in which they should enforce the law and uphold the Constitution, not twist it to fit a convoluted yet politically correct way of interpretation. The vast majority of them believed that, whatever their personal political preferences, it was the job of legislators, executives and citizens to work together to change the law. They did not find rights to abortion, same-sex marriage, unrestrained eminent domain, or affirmative action in the Constitution.

Yet it was often because of these beliefs in a restrained and limited judiciary that led liberal groups and liberal senators, including the current President, to vehemently oppose the nomination of judges like Charles Pickering (who went unconfirmed), John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Janice Rogers Brown. These individuals were viewed as “dangerous” and a “menace” to the Constitution and to the freedom that we enjoy because they were not active enough to legislate from the bench. It is odd when those who refuse to distort the power of their office are deemed dangerous, but those who stop at nothing and from time to time use international law as a justification for superseding the plain meaning of our Constitution are hailed as champions of liberty.

Although the days of the fighting over President Bush’s judicial nominees are over, President Obama re-entered the judicial nominee fray in a different role on March 17 when he made his first judicial nomination. Since he is a former Constitutional law professor and liberal Senator who had the chance to vote on judicial nominations in the Senate, it was not hard to guess what sort of judges and justices President Obama would nominate.

In nominating Judge David F. Hamilton to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, President Obama solidified what many had already suspected about his approach to the judiciary. Judge Hamilton has served as the Chief Judge for the Federal District Court of the Southern District of the State of Indiana and in that capacity he has earned a reputation that runs counter to the flowery rhetoric that is now used to describe his temperament and qualifications.

Judge Hamilton drew the ire of many Hoosiers and a sizeable number of Indiana state legislators when he ruled in 2005 that prayers before the Indiana House of Representatives must not contain the words “Jesus Christ” or any other phrase that refers to the Christian faith. In a poorly researched opinion that relied on an amateurish ignorance of controlling precedent, he made it clear that prayer was allowed so long as it was to a vague, God-like figure that was not affiliated with any particular faith. Prayers that were clearly affiliated with non-Christian faiths were allowed to proceed.

Two years before his ruling imposing a gag order on the Indiana House of Representatives’ opening prayers, Hamilton struck down a state law requiring women seeking an abortion to be provided with information 18 hours before the abortion by either the doctor or staff regarding alternatives to abortion. The law did not seek to eliminate abortion, it only sought to make sure that women preparing to undergo a very serious medical procedure with important psychological consequences were aware of the fact that they do not have to kill their unborn child to deal with the situation.

Tellingly, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals-the very court Hamilton has been nominated to serve on-has found occasion to do damage control and reign in his aggressive rewriting of the Constitution and legal precedent. Now that he will be sitting on the court that has often overturned his judicial misbehavior, he is in a position to support activist judges like himself who are working hard at the federal district court level in Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

In an attempt to set a bipartisan tone for his first judicial nomination, President Obama noted that he made his decision in consultation with Indiana Senators Evan Bayh (D) and Richard Lugar (R). Both senators indicated their support for the nomination. It is to be expected that Sen. Bayh would support Hamilton since he held an official position in the 1990s in then-Governor Evan Bayh’s administration. However, Sen. Lugar’s support for the choice is deeply unfortunate and greatly disappointing. Sen. Lugar should have already known that Judge Hamilton does not have a record of service indicating a qualification to serve at a higher level in the judiciary.

Both of Indiana’s Senators could have, and should have, chosen to quietly set aside the politics of perceived bipartisanship and opposed this nomination on the grounds that Judge Hamilton did not serve his office well when he used his power to impose on the people of Indiana a very twisted and misunderstood view of the Constitution. Hoosiers know that Judge Hamilton’s record is not one marked by wisdom, sound judgment, and a solid legal philosophy. Now it’s up to the Senate to learn that lesson too.

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