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Friday, May 7, 2021
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  • MARTINSVILLE – Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. Ah, yes, we are here in Indiana watching as Michigan and Illinois sell their residents down the dream river of free marijuana tax money. Setting aside the discussion of how one can use “free” to describe money derived from taxation for another time, let’s address the morality of the marijuana legalizing bill by the 11 or 12 states that have legalized marijuana as a recreational drug.  Here we go. And, please set aside for another time the discussion of how drugs may or may not be truly recreational.  A critical and basic element of the definition of a moral government is that it be honest and trustworthy in its communications to the people. You know, like tell the truth.  The simple passage of a bill garnering tax revenue from the sale of marijuana and no criminal penalties does not make marijuana “legal” in any state while the current federal government statutes and regulations remain. A governor who wants to claim a moral high road in supporting the state level legalization that pretends to legalize marijuana should also provide a truth in legislation statement. 
  • MARTINSVILLE — As the Indiana General Assembly begins to put a wrap on the 2019 session and prepare to leave Indianapolis, I am somewhat sorry to see them leave town. I fell in love with the Indiana General Assembly in the fourth grade when I paged for Rep. John Thomas of Brazil. Rep. Thomas is my model of what a legislator should be. He was thoughtful, a smart lawyer, and a great example for the next generation. If my path had included legislative service, l would have tried to be a conscientious legislator like he was. Legislative watching is a bit of a passion for me, the same as bird-watching or rock-collecting is for normal people. Spending free time watching the committee work via webcast and, of course, the full chamber sessions for both the House of Representatives and the Senate is better than watching the news on television.  
  • MARTINSVILLE – “Round and round it goes, where it stops, nobody knows” is a line from the “Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour.”  Kris Kristofferson sings a mighty fine song about not knowing where she stops. Sometimes not knowing where it stops is OK. But for law and policy, not so much! Our Spidey Sense should be tingling as the Indiana General Assembly works on its second-half pass. Other than knowing sine die will happen, who knows what we will have when the lawmakers stop? We do not know what the final version of a bill will be. Which of the shiny object bills will go to the governor? What will the consequences be if those bills are signed into law? “Shiny object” is a label for a bill that seems to accomplish something that sounds good to the public but either does nothing, costs more than it’s worth, or is detrimental in some way no one considered. For example, Senate Bill 36 is a shiny object bill that passed with a vote of 40 yeas and 9 nays to create an Indiana felony registry.  
  • MARTINSVILLE – As a crossroads of the nation, Indiana has been surprisingly oblivious, even impervious, to political and social changes. That resistance includes writing ethical standards for office holders, state and local. Dr. Maury Kramer once explained his observations about Hoosier resistance to change with a comparison between settlers and pioneers. Now, several years down the road, his observations applied to the public ethics in Indiana are spot on. Growing up with parents who participated in community activities, being a precinct committeemen and going to political rallies at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, l did not know about political corruption as a kid. It was not until I started practicing law in southern Indiana when I was told how $5 and a pint could vote.  Even then, ever an optimist about honesty and inclusion, I worked for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970’s. I tried cases in the 1980’s that involved local officials profiting from bribery.  On the Court of Appeals, I saw cases from around the entire state that involved allegations of bribery and other official misconduct. 
  • MARTINSVILLE – With all the various sexual harassment stories popping up in the news, one is reminded of the old walnut shell game. Wondering which shell hides a kernel of corn is fun for a child, but for adults hunting for kernels of truth in the name of fairness, the political shell game is troubling. What factors hide the truth when public officials are charged with sexual harassment or other objectionable conduct? Universally, there are unwritten codes of conduct to not be a tattletale. Additionally, when an elected official holds perceived power over staff or other office holders, then support or silence may be seen as a critical political survival tactic. If the conduct and the threat of public knowledge are serious enough, an accused officeholder may make a payment or a settlement that includes a provision that the settlement or payment cannot be disclosed. This kind of agreement is known as a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and has historically withheld the kernel of truth from public scrutiny. Such agreements or settlement are rumored to be fairly common. Who knows whether Indiana has legislators who have paid for such agreements? There are no requirements for public disclosure about sexual harassment claim payments and Indiana officeholders.
  • MARTINSVILLE – There are days when I think how far we have come in making justice look like our community and then are the days when I wonder what I was I thinking. I am not sure we will ever see political selection, merit, and diversity come together in a way that reflects all members of our communities. The appointment of Judge Elizabeth F. Tavitas to the Court of Appeals offers a point of hope and optimism for increased inclusion of women on the Indiana bench as one facet of leadership in the legal community.  Her appointment bodes well even though I do not know Judge Tavitas well. However, other judges whom I do know well and whose opinions I respect, know her and consider her to be an excellent judge. On Oct. 1, I had the pleasure and honor of attending her formal swearing-in and robing ceremony. So, it was a good day to celebrate and recognize Judge Tavitas’ accomplishments. I found a specific pleasure in attending Judge Tavitas’s ceremony because 30 years ago this month, Gov. Robert Orr announced that he was appointing me to the Indiana Court of Appeals. 
  • MARTINSVILLE – Recent developments out of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) contained good news on several issues. Secretary Perdue announced more details of how the USDA plans to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation by foreign nations. In his comments, Secretary Perdue summarized the reasons why the President should be given some negotiating space. “President Trump has been standing up to China and other nations, sending the clear message that the United States will no longer tolerate their unfair trade practices, which include non-tariff trade barriers and the theft of intellectual property.” Despite the naysayers in the Washington, D.C. area, the outcomes might benefit all sectors of the US economy, both consumers and producers. Our trade principles should be balanced, free and fair. For years, from Argentina’s default to World Trade Organization decisions, I had questions about United States and our bland acceptance of grossly unfair trade practices from other countries. China has been outrageously open in stealing our intellectual property, but certainly not alone in those activities.
  • MARTINSVILLE – Hyper headlines about trade, tariffs, and treaties are really nothing new, and neither are the terrified commentaries about what is going to happen to the U.S. economy. The history of trade debate is part of our country’s crazy quilt of political shifts and turns in policy. Just a quick look at history can calm us and provide a better context for the current trade debate.  Today’s low U.S. tariff levels are the product of a (mostly) bipartisan consensus in favor of progressively freer trade that dates back to the post-World War II era. But that consensus was emphatically not the case for the first 150 years or so of the nation’s history: Tariff policy was the subject of fierce disagreement between Republicans (and earlier, Whigs) who favored high rates to protect American industries from foreign competition, and Democrats who by and large argued that any tariffs higher than necessary to fund the federal government unfairly taxed the many to benefit the few. To be clear, we have learned lessons from the Smoot-Hawley tariffs. I do not suggest we should repeat that experience.  
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  • Doden first 2024 GOP INGov contender to explore run
    “I have spent the last decade focused on tackling Indiana’s greatest challenges and implementing conservative solutions that get real results for the people of Indiana. As a husband, father and Hoosier who is passionate about restoring excellence to our communities, I believe that our brightest days are ahead. While the political class tells us that they are solving our biggest problems, people tell me it often feels like they are more worried about keeping their office, or their next political career move, than improving our lives. Many leaders who know me well have encouraged me to bring my authentic, bold, no-nonsense approach to the Indiana Governor’s race. As a lifelong Republican, I am eager to support others in the party who have vision, character, and who want to see Indiana be bold. With three years before the 2024 Primary, we will work not only to win the Republican nomination for Governor, but to ensure that high-caliber Hoosiers who want to make Indiana even better have a chance to do just that.” - Republican Eric Doden, who has formed an exploratory committee for the 2024 Republican gubernatorial nomination. Doden is a former CEO of the Greater Fort Wayne Inc. business organization and was appointed by Gov. Mike Pence in 2013 as president of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., a position he held until stepping down in 2015. Doden is the first declared GOP contender in a field expected to include Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Attorney General Todd Rokita, Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer, and former state senator Jim Merritt.
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  • HPI Power 50: Crisis shapes 2021 list

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    and MARK SCHOEFF JR.

    INDIANAPOLIS – After two decades of publishing Power 50 lists in the first week of January, this one comes in a true crisis atmosphere. As we watched in horror the U.S. Capitol being overrun by supporters of President Trump on Wednesday, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 8,000 Hoosiers and 350,000 Americans, shutting down our state and nation for nearly two months last spring. While vaccines are coming, there will be a distinct BC (Before COVID) and AC delineations as this epic story comes to a close. It gripped like a vise key figures, from Gov. Eric Holcomb to Vice President Pence. It delayed an election, closed schools and restaurants, reordered the way we do business and buy things, and will set in motion ramifications that we can’t truly understand (like the virus itself) at this point in time. There’s another crisis at hand. It’s our society’s civics deficit, fueled by apathy that transcends our schools and societal engagement, and allowed to fester by a news media in atrophy. That three members of the Indiana congressional delegation – U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Reps. Jim Banks and Jackie Walorski – signed on to a protest this week, induced by losing President Donald Trump to “investigate” widespread vote fraud that doesn’t exist, is another indicator of the risks a polarized and undisciplined political spectrum brings to the fragile American democratic experience.

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