NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Legislature protects you from yourself

Two bills introduced to the Indiana Legislature this session were both about whether or not to allow citizens to do something clearly detrimental to their well-being.

One bill would have permitted one act of personal irresponsibility, while one would oppose another. We’re just saying no to the foolishness of the acts, thus no to one bill (that is now dead) and yes to the other, which should be allowed to pass.

The controversial bill that fortunately was left for dead Tuesday would have permitted expanding payday lending to allow for rates more than triple what is currently permissible under Indiana’s criminal loansharking law.

If it is now a felony under state law to offer loans with an annual percentage rate greater than 72 percent, why would the Legislature have even considered a new payday lending bill that would allow lenders to charge annual percentage rates as high as 222 percent on short-term loans between $605 and $1,500?

A cross-denominational group of 13 clergy members — including Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend — wrote in a widely publicized February letter that the proposal “opens doors for lending practices that are unjust and which take unfair advantage of people in desperate circumstances.”

Even Republican Senate President Pro-Tem David Long of Fort Wayne was opposed to the legislation that somehow passed the House by a 53-41 vote (it was introduced by Fort Wayne Rep. Martin Carbaugh).

Thankfully, Republican Sen. Mark Messmer said Tuesday he will not give the bill a hearing in his Commerce and Technology committee. That effectively killed the measure.

The other bill is a no-brainer.

Under a proposal whose sponsor calls it “the grossest bill of the session,” Indiana could become the second state to effectively ban the unusual practice of tattooing eyeballs.

The AP reported that a committee Monday unanimously backed the proposal by Republican Sen. John Ruckelshaus of Indianapolis to join Oklahoma, which banned the procedure in 2009 to proactively avoid the “extremely dangerous” complications that could arise.

Dr. Eugene Helveston, professor emeritus of ophthalmology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, told The Associated Press that the American Academy of Ophthalmology strongly recommends against the procedure, which could cause pain, discomfort, loss of vision, blindness and loss of an eye.

A final vote in the Indiana House is the next step for the bill, which the Senate approved last month and the House Public Health Committee advanced Monday on a 10-0 vote.