Editorial Roundup: Indiana

 
 
Updated 4/13/2021 1:00 PM

South Bend Tribune. April 11, 2021.

Editorial: Indiana's pregnancy accommodations bill doesn't provide any

 

It sounds like the setup to a familiar joke, although there's no humor to be found in the answer: How bad is Indiana on matters of health?

So bad that the state consistently, persistently ranks low nationally on such issues as smoking, infant mortality and obesity.

And last week brought another depressing 'punchline.'

How bad is Indiana on matters of health?

So bad that state lawmakers passed a pregnancy accommodations bill that doesn't actually provide any.

House Bill 1309, which passed the Senate on a 31-19 vote Tuesday, would allow women to ask for pregnancy accommodations - but doesn't require business to provide them.

HB 1309 is a far cry from the pregnancy accommodations bill that Holcomb and other advocates had called for. It's also not as expansive as last year's similarly themed bill, which the Senate voted to essentially gut. That bill would have made most businesses provide 'reasonable accommodations' such as more breaks for pregnant women and private places where mothers can pump breast milk.

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This isn't radical legislation we're talking about, as more than 25 states already require such protections. Yet it's a nonstarter in a state where a shameful number of babies don't live to see their first birthday, and where the rate of Black pregnant women who die is on par with that in countries like Iraq and Vietnam, according to the Indiana Institute for Working Families.

Supporters of more comprehensive legislation see it as a way to help improve the state's infant mortality rate, which federal statistics show was the country's 14th worst in 2018 with 525 infant deaths. Opponents express concern on the impact on businesses. The measure, which was supported by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce as a 'good compromise,' also prohibits businesses from retaliating against women who ask for accommodations.

Rep. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, called for lawmakers to 'do better' before she voted against the bill, which she called 'a slap in the face for pregnant workers.'

In January, the governor highlighted the need for reasonable pregnancy accommodations in his State of the State address, asking the legislature 'to get this done for the well-being and security of Indiana's current and future working mothers.'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Holcomb has indicated that he'll sign HB 1309, and in a statement says it's 'a step forward in assisting pregnant women in the workforce.'

Bill sponsor Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, who also sponsored last year's doomed measure, compared HB 1309 to the jump ball in basketball, meaning it's just the start.

'You may grow old trying to get the bill that I did last year, very old. Or we can pass this and continue to work on making it better.'

So, how bad is Indiana on matters of health?

So bad that passing HB 1309 is considered progress.

___

KPC News. April 11, 2021.

Editorial: Governor should veto effort to hamstring health departments

When you have a health issue, you generally don't go see your local county commissioner for a diagnosis.

Maybe you'll find a local elected administrator who is also a doctor as his or her day job, but the vast majority of local elected leaders have no relevant medical training.

Sadly, Senate Bill 5, which has passed both houses of the Indiana General Assembly with support from only the Republican supermajorities, seeks to do just that.

The bill states that in a health emergency, localities could enact a public health order less stringent than one issued by the governor, allowing local units to effectively countermand the directives of the state.

That aspect in itself runs counter to a federalist system, where normally underlying units can only make laws more stringent than those above them. For example, since the state says you can't sell alcohol before noon on Sunday, a local county doesn't have to power to say, 'Well, we want to sell booze all day on Sunday, at any hour!'

That's not how state and local governments work.

Furthermore, if a local health department wants to approve an order more stringent than an existing state order - such as approve a county mask mandate - they'd be forced to get the approval of the local elected body, such as the county commissioners.

The bill also would add more levers to remove a county health officer from service and adds a stipulation that the appointment of a new health officer, who is selected by the local Board of Health, must be subject to approval from the county executives.

Indiana Republicans have fallen back on the 'un-elected bureaucrats' excuse so often bandied about as reason why elected officials need more say.

But they simultaneously fail to inform anyone as to who appoints the members of the Board of Health: IC 16-20-2-6, Appointment of members, tells you that 'the county executive shall appoint the members of a local board of health.' So, yes, the elected officials already have their say.

Membership on that board of health also comes with qualificiations. The board must include at least two licensed physicians; then two representatives from among other specific groups such as registered nurses, registered pharmacists, dentists, environmental scientists, veterinarians, attorneys fluent in legal health matters or hospital administrators; as well as two members of the general public and one additional member either from the qualified groups or from the general public.

The local board of health then selects a health officer, and naturally that person is also typically a medical doctor themselves or someone else intimately involved with public health as their profession.

The health officer and the county health board are people knowledgeable and qualified to make public health decisions. They are appointed by elected officials and can be changed by said elected officials if they are unhappy with the board's performance.

As an appointed board, the Board of Health is therefore not beholden to the same type of political considerations as elected officials, which is a quality people should want in those making health decisions.

In most cases, including locally, the county health department and county commissioners work together in tandem, for the good of the people.

But in situations where those two groups don't get along or see eye-to-eye, does Indiana want their doctors and nurses making health decisions, or do they want their politicians doing it?

We encourage Gov. Eric Holcomb to kill Senate Bill 5 with a veto and legislators to leave it dead.

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Anderson Herald Bulletin. April 12, 2021.

Editorial: Feed the Light: Find your happy and don't let it slip away

As our lives slowly return to what approximates normal in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us can't wait to get back to how things used to be.

Go to 'the office' in the morning. Eat lunch out with co-workers. Head home at the end of the day to take kids to practice, ballgames and appointments. Eat out at restaurants a night or two a week. Hang out with family and friends on the weekends. Attend concerts and festivals. Watch a new film in the theater. Shop till you drop at a mall. Eat, sleep and repeat day after day.

And then there are those of us who look at a return to 'normal' with a far amount of side-eye.

Not because we don't want the danger to disappear. But because, amid the social distancing and masking, we've found a comfortable place ... and more time for the things we actually enjoy.

Time to read books. Time to take walks. Time to paint or sculpt. Time to catch up on your favorite TV show and movies. Time to cook. Time to enjoy that meal with your family. Time to get to know your kids better or rediscover why you fell in love with your partner.

Just because life seems intent on returning to the rat race it was before doesn't mean you have to leave all of this behind.

Hold onto what's important in your life. Enjoy doing it. And don't let anything or anyone discourage you from it.

If you found peace taking a walk each day, stick to it. Give it priority among the hours in your day.

If you want to read a book a week because you need an escape, snuggle into a comfy chair and get lost in the pages. Make it a ritual.

If you want to take two days off to create a four-day weekend to watch 96 straight hours of professional wrestling because it's the most fun you could ever have, put in for the time. You deserve that feeling.

Find your happy. Lean into it. And let it leave you more fulfilled and at peace than you ever imagined.

END

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