Moratorium on nursing homes
The Indiana Senate had a great idea – a five-year moratorium on construction of new nursing homes. The House Ways and Means Committee has made it a weaker but still good idea: a one-year moratorium.
The state already has a glut of nursing homes. Occupancy among Indiana’s 520 nursing homes is only 74 percent and has been falling (the national average is nearly 86 percent). The trouble is that people who build new facilities want to get in on the glut in anticipation of all the Hoosier baby boomers who will soon need some type of long-term care. There is money to be made here – nearly two-thirds of the state’s nursing homes now participate in partnerships with county-owned hospitals that effectively double their profit margins.
And while the state overly relies on nursing homes, it is stingy with home health care.
States have better ideas
The nation’s governors, says The Associated Press in covering their meeting in the nation’s capital, seem as divided as Washington when it comes to ideas for strengthening the economy: “Democrats such as Maryland’s Martin O’Malley and Connecticut’s Dannel Malloy made pitches to raise the minimum wage, while Republicans such as Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and Indiana’s Mike Pence called for more freedom from federal regulations, particularly those related to the health insurance overhaul.”
The difference is that the governors can come up with ideas to address their unique situations, rather than a universal “solution” every state must abide by. We tend to like the GOP ideas better than the Democratic ones – and just look at which states are prospering for evidence. But that’s the beauty of federalism.
End booze ban at state fair
No, the Indiana State Fair has not always been alcohol-free. Beer and wine were sold at the fair until 1947. And the ban wasn’t approved because there was a sudden urge to make the fair more family friendly. It happened because the fair ran out of plastic cups that year and visitors trashed the grounds with glass bottles.
But they don’t call Indiana a conservative state for nothing. Once we’ve done something for more than a decade, it becomes a “tradition,” and its very existence is used to justify its continuation.
Things do change, however, even here. The Indiana Senate passed a bill last month to end the ban, which would leave North Carolina as the only state with an alcohol-free fair. The House now has the measure under consideration. Overall, ending the ban seems like a good move.
Let's simplify the tax code
Everybody knows the tax code is a monstrosity of indecipherable complexity that must be overhauled.
As Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has put it, the code is “now 10 times the size of the Bible, with none of the good news.” Americans spend more than 6 billion hours and $168 billion every year to file their returns.
Camp has a proposal to make the tax code simpler, fairer and flatter, and he is even brave enough to unveil it in an election year.
He would collapse the seven existing brackets into just two, set at 10 percent and 25 percent. He would also eliminate many of the hundreds of tax breaks scattered throughout the code and impose a 10 percent surtax on certain types of earned income over roughly $450,000 a year.
When our rights collide, who wins?
The First Amendment both protects us from the imposition of a religion and offers the freedom to freely exercise our own. There is a lot of murky territory between those two rights, and it is often difficult to know where the line is.
But it is clearly moving away from the free-exercise imperative, especially when religious motivations are pitted against expectations of the gay community. That has been especially evident in Indiana, Arizona and Texas, three bastions of conservatism where the line could have gone the other way.
In Indiana, a referendum to put the ban on gay marriage, already a part of the state law, into the constitution got put on hold for at least two years. Some observers say the effort is probably dead forever. A federal judge struck down Texas’ ban on gay marriage, which had been approved by voters.