Private speech in public places
Indiana officials continue to struggle with court definitions of “government speech” and “private speech” and what they mean for people who want so say controversial things in public spaces.
Personalized license plates are government speech and not a person's speech protected by the First Amendment, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled. So the Bureau of Motor Vehicles can permit some license plates and prohibit others.
But courthouse grounds are a public forum in which people have First Amendment rights, says a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, so the Tippecanoe County Commissioners do not have the right to approve some rallies and deny others.
'Being a victim' of sexual assault
Some things have become so politicized that it's almost impossible to approach them with any attempt at common sense. Just ask Republican state Rep. Jim Lucas, sometimes described as “a prolific Facebook user and outspoken supporter of the Second Amendment.”
Responding to a story in which a sexual assault victims' advocate recounted her own sexual assault, he posted a hand-written letter to the author, suggesting a follow-up story “about the thousands of Hoosier women that are taking steps & learning how not to be a victim.” Some commentators stood up for Lucas and said women who learn to use and carry firearms are “empowering” themselves. But most let him have —well, both barrels.
Hoosier kids just doing so-so
Each year, the Annie E. Casey Foundation comes out with a Kids Count data book measuring the well-being of children by looking at several key areas, including education. If you look at the 2017 edition, Indiana seems to be doing pretty well in several areas.
Teen substance abuse in Indiana has dropped by 30 percent. Children with health insurance has improved to 93 percent, and fewer families have a high housing burden, which is spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs.
But the state doesn't look so good in other areas. The teen death rate increased by 11 percent from 2010 to 2015. Also, 13 percent are still living in poverty. Education continues to be a problem.
Time to get rid of the parties?
Paul Helmke, former Fort Wayne mayor and currently a professor with the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, tweeted this recently: “I have long argued that we should move to nonpartisan elections — no party label on ballot. Many mayors (outside of IN) are elected this way.”
To which Dan Canon replied: “Yeah, some judicial races are like that, too. Problem is that people just vote for whoever is at the top of the ticket.”
To which Helmke replied: “With no party label, there is no 'ticket' — voters may skip races lower on ballot but that may be better than voting just because of 'party.'”
It was an interesting exchange, which could spur needed debate.
'Obstacles' are just the point
It's a shame that Indiana officials have to tell what amounts to a lie in order to defend one of the state's new laws as sound public policy. Indiana Solicitor General Thomas M. Fisher testified before District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker that, no, no, no, the state's parental notification law most certainly does not pose a “substantial obstacle” to a pregnant, unemancipated minor getting an abortion.
But, of course, putting up obstacles to abortions, by unemancipated minors or anybody else, is exactly the state's mission, just as it is the mission of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, which has sued the state over the law, to make getting those abortions as easy as possible.