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Furthermore …

Gard
File
Wolkins

Limited-government bill handcuffs state

How’s this for hypocrisy? From the political caucus intent on limiting the reach of federal government comes House Bill 1143, a bill prohibiting the state from adopting environmental standards more stringent than federal regulations.

The bill’s author is Winona Lake Republican David Wolkins, chairman of the House Environmental Affairs Committee.

Wolkins has pushed for the law for years but was repeatedly blocked by Sen. Beverly Gard, a Greenfield Republican and long-time chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Environmental Affairs Committee.

She retired in 2012, and this is the first time Wolkins’ bill has advanced without the well-regarded senator poised to block it.

That hasn’t stopped her from speaking out in opposition, noting that it will tie the state’s hands.

“I think it’s bad public policy,” Gard told the Associated Press. “It just wouldn’t allow Indiana the flexibility to meet its needs.”

Rep. Matt Pierce, D- Bloomington, said he believes Wolkins’ bill comes from industries and lobbyists intent on limiting environmental rules.

Sounds about right. Wolkins is a state leader with the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-driven group that writes model bills for its lawmaker-members to carry in their respective states.

HB 1143 was approved this week by a 68-28 vote. All area Republicans supported it; Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, voted no. Sen. Ed Charbonneau, the Senate sponsor and Gard’s successor as environmental committee leader, said he will take Gard’s concerns into consideration.

Changing an auto-matic driving habit

Summer, fall, winter or spring, a driver stopped at any typical red light in Fort Wayne will be able to observe two or possibly three cars turning left on yellow. Customarily, the last of those drivers will sail through the last half of his or her turn on full red.

Because traffic lights change with a several-second delay, the second-to-last turner gets through before the opposite light turns green. But the last driver wears the same expression of vacant unawareness as he or she arcs through the intersection. What? The light turned red? People who had the right to go had to wait for me? I didn’t realize!

These drivers stare straight ahead, as if they’re more concerned that an injured bird or a malfunctioning Amazon drone will flutter into the turn lane than the somewhat more likely possibility that a driver who has the green light will plow into the side of their car.

But it only takes a couple of seconds, so we all wait. No one honks.

No harm, no foul.

But that was all before The Winter That Will Not Die. Now, the people who used the end of the yellow light have added a new excuse to their silent repertoire:

“I just couldn’t stop.”

Instead of two or three cars sailing through on yellow-to-red-lights, we get to watch four, or five, or even – and this was actually observed – six cars trundling through, like a trunk-to-tail line of baby elephants. Only not nearly so cute.

So, instead of pausing for a couple of seconds when the light turns to green, you pause for four or five seconds.

And by the time your line of cars starts through the intersection, the light is almost ready to change again. Which leads the drivers behind you to follow you through the yellow light, into full red, taillight to headlight.

And on and on, with longer and longer conga lines at the yellow light and longer and longer pauses at the greens. Until …

Until we reach the point that this modest proposal is the only answer: Set a day next week when everything switches.

Green will mean “stop.” Red will mean “go.”

Yellow will still mean “caution.” In the driver-ed manuals, perhaps. In truth, as the alien played by Jeff Bridges once astutely observed in the movie “Starman,” “Yellow means go very, very fast.”

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