Indiana

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

A federal appeals court is upholding the dismissal of a lawsuit related to the Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges project.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled unanimously that the organization that brought the lawsuit failed to prove that Kentucky and Indiana violated federal law. The group Coalition for Advancement of Regional Transportation—or CART—filed suit against the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the Indiana Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration.

The group claimed the $2.6 billion dollar bridges project would cause environmental damage by clearing trees and harming wildlife and water quality along the two spans' proposed routes. The suit also said the project violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act by negatively impacting minority communities where construction would occur.  

CART’s lawsuit had been previously dismissed by U.S District Judge John G. Heyburn. The group appealed, setting up the showdown at the federal appeals court level.

The Ohio River bridges project includes the creation of a new bridge for I-65 north, the renovation of the Kennedy Memorial bridge that carries I-65 south, and a new bridge that will connect the Gene Snyder Freeway with the Lee Hamilton Highway in southern Indiana.

Another judge has ruled against Indiana’s two-year-old right-to-work law.

Lake County Judge George Paras ruled this week the law forcing unions to provide services for workers who don’t pay dues, is against the constitution. The Evansville Courier & Press reports that led Indiana’s attorney general to request a stay of that ruling until the State Supreme Court takes up another judge’s ruling at a September 4th hearing. 

The right-to-work legislation was passed in 2012 by a Republican-dominated legislature.

Vanderburgh County has been chosen as one of five counties in Indiana that will take part in the Pre-K pilot program beginning early next year. 

Gov. Mike Pence’s office announced the selections Tuesday from among 18 finalists. This year’s Indiana General Assembly established the pilot program, which is intended to prepare low-income four-year-olds for kindergarten.

“Every Indiana child deserves to start kindergarten ready to learn and to begin a lifetime of learning,” said Governor Pence in a written statement. “Today, I am pleased to accept the recommendations of our working group. The state looks forward to partnering with these counties and working to ensure that these resources are made available to assist some of our most vulnerable children early next year.”

The governor’s office says the selections were based on need and ability of each county to meet that need.

The four other Indiana counties include Allen, Jackson, Lake and Marion.

An Indiana transportation panel is making recommendations that could lead to the start of a new corridor linking southern Indiana with Daviess County, Kentucky, within five to ten years.  

The road will be called the Mid-State Corridor, and will run from Pike County, Indiana, to the Natcher Bridge east of Owensboro. That road was formally known as I-67, but the name was dropped because only federal officials can create a new interstate.

The Messenger-Inquirer reports the Indiana Blue Ribbon Panel on Transportation Infrastructure also believes construction should start on the proposed Interstate-69 bridge at Henderson within five years. Funding concerns are a major issue for the projects, however, with the federal Highway Trust Fund running out of money.

If a creative solution isn’t found, blue ribbon panel member Hank Menke told the paper that the Mid-State Corridor might have to be built as a toll road.

The corridor is expected to cost Indiana $444 million, with Kentucky chipping in $177 million.

The Indiana panel’s recommendations now go to Governor Mike Pence.

The increasingly high summer temperatures are bringing the normal reminders to avoid leaving children alone in vehicles.  But an Evansville animal shelter says pet owners also need to be aware of the dangers of leaving dogs inside hot vehicles.

Vanderburgh Humane Society Executive Director Kendall Paul says many dog owners make the mistake of thinking it’s OK to leave their pet in a vehicle with the windows cracked. She says the temperature inside that vehicle increases very quickly.

“I always recommend to people—try it yourself. Go out there on a hot and sit in that car for a few minutes with the windows rolled up, or even with them cracked a little bit, and you’re going to start to see what kind of temperatures very fast you’re putting your animal in. But we just recommend that you don’t do it.”

Paul adds that pet owners often tell themselves they’ll only be gone for a few minutes, and that their animal will be fine inside the car without any air conditioning.

“And often times if you just run in for a few minutes, you think it’s just going to be a few minutes in the store, but then it takes a little bit longer, or something delays you,” Paul said. “It only takes a short  amount of time—once the temperatures outside start hitting in the 70s and 80 degrees, the temperature inside that car is going to climb even higher than that.”

Published research shows a car in 84-degree weather reached an interior temperature of 110 degrees in about 18 minutes. In 88-degree weather, the car reached 110 in about 14 minutes.

The research also found that cracking a window had little effect on the car's temperature.

Judge Strikes Down Indiana Ban on Gay Marriage

Jun 25, 2014

A federal judge has struck down Indiana's ban on gay marriage, calling it unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled Wednesday that the state's ban violates the U.S. Constitution's equal-protection clause in a mixed ruling involving lawsuits from several gay couples.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the ruling means same-sex marriages can begin in the state.

The Indiana attorney general's office says it will appeal.

Federal courts across the country have struck down gay marriage bans recently, but many of those rulings are on hold pending appeal. Attorneys on both sides of the issue expect the matter to eventually land before the U.S. Supreme Court.

It also wasn't immediately clear what impact Wednesday's ruling might have on a faltering movement to add a gay marriage ban into the Indiana Constitution.

Indiana Republicans will vote next month on a provision in their party’s platform that would reintroduce language about “traditional marriage.”

The Indiana GOP eliminated the language regarding traditional marriage in 2012. But party delegates  last week decided to reintroduce the issue to the party platform. Republican delegates next month will vote on whether to add the following language to their platform: “We believe that strong families, based on marriage between a man and a woman, are the foundation of society.”

Not all Hoosier State Republicans back the effort to reintroduce marriage language into the party’s platform. The Indianapolis Star-Tribune quotes GOP delegate Megan Robertson—who is gay—as saying the effort is “bad for the Republican Party.”

While the proposed platform also contains language that recognizes “diverse” family structures, Robertson says the platform should focus on issues that unite the party, as opposed to dividing it.

Those backing the platform say it contains recognition of “blended families, grandparents, guardians, and loving adults” who raise children.

Indiana must recognize a gay couple’s out-of-state marriage for at least a few days more as a federal judge considers whether to extend an April order requiring the state to acknowledge the union.

U.S. District Judge Richard Young heard arguments Friday in Evansville on a request that the state recognize the 2013 Massachusetts marriage of Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler of Munster. Quasney is terminally ill with advanced ovarian cancer, and the couple fears Sandler’s ability to collect Social Security and other death benefits would be harmed if their marriage isn’t recognized.

Young granted the couple a temporary restraining order last month, but it is set to expire Thursday.

Attorneys for the state say there are other legal ways for Sandler to obtain property benefits after Quasney dies.

Indiana law defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The state does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions conducted in other states.

The third federal lawsuit this month has been filed against Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban.

The latest suit was filed Friday by 13 people who argue the Indiana law violates their Constitutional rights. Several media outlets are reporting that the latest challenge involves a widow whose same-sex marriage is not recognized by the Hoosier State, as well as gay couples who married in other states or who would like to wed in Indiana.

Friday’s lawsuit is the second this week against Indiana’s gay marriage ban, and is part of a national trend of legal action against state laws banning same-sex marriages.

The national ACLU and the group’s Indiana chapter are representing the plaintiffs, and argue current state law unconstitutionally denies same-sex couples the benefits given to heterosexual couples when they marry.

Some Indiana lawmakers are in favor of putting before voters a state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages.

Indiana's House of Representatives has approved a proposal that would write the state's gay marriage ban into the constitution.

The Republican-led House narrowly voted 57-40 Tuesday in favor of the measure. The proposed ban now heads to the Indiana Senate.

The vote followed weeks of uncertainty for a measure that swept through the General Assembly with ease just three years ago.

"This amendment has jumped the shark," said Democratic Rep. Mat Pierce, who voted against the measure. "History has really passed it by. And that’s why I think we need to give up on it."

The House measure leaves open the door for approval of civil unions and employer benefits for same-sex couples.  It also would potentially reset the clock on Indiana's lengthy process of amending the constitution.

But Senate Republicans could potentially place the measure back on course to appear on the November ballot.

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