Archive for January, 2006

Common Census Map Project

A “Voice of the People” letter in the South Bend Tribune recently contained a link to the Common Census Map Project. The site is an interactive cultural atlas that allows people to contribute information about the communities in which live.

It aims to:

…finally settle the question over exactly where cultural boundaries lie, contribute to the national debate over Congressional redistricting and gerrymandering, and educate people everywhere as to the true layout of the American people that they’ve never seen on any map before.

I found the Indiana map interesting in light of the ongoing debate over time zone boundaries:

common census

If you are so inclined, take a minute to contribute your information to the project.

Add comment January 10th, 2006

What “Broadband” means for Indiana

broadbandWhenever a major telecommunications bill is introduced in the Legislature, too many people tend to tune it out because they feel the issue is just “too complicated.”

This year, Senator Brandt Hershman (R-Wheatfield) has filed SB 245, probably the most far-reaching telecommunications bill Indiana has seen. I will discuss that bill more specifically at a later time, but you can read a good overview on the fiscal impact statement here (pdf).

In the meantime, the article “Let There Be Wi-Fi” in the latest Washington Monthly provides an excellent primer on broadband issues that anyone can understand.

The thrust of the article is that broadband should be thought of as the 21st century equivalent of electricity:

Most people know broadband as an alternative to their old, slow dial-up Internet connection… But broadband is about much more than checking your email or browsing on EBay. In the near future, telephone, television, radio and the web all will be delivered to your home via a single broadband connection.

Calling American broadband “the slowest, most expensive and least reliable in the developed world,” the article points out that the US has fallen to 16th in the world in broadband penetration, while citizens of countries like Japan and South Korea have access to speeds ten times as fast as what is available in the US, and for half the price.

Even the US definition of Broadband – 200kbps – is 500 times slower than the new Japanese standards.

What does this mean for Indiana?

It means we will lose out on business opportunities to develop new commercial applications, products, and services designed for this communication. It means doctors in our hospitals will not have access to world-class diagnostic tools. It means our students will be learning obsolete technology. It means Indiana businesses that want to remain competitive in the global economy will have to pack up and move elsewhere.

In the 1880’s, when electricity was first available, it was marketed by private utilities as a luxury for the rich, big industry and major urban areas. Smaller towns who could not attract utility investment faced serious threats to their viability:

…communities were left with the choice of forming a government-owned utility or being left in the dark. Even big cities like Detroit built municipal power systems to cut prices and extend service. In response, private utility companies responded with a massive propaganda and misinformation campaign that attacked advocates of municipal power as “un-American,” “Bolshevik,” and “an unholy alliance of radicals.”

Indiana needs to set an aggressive broadband policy that guarantees universal access to high-speed data transmission. As with the Rural Electric Cooperatives that were formed for universal electrification, our policy should encourage every avenue of access for Hoosiers - including municipal broadband systems.

electrification

The article cites the small Indiana town of Scottsburg’s Citizen’s Communication Corp. as an example of how we can successfully accomplish this goal:

When three major employers in Scottsburg, Ind. (pop. 6,040), threatened to leave town because they didn’t have the communications infrastructure needed to deal with their customers and suppliers, the town’s mayor, Bill Graham, went to the major cable and telephone companies for help.

They told him that extending high-speed broadband services to Scottsburg wasn’t profitable enough.

So the city decided to build a municipal wireless “cloud” using transmitters placed on water and electric towers that reach more than 90 percent of the surrounding county’s 23,000 residents. “Scottsburg didn’t wake up one morning and say, we want to be in the broadband business,” Graham told PBS. “Scottsburg had business and industry that was going to leave our community because what we had was not fast enough.” Scottsburg’s investment worked—the employers stayed.

Broadband is the new essential public utility. Access to broadband can bring prosperity to our communities, and those without access will certainly suffer for it.

“Just as with the roads of old,” Dianah Neff, Philadelphia’s chief information technology officer, recently told BusinessWeek, “if broadband bypasses you, you become a ghost town.”

12 comments January 9th, 2006

Olympic possibilities for South Bend?

olympicsChicago Mayor Richard Daley is dropping hints that the city of South Bend could be part of a Chicago bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. While the talk is still speculative, it goes without saying that a successful bid including South Bend could have a tremendous economic impact on our community.

Local venues such as Notre Dame Stadium and the East Race Waterway are good examples of first-class athletic facilities that are already used for national and international sporting events.

However, Masson’s Blog points out the possible negative ramifications for South Bend being in a different time zone than Chicago, and Mayor Daley has stressed the need to improve transportation between Chicago and South Bend.

Add comment January 6th, 2006

Child support and elected officials

child supportThe South Bend Tribune today wrote a story about HB 1104, my bill (which I mentioned in an earlier post) that would remove from office any elected official who is more than $15,000 delinquent in child support payments:

Dvorak said the proposed legislation is really a “measure of responsibility.”

“The few (elected officials) that lack respect for their legal and moral obligations should not be entrusted with managing public programs or taxpayer dollars.”

WNDU-TV also interviewed me today for a story they titled “Dvorak introduces controversial legislation“:

Dvorak says, “I think it sets a very bad example for the rest of the citizens, when they see elected officials that are going massively delinquent in child support, and also there’s questions of trust and responsibility.”

I have also spoken with FOX28-TV about the bill, and they should be airing a story this evening, as well. (update: FOX28 story here)

If you have an opinion about this legislation, feel free to leave a comment here or let me know.

15 comments January 5th, 2006

The end of the first week

The second day of the new session was about as uneventful as the first day. Bills are still being filed and distributed, and the list will continue to grow. The first week is now behind us, but the pace will quicken as Committees begin to meet and the Senate convenes next week.

I have been working with coauthors of my legislation and talking with committee chairs about ways to approach the upcoming schedule.

The Judiciary Committee did meet this morning. I am not a member of that committee, but it appears they passed a recodification of Title 21, and a technical corrections bill.

burtonCongressman Dan Burton (R – IN05) stopped by the chamber for a vist today and spoke to us briefly from the Speaker’s rostrum. Congressman Burton’s brother is State Representative Woody Burton (R-Greenwood).

As always, feel free to let me know if there is anything I can do to be of assistance during the session.

Add comment January 5th, 2006

Opening day

The first day of session was short on official business. Many bills have not yet been filed, and committees are scheduling their first meetings. Most members are working on all the preliminary work that needs to be done – such as finding co-sponsors for legislation and asking committee chairs to hear their bills.

The only minor excitement was the pre-session prayer circle/media extravaganza that formed behind my desk on the floor of the House. Representative Peggy Welch (D-Bloomington) and Representative Eric Turner (R-Marion) led a prayer in the back of the chamber before session began. As reported in the Indianapolis Star:

…led by Reps. Peggy Welsh and Eric Turner, the small group of lawmakers huddled as Welch prayed in the name of “Great I Am” while Turner prayed in the name of Jesus.

The session then opened with a speech from House Speaker Brian Bosma, who indicated this would be the practice for the days ahead.

A judge’s ruling barred the Indiana House of Representatives from invoking the name Jesus in official prayers.

I was able to explain to a few confused reporters what “I Am” means – so in spite of another reporter’s jibes, Catholics, in fact, do know their Bible.

1 comment January 4th, 2006

The start of a new session and HB 1104

gavelThe House of Representatives convenes tomorrow for the start of the second regular session of the 114th Indiana General Assembly.

Two new members will be sworn in at 11am. Carlene Bottorff will be replacing her late husband, Jim Bottorff, and Dennis Tyler will be replacing the late Tiny Adams. Jim and Tiny passed away last month and will be greatly missed.

The first bill I have filed for the session is HB 1104 (not yet online, but initial draft is available here). The bill would remove from office any elected official who is more than $15,000 behind in child support payments.

Under current law, office-holders can be removed from office as a result of impeachment, felony conviction, various federal offenses (including draft-dodging and sedition), and even for “voluntary intoxication.”

Parents who fail to pay child support in other professions already face the potential penalties of losing their professional licenses, and even their driving licenses. Our elected representatives in government should face the same harsh results.

Elected officials who have failed to meet their obligations to their children have betrayed the public trust and have not lived up to their moral and legal duties. It is inappropriate for such individuals to be entrusted with taxpayer funds and the administration of laws.

The official press release on the legislation is available here.

I have four more bills that will be filed in the coming days, and I will post more about them when they are ready. I look forward to covering developments in the General Assembly this year, and welcome any feedback, comments, or questions.

3 comments January 3rd, 2006

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