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Region School Joins Ind Challenge of Obamacare

The Indiana Attorney General's Office today announced two dozen other school districts, including one in the Region, are joining a lawsuit filed by the state against the Internal Revenue Service, challenging the multi-million dollar tax penalties the IRS could potentially impose under the employer mandate of Obamacare. Fifteen schools and the state filed the federal suit October 8th. East Porter County Schools are among the 24 additional districts joining the lawsuit. Reiterating the initial complaint, the now 39 schools and the State allege the IRS exceeded its legal authority under the Affordable Care Act, the federal healthcare restructuring law that Congress passed in 2010.
News Release from Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller:
INDIANAPOLIS – Another 24 school corporations have joined the lawsuit the State of Indiana and 15 schools filed against the Internal Revenue Service, challenging the multi-million-dollar tax penalties the IRS potentially could impose against state and local governments in 2015 under the “employer mandate” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Plaintiffs today filed an amended complaint in federal court listing 24 additional schools that joined the lawsuit since the original group of 15 schools and the State filed it October 8.
Reiterating the initial complaint, the total 39 schools and the State allege the IRS exceeded its legal authority under the ACA, the federal healthcare restructuring law that Congress passed in 2010.  The IRS this year issued a regulation that has the effect of charging large financial penalties in all states against large employers who do not offer health insurance to those working more than 30 hours per week as full-time employees.  The lawsuit alleges the IRS regulation contradicts specific ACA wording Congress passed, which had authorized the IRS to impose employer-mandate penalties only in those states where state-established health-insurance exchanges exist.  Indiana is one of 27 states that opted not to create a state exchange, meaning the federal government runs an exchange for Indiana residents.
Under the employer mandate, the potential penalty for large employers for non-compliance is $2,000 per employee for all full-time employees in the organization.  The State of Indiana is employer to approximately 28,000 executive branch workers.  In the lawsuit, the State is represented by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office.
“Before being subjected to draconian IRS tax penalties, the State and 39 schools ask the federal court whether they are under federal taxing authority like private-sector employers.  The objective of this case is to defend fundamental state authority to structure our government workforce to provide services; and individuals’ access to health insurance never has been the focus of the suit,” Zoeller said.
The amended lawsuit asks the federal court to issue an injunction blocking the IRS and other federal agencies from applying the unauthorized regulation and penalties against the school corporations and State as government employers.  Plaintiffs also ask the federal court to issue a declaratory judgment finding the IRS regulation as applied to State government and schools is unconstitutional and void under the Tenth Amendment.
“Our State should be protected as is constitutionally guaranteed from federal government overreach under our American system of federalism, and the participation of so many school corporations in the challenge reflects mutual concern that this principle has been undermined by the IRS’s actions,” Zoeller said.
The 24 additional school corporations who joined the lawsuit in the amended complaint filed today are:
Area 30 Career Center Education Interlocal, Greencastle, Ind.
Charles A. Beard Memorial School Corporation, Knightstown, Ind.
Cloverdale Community School Corporation, Cloverdale, Ind.
Daleville Community Schools, Daleville, Ind.
Eastern Howard School Corporation, Greentown, Ind.
East Porter County School Corporation, Kouts, Ind.
Eminence Community School Corporation, Eminence, Ind.
Fayette County School Corporation, Connersville, Ind.
Greencastle Community School Corporation, Greencastle, Ind.
Monroe Central School Corporation, Parker City, Ind.
Nettle Creek School Corporation, Hagerstown, Ind.
Northeastern Wayne School Corporation, Fountain City, Ind.
North Putnam Community School Corporation, Bainbridge, Ind.
Northwestern School Corporation, Kokomo, Ind.
North West Hendricks School Corporation, Lizton, Ind.
Old National Trail Special Services Cooperative, Greencastle, Ind.
Salem Community Schools, Salem, Ind.
Shelby Eastern School Corporation, Fairland, Ind.
South Gibson School Corporation, Fort Branch, Ind.
South Putnam Community School Corporation, Greencastle, Ind.
Taylor Community School Corporation, Kokomo, Ind.
Union School Corporation, Modoc, Ind.
Western School Corporation, Russiaville, Ind.
Western Wayne Schools, Pershing, Ind.
The original 15 school corporations who were plaintiffs along with the State in the initial complaint October 8 are:
Metropolitan School District of Martinsville, Martinsville, Ind.
Perry Central Community Schools, Leopold, Ind.
Benton Community School Corporation, Fowler, Ind.
Community School Corporation of Eastern Hancock County, Charlottesville, Ind.
John Glenn School Corporation, Walkerton, Ind.
Monroe-Gregg School District, Monrovia, Ind.
Mooresville Consolidated School Corporation, Mooresville, Ind.
North Lawrence Community Schools, Bedford, Ind.
Northwestern Consolidated School District of Shelby County, Fairland, Ind.
Shelbyville Central Schools, Shelbyville, Ind.
Southwest Parke Community School Corporation, Montezuma, Ind.
Vincennes Community School Corporation, Vincennes, Ind.
Madison Consolidated Schools, Madison, Ind.
South Henry School Corporation, Straughn, Ind.
Southwestern Jefferson County Consolidated School Corporation, Hanover, Ind.
The 39 school corporations are represented by Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, while the State is represented by the Attorney General’s Office.
No court dates have been scheduled yet in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.  No response has been filed yet by the federal defendants, which include the IRS and its acting commissioner Daniel Werfel, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Department of Treasury and Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew, and the U.S. Department of Labor and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez....

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US 6 Closed Sun Evening After Gas Main Break

Traffic was shut down on US 6 in both directions for about four hours in Liberty Township, just west of Meridian Road, near Whispering Sands Mobile Home Park, Sunday evening after a natural gas line was struck. Porter County Sheriffs Police Sgt. Larry LaFlower told the Region News Team crews working on the new pipeline from Canada to Griffith were doing some excavating and struck a natural gas line, resulting in a gas main break in that area.  The highway was shut down from about 4:30pm  to 8:30 pm for safety reasons. NIPSCO responded and made repairs, police say, and there were no injuries reported....

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Illinois Gov Proclaims Dec 9 Ditka Day

Today is officially "Mike Ditka Day" in Illinois.  Illinois Governor Pat Quinn made that proclamation in recognition of the Chicago Bears retiring Ditka's jersey number, 89, during halftime when the Bears take on the Dallas Cowboys tonight in Chicago. The former Bears player and coach becomes the 14th player to have his number retired by the team.
“When people think of football they think of Mike Ditka,” Governor Quinn said. “He was the best tight end of all time, and 'Da Coach’ molded and guided arguably the best football team of all time – the 1985 Super Bowl-winning Bears. He is one of just two men to win a championship as both player and coach. I urge all Illinoisans to join me in congratulating him today.”
Mike Ditka was a football standout at the University of Pittsburgh in his native Pennsylvania before being drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1961, where he won Rookie of the Year. He played tight end for the Bears through 1966, was selected for the Pro Bowl each year, and was part of the championship 1963 team in the years before the advent of the Super Bowl. While with the Bears, Ditka amassed 4,503 yards receiving, first among Bears tight ends; and 316 receptions and 34 touchdowns, placing him fifth of all Bears players.
Ditka was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1967 and then to the Dallas Cowboys in 1969, where he played for four seasons and caught a touchdown pass in Super Bowl VI. Ditka was the first tight end enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988 for his blocking, 427 career receptions for 5,812 yards, and 43 career touchdowns.
After his playing career ended, Ditka was part of the Dallas Cowboys' coaching staff from 1973 to 1981. He was named head coach of the Chicago Bears in 1982, guiding them to a Super Bowl victory in 1985, and remained as “Da Coach” through 1992. Ditka was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1985 and 1988.
Ditka has also been a sports commentator on national television and owns restaurants in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Phoenix....

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Pelath: Governor's Agenda Overlooks Middle Class

pelath
Representative Pelath
Indiana House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath of Michigan City is critical of the Governor's recently announced legislative agenda for 2014.  Pelath says he agrees with the governor on improving crumbling infrastructure, but says "the vast majority of tax breaks being proposed are being lavished on corporate board rooms and not families".  One major point of contention already brewing between parties is Governor Pence's proposal to phase out the personal property tax businesses pay on equipment.
State Representative Pelath's statement:
"From an initial look at his agenda, the Governor is not offering a striking vision of where Indiana needs to go.
"I agree that we must improve our state's crumbling infrastructure, and I applaud his desire to help families with child care.
"But as I look at the scope of these proposals, I wonder how he plans to reconcile new spending with his own reputation as a rabid fiscal conservative. I also wonder how fellow Tea Party politicians will react to any deterioration of their precious state surplus, which they value more than the prosperity of our citizens.
"And I cannot help but think that this agenda continues the recent tradition of leaving our state's middle class by the side of the road.
"Consider that once again, the vast majority of tax breaks being proposed are being lavished on corporate board rooms and not families. Despite recent improvements in Indiana's unemployment rate, our state still lags behind the rest of the country, and it is becoming rapidly apparent that consistently cutting taxes for those with all the power and all the money is not doing anything for middle-class pocketbooks.
"In fact, this trend toward more corporate giveaways is going to end up hurting families who will not find much protection from the property tax caps, and local units of government that again will be forced to choose to cut services or increase fees to pay for them.
"Once again, the improvements in our state's educational system are weighted toward vouchers and charter schools available only to a select few. Our traditional public
classrooms are forgotten.
"Since there may be some criticism of this agenda from members of the governor's own party, I simply will add that House Democrats will study this program in-depth in
the weeks leading up to the start of the 2014 legislative session, and we will be prepared to offer improvements where necessary and alternatives that make sense.
"It's not all bad. But our state has many problems that this agenda ignores."...

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Woman Dies After 3 Vehicle Crash in Jasper Co

Indiana State Police say an Avon, Indiana, woman died yesterday evening, Sunday, December 8th, from injuries she received in a three vehicle crash.  Preliminary investigation by Trooper Jason Madison revealed that at approximately 5:15 p.m., yesterday, a Jeep driven by Ashley A Rogers, 28, was southbound on I-65 at the 225 ½ mile marker, approximately 4 ½ miles south of the Demotte/Roselawn exit, and lost control for unknown reasons. Troopers from the Lowell Post say road conditions were snow covered and slippery at the time of the crash.
Police say the driver of a 2003 Ford was south bound and came over the hill crest and saw the Jeep spinning in the roadway, swerved to the left to avoid the Jeep but was hit on the front right side of the Ford. The Ford came to rest on the inside shoulder. Police say the driver of the Ford was wearing a seat belt and was not hurt.
A  semi driver heading southbound came over the hill crest, authorities say, saw the Jeep in the right lane, and could not avoid hitting it. The semi went off the interstate, down into a ditch and into the fence line approximately 50 feet off the road. The Kenworth was loaded with approximately 45,000 pounds of Resin. No load was lost. The semi driver was wearing a seat belt and was not injured.
Police say Rogers was found lying on the inside shoulder next to the concrete barrier wall, and it's not known at this time if she was ejected or hit while she was outside of her Jeep.  Rogers was taken to Jasper County Hospital in Rensselaer and was being transported to a Lafayette Hospital when complications arose and was rushed back to Jasper County where she died at the hospital.  Assisting: Indiana State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Trooper Dale Turner, Keener Township Fire and EMS....

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Winners Announced in Photo Contest

Winners Announced in Photo Contest
"End of a Perfect Day," winning photo by Valerie Parson of St. John
The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority has announced the winners of the Summer Fun Along the South Shore photo contest.  The winner, Valerie Parson of St. John, received a $500 Visa gift card.
Winners Announced in Photo Contest
"Frolic Merriment," by Taytum Bultema of Crown Point, taken at Mowry’s Fruit Farm.
All-American-Boy Dana-Garvin2
"All-American Boy," photo by Dana Garvin of Indianapolis. Garvin was at a Fourth of July gathering in Highland when she snapped her winning photograph.
Two runners-up, Taytum Bultema of Crown Point and Dana Garvin of Indianapolis, were also selected and each received $100 toward custom framing at Lake Street Gallery, located in the Miller Beach section of Gary.
Photographs submitted to the contest have the opportunity of being featured on the South Shore CVA’s website or in other promotional materials. Last year’s winning photograph, submitted by Scott Keithley of Valdosta, Georgia, is featured on the cover of the 2013-2014 visitors’ map. The contest, which ran through the summer, asked for candid photographs of people enjoying summer activities such as the beach, festivals, parks or the water park.  Photographs were judged by Sandra Mendez, a photography instructor in the Chicago region.   [Photos courtesy South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority]...

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Driver Seriously Hurt in Borman Crash

In Lake County overnight, a motorist was seriously injured when their car went out of control on the slick and snow-covered Borman Expressway nera gary. Indiana State Police at the Lowell Post say a preliminary investigation indicates the westbound driver was westbound in a Mercury Mountaineer going too fast for road conditions when it spun out just east of Cline Avenue, hit the inner barrier wall, then bounce into the middle lane of the interstate where the vehicle was struck by a semi that could not avoid it. The Freightliner then hit the inner barrier wall. Police say the driver of the Mountaineer was not wearing a seat belt, and was ejected onto the roadway. That individual was taken to a local hospital with what police described as critical life-threatening head injuries, and the semi driver was transported with non-life-threatening injuries. All lanes west bound were closed with traffic getting by on the outer shoulder until approximately 04:30 a.m. when all lanes were reopened. The lanes were closed for reconstruction of the crash, removal of the injured and vehicles and clean-up of the roadway....

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Hammond Police Investigate Homicide

Police continue to investigate a homicide that claimed the life of a Highland man in the Hessville section of Hammond over the weekend. The Lake County Coroners office says 38-year-old Thomas Ferrell died at a local hospital around 9:30 Saturday morning from a gunshot wound. Police say at about 2 am the victim was heating up his girlfriend's vehicle outside a bar in the 29-hundred block of 165th Street in around 2 am Saturday when the shooting occurred. Authorities say the woman found the man shot inside the vehicle when she went to the parking lot....

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Indiana Gets Grant to Get Local Foods in Schools

The Hoosier state is part of a nationwide effort to better connect schools with food grown closer-to-home. A 100-thousand dollar US Department of Agriculture Farm to School Program grant awarded to the Indiana Health Department in November and will be put toward ways of expanding farm-to-school network efforts as well as meet-and-greet events to create partnerships between school food service directors and local producers. Specifically, this grant will use the Hoosier Harvest Market, an online marketplace of food produced and grown in central Indiana, as a test hub for connecting farmers and local school systems.
The Indiana State Department of Health says it is one of 71 projects spanning 42 states and Washington, D.C. to receive the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Program grant. This is an effort to better connect schools with local food producers.
The $100,000 grant was awarded to the State Health Department in November and will be used to:
·        Conduct strategic planning to expand and better support the Indiana Farm to School Network efforts.
·        Assess school food service infrastructure and readiness to incorporate local products into school meal programs.
·        Provide scholarships for small farmers and school food service staff to attend trainings that provide skills and information that support farm to school.
·        Host meet and greet events to create partnerships between school food service directors and local producers.
“Support for Farm to School has been gaining momentum in Indiana,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “We knew it was important to meet farmers and school food service directors to learn who might be interested in farm to school activities. The response has been very positive.”
In Indiana, 231 out of 294 public school districts completed the USDA Farm to School Census and 357,590 children in attendance are actively engaged in Farm-to-School activities.
The USDA Farm to School grants help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers and distributors. Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms and cooking classes.
“In rural and urban communities across the country, farm to school is teaching students where food comes from and how it gets to their plate, and encouraging them to make healthier food choices in the cafeteria and at home,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Farm to school programs are an investment in the health of our nation’s children and in the vibrancy of rural economies."
  ...

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Online Shoppers Warned About Lookalike Sites

The Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana is warning Region residents about phony websites pretending to be Overstock-dot-com. Better Business Bureau says a noticeable trend recently is websites that include the word "overstock" in the domain name, hoping to trick consumers into thinking they are shopping with Overstock.com. The President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus says they've seen this with other major retailers as well. BBB is warning consumers: be careful to look for the real domain when it comes to major retail sites.
"Overstock.com is a highly visible online retailer, so it's no wonder scammers try to mimic them," noted Carrie A. Hurt, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the umbrella organization for 113 BBBs across the U.S. and Canada. "We've seen this with other major retailers as well. BBB is warning consumers: be careful to look for the real domain when it comes to major retail sites."
"Our web address is simple: overstock.com," said Jonathan Johnson, Executive Vice Chairman of Overstock.com, Inc. "That's all. If the name is longer, or uses any additional words, or letters, if it has any words other than 'overstock' before the dot com, it's not our website."
Overstock.com is a BBB Accredited Business with an A rating, as well as a National Partner of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The company has been recognized by many organizations, including Compuware as a "Best of the Web" award winner for four years in a row.
BBB suggests the following tips for online shoppers to avoid bogus websites:
* Go to bbb.org to look up the BBB Business Reviews of your favorite online retailers.
* Type the URL directly into your browser; do not click on a link from an email or social media site unless you are absolutely sure the message is from the legitimate business.
* On the payment page, look for "https" at the beginning of the address (the "s" stands for "secure").
* Look for "Contact Us" information, including a real address, a toll-free customer service number, and other ways to reach the company if you have a problem.
* Use a credit card (not a debit card) when shopping online for greater protections against possible fraud.
* If a website has a BBB Accredited Business seal, click on it. A real seal should link directly to that company's BBB Business Review....

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