The Munster Times. January 30, 2019
Tough drunken-driving laws require tough prosecutors, or they mean nothing
Our legal system and society must get tougher on drunken driving.
We've repeatedly made that point as drunken-driving-related vehicle crashes continue to kill people on Northwest Indiana roadways at a higher percentage than the rest of the state and nation.
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All too often, drunken driving leads to the death of innocent people who played no role in an offending driver making the decision to become intoxicated and then get behind the wheel.
In every case of intoxicated driving, innocent human lives are put at unnecessary risk.
So the Indiana Senate deserves the gratitude of the state for a 48-0 vote Monday, cracking down on repeat drunken drivers.
That Senate vote should serve as an important reminder to county prosecutors — in Lake, Porter, LaPorte and elsewhere in the state — to apply the laws that are on the books rather than minimizing the gravity of the charges with soft plea deals for offenders.
The state Senate's resounding vote sends a bill to the Indiana House that would extend the "look-back" period for which a second operating while intoxicated conviction qualifies as a felony.
Under current state law, a second OWI offense within five years of a first conviction constitutes a Level 6 felony, punishable by up to 2 1/2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Most first-time drunken driving cases are misdemeanors.
Under current Indiana law, if a second OWI within five years causes serious bodily injury, it becomes a Level 5 felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Senate Bill 163 would extend the look-back period for previous OWI offenses to seven years for those felony repeat OWI charges.
The legislation goes even further by making any subsequent OWI beyond a second offense a Level 6 felony if the perpetrators have two prior, unrelated drunken driving convictions within 15 years.
It's clear tougher laws are needed for drunken driving.
A Times computer-assisted probe of fatal vehicle accidents showed that drunken driving was linked to 35.1 percent of all deadly crashes in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties over five years.
The local carnage eclipsed the national percentage of 27.9 percent and the state percentage of 25.1 percent of all fatal crashes.
Drinking and driving has been a deadly practice with horrible consequences in our Region.
The Senate's move to expand the ability of prosecutors to charge repeat offenders with felonies is only as good as the initial enforcement, however.
Too often, particularly in past Lake County prosecutions, first-time drunken driving offenders were allowed to take plea deals to lesser reckless driving misdemeanors.
That means future felony charges for repeat offenses were taken off the table.
For the existing laws, or future penalties proposed by the Senate bill, to be effective, prosecutors must be appropriately tough on drunken drivers the first time around as well.
The Indiana House should pass the Senate bill on to the governor, who should sign it into law and send a message that the Hoosier state doesn't take drunken driving lightly.
But prosecutors must do their part, or none of it matters.
The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. February 1, 2019
State attorneys general often form national coalitions to fight consumer fraud and related crimes. Within the last few weeks, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill's department has announced that Indiana is part of several multistate settlements, including one with Wells Fargo for violations of state consumer laws - which will bring Indiana about $2.5 million - and another with Fiat Chrysler and one of its suppliers for environmental and consumer violations - for which Indiana will receive $2.5 million.
Those quite appropriate and effective nonpartisan coalitions are very different, though, from the alliances attorneys general from either party sometimes form to advance ideological agendas.
In 2017, Hill joined the attorneys general of Michigan, Texas, Utah and West Virginia to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the conviction of a former felon who was illegally carrying a gun in Ransom, West Virginia. Usually a tough law-and-order advocate, Hill discerned injustice in this case because West Virginia is a "constitutional carry" state - for all police knew, Robinson could have been legally carrying the gun they found when they frisked him. What this had to do with serving the people of Indiana, which requires a permit to carry a handgun, wasn't at all clear.
Last year, Hill had his office prepare a 28-page brief extolling the virtues of Indiana's photo-ID law after a similar measure in Alabama was challenged by a coalition of civil-rights groups. He got 10 other Republican state attorneys general to sign on. This despite the fact that Indiana's photo-ID requirement had been settled law since it was upheld by the Supreme Court a decade before.
Also in 2018, Hill's office joined a 20-state legal challenge aimed at invalidating the Affordable Care Act. A federal judge ruled in favor of the Republican attorneys-general alliance in December,further jeopardizing a law that most Americans want to keep in place, a GOP-dominated Congress has been unable to repeal and thousands of Hoosiers depend on for their health care.
In the latest example of what might be called AG-overreach, Hill, 20 other attorneys general and two governors are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case that originated in New Jersey, a state none of them represents. Moreover, the challenge is to a "may-issue" gun-permit law - a type of law none of their states has on the books.
"The attorney general is asked to sign many multi-state amicus briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court and elsewhere," Christopher Proffitt, Hill's communications director, wrote in an email Tuesday.
"When such opportunities arise, he asks whether joining would advance a compelling legal interest for the State and its citizens. In this case, the attorney general concluded that joining would advance a compelling interest of Indiana and its citizens in robust Second Amendment rights."
But Indiana has a pretty robust respect for Second Amendment rights, and there is little danger of that changing.
According to Proffitt, this type of legal action doesn't cost Indiana anything. "There is no marginal expense associated with joining this or any other amicus brief," he wrote. "Screening the many requests we receive and advising the attorney general with respect to them is part of the daily duties of the Solicitor General."
But how would we feel if, on a slow day in New Jersey, the attorney general there - who, by the way, is a Democrat - should wander over to Indiana and challenge some laws here? Wouldn't we wonder whether he ought to concentrate on problems in his own state?
Perhaps Hill will eventually yield to calls for his resignation from Gov. Eric Holcomb, other Republican leaders and this newspaper for his inappropriate actions toward several women during a legislative party last year. In the meantime, it can only be hoped he will dial back on his out-of-state ideological crusades.
South Bend Tribune. January 30, 2019
Food rescue expansion will feed more
Though Cultivate Culinary School and Catering started as a nonprofit less than two years ago, it has already outgrown the space it's been renting for its food rescue operation.
So when an opportunity to move into a larger space came up, board president Jim Conklin jumped at it.
Cultivate is planning to move from its current home on Niles Avenue to a warehouse on Prairie Avenue that for decades was used to store large spools of newsprint for The Tribune. Money to pay for reconstruction of the warehouse is coming from several local foundations.
By moving into a larger space, Cultivate can accept more donations that it channels to almost 20 charities throughout St. Joseph, Marshall and Elkhart counties.
"We have more demand than we can fill," Conklin said, noting it exceeds what he and co-founder/chef Randy Ziolkowski had originally expected.
Cultivate accepts excess food that restaurants and caterers cannot use and that otherwise would go to waste. Two of its biggest donors are Notre Dame Stadium and Nelson's Catering & Fundraising.
Besides the larger space that will allow Cultivate to store more food, there are plans to build a kitchen later this year with donated equipment. Cultivate also runs a culinary school.
Food rescues are important community resources and deeply committed to feeding those in need. Cultivate and others deserve credit for coming up with ways to make sure food isn't wasted and, through its expansion, ensure even more people in our community are fed.