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Massa
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Kasich
Pence

Sex offenders’ living options narrow further

Local law enf orcement, judicial and social work officials have long expressed concern about the unintended consequences of forbidding convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a park, school child care center or other place that draws children. The issue gained more attention in late 2011 when the murder of an 11-year-old girl at a mobile home park on Diebold Road led to the discovery that 14 convicted sex offenders lived in the trailer park.

Authorities worry that the law has created “sex offender ghettos,” with a high population of convicted sex offenders. And while officials have periodically questioned whether such laws should be changed, some Americans are learning to use them as a weapon.

In Los Angeles, a group of parents learned of an apartment building where 30 convicted sex offenders live and, with help from a City Council member, devised a plan to build a small park nearby.

Unless legal action blocks the move, that means the convicts will have to find homes elsewhere – which will be more difficult in L.A., where the required distance is 2,000 feet, or about four blocks.

As the New York Times reported, other cities are working to build “pocket parks,” which may be large enough only to hold a single swingset.

While the plan may help move sex offenders away, some officials worry about the decreasing number of places offenders can live. The laws make “it impossible for sex offenders to find housing in the whole city,” Janet Neely of the California Sex Offender Management Board told the Times. “It’s counterproductive to public safety, because when you have nothing to lose, you are much more likely to commit a crime than when you are rebuilding your life.”

It’s Indiana’s turn to be the target in states’ sniping

As governor, Mitch Daniels liked to pick on Indiana’s neighbor to the west.

“It’s like living next door to ‘The Simpsons’ – you know, the dysfunctional family down the block,” Daniels told a Chicago reporter in 2011.

But now it’s Indiana’s neighbor to the east throwing the jabs. On Monday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich told a GOP gathering in Hamilton County, Ohio, that his state has more to offer than Indiana.

“This is not Indiana where you go to Indianapolis … and then say, ‘Where else are we going to go? Gary?”

Nor could Kasich resist the temptation to criticize the Hoosier state when talking to Matt Bai of the New York Times Magazine last year.

“We have a lot of great cities,” he told the writer. “I mean, if you think of Indiana, you’ve got Indianapolis, and then what?”

Kasich then threw up his hands, according to Bai, and asked, “Terre Haute?”

Gov. Mike Pence, a former U.S. House colleague of Kasich’s, jumped into the fray on Wednesday.

“Indiana is the best state in the Midwest to start a business, grow a business and get a job,” Pence said. “With the Hoosier state consistently winning the competition for fiscal responsibility and reform, somebody should remind the governor of Ohio that trash talk usually comes before the game.”

The Duck Test in action

Occasionally, portions of court opinions will veer away from legalese and infinitesimal distinctions with language that can be poetic, humorous, compelling and/or refreshingly direct and unambiguous.

Such was a decision written by one of the newer Indiana justices, Mark Massa (appointed last April). Massa ruled a day laborer – or temp worker – fell under a state wage claim law just like any other worker.

Massa wrote:

“James Whitcomb Riley (1849–1916), our celebrated Hoosier Poet, is widely credited with the origination of the Duck Test; as he expressed it, ‘hen I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.’ Brandy Walczak successfully applied for employment at Labor Works (a temp agency), received job assignments and paychecks, and was never fired or laid off. … (W)e conclude Walczak had a reasonable expectation of continuing to receive job assignments from Labor Works on the day she filed her claim – in short, that Walczak passes the Duck Test. …”

In a footnote, Massa acknowledges there are conflicting versions of who first came up with the “walks like a duck” phrase, but observes that “All questions of origination aside, the Duck Test is a classic example of Hoosier pragmatism.”

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