Editorial Roundup:

The (Munster) Times. February 11, 2020

Alleged abuser of women, public trust duped us

Lake County is experiencing the echo of a proverbial broken record, and it's time for someone to unplug the turntable.

A chorus of county officials clamored Tuesday for the resignation of elected Lake County Recorder Mike Brown.

The collective cry began within hours of Brown's Monday arrest on felony charges alleging he battered his pregnant girlfriend and put the safety of a young child in danger by hurling a mug that nearly struck a 3-month-old baby.

The resignation chorus unfortunately is a familiar refrain in the Lake County political landscape.

In recent months and years, some of the same county officials have called for Brown to resign in the wake of a litany of other scandals.

Those past controversies included a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former recorder's office subordinate who alleged Brown carried on a sexual affair with her, sometimes with the sex acts themselves occurring within Brown's taxpayer-funded office.

The county ended up paying $185,000 to settle that lawsuit out of court.

And Brown began a long stretch of not showing up to work in his publicly elected office in the wake of the case being filed.

For the better part of two years, he wasn't present and accounted for in his office. And by the accounts of multiple other county officials and employees within Brown's own office, his deputy had to run the office while he was nowhere to be found.

Now felony charges that he beat and otherwise antagonized his pregnant girlfriend on multiple occasions add to the stain.

County officials already had a solid opportunity to take a stand against Brown.

Last year, the Lake County Council moved to reduce his annual salary to $1 because he hadn't been showing up to work.

Then Brown put on a bit of theater, showed up to a County Council meeting and promised to do a better job.

So his salary was restored.

But on Monday, when he should have been in his office, police served the arrest warrant in the domestic battery case by arresting Brown at his Lake Station home.

He was led from the home shortly after 3 p.m., clad in a sweatshirt, sweatpants and a stocking cap at an hour when his taxpayer-funded office was still doing business.

Brown's actions are a wake-up call for all of us.

When he won his first election in 2012, it was only because misinformed voters believed he was the former recorder, also named Mike Brown, who had since gone on to be elected county clerk at that time.

Voters then re-elected Brown to another term, which mercifully ends when 2020 is over.

Brown's latest embarrassment also is a wake-up call for his fellow county officials.

Brown has been afforded too many second chances by his colleagues when he has proven himself to be undeserving of such leniency.

The council should slash his salary — not just demand his resignation.

If Recorder Mike Brown has shown us one thing consistently, it's his complete lack of ability to do the right thing.

We hope the justice system vigorously pursues the most recent allegations against Brown, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

We've also seen far too many cases of violence against women not pursued with the severity and vigor they deserve.

Our entire county should rise in opposition to the embarrassment Brown has thrust upon all of us.

We must resolve to keep the unscrupulous from duping us, time and again.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. February 14, 2020

Medicaid aid?

The Indiana legislature appears on course to enact measures that would protect health insurance-holders from being charged out-of-network rates for services they receive at an in-network medical facility. Proposals are also moving along to set up something called an “all-payer claims database” that would allow prospective patients to see how much various hospitals charge for the same procedures.

But while we all can applaud efforts to help patients reduce health care costs, we should also be paying careful attention to national efforts to reduce Medicaid benefits.

This could have a powerful impact on Indiana. About one in five Hoosiers is enrolled in HIP 2.0 or some other Medicaid-funded Indiana health coverage program. Hospitals, nursing homes and thousands of health care workers depend on Medicaid funding to serve those 1.4 million people. And all of us live in a state whose enormous health challenges could only be magnified if coverage for some of those now protected by Medicaid is reduced or eliminated.

Last month, the Trump administration announced plans to allow states to switch to block-grant funding for some Medicaid programs that now give states whatever funds they need to cover all those who need assistance.

Conservatives who have pushed block-grants – Vice President Mike Pence argued for them when he was Indiana governor – say they want to give states more control over the health-coverage programs they run. But health advocates warn that states that choose the block-grant plan could be forced to limit benefits or reduce recipients during times when more people might qualify for coverage.

The Indianapolis Business Journal recently asked Gov. Eric Holcomb and officials with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration whether the state might ask to be switched to Medicaid block grants. Both Holcomb's office and the FSSA, which administers Medicaid in the state, declined to comment.

Paul Halverson, dean of the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, told the Business Journal he had not seen the details of the Trump administration's plan. But he said, “I fear the block-grant programs could put our most vulnerable people at increased risk,” and noted, “block grants can invariably lead to arbitrary limits on eligibility and coverage.”

Meanwhile, the president has sent a budget to Congress that calls for cuts in both Medicaid and Medicare funding. And a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act filed by a group of Republican state attorneys general – including Indiana's Curtis Hill – remains active. By sending the matter back to a lower court, an appeals court ensured that the matter won't be settled before this fall's election. But if the Affordable Care Act or parts of it were struck down, Medicaid-expansion programs such as HIP 2.0 could be endangered.

Achieving greater transparency in health care costs and preventing “surprise” bills from out-of-network providers are great issues for Holcomb and the legislature to tackle. But Hoosiers should also be paying close attention to the future of Medicaid and how the national efforts to undercut this half-century-old federal program will be addressed in Indiana.

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South Bend Tribune. February 13, 2020

Oppose Indiana bill that lowers age for sending youths to jail

Under a bill that recently passed in the Indiana Senate, children as young as 12 could be sent to the Department of Correction.

And the list of crimes that could send a child to jail would expand to include an attempt to commit murder, rape, kidnapping and armed robbery.

Not surprisingly, the legislation, Senate Bill 449, is attracting a fair amount of attention — and concern in some quarters.

One concern was summed up recently by Marilyn Moores, a Marion County juvenile court judge, who noted that people’s brains aren’t fully developed until they are 25. Moores was among more than a dozen people — including social workers and people who had run-ins with the criminal justice system as children — who showed up at the Statehouse last month to voice their opposition to the bill.

Moores said she opposes the proposal because it would target the most vulnerable and rehabilitatable children.

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In a recent Tribune story, St. Joseph County Probate Court Judge Jason Cichowicz said providing counseling and other services for juveniles and their families is often more effective than sending the juvenile offender to jail.

Cichowicz, who was a juvenile public defender for more than a decade, said, “Kids make mistakes, kids make poor judgment calls and sometimes that results in harsh things that happen in the community. I think we should be working with them to see if we can make a breakthrough.”

Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, authored SB 449 — and a similar measure in the last session — in reaction to the 2018 school shooting in Noblesville, where a 13-year-old student shot a classmate and a teacher. The bill, which also increases the maximum sentence for juveniles to six years, now moves to the House.

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter supports the bill and said the six-year limit could result in him trying fewer juveniles as adults. He sees the bill applying only in rare cases.

But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles — those rare cases — unconstitutional, citing research that shows juvenile brains are not fully developed for adult decision-making.

And this from the Children’s Policy and Law Initiative, among the groups opposing SB 449: Noting that laws prohibit children from getting married, drinking alcohol or getting a tattoo because they are immature and cannot appreciate the consequences of their actions, the CPLI says jailing youth denies them the opportunity for rehabilitation and treatment.

The research and information about brain development bolsters the argument that placing juveniles in the adult criminal system is a very bad idea — and that Senate Bill 449 is the wrong move for Indiana.