Monday, February 20, 2006

Senate's health perk: They still don't get it

The West Lafayette Courier and Journal editors write:

Have your boss try on the thought of a retiree health plan that kicks in after six years on the job, offers coverage at today's premiums, lasts for life and even covers ex-spouses.

Just don't blame us if the peals of laughter ring in your ears as you slink back to your cubicle. Blame [Indiana] senators who just don't get it.

Journal and Courier Online - Editorial

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Old-school politician flunking government reform |

Matthew Tully is a columnist for the Indianapolis Star. He has an interesting column on this session of the general assembly. He writes:

The bill, proposed for the second year in a row by Gov. Mitch Daniels, seeks to go after the pensions of some government workers -- such as excise police and gaming agents -- who take bribes or otherwise rip off the state...

This proposed law would let the state cancel the taxpayer-funded portion of a pension if the worker "is convicted of a felony arising out of (their) service." The felony must be tied to on-the-job "fraud, deceit or abuse," and must result in "financial loss to the public or an unlawful benefit to an individual."

To summarize: If you use your state job to steal money from taxpayers, don't expect taxpayers to fund your retirement...

The bill, however, does not meet Garton's Rules of Good Government. This year, that rule appears to be this: If an idea has anything to do with good government, there's a good chance Garton will make sure it's good and dead...

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, who introduced the bill for the governor, ... got the bill through the Senate Pensions Committee last month, only to watch Garton dump it. Kruse made clear the decision to kill the bill was Garton's...

Garton... acted amid talk of amending the bill to include scofflaw lawmakers -- not a popular idea with some lawmakers. The problem was that passing the bill without lawmakers would be a bad public relations move. So Garton did the easy thing. He shelved the bill.

Still, Garton is not the only one at fault. Some Democrats opposed the bill because unions opposed it. Sen. Sam Smith, D-East Chicago, told me he voted against the bill in committee because he was asked to by "somebody back home."

He would not elaborate beyond saying the bill opponent was a woman who could lose her state pension. Hmm, who could lose a pension under the bill? Only felons who stole from the state. Is that a solid source of advice for a state legislator?

Old-school politician flunking government reform |

Friday, February 10, 2006

Brian Howey: Garton has the power... and two opponents

Brian Howey is publisher of The Howey Political Report, the weekly briefing on Indiana politics. He writes the following comments on Indiana's Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Garton:

Just about every major piece of legislation passing through the Senate has needed Garton’s imprimatur. While Gov. Mitch Daniels and other Republicans have often blamed the three previous Democratic govenors for this weedy mess, it was actually Garton and the previous Senate Finance Chairman, Larry Borst, who determined what was in the budget, which tax got cut, or which Hoosier industry was revitalized...

Garton is powerful. Governors worried about angering him. Legislators quake in their boots...

He’s got two opponents this election cycle. Greg Walker, a Republican accountant from Columbus, is challenging the president in the May primary. Urged on by state and national Right to Life organizations, he will take on Garton’s 81 percent pro-life voting record (he has mixed votes on informed consent and has voted against cloning restrictions).

In the November election, Garton finds Democrat Terry Coriden, who served as city attorney for Columbus from 1996 to 2004...

The recent formula for dislodging Senate dinosaurs has been the primary, as Sens. Brent Waltz and Jeff Drozda pulled off in 2004 and 2002...

Brian Howey's Newspaper Column: Duoh! Garton has the power... and two opponents

Advance Indiana: Garton Now Has Serious Democrat Opponent

Gary R. Welsh is a practicing attorney in downtown Indianapolis. He writes:

Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton can now expect a serious Democratic opponent in this November's election if he survives a primary challenge he faces in May according to the Howey Political Report. Long-time former Columbus city attorney, Terry Coriden, shown above, filed to run as a Democrat in Senate District 41 today.

Garton is already facing primary opposition from Greg Walker, a conservative accountant from Columbus...

Earlier this week Howey reported that Garton told The Republic in Columbus that he was planning to make changes to the legislator health care for life perk, but he made it clear that he did not understand the public's outcry over the benefit. Both Walker and Coriden should have success in exploiting this issue to their advantage.

Advance Indiana: Garton Now Has Serious Democrat Opponent

Advance Indiana: Is Garton About To Be Dethroned?

Gary R. Welsh is a practicing attorney in downtown Indianapolis. He writes (28 Jan 2006):

In the last election differing Republican interests gathered to topple the long-time chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Larry Borst (R-Indianapolis) in the Republican primary with a little-known candidate Brent Waltz. With the announcement at week's end that the longest serving Senate President Pro Tem in Indiana's history, Robert Garton (R-Columbus) will have a primary opponent, it appears those same forces may be coalescing to bring about a similar fate to Garton.

The Howey Political Report tells us that Greg Walker, an accountant from Columbus, filed the necessary papers with the Secretary of State on Friday to challenge Garton in District 41. Garton has never had a serious primary challenge since joining the Senate 36 years ago in 1970, and he has rarely had a serious general election opponent. If Garton isn't running scared yet, he should be.

Garton has never endeared himself to the Christian right. He struck out a moderate position early in his Senate career when he fought for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, parting company with many of his more conservative Republican colleagues...

It is likely that Walker will not only have plenty of grassroots support from the Christian right in getting out the vote for him in the May primary, but he will also likely have money from disparate Republicans. That would probably include the likes of former Indiana State GOP Chairman Rex Early, who was instrumental in helping Brent Waltz raise big bucks to challenge Larry Borst two years ago...

Garton's enemies will have plenty of political fodder with which to chip away at him. The worst albatross he faces is the ridiculously self-serving health-insurance-for-life benefit he and his fellow lawmakers created for themselves several years ago. In the face of the staggering liability and public outrage over the program, Garton has remained steadfast in his opposition to modifying the program...

Advance Indiana: Is Garton About To Be Dethroned?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

U.S. & Indiana Code on time zones and home rule

Following is a link for United States Code, Title 15, Chapter 6, Subchapter IX, that provides DOT the authority to adjust the time zones.

Until today, I had primarily viewed the U.S. Code at this page.

I went looking further today and found out that this is sort of a "Reader's Digest Condensed Version".

The version at the following link is quite a bit more comprehensive, giving some interesting history about when various facets of Subchapter IX were enacted.

One thing I noticed for the first time is that the enforcement provision in Section 260a appears to apply only to that section, which deals with the dates of beginning and ending DST, not the other Subchapter IX sections.

Also in 260a, I don't remember anyone ever pointing out the following clauses before:

"Ex. Ord. No. 11751, Dec. 15, 1973, 38 F.R. 34725, ... The Secretary of Transportation... is hereby designated and empowered... to grant an exemption from section 3(a) of the Act (which establishes daylight saving time as standard time), or a realignment of a time zone limit, pursuant to a proclamation of a Governor of a State finding that the exemption or realignment is necessary to avoid undue hardship... in the State or a part thereof...

"In deciding to grant or deny an exemption or realignment, the Secretary shall consider, among other things, ... the convenience of commerce, as well as ... undue hardship to large segments of the population..."

I did not hear the DOT even mention this "undue hardship" clause in its description of the criteria it considered for its recent ruling, nor did I hear anything about the governor's power to issue a proclamation of the hardship that falls on Hoosiers due to our being less than half as wide as all of the other states that are split between two time zones.

Also, I think I may have previously opined on Section 262, which deals with "Duty to observe standard time of zones", that it appears to technically only apply to interstate and international common carriers, federal government employees and offices, and legal contracts. Unlike Section 260a, Section 262 has no section on penalties and enforcement for non-compliance.

This could be picking nits, but it might help explain why the federal and state governments never seemed to be much concerned about the five counties which observed eastern daylight saving time for so many years without any official state or federal sanction or authorization.

It might also have a bearing on the success of any attempted "home rule" by counties who prefer to be in a different zone than that assigned by the DOT -- particularly any eastern counties which might prefer central time.

It's interesting that Section 265 actually provides for a couple of specific Texas counties to decide their own time zone just by making a written request.


On another subject, I also dug up the section of Indiana Code (36-1-3) that has to do with home rule (it is actually called that).

Somewhat interesting reading. One thing that particularly caught my eye is that in 1980 the legislature changed the default from the assumption that the local body does not have a particular power to the assumption that it does -- strengthening the hand of local officials in any areas that might be considered "gray areas" of the law.

"A unit has: (1) all powers granted it by statute; and (2) all other powers necessary or desirable in the conduct of its affairs, even though not granted by statute... the omission of a power from such a list does not imply that units lack that power... State and local agencies may review or regulate the exercise of powers by a unit only to the extent prescribed by statute."

If I read it correctly, the term "unit" refers to any governmental entity smaller than the state as a whole.

Looks to me like the feds might be hard-pressed to justify suddenly beginning to take enforcement seriously after 40-some years of effectively condoning violation by the five counties near Cincinnati and Louisville.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Northwestern Indiana county changes mind on Central time

I see that county officials in northwestern Indiana's Pulaski County have voted unamimously to declare "home rule" and stay on eastern time with Indianapolis, whether the DOT grants their appeal to do so officially or not.

While I personally favor central time for the entire state, I am pleased to see this declaration of local sovereignty. Perhaps there are a few counties on eastern who would prefer to join their neighbors on central if it turns out to be this easy.

Pulaski County officials point to the five counties in southeast Indiana that have been exercising "home rule" for decades to keep their clocks in sync with Cincinnati and Louisville, without any official sanction from the state or federal governments, and yet apparently with no objections from them either.

I'll bet there will be lots of pro-eastern folks pleased to see this move, who would raise quite a howl if St. Joseph decided to follow the same precedent and go on central time instead.

AP Wire | 02/06/2006 | Northwestern Indiana county changes mind on Central time

Thursday, February 02, 2006

South Bend Tribune Forums -> Time Zone

I just had this forum called to my attention for the first time.

I think DST may end up being a plus for Hoosier businesses engaged in interstate commerce, but I thought the legislature and governor should have petitioned for the whole state to be on central time (possibly excepting the five counties near Cincinnati and Louisville).

This is because we're three time further from the middle of the eastern zone (near Philadelphia) than from the middle of central (near St. Louis). Just look at January 30 in South Bend. There are about 10 hours of sunlight that day. The way the time zones are set up, that should mean sunrise about 7:00 am and sunset about 5:00 pm -- 5 hours before midday and 5 hours after. Instead, on EST, the actual sunrise is 7:58 am and sunset 5:59 pm. (

While people certainly disagree on whether it's a good thing or not, at least we can all agree that this is virtually one hour of DST in the middle of winter.

At the other extreme, look at August 11 -- another day for which the math is pretty simple to do in your head. There are about 14 hours of daylight. With one hour shifted from morning to evening for DST, that should mean sunrise about 6:00 am and sunset about 8:00 pm -- 6 hours before midday and 8 hours after. Instead, the actual sunrise is 6:49 am and 8:50 pm.

Again, people disagree on whether this is a good thing or not, but at least we can all plainly see that EDT puts us within ten minutes of what some would call "double daylight time".

The latest summer sunset in South Bend on EDT will be 9:24 pm in late June. It won't really get dark for another 30 to 60 minutes after that. I lived in South Bend from 1987 to 1992. I thought 8:24 pm was plenty late enough for sunset. There are about 15 hours 10 minutes of sunlight that day. Even on year-round CDT/EST as we have had for decades, 8:24 pm sunset still means about 48 minutes of morning sunlight shifted to the evening. That always seemed reasonably close to one hour of DST to me.

Following up on the anonymous comment of January 19, while it's clearly true we are not "part of Chicago", we're much further from being "part of" New York City or Philadelphia, which are near the center of the eastern zone.

Following up on another anonymous comment that day, it's a bit of exaggeration to say that sunset would be 4pm in the winter. The earliest sunset in South Bend would be about 4:15 pm in mid-December, and true darkness does not really set in for another 30 to 60 minutes.

When you decide to live at 42 degrees from the equator, like South Bend, your shortest winter day is only about 9 hours 10 minutes of sunlight. If you divide this evenly between morning and evening, it is reasonable to expect the latest winter sunrise around 7:30 am and the earliest sunset around 4:30 pm, give or take 30 minutes depending on how far you live from the middle of the nearest time zone. It's just simple math. If this is not tolerable, then moving nearer to the equator is the only thing that will really help. There just aren't that many hours to spread around this time of year.

"Home rule" is not that outlandish of a consideration for any county unhappy with where the boundary got drawn. Look at the five counties near Cincinnati and Louisville. Both the state and federal governments have been basically looking the other way for the last 40 or so years, while these counties observed eastern daylight time seven months of the year without the rest of the state, and without any official state or federal authorization or sanction to do so.

Regarding the comment from January 19, it's easy to jump to the wrong conclusion about whether more of our neighbors are on central time or eastern. Actually it's split just about in half -- about 394 miles of Indiana borders land on central time and 393 miles borders eastern. What people forget is that Kentucky is split between two time zones too.

Bill Starr
Columbus, Indiana
Thu, 2 Feb 2006, 11:42pm EST/CDT

South Bend Tribune Forums -> Time Zone

Searching for a New Direction by Ron Paul

Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas. Congressman Paul helps put the Abramoff lobbying scandal in perspective.

[I]f we merely tinker with current attitudes about what role the federal government ought to play in our lives, it won’t do much to solve the ethics crisis. True reform is impossible without addressing the immorality of wealth redistribution. Merely electing new leaders and writing more rules to regulate those who petition Congress will achieve nothing...

Could it be that we’re all looking in the wrong places for a solution to recurring, constant, and pervasive corruption in government? ...

Believe me, if everybody benefited equally there would be scant outcry over a little bribery and influence peddling. As our country grows poorer and more indebted, fewer people benefit. The beneficiaries are not the hard-working, honest people who pay the taxes. The groups that master the system of lobbying and special interest legislation are the ones who truly benefit...

The founders detested democracy and avoided the use of the word in all the early documents. Today, most Americans accept without question a policy of sacrificing life, property, and dollars to force “democracy” on a country 6,000 miles away. This tells us how little opposition there is to “democracy.” ...

Our system of democracy has come to mean worshipping the notion that a majority vote for the distribution of government largesse, loot confiscated from the American people through an immoral tax system, is morally and constitutionally acceptable...

Buying influence is much more lucrative than working and producing for a living. The trouble is the process invites moral corruption...

Dealing with lobbying scandals while ignoring the scandal of unconstitutional runaway government will solve nothing. If people truly believe that reform is the solution, through regulating lobbyists and increasing congressional reporting requirements, the real problem will be ignored and never identified. This reform only makes things worse...

The theft that the federal government commits against its citizens, and the power that Congress has assumed illegally, are the real crimes that need to be dealt with. In this regard we truly do need a new direction. Get rid of the evil tax system; the fraudulent monetary system; and the power of government to run our lives, the economy, and the world; and the Abramoff types would be exposed for the mere gnats they are. There would be a lot less of them, since the incentives to buy politicians would be removed...

Even under today’s flawed system of democratic government, which is dedicated to redistributing property by force, a lot could be accomplished if government attracted men and women of good will and character...

Considering the [Iraq] war had nothing to do with our national security, we’re talking big bucks being wasted and lining the pockets of many well-connected American corporations. Waste, fraud, stupidity, and no-bid contracts characterize the process. And it’s all done in the name of patriotism and national security. Dissenters are accused of supporting the enemy. Now this is a rip-off that a little tinkering with House rules and restraints on lobbyists won’t do much to solve...

[W]e now qualify as the greatest international debtor nation in history. Excessive consumption using borrowed money is hardly the way to secure a sound economy...

The biggest rip-off of all – the paper money system that is morally and economically equivalent to counterfeiting – is never questioned. It is the deceptive tool for transferring billions from the unsuspecting poor and middle-class to the special interest rich...

Wealth is transferred from one group to another, and it’s all related to the system that allows politicians and the central banks to create money out of thin air. It’s literally legalized counterfeiting...

The incentive for Americans is to buy consumer goods from other countries whose people are willing to save and invest in their factories and jobs. The only way we can continue this charade is to borrow excess dollars back from the foreign governments who sell us goods, and perpetuate the pretense of wealth that we enjoy...

During this administration the dollar has... depreciated in terms of gold, the time-honored and reliable measurement of a nation’s currency, by an astounding 55%...

Once Rome converted from a republic to an empire, she depreciated her currency to pay the bills. This eventually led to Rome’s downfall. That is exactly what America is facing unless we change our ways...

We have come to accept our role as world policemen and nation builder with little question, despite the bad results and an inability to pay the bills...

The Abramoff-type scandals come and go in Washington... [b]ut our efforts should be directed toward eliminating the greatest of all frauds – printing press money that creates the political conditions breeding the vultures and leeches who feed off the corrupt system...

Counterfeiting money never creates wealth – it only steals wealth from the unsuspecting. The Federal Reserve creation of money is exactly the same. Increasing the dollars in circulation can only diminish the value of each existing dollar. Only production and jobs can make a country wealthy in the long run. Today it’s obvious our country is becoming poorer and more uneasy as our jobs and capital go overseas...

The Abramoff scandal can serve a useful purpose if we put it in context of the entire system that encourages corruption. If it’s seen as an isolated case of individual corruption, and not an expected consequence of big government run amuck, little good will come of it...

Congress was not meant to be a rubber stamp. It’s time for a new direction.

Searching for a New Direction by Ron Paul