Editorial Roundup: Indiana

 
 
Updated 5/3/2022 4:21 PM

Indianapolis Business Journal. April 29, 2022.

Editorial: Being tax-friendly just isn't enough for Indiana to compete

 

As we reported on page 1A of the April 29 issue, Eli Lilly and Co. CEO David Ricks sparked conversation last week when he said during a talk at a meeting of The Economic Club of Indiana that the state needs to do more to be attractive to business.

Ricks wasn't talking about tax incentives and reduced tax rates (although he certainly didn't complain about those). Instead, he means that Indiana's schools, its public health system, its overall quality of life and more need to be better.

He argued that Indiana must do more than simply be a low-tax state if it wants to land big investments and attract top-tier talent.

We think he's absolutely right. Certainly, we have supported efforts to make Indiana an affordable place to do business. But affordability has many layers, and we worry the Legislature's near obsession with cutting taxes has been at the expense of investments that might reduce costs elsewhere.

We are not advocating simply throwing money at schools or universities or training programs. Nor are we suggesting that the Legislature implement hospital price controls or make any radical regulatory move that would likely have unintended consequences.

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Instead, we suggest a more comprehensive approach to making Indiana the best place in the U.S. to do business. That means more intense focus on why workers would want to be here, how we can keep more college grads in the state, and how to encourage greener energy sources.

Certainly, Indiana has made moves in those directions, and we're encouraged by Indiana Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers' focus on alternative energy in particular. We expect to see more efforts laser pointed at talent attraction and quality of life.

But there's no time for dawdling. The same work is underway in states across the country, and Indiana is already behind on some of those efforts.

Ricks said as much when explaining why Lilly has chosen to put some of its new research and manufacturing facilities in other places. And it's why the city and state need to pay attention to the questions Ricks has raised-and the responses of other business leaders, many of them echoing his concerns.

Still, we also agree with entrepreneurs Bill Oesterle and John Thompson as well as Cook Group CEO Pete Yonkman, who, while agreeing with Ricks about the problems Indiana is facing, are also focused on how the business community can be a catalyst for change.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

You'll see their thoughts in the page 1A story and in columns on pages 30A and 31A, as well. And we have a partial transcript of Ricks' comments available at IBJ.com. You'll find more agreement in all these business leaders' thoughts than disagreement.

We hope state officials are paying attention-and that they heed warnings that a continued focus on social issues might be the worst possible way to attract talent and create a hospitable environment for business. And we urge business leaders to see how they can do their part to make Indiana a place other companies will want to call home.

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Anderson Herald Bulletin. April 29, 2022.

Editorial: Material harming minors? State should update law

Indiana's judicial system is trying to gingerly tread across the moral morass known as the internet.

The Indiana Court of Appeals recently affirmed 2-1 a ruling by the Greene County Superior Court that a former band director's dissemination of text messages and memes to a former female student was 'úprobably harmful'Ě to minors.

The superior court made a pretrial, preliminary ruling, as no jury trial has been set. A jury would determine if the messages are offensive by community standards.

In 1983, the Indiana General Assembly defined the criminal count whereby a person can be charged with knowingly or intentionally disseminating matter that is harmful to minors. Material is harmful if:

(1) it describes or represents, in any form, nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sado-masochistic abuse;

(2) considered as a whole, it appeals to the prurient interest in sex of minors;

(3) it is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable matter for minors; and

(4) considered as a whole, it lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.

The words 'úprobably harmful'Ě have taken on various interpretations as social attitudes and community standards change. Examples: the 'úpromiscuous'Ě gyrating of hips by Elvis Presley in the 1950s or the 'úevil'Ě nature of the Dungeons & Dragons game in the 1980s.

'úIn 2022, most adults would consider these concerns quaint as material previously considered vulgar now populates most teenagers' cell phones or is otherwise readily available in a matter of seconds. What was once considered shocking is now barely worthy of notice,'Ě wrote Appellate Court Judge Margret G. Robb in a dissenting opinion to the Greene County appeal.

Robb cited both Elvis and D&D. She also wrote that Indiana law 'úhas not caught up with the internet age, which has expanded our definition of 'ėcommunity' beyond town limits or county lines to the far reaches of the world.'Ě

The year 1983 is often considered the birth year of the internet, as worldwide networks could then be connected through a universal language.

In writing the majority opinion, Senior Judge Randall T. Shepard suggested, 'úIt would be valuable for the General Assembly to examine the operation of this statute and give any additional guidance that would recognize the impact of the vast expansion of internet communication in the years since this statute was enacted.'Ě

The problem at hand does not have a quick fix nor one that will still be definitive in 30 years.

In 2020, a survey of 1,000 minors, ages 9-17, concerning the frequency of online sexual interactions was undertaken by Thorn, a nonprofit founded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore to protect children from sexual abuse.

One in three participants reported having an online sexual interaction such as sexting or being asked for or sent nude images. Nearly half didn't report the encounter. For those who did report, 83% responded by using an online safety tool - by blocking, reporting online or using mute - with only 37% turning to a parent, caregiver or trusted adult or peer.

Social media platforms, like government, aren't able to keep up with monitoring systems.

It may be that harsher penalties and additional charges should be sought against adults who solicit minors via social media. It may be that parents who don't initiate blocking devices should be held accountable. It may be that TikTok, Facebook and others be held to stricter and enforceable standards. It may be that definitions need to be updated.

To get things started, the legislature could create a reliable reporting mechanism for youth, regularly review definitions of laws protecting youth from harmful material and continually evaluate community standards amid a world of changing social attitudes.

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Jeffersonville News and Tribune. April 29, 2022.

Editorial: Eli Lilly CEO's comments are foreboding

The CEO of one of Indiana's largest employers said on April 21 what researchers, workforce officials and educators have warned Hoosiers about for years.

Educational attainment in Indiana is low, the state's workforce is struggling to keep up with the STEM skills many employers require and health care costs are too high. Such a statement could be found in multiple reports issued over the past decade, but that summary was offered by David Ricks, CEO of Eli Lilly.

Ricks' comments came before the Economic Club of Indiana, demanding the attention of some of the state's top business and government officials. Just as foreboding, Ricks said that Black and brown Hoosiers are the most likely to suffer from a lack of gainful employment, affordable health care and quality education.

While elected officials such as Gov. Eric Holcomb have countered that the state is doing a good job at recruiting talented workers, Ricks' comments paint a different picture. And while Eli Lilly is headquartered in Indianapolis, it's no secret that the pharmaceutical giant has invested billions of dollars in facilities in other states. The company certainly isn't obligated to stay in Indiana.

Though they are private companies, large employers like Eli Lilly depend on the government to at the least partner with them when it comes to workforce training. They typically demand the public sector provide quality educational opportunities, affordable and reliable health care and quality of life amenities before locating in a particular state. Too often, we're hearing from high-ranking business officials such as Ricks that Indiana is failing on these fronts, and the consequences could be catastrophic for the state's labor force.

Large corporations and businesses are taking a stand on issues their leaders feel are too important to ignore. Such companies are showing their strength to demand change through their economic impact.

The day after Ricks' comments, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill stripping Disney World of its special tax district status. DeSantis and other Florida Republicans were unhappy with Disney leadership's stance against the Parental Rights in Education Act, which has been dubbed by critics as the 'úDon't Say Gay'Ě bill.

But Florida taxpayers could be on the hook for $1 billion in bond debt if the district is abolished, multiple media outlets have reported. Bad policy can have a devastating effect on taxpayers.

While hopefully we don't see such a drastic showdown in Indiana, our state could experience an exodus of employers if more isn't done to provide a skilled workforce, to ensure Hoosiers have adequate and affordable health care and to increase wages. Failure to improve on those fronts will also put us at a disadvantage in competing with other states to attract new businesses and residents.

Indiana's elected officials have been aware of these issues for years. The can has been kicked down the road for too long.

END

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