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From Left Field

February 14, 2011

BY BOB SHRALUKA
        The current session of the Indiana Legislature doesn't lack for some really dumb ideas. One of them has garnered little publicity, but ranks near the top on the dumb list.
    A bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, would ban public access to traffic accident reports for a period of 90 days after the accident.
    Leising's intent seems valid and sincere. She says she wants to stop "ambulance chasers" from harassing people in the immediate aftermath of an accident. The problem is passage of such a bill would prohibit all public access to all accident records in order to restrict a few attorneys seeking to cash in.
    And besides, the Indiana Supreme Court, beginning last October, prohibits attorneys from soliciting accident victims or victims of natural disaster for 30 days.
    Newspapers would be exempt, so this is not a personal cause. And employing a little logic, one is left with this thought: if the accident report is in the newspaper, the ambulance chaser is going to be chasing anyway — which is probably how most of the chasing begins now.
    The Hoosier State Press Association pointed out in an e-mail that only some insurance companies have supported the bill. Perhaps to have a 90-day period in which to convince accident victims to accept a claim settlement favorable to the insurance company?
    This bill may be well-intentioned, but it would provide just one more restriction on public access and for no logical reason.

Beyond dumb
    Then there is this one, which is beyond dumb.
    Republican Rep. Cindy Noe of Indianapolis is sponsoring a bill which would quadruple fees on marriage licenses and certificates unless couples complete marriage preparation classes. Under the bill, those who complete the classes would pay the standard $10 fee for marriage licenses and $8 for marriage certificates. But couples who don’t take a course would pay $40 and $32, respectively.
    Noe says the idea is to strengthen Indiana families. According to the bill, the state would require classes to be at least eight hours long and cover topics such as communication and parenting. Courses could be taught by therapists, clergy members or others included in the bill.
    Aren't Republicans supposed to want the government off our backs?

Someone to miss
    The best part of knowing Bill Baker was that he always had a comment for you upon bumping into each other. Usually it was a putdown, sometimes a joke, sometimes a piece of news he'd heard and wanted to pass along.
    The putdowns were best because you could then give it back ... and soon the stuff would be flying. It was fun, it was laughs, it was a good feeling.
    Make no mistake, though. The guy cared; he really cared. He was a county commissioner and a Decatur councilman; he coached kids' baseball for over 20 years; he was on the hospital board; he was a good businessman, having launched Baker & Sons Plumbing and Heating in 1965, a solid business yet today.
    From here, Baker will always be acknowledged as the guy most responsible — or certainly one of those most responsible — for the purchase of the former school building that is now the Adams County Service Complex, one of the most astute purchases in this county's history.
    We heard him often talk during his days as a commissioner about how the county should buy that building. The courthouse was already bulging with offices and paperwork up to here, and it was growing ever more obvious that something would have to be done in the future.
    Eventually, through the efforts of Bill Baker and others, the building was purchased for a little over $1 million. It was an outright steal, looking at all the uses and services it provides today.
    Life was no cakewalk for the guy. His first wife, Millie, suffered for many years with Alzheimer's, and he rarely left her side. But never complained.
    The last time we bumped into "Baker" — we never called him by his first name — was downtown last summer. After the usual uncomplimentary things flew, he said, "Hey, c'mon out for a beer."
    It didn't get done in time. But some day ... somewhere...   

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