Indiana deserves better leaders

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My pride as a Hoosier has been wounded.

We became a laughingstock when Gov. Mike Pence’s office announced the creation of Just IN News Service, a news agency that “The Indianapolis Star” reported was to be completely funded by taxpayer dollars. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow made a punch line from the planned agency. A joke on Twitter ran along the lines of, “If you search ‘state-run media,’ your first three results are North Korea, Iran and Indiana.”

The concept of a state-run news agency is a clear violation of the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of the press. The fact that such an initiative came from the same state that gave the world Ernie Pyle is truly shameful.

More recently, the Indiana State House has voted to remove Glenda Ritz from her democratically elected position as chairperson of the State Board of Education. This has risen from a disagreement over how long ISTEP testing should take. Instead of working with his democratically elected colleague, Pence prefers that his way be the only way. If you voted for Ritz in 2012, you must have voted incorrectly. The vote to strip Ritz of her position as chairperson was passed with 55 of the Indiana House of Representatives Republicans voting in favor of the measure. It has not yet passed the Senate. Again, the state of Indiana was shown in a bad light.

According to “U.S. News & World Report,” Indiana had the lowest voter turnout of all 50 states for the 2014 midterm election. The boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln, one of the greatest presidents this nation has ever elected, should be ashamed that it has become so apathetic.

Last week, the state Senate passed a religious freedom bill that, according to Fox 59, “could potentially allow Indiana businesses to refuse service to newly married same-sex couples.” The bill passed the Senate 40-10. If it passes the House of Representatives, it will become law. I do not want our state to be known for everything I have previously mentioned, and for being a state that bars certain people from going to certain stores or restaurants.

This list of negatives might make it easy to become discouraged. But do not lose faith in The Hoosier State. Bear in mind that the people responsible for three of these problems are up for reelection next November.

The problem not directly caused by our elected officials is one of the causes of lackluster leadership. It is true that 100 percent voter turnout would not guarantee good leadership, but if enough Hoosiers cared to vote, than we at least could show the General Assembly that we care. And you should care about your state.

This is an amazing state with amazing people. Whether you were born here or not, I am willing to bet that something in the state has blown you away. You may come from the mountains and are amazed by the stretches of flatness in the northern half of the state, or you may be amazed at the hilly terrain and hiking in Brown County. Maybe it’s the shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, or the fact that our little state is the setting for one of NBC’s most popular sitcoms. Whatever it is, we each have something we love about Indiana, so I know I am not the only one upset by the negative press our state government is bringing upon us.

Next November, remember whatever  you love the most about this state and elect leaders worthy of it. Let’s turn around those low turnout rates and send the people who make our state look bad packing.

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