Editorial Roundup: Indiana

KPC News. Nov. 28, 2021.

Editorial: State lawmakers should drop vaccine mandate ban

This past week, Indiana lawmakers failed to reach a consensus in an effort to rush through legislation enacting a statewide ban on vaccine mandates.

That was a good stroke of luck for Hoosiers, and lawmakers should not be hasty to try to pick up the fumble and force it across the line when they reconvene for their normal session on Jan. 4.

In response to federal pushes to mandate vaccines on large employers with 100 or more employees, the Republican supermajority General Assembly was poised to strike back in an effort to enact a law stopping employers from enforcing such a rule.

After a single day of testimony held last Tuesday, lawmakers were supposed to convene on Monday to shove the bill through. But the GOP announced they were shelving the idea, at least for now. Word is, even with overpowering majorities in both houses, they didn’t have the votes to ensure it got done during the off-session meeting.

It’s kind of ironic, that in response to a vaccine mandate, Hoosier lawmakers were going to legislate a mandate against mandates.

The idea got pushback from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which usually aligns well with conservative policies of the state, but not in this case.

Chamber Executive Director Kevin Brinegar was one of the people testifying against the bill on Tuesday.

While the Chamber opposed implementation of a large-scale blanket vaccine mandate on Hoosier businesses, it likewise opposes an even-larger blanket mandate in the opposite direction.

“Ideally, state government — as well as federal — would have stayed out of what private businesses can and cannot do regarding requiring COVID-19 vaccines for their workers, visitors and patients,” Brinegar said in a Chamber mailer sent after the marathon session. “Employers are in the best position of knowing what’s best for the safety of those in their workplace.”

If Indiana conservatives feel that the federal government is overreaching in requiring Hoosiers to get vaccinated — and they do as Gov. Eric Holcomb gave his blessing to pursue legal action and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita salivates at any reason under the sun to file lawsuits against the Biden administration — isn’t it also an overreach to declare the businesses can’t require vaccines?

Businesses have a prevailing interest in the health and wellness of their employees. Workers who miss work — or worse die — from an illness that can be controlled with a vaccine are lost productivity and lost capital.

Indiana has already lost about 4,700 Hoosiers between the ages of 20 and 70 to COVID-19, most of whom were likely a part of the workforce when they died. It’s certainly not helping the state’s labor shortage as hundreds more continue to die each month this year.

Indiana is still one of the least vaccinated states in the U.S. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are surging again. We know most of the new virus activity is still occurring among the state’s unvaccinated cohort, despite the split in the state now sitting at about 50/50.

If lawmakers are displeased with the federal government’s mandate, there are already channels the state is pursuing to fight that.

But declaring that no employer can mandate vaccines for its workers is an overreach, overreaction and an error.

If the federal government is wrong to mandate for vaccines, the state would be wrong to mandate against them.

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Indiana legislators should drop the vaccine mandate ban come January and leave it dropped while legal cases advance at the federal level.

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Terre Haute Tribune-Star. Nov. 26, 2021.

Editorial: This holiday season, let’s give peace a chance

By now, the leftover turkey in your fridge is nearing its expiration date. The USDA recommends Americans toss the bird meat three to four days after its preparation.

Mashed potatoes should be good for three to five days.

How about your relationships with family and friends who gathered with you on Thanksgiving? Did arguments over politics, culture wars, presidents past and present and divisive cable TV personalities sour your fondness for those relatives and chums? Are you now dreading, and rethinking, more holiday gatherings as Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day approach as a result of heated outbursts?

Welcome to “the most wonderful time of the year,” with a toxic 2021 twist.

Such drama is not unique to this year, or 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 or 2015. The year-end holidays have long involved anxieties over encountering overbearing uncles, simmering feuds with in-laws, teasing cousins and rekindled sibling rivalries. The past few years have ratcheted up the turmoil. Friends and family are, like most of American, split among Republicans, Democrats and those ever-dwindling independents, reflecting the political divisions from Washington, D.C., to statehouses, and meetings of local school boards and boards of health.

And, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has sadly become political, dividing us all over the acceptance or rejection of the life-saving vaccines, face masks to prevent sharing the coronavirus and mandates for both in schools, workplaces and other public settings.

Most folks apparently do not want the conflict and confrontation in a setting intended for, ideally, food, fun and companionship.

Days before Thanksgiving 2021, a national poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut found that 66% of American adults responding said they hoped to avoid discussing politics with visiting family or friends during the holiday.

“A heaping serving of political back and forth with your cranberries and stuffing? No way, say Americans, who would far rather feast on a big meal than feud with each other on Turkey Day,” Quinnipiac analyst Tim Malloy said in the news release of the poll.

The more unsettling statistic came on the flipside of the question. Twenty-one percent of people responding to the university’s poll were looking forward to talking politics over turkey and all the fixings.

Christmas is 30 days away. New Year’s Eve arrives in 37 days. Parties, dinners and reunions may feature more disputes, threatening to break friendships and unravel family ties — perhaps for years.

Suggestions of ways to avoid fractured relationships are available. The National Catholic Register recommends a personal prayer before holiday encounters, asking God to tame our own tongues; or asking a loved one how they came to believe what they believe; or doing some research to find data to bolster your opinions; or telling personal stories that exemplify your side of an issue.

That approach may not work for everybody. Louisville Courier Journal contributor Maggie Menderski advises people to set rules about which dinner-table topics are acceptable, and then designate a senior family member to enforce those rules. Better yet, Menderski reminds folks that these debates do not have to happen on the day of a holiday gathering; save it for later. And, if voices get raised and feelings get hurt, remember that families and friendships are seldom like a Hallmark movie.

Be good to each other. Reminisce about nostalgic family outings or beloved relatives who have passed on. Rate your favorite Christmas films, and recite a few lines. Life is short. Give peace a chance this season.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. Nov. 27, 2021.

Editorial: BMV profits from info on drivers

An Indianapolis TV news investigation revealed this week the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles has been sharing drivers’ personal information not only with other government agencies and law enforcement, but also private businesses. According to CBS4 in Indianapolis, the BMV has made $43 million since 2018 selling “enhanced access” to tow companies, automotive dealers, lawyers, security firms and more.

State law authorizes the BMV to “authorize the permissible use of personal information by verified entities who qualify under Indiana statutory standards,” according to a spokesperson at the agency. “Any information available is based upon the requester and the intended use of the data.”

A federal law – the Driver’s Privacy Protection Law – restricts how much information state agencies can disclose, but it includes 14 exceptions.

“It’s kind of a Swiss cheese law,” Scott Shackelford, a faculty member at Indiana University Kelley School of Business and chair of the Cybersecurity Risk Management Program, told CBS4.

“My guess is that most people don’t realize.”

According to the BMV, revenue generated by the sale of information goes primarily to the agency’s technology fund, used to support maintenance and ongoing upgrades to infrastructure, databases and, ironically, security.

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