State has to decide on whether to pick and choose worthy groups.
The Interim Study Committee on Special Group Recognition License Plates had a real time-waster this week. It invited some of the more than 100 non-profit groups that use the plates to stop by and testify. What were they going to say? Please stop this program that gives us money and recognition with no real effort on our part?
And the Indiana Youth Group – the one non-profit that should have been there because it would have helped the committee zero in on the real issue – was nowhere in evidence. The only reason there is a “study” of the specialty-plates issue is that some legislators objected to the group’s mission of gay-teen support and wanted its plates pulled. That didn’t work, so a phony issue about the group violating license-plated guidelines was cooked up, and it was kicked out of the program that way. And now we have all this huffing and puffing about the need for guidelines and whether or not we have too many specialty plates.
Let’s face it – without controversial groups like the Indiana Youth Group, there would be no issue, no interim study, no need for guidelines, no call for limitations. Nobody gives a hoot about specialty plates for the American Legion or Habitat for Humanity.
But when there are groups wanting to get a message out some people don’t want to hear or fund a cause not everyone supports, it suddenly matters. And if the state doesn’t tackle that issue now, what’s it going to do when a real controversial group comes along? What happens if the Aryan Brotherhood or the Ku Klux Klan wants specialty plates?
When the state merely allows the use of specialty license plates and collects a fee for itself, it is being neutral. But when it tries to block some groups, it is putting its imprimatur on some groups and withholding it from others. That gets into serious First Amendment territory and blurs the line between public and private speech.
If the state wants to continue exploring this issue, perhaps a more diverse lineup of witnesses should be considered for the next meeting.
Family or children first
If a child-welfare agency makes “protecting the child” the top priority and everything else, including keeping the family intact, secondary, it will get one set of outcomes. If it makes “keeping the family intact” the top priority and everything else, including protecting the child, second, it will get a different set of outcomes.
The right approach seems obvious, yet many people testifying before a legislative panel this week said Indiana’s Department of Child Services puts intact families first. That charge needs to be refuted or efforts need to be made to change DCS priorities.