Favorable Court Decision for Right-to-Work

The United States District Court of the Northern District of Indiana upheld Indiana’s right-to-work law by issuing a decision on Sweeney v. Daniels on January 17. The Court dismissed all counts for plaintiffs (the operating engineers Local 150) for their failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

Chief Judge Philip P. Simon said, “For better or worse, the political branches of government make policy judgments. The electorate can ultimately decide whether those judgments are sound, wise and constitute good governance, and then can express their opinions at the polls and by other means.”

In his written opinion, Simon makes clear that the building trades unions are not carved out of the right-to-work legislation, as has been suggested. Further, he dismissed the notion that permitting so called “free riders” violate unions’ protected political speech rights.

It is not known yet whether the operating engineers will appeal the decision. Moreover, there is a second legal challenge ongoing in a Lake County court.

The Indiana Chamber led the charge for Indiana to become the 23rd right-to-work state in 2012, positioning our state for national leadership in economic development and worker freedom. Opponents have promised continuing action to repeal or strike down right-to-work in the courts and in the Statehouse, in an attempt to resume the practice of imposing union membership and financial support as a condition of employment. The Indiana Chamber will support and defend the continuation of the right-to-work statute in Indiana.

Evansville Courier & Press: Township Reform is Needed

Mentioning the Indiana Chamber’s support of the movement, this Evansville Courier & Press editorial argues that townships simply aren’t very convincing when it comes to demonstrating their usefulness for Indiana:

Although the case for downsizing or eliminating township government remains a hard sell to the Indiana Legislature, the case for local government reform remains ever more compelling.

Yes, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce came out this past week in support of either the elimination of township government or of at least the elimination of advisory boards in each of Indiana’s townships. But that is no surprise. The organization that lobbies for issues favorable to businesses has long supported the downsizing of local government, particularly of township government, as a way of reducing local government costs.

Of more interest, we found news reports this past week of two more issues involving specific townships elsewhere, as reported in other news media. They stand as further evidence that townships have too much time and tax money on their hands.

Also, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, whose legislative agenda includes local government reform, will come to the January session armed with what we would call compelling information in support of ending township government in Indiana.

Of course, locally we had the case of former Knight Township Trustee Linda Durham, who allegedly misappropriated $70,000 in township funds. She awaits trial, and if the charges prove true, it will be one more indication that township government is woefully lacking in oversight.

Also, Eric Bradner of the Courier & Press Capital Bureau reported about a year ago that township governments statewide were sitting on $215 million in surpluses, much of it intended for emergency poor relief.

More recently, according to the Associated Press, via the Indianapolis Star newspaper, the Wayne Township trustee in Marion County earlier this month was found planning to give $200,000 in poor relief funds to the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library to allow for longer hours at four library branches.

The trustee, David Baird, said his plan fit in with the township’s mission for poor relief in that the poor use the libraries’ computers and other resources to look for jobs.

This is not the intended purpose of poor relief. It should be utilized to address urgent needs, such as preventing electricity from being turned off, or for filling urgently needed prescriptions. But township trustees seem to take tremendous latitude in deciding how to spend tax-financed poor relief.

The Indianapolis Star reports on a State Board of Accounts audit of Jefferson Township in Sullivan County, which resulted in the trustee and his wife, working as the office clerk, having to give back $42,366 to the township for payments they should not have received.

We’ll Take Our Indiana Governors

The current latest circus in Illinois (that’s the trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich) serves as another reminder of how lucky we are in the Hoosier state. No matter political affiliation, our governors are good guys (I’m sure we’ll make that gender neutral sometime in the not-too-distant future) and have some core basic values — something missing in far too many places.

I’ve had the good fortune to meet our last six governors (Bowen, Orr, Bayh, O’Bannon, Kernan and Daniels; for those keeping score, that’s three each among Republicans and Democrats) and interview the four most recent. The most unique of those engagements would be when sitting governor Otis Bowen’s son served as our high school basketball coach. That was a big deal for the state’s top official to come to a high school basketball game in St. Leon.

Due to several opportunities to interact outside of official interviews, I have to say that I have a strong favorable opinion of Joe Kernan. The fact that the former governor happily provided his cell phone number, hopped in the back seat of my Grand Prix for a ride and shared baseball stories in the stands at South Bend’s Covaleski Stadium are small symbols of a down-to-earth man who has also been an outstanding public servant.

Contrast that with a few of the latest details from Illinois, courtesy of CongressDaily:

The trial of Blagojevich, which is entering its third week, has already gotten off to a rocky start. U.S. District Judge James Zagel ordered the defense and prosecution to come to an agreement on keeping the loudmouthed Blagojevich from waging the trial in public or he would consider slapping gag orders on the defense team.

Prosecutors asked Zagel for the gag order on June 16 after Blagojevich said outside the courthouse the day before that Alonzo Monk, who had just wrapped up four days of testimony as the government’s star witnesses, was lying in his testimony. Monk, Blagojevich’s former chief of staff, is cooperating with the government after being indicted on corruption charges along with Blagojevich.

And if recent history is any guide, Democrats may learn the same lesson from voters that the Illinois GOP did in 2002 in the wake of the bribery scandal that forced Gov. George Ryan not to seek a second term and eventually led him to prison in 2007.

In the wake of the Ryan scandal, the charismatic Blagojevich ran on a platform of cleaning up Springfield and ended 26 years of GOP control of the governor’s mansion. Democrats also took control of the Senate for the first time in 10 years. Blagojevich cruised to re-election in 2006 by tying his opponent to Ryan, and Democrats expanded their majorities in both chambers to near super-majorities.

Ironically, Blagojevich could be the reason that the Democrats again fail to hold onto the governor’s mansion for more than eight years — which they have not done since before the Civil War — and the Illinois GOP is making sure voters are reminded of what Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn said about Blagojevich while sharing a ticket. According to media reports, Blagojevich’s trial is expected to wrap up in September, when the campaign season will be kicking into high gear.

Chamber’s New Workforce Development Report Keys In On Existing Problems

We released our new workforce development report, Recommended Policies and Practices for Advancing Indiana’s System of Adult Education and Workforce Training, at a press conference today. Here is the skinny on the findings, which ultimately suggest the state use existing monies, not new, to fund workforce training:

These adults in need of education and training are currently faced with a maze of more than 20 different programs from at least four different providers: the Indiana Department of Education, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and Ivy Tech Community College. The path the adult learner takes is as much a result of chance encounters as guided by state policy, according to NCHEMS (National Center for Higher Education Management Systems).

“Given our state’s current economic climate and unemployment rates, it’s imperative that we focus on effectively retraining workers sooner rather than later. The Daniels administration has made marked improvements in many areas of state government with its performance measurement approach,” surmises Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar.  “We encourage the governor to now turn the state’s full attention to workforce development and how those programs can better serve the many Hoosiers in need of that assistance.  The measures detailed in this report provide a strong starting point…"

Brinegar emphasizes there is no proposal in this report for new monies.  Instead, the report calls for more strategic use of existing federal funding, and Brinegar advocates the reallocation of unused resources already dedicated to workforce development.

“There is approximately $10 million in funds that employers paid through taxes to the TAG (Training Acceleration Grant) program that was left on the table at the end of 2008.  We believe that money should still be used for what it was intended – workforce training – in one form or another.  The Indiana Chamber is calling on legislators to make sure Hoosiers needing skills enhancements see these dollars,” he stresses.

Read a full summary of the report here, and view the complete 24-page PDF document here.

Election Report Now Available

The Indiana Chamber brought you election results throughout the night. While some dedicated staff (and they did a tremendous job collecting and reporting the latest) completed their duties several hours after midnight, the Indiana Business for Responsive Government political action team stayed at it until its comprehensive summary report was on the way to readers at 4:30 a.m.

A few tidbits:

  • Governor Mitch Daniels won 79 of 92 counties, while Barack Obama won only 15 counties in compiling 49.9% of the state vote.
  • The Indiana House stands at 51-47 Democrats, with the two outstanding races likely going to Republicans. Stay tuned for the counting of provisional ballots, which could take up to 10 days.
  • There will be 32 new legislators on Organization Day in a few weeks. That is a result of defeat, retirement, resignation or death since the 2006 election

Again, the full report (with occasional updates in the next few days) is at www.ibrg.biz.