White House Specifies Sequestration Cuts in Indiana

The impact of the impending series of automatic federal spending cuts, popularly known as the sequester, on Indiana became the focus of a White House report released over the weekend by the Obama administration. The report detailed the economic and social fallout the cuts will likely cause in Indiana when it goes into effect Friday.

Everything from Indiana’s military readiness, to education, health programs and social services will be impacted by the $85 billion cuts slated to occur over the course of the next seven months.

Indiana’s military sector is scheduled to receive the deepest cuts. Around 11,000 civilian Hoosier employees of the Defense Department may be furloughed, amounting to what the White House describes a drop in gross income of more than $64 million in total. $1.7 million in funding for Army base operations and $7 million for Air Force operations will also disappear.

Indiana would also lose $3.3 million in funding for the environment and the state would lose more than $800,000 in meal assistance for seniors among many other cuts.

The spending cutbacks will likely have repercussions on the state’s education system as well. The Obama administration says $13.8 million in financing for primary and secondary education is slated to be axed. This would mean a cut in funding for around 50 schools, putting the jobs of approximately 190 teachers at risk and impacting nearly 12,000 Hoosier students.

Paul Woodling, an economics teacher at Northwest High School in Indianapolis, says services designed to aid children with learning disabilities would likely feel the brunt of the spending cut impact at his school.

“I think we’ll see a lot of inclusion teachers leave or possibly be lost, especially the classified—not so much as the certified licensed teachers—but our lay helpers,” Woodling says. “We could lose some of those. We have too few of them right now. I only have one class that is covered. I have students in other classes who need services, but we don’t have enough people. So that could become even tighter with this cut.”

Funding for Indiana’s tax-supported health services may also fall victim to the impending cuts. Penny Caudill, the administrator of the Monroe County Health Department, says while the health department does receive most of its funding via local taxes and fees, a drop in federal money it collects through the state would damage some department programs enjoyed by some 2,000 clients in the area.

“We do receive federal money that passes through the Indiana State Department of Health, and those are the funds that would most directly affect us,” she says. “So that would be in the area of preparedness, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and AIDS, and also our Title 10 family planning funding.”

Another potential victim of the government sequester would be anti-violence programs such as the ones at Middle Way House in Bloomington.

Executive Director Toby Strout says federal funding cuts would mean she would have to shut day care, youth programs, and legal services.

“When you get right down to it, it could be that the only thing that remains is emergency shelter,” she says. “Now even that funding is threatened. So are there plans in place? Yes. But heaven help us if we have to put them in effect.”

A litany of other programs and services, such as Head Start programs, child care for low-income families, nutrition assistance for seniors and more, are projected to be impacted throughout the state if Congress does not act to forestall the indiscriminate budget cuts.

Amy Brundage, the Obama Administration’s deputy press secretary for the economy, emphasized in a press conference that the sequester is not only avoidable, but was part of a plan set previously by Congress to encourage bipartisan negotiations to balance the nation’s budget.

“It’s important to keep in mind that the sequester was never intended to be policy,” she says. “It was passed with Republican support in congress to ensure that there was a trigger mechanism, a forcing event that would compel Congress on both sides to work together to reduce the deficit in a balanced way.”

Back in Washington, however, bipartisan negotiations on carving out a new federal budget have stalled, and Democrats and Republicans blame each other for the impasse.

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Child Sex Trafficking Impacts Indiana

A United Nations report released last week by the organization’s Office on Drugs and Crime reveals that the grim underworld of sex trafficking has taken root across the planet. More worrying still is the increasing tendency for children to fall victim to sex traffickers.

Bill Stanczykiewicz, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute, describes the problem as clandestine modern slavery.

“It absolutely is slavery, and we need to think about it in those terms to know how dire it is, to know how painful it is for the people who are involved,” he says. “And certainly we need find the bad guys and root them out and lock them up under the jail.”

Although it is difficult to determine the number of Indiana children who fall victim to sex trafficking, say Indiana Youth Institute staff, there were 58 investigations by Indiana authorities into the issue in the last four years.

Children fall victim to sexual extortion and trafficking in a number of ways, from being manipulated and blackmailed by predators online to being abducted from malls, parks and other public places.

More commonly children are coerced into prostitution by people they know and trust says Phil Shay, director of development for Abolition International, a nonprofit support organization supporting victims of child sex trafficking.

“If you were to look back into that person’s past to see how this has become part of their life,” he says, “most often it’s because as a young child, they were manipulated and coerced and convinced into a situation generally with a relationship by someone that they know or think they know via a family member of family friend.”

Stanczykiewicz says that the best measure Hoosiers can take to address the problem is to simply get involved in children’s lives. For those children that fall through the cracks, however, Shay’s Abolition International is there to provide relief and support for those that emerge as survivors.

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Senate Bill Targets Video Vigilantes

An amendment added to the bill in committee specifies the law only applies if the person taking the video or photos does so with intent to defame the proprietor.

The bill is aimed at protecting businesses from harmful allegations made by so-called “video vigilantes” who tour or get jobs at businesses to get behind-the-scenes access.

Indiana agricultural lobbying groups back the bill as a protection against activists they say infiltrate their operations. Indiana Manufacturers Association Vice President Ed Roberts says he believes the bill would clear up both misconceptions and wrongdoing.

“Oh there might be a cow that’s being fed less than I think they should be fed or in a way different than I think they should be fed,” Roberts says. “Accordingly, I get to trespass. I get to take pictures of things that I don’t have permission to take pictures of, and I get to use those pictures if possible to defame the person who owns the cow. All that’s wrong.” 

But opponents worry about violating free speech protections. Indiana University journalism professor Jim Kelly says the bill is not necessary, in part because trespassing laws are already in place.

“It seems to me that the current legislation is driven primarily by the discomfort that exposés have caused the livestock and food industries,” Kelly says. “There are already remedies in place for employees or visitors that violate the contract obligations that they enter into when they go onto private property.” 

Bill supporters say the bill strengthens protections offered by federal inspectors who are already tasked with monitoring what the “video vigilantes” would want to capture on film.

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The Columbus Police Department is Seeking Ways to Retain Personnel

The Columbus Police Department is hoping new pay incentives will keep its 78 officers from leaving the force in search of higher salaries and benefits at other agencies. Chief of Police Jason Maddix says officers who perform extra, specialized services, such as K-9 unit personnel or hostage negotiators, will now receive yearly stipends.

He says in the past a number of factors have made it easy for other agencies to lure away CPD officers.

“We’ve had several leave to other agencies, other municipal agencies, and we believe some of the issue is the pay,” he says. “Not just the starting pay, but also the pay that comes along with advancement in rank and advancement in specialization. We were lacking in some of those areas.”

Two of the officers that CPD lost in 2012, for example, joined the Fishers Police Department in Hamilton County. The Fishers police force attracts talent from across central Indiana—and even cities as far away as Los Angeles—because of financing and career advancement, says FPD Information Officer Tom Weger.

“We have a few things that some agencies just don’t have,” he says. “And one of those things is we have very good funding. And so it allows our officers to receive the highest amount of training and also receive the best equipment.”

But competition from federal agencies remains a problem. Both the Columbus and Fishers departments have lost officers to the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Secret Service within the past year.

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