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This Week

Saturday, March 8, 2014 - 12:01 am

Give voters a say on change

Let’s acknowledge the criticism some have leveled against the effort now being considered by the General Assembly to allow a referendum for Allen County voters on whether to have a single elected county executive instead of three. It was slipped into an existing bill as an amendment instead of being deliberated and debated on its own merits. The obvious idea was to avoid the controversy usually attending the issue, and that is a bad way to run an honest, transparent government.

But let’s not let that disagreement over procedure blind us to the obvious merits of the proposal. Scores of ideas for reforming local government have been proposed over decades, up to and including consolidated city-county government. But they never gain any traction because established politicians have too much invested in the status quo.


Here's another ban to end

Quick quiz: If a legislature wants to ban guns in certain places, what’s an obvious first choice?

The answer is, of course, a bar.

Even people who are ordinarily sensible and thoughtful are apt to behave irrationally once they’ve had a few drinks. Mix alcohol and firearms, and ugly results are possible.

Here’s a less obvious point: For any place other than a bar, whether or not to ban firearms is not such an easy call. That’s something to keep in mind as we consider the General Assembly’s debate on whether to allow teachers, parents and others to bring guns to school parking lots as long as they are left in parked cars. Add this to the long list of places the Legislature is ordering a cease-and-desist on gun bans, including private-business parking lots and public parks and libraries.


A way schools can raise funds

Some people are upset – even shocked and horrified! – that the General Assembly is considering a bill to allow school districts to sell ad space on their buses. Isn’t it our duty as citizens, asks The Indianapolis Star’s Erika D. Smith, “to pay for the basic services we all need?” The issue is “whether we will adequately support our schools.”

But out here in the real world, school systems have been hit hard by the property tax caps, and voters aren’t always receptive when faced with a referendum seeking more funding. In Muncie, for example, voters voted no on a referendum to help pay for transportation, and the school district unsuccessfully sough permission from the state to end its busing.

Yes, it is our duty to pay for the basic services we need, but how we pay for them is not written in stone.


Small step for more home rule

The state government has had a long flirtation with home rule – one step forward, two steps back – because although legislators occasionally give up some control to local governments, they clearly don’t like to.

Consider it a small step forward that both houses of the General Assembly have approved mass-transit legislation for Delaware, Hamilton, Hancock, Johnson and Marion counties in central Indiana. Officials would be allowed to raise taxes for a regional transportation system with more buses and more routes, but only if voters say yes in a referendum. The House and Senate versions differ somewhat, so it will be up to a conference committee to clean things up enough for the governor’s signature. We hope it does. Success here would encourage other local governments to keep pushing for more control over their own destinies.


'It's not a benign drug'

Let’s hear it for Bloomington pharmacist Jerry Frederick. He has both common sense and good moral judgment, both of which seem to be in short supply these days.

Frederick says he will not sell a generic version of Plan B, the so-called morning-after pill, to girls as young as 11 or 12, despite the Food and Drug Administration’s decision that the generics can now be sold over the counter over the counter to girls of any age.

“I wouldn’t do that for both moral and medical reasons,” he told The Herald-Times. “It’s not a benign drug. It contains a high level of estrogen. Would a 12-year-old who took the drug even know what she was taking?”

Prior to the FDA’s recent ruling, generic versions of the emergency contraceptive, which tend to be about $10 cheaper than Plan B, were restricted to those ages 17 and older.