Straight from the op-ed pages

This week's roundup: Statehouse ethics, child safety and guns.

Posted on June 19, 2014 at 5:29 p.m.

Excerpts from recent editorials in Indiana newspapers:

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma did what most people expected he would do in the wake of Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner's ethics probe. He announced Tuesday he would not sanction Turner, but that the House would review ethics rules and consider tightening them.

Bosma could have — and should have — done more.

As the Associated Press explained in a Tuesday story, Turner helped defeat a proposed ban on the construction of new nursing homes, which would have cost him millions in future earnings.

The House Ethics Committee conducted a probe of Turner's actions and found that he did not technically violate any of the state's ethics rules. That's because he fought the legislation in private meetings of the House Republican Caucus and not the chamber of the House or in committee meetings.

But the Ethics Committee didn't completely dismiss the ethics complaint. Its report stated that Turner violated the "spirit" of ethics laws and exposed loopholes that should be tightened. As Bosma noted, that work is under way.

By brushing aside the matter for now, Bosma missed an opportunity to take a hard line on ethics and declare his commitment to restoring legislative credibility. Turner's actions were not inconsequential and demand greater attention and scrutiny.

The nursing home ban Turner fought so ferociously in private would have blocked multiple projects being developed by Mainstreet Property Group, a company Turner co-owns with his son and others.

According to the AP, the state is providing $345,000 in tax credits for a project in Terre Haute that Mainstreet documents show will earn Turner an expected $1.8 million. ...

More stringent ethics rules are needed to prevent similar transgressions in the future. Bosma needs to actively and publicly lead that charge.

— The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute

The latest report on child abuse and neglect in Indiana shows some improvement, but there's still a long way to go.

The Indiana Department of Child Services' 2012 Child Fatality Report showed 34 children died of abuse or neglect between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012. ...

The report offers valuable data. For example, 60 percent of the children who died as a result of abuse were infants. And 63 percent of the 19 who died of neglect were infants.

In addition, the perpetrator in 85 percent of these child deaths was either the child's biological parent or the parent's partner.

That should be taken as an indication that additional education efforts are needed to reach parents, especially parents of newborns.

The report indicated the top risk factors leading to abuse or neglect were low income (49 percent), substance abuse (25 percent) and domestic violence (10 percent). That information should help determine how to focus education efforts for maximum effectiveness.

Anyone arrested on charges of substance abuse or domestic violence, or example, could be required to take a parenting class if they fit the right demographics to make them potential parents.

And recipients of WIC (Women, Infants and Children) aid should be offered parenting lessons. Those recipients should be encouraged to bring their children's fathers and any other partners who might have contact with the children. ...

The best response should be education to promote good parenting skills and healthy relationships even before children are conceived.

— The Times of Northwest Indiana

The other day, it almost seemed plausible that the National Rifle Association had come to its senses.

The association issued a news release denouncing the Open Carry folks in Texas, saying their insistence on displaying semi-automatic weapons in a restaurant was not only unwise but "weird."

Of course, after the Open Carry people protested, an NRA official hastily announced that the posting had been a mistake.

There have been times and places when people had to be conspicuously armed when they went about their day-to-day activities: areas of Asia and Africa torn by civil or tribal warfare; parts of the American frontier in the 18th and 19th centuries; and jungle settlements when rogue animals with a taste for human flesh are on the prowl nearby.

Future historians will be puzzled why what was once one of the most technologically advanced, enlightened societies in history aspired to ascend to such a high level of everyday wariness.

They will marvel at how virtually unlimited access to and display of firearms was pushed upon a reluctant majority by a relatively tiny group of particularly vocal and politically organized zealots.

They will find it particularly ironic that the unlimited-guns advocates so effectively used the concept of "freedom" to justify their cause.

As the future historians will see - as anyone who lived in one of those other places or times when guns were truly an essential part of daily life could have told us - no one is less free than a man, woman or child who must live in constant fear of death.

— The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne

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