Tag Archives: Indiana

Why Can’t We Be More Like Oregon?

As I’ve previously noted, early in the session, Indiana’s legislature moved quickly to kill a bill that would have kept our polling places open for two extra hours. (Indiana’s polls are the nation’s earliest to close). It was just one more effort to suppress the votes of people–mostly elderly, working poor and/or black–who might vote for the “wrong” party.

If we really wanted our citizens to vote (“we” clearly don’t), we’d take a leaf from Oregon’s book.

Call it “motor voter” on steroids.

New legislation signed into law today in Oregon paves the way for the state to one day have close to 100% voter registration. The new law takes the federal “motor voter” law to new levels and registers a person to vote when they obtain or renew a state driver’s license or ID – and it’s partially retroactive.

The law dictates that once residents interact with the state DMV – whether to get a license or ID for the first time, or renew an existing one – they’ll become registered to vote if they aren’t already. The registration will be provisional for 21 days, during which time applicants will be notified of their new status and be given a chance to become affiliated with a political party or to opt-out of the voting process altogether. In essence, Oregon will now be the first state to approach voting with an “opt-out” mindset, as opposed to “opt-in.”

I’ve written before about the virtues of Oregon’s vote by mail system, which is not only convenient, but allows time for thoughtful consideration of ballot choices. Every registered voter is automatically sent a ballot about two weeks before Election Day, and can either mail their ballots back or return them in person.

According to the Oregonian, 

Because of Oregon’s careful signature verification process, fraud and other electoral mischief are virtually nil.

Recounts in extremely close races are based on paper ballots of every vote — not receipts or electronic voting machines. So there’s no danger in Oregon of software hackers casting ersatz votes by the thousands — not to mention no electricity to operate electronic voting machines or impassable roads and polling places 3 feet underwater.

In the 2014 midterm election, 53.5% of Oregon’s registered voters actually voted. The state was fifth in voter turnout

Indiana was dead last. Gee–I wonder why.

 

 

This Business Serves Everyone

The mis-named “Religious Freedom” bill is gliding through the Indiana General Assembly, where–despite polls showing the movement’s loss of members and power– lawmakers still tremble at the thought of crossing (no pun intended) the Religious Right.

The bill is a transparent effort to dignify discrimination by businesses offended–offended, I tell you–by the very idea of taking money for goods and services from same-sex couples. Of course, by its terms, it will allow establishments to turn away anyone they dislike based upon “sincere religious convictions,” so the potential for mischief is great, but everyone knows that the intended target of the measure are those uppity homosexuals.

Of course, as Erika Smith has pointed out, merchants can already discriminate against gays with impunity, since Indiana’s civil rights law doesn’t protect against discrimination based upon sexual orientation–so an additional “We’ll show you!” bill will basically serve to announce to the rest of the country that Indiana is a state where bigots hold sway.

We may not be able to muster sufficient rational candidates and voters to fill our legislative chambers with grown-ups and nice people, but that doesn’t mean reasonable Hoosiers don’t have recourse. I am delighted to learn of “Open for Service.”

Welcome to Open For Service! We are a grassroots campaign built to honor businesses that will not turn a customer away for any differences. To register your business, it is $10.00 for a sticker and web badge with the proceeds going to SCORE a national non-profit that mentors people who would like to start a business of their own. Join us, hang out and promote an “open minded economy!”

The stickers say “This Business Serves Everyone.”

One of the great virtues of capitalism is that consumers can choose where to spend their dollars. I patronize Costco rather than Walmart because I want to support businesses that treat their employees well and avoid those who don’t. I have the right to never set foot in Hobby Lobby, or buy sandwiches from Chik-fil-A–in short, a market economy offers me the right to make choices based upon any criteria important to me.

So if, as I fear, this piece of nastiness passes into law, I plan to patronize stores with stickers–and to ask hard questions before spending my dollars at stores without them.

The Times They Are REALLY A-Changin’

At least, they are changing in Georgia. From the Georgia publication, GA Voice, we learn

If you didn’t think things could get anymore dramatic in the fight over the so-called “religious freedom” bills, think again. Michael Bowers, the infamous Republican former Georgia attorney general who was at the center of two of the state’s biggest LGBT rights cases, has been hired by Georgia Equality to help fight passage of HB 218 and SB 129. In other news, dogs and mail carriers have reached a truce, Jennifer Aniston was spotted antiquing with Angelina Jolie, and Batman is going in on a summer home in Cape Cod with the Joker.

This was the Bowers of the infamous Bowers v. Hardwick case upholding Georgia’s law against gay sodomy–a case that made criminals out of LGBT folks until it was finally overruled in Lawrence v. Texas. He is now working with Georgia Equality to fight discrimination against gay citizens and others–discrimination that he says these measures will protect.

It is no exaggeration that the proposed [measures] could be used to justify putting hoods back on the Ku Klux Klan. For decades, Georgia’s Anti-Mask Act has prohibited wearing masks in public.

The law was enacted to prohibit the Ku Klux Klan from wearing hoods in public, and by extension, to discourage participation in its activities. While this statute contains exceptions for holidays, sporting events, theatrical performances, and gas masks, it does not contain a religious exercise exception – because many Klansmen used religion to justify participation in the Klan.

But the proposed [measures] would create a religious exception that was purposefully excluded. Anonymous participation in hate groups would undoubtedly rise….

Here in Indiana, the same measure is sailing through the General Assembly.

Bower’s analysis reminded me that Indiana used to be “ground zero” for the Klan; I’d like to think we’ve evolved….that the times are also changing here.

I guess we’ll know once the legislative session concludes.

Not So Fast, Mississippi!

Doug Masson sort of summed up the Indiana General Assembly’s current legislative session when he posted “Indiana should change our slogan from “Honest to Goodness, Indiana!” to “Not so fast, Mississippi!”

Our lawmakers are back in session: engaging in childish vendettas against the lone Democrat who won statewide office, ignoring environmentalists and family farmers who oppose creating a constitutional right to use “effective” farming techniques (aka a “right to pollute” measure desired by the big corporate farms),  advancing a “religious” right to refuse service to LGBT customers, exempting charter and voucher schools from ISTEP….the embarrassing list goes on. And on.

Granted, Mississippi has a definite head start. One recent bit of news from the state that keeps “Hoosier” from meaning “bottom of the barrel”: a Justice Court judge in that state has just been accused of striking a mentally challenged young man and yelling, “Run, n—–, run.” (And yes, the elided word is just what you think it is.)

Reading about that incident was appalling enough, but as I read further, I discovered that in Mississippi, the only requirement to be elected judge of a Justice Court is a high school diploma. (There are those in the Indiana legislature who share Mississippi’s contempt for education, although we haven’t taken it quite that far. Yet.) After taking office, the judges are required to take up to six hours of training a year.

Six whole hours. Every year. That should compensate for the lack of college or law school.

It may seem that Mississippi has a lock on the batshit crazy medal–but back home in Indiana, we’re barely at the midpoint of a long legislative session. Don’t count Indiana out.

 

SB 500–Because Who Needs Oversight? Or Civics?

I have absolutely no idea why anyone would think Indiana needs a bill like SB 500, but State Senator Pete Miller (R-Avon) evidently thinks accountability is a communist plot–and civics a “frill.” He says his bill will “return local control.” The nonpartisan Marion County Commission on Youth (MCCOY) says what it will really do is remove accountability from Hoosier schools. A few of the (many) things this bill provides:

  • It makes accreditation of schools voluntary and removes requirements for school improvement plans, including schools that have been designated as needing improvement.
  • It removes any reporting of demographics of students or any reporting of suspensions or expulsions, including the reasons for the suspension or expulsion.
  • It establishes a “school data board” that will review all data collection requirements with the aim to “combine, streamline, or eliminate” data reporting by schools. No information will be able to be mandated for school data collection unless it goes through this cozy little committee first.
  • It removes school safety reporting requirements including suspensions and expulsions for alcohol, weapons and drugs.

The measure also removes a number of regulations related to student safety, bullying and mental health awareness. SB 500 entirely removes the current rule against cyber-bullying using a school’s computer, computer system or computer network.

What I find particularly outrageous at a time when Indiana ranks in the bottom tier of states in civic literacy and voter turnout, the bill also removes the requirement that instruction be provided in both public and nonpublic schools on the United States Constitution or the Indiana Constitution.

There’s much, much more. The bill eliminates parents’ ability to review instructional materials, and takes away a variety of other rights that parents have come to expect. But the major thrust of the bill is to stop making data on the schools’ academic and safety  performance available. As MCCOY notes,

Schools are required to compile and report certain types of data, particularly related to safety and discipline not only to protect students and inform parents and the public about how safe a school is, but also to ensure that they are providing high-quality education to all of their students and that certain students are not being left behind or excluded.

If they don’t have to report, parents and taxpayers will have no way of knowing how the schools are performing. I assume that’s the point. The GOP is constantly hyping school “choice,” but evidently they don’t want parents to have access to data that might actually inform that choice.

This bill is being heard Wednesday, January 28 at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate Education and Career Development Committee in the Senate Chambers. Anyone who can attend should make every effort to be there.

To view the bill in its entirety, visit: http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2015/bills/senate/500#document-f7a3b2a7