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Two Lake Bills Await Signature

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The clock is ticking on a couple of bills with lots of Lake County interest that at last word have yet to be signed by Governor Pence... Senate Bill 585 among other things lifts the Lake County property tax levy freeze, and House Bill 1585 provides a way for Griffith to leave Calumet Township under certain conditions. If the governor doesn't sign or veto them by Saturday, they automatically become law without his signature.
Senate Bill 585 was written by Valparaiso State Senator Ed Charbonneau. In our recent Region Newsmakers interview with State Senator Charbonneau, he talked to us about the measure, which he says he drafted to deal with economic development opportunities for Lake County, "but the ramifications of this from an economic development standpoint, from an investment standpoint, from a job creation standpoint," Charbonneau said, are "regionwide", and he added if the Gary Airport could be brought up to its full potential, "it would have statewide implications".  The measure changes the composition of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority, and also requires studies of a possible new Lake Michigan port in Gary, and the need for a level-one trauma center in the Region.
You can hear our Region Newsmakers interview here at our website.
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Tax Bills Due

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Porter County Property Taxes are due today. Porter County Treasurer Mike Bucko says they must be postmarked by today to be considered an ontime payment. Bucko says you can also pay online, but credit and debit cards have a fee. You can also pay in person.  Additional information: You can pay on line at www.porterco.org.  Just click on (pay my tax bill).  You will need the duplicate number so have the tax bill handy.     Bucko says if you pay on line  E-check is free but credit and debit cards have a fee.  Provide your email address and check the box to get a receipt that a payment was made.   The Treasurers Office in Porter County says taxpayers have until 11:59:59 on May 10, 2013 to be on time when you pay on line. If you are paying at the Treasurer's Office  at 155 Indiana Ave. Valparaiso IN  our office hours are Mon-Fri. except holidays 8:30am to 4:30pm.  Call 219-465-3470 to for information.
The Lake County Treasurers Office has announced extended office hours for their Crown Point, Hammond and Gary offices again today (Fri May 10 2013), from 8:30 am to 7 pm, for the Spring property tax installment due May 10. A number of local banks in Lake County will continue to collect payment until closing today. Credit card and check payments are accepted on the Lake County Treasurer's Page at  www.lakecountyin.org .  
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Tax Bill Vetoed

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Indiana Governor Mike Pence has issued his third veto-- a measure having to do with taxes. House Enrolled Act 1546 would have allowed the collection of local income taxes in Pulaski and Jackson Counties after the legal authority to do so had expired. Governor Pence has directed the Office of Management and Budget to develop options for refunding or crediting the revenues in question. The Governor earlier vetoed two measures requiring licenses for diabetes educators, anesthesiologist assistants and dietitians, and state certification for music therapists.
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Lake Tax Goes Before Commissioners

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A few days ago, the Lake County Council voted four-to-three to approve a one-and-a-half percent local income tax for county residents and out-of-staters who work in Lake County. Now it goes before the Lake County Commissioners, who are expected to consider it – and veto it – at a special meeting this morning [May 10th, 8:30am.] If commissioners veto it, as the speculation has been based on comments from the commissioners, the county council could override that, but it would take a super-majority, at least five votes, to do so. Lake is the only county in the state without a local income tax.
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Abused Dogs Found During Eviction in Harvey

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Dog2
(Photos Courtesy of the Cook County Sheriff's Dept)
dog4
A 37 year old Harvey, Illinois, man is facing numerous counts of animal cruelty after Cook County Sheriff's deputies enforcing a court-ordered eviction found a number of abused dogs, including one found dead in the basement of the home. The Sheriff's office reports William Roberson was named in the eviction order for the home located in the 50 block of West 151st Street. The Sheriff's Police Animal Crimes Unit found in total seven pit bull type dogs and one Chihuahua, and reports there was no indication of dog fighting at the location. The South Suburban Humane Society took custody of the dogs, which were taken to a veterinarian for treatment.
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SOS Warns of Scams to Con Hoosier Homebuyers

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Secretary of State
INDIANAPOLIS (May 9, 2013) – Secretary of State Connie Lawson is warning potential homebuyers about scam artists who use authentications from the Secretary of State’s office to swindle Hoosiers into fraudulent real estate transactions. The scam artists are domestic terrorists who refer to themselves as sovereign citizens and believe the government is illegitimate. They are using authentications from the Secretary of State’s office to create the illusion they own vacant property to trick Hoosiers into illegitimate home sales.
“Today, a judge sentenced Shela Amos of Indianapolis to 34 years for defrauding victims using the vacant home sale scheme,” said Secretary Lawson. “While this will stop Amos, unfortunately, others are waiting to pick up where she left off. Hoosiers should use extreme caution when dealing with sovereign citizens. They have no regard for the law and are master manipulators.”
The vacant home sale scheme is popular among sovereign citizens. At first, they identify abandoned homes and create documents claiming they own the property. Then they have a notary sign the document. They bring the signed document to the Secretary of State’s office and request an apostille, a gold seal for overseas authentications, to certify the notary’s signature is authentic. After the document has an apostille, they file it with the county recorder’s office. Once the document has the seal and is on file with the recorder’s office, the scam artists bring prospective home buyers to the recorder’s office to show them the document they created as proof they own the real estate they are selling.
In a majority of cases, sovereign citizens target Hispanics with a language barrier. They lead their victims to believe they have legitimately purchased property even though they don’t own the property or have the legal authority to sell.
The Apostilles and authentications they use are exclusively for international business and other transactions, specifically, in patent and trademark registrations and foreign adoptions. They have nothing to do with property.
“Con artists target members of the Hispanic community, but all Hoosiers should be cautious when dealing with sovereign citizens. Because of their disregard for the law, they concoct many schemes using phony authority and even retaliate against law enforcement and government officials who work to stop them.”
After sovereign citizens like Shela Amos are sentenced for their crimes, many harass the law enforcement officers, judges or prosecutors they believe wrongly convicted them. They often file fraudulent Uniform Commercial Code financing statements or real property liens against the law enforcement officer or civic leader for millions of dollars. These fraudulent filings cause issues when the victim attempts to buy or sell a home or open a line of credit. Many victims don’t even realize they have been targeted until they go to sell or buy property, but it can take years to have the statement or lien removed causing major headaches.
Just last month, the General Assembly passed House Enrolled Act 1054, giving the Secretary of State’s office the ability to prevent the filing of these deceitful documents. Previously, the Secretary of State’s office did not have the authority to reject financing statements or liens. The ability to reject fraudulent filings will protect those in law enforcement and civic leaders from the harassment of criminals. 
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Tips Lead to Arrest of 2 Men in Griffith for Dealing Drugs

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Franklin Tepper-Hunt
(Photos Courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Dept)
Andre Bibbs
(Photos: top Tepper-Hunt, bottom Bibbs)
Tips provided by citizen's resulted in two men being arrested in Griffith Wednesday for dealing and possessing drugs. The Lake County Sheriff's Department reports 41 year old Franklin Tepper-Hunt, of Griffith, is charged with dealing and possession of a controlled substance and 38 year old Andre Bibbs, of Harvey, Illinois, is charged with dealing and possession of a controlled substance, as well as possession of a stolen handgun, after officers executed a search warrant at the Mansard Apartment Complex.
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Pence Vetoes Unauthorized Collection of Taxes in 2 Counties

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Gov Mike Pence
Indianapolis, IN - Governor Mike Pence today vetoed House Enrolled Act 1546, concerning unauthorized collection of local option income tax in Jackson and Pulaski counties after legal authority for those tax collections had expired. The Governor issued the following statement: 
"If Hoosiers owe taxes, they should pay them. But when Hoosiers pay taxes that are not owed, they deserve relief, and this legislation does not meet that standard.
"HEA 1546 would approve, after the fact, the collection of taxes that were not owed. While there are valuable elements of this legislation, retroactive approval of the taxes collected is not the proper remedy and for that reason I am vetoing this legislation.
"I look forward to working with the General Assembly next session to resolve this issue in a manner that works for these counties and is in the best interest of Hoosier taxpayers."
Governor Pence has directed the Office of Management and Budget to develop options for refunding or crediting the revenues in question.
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Pence Signs a Number of Education Initiatives into Law

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Indianapolis, IN - Surrounded by students at Calvary Christian School, Governor Mike Pence today signed HEA 1003 to expand Indiana's school choice program.
"Our Hoosier students deserve every opportunity to be successful," said Governor Pence. "That includes having the choice to attend the school that works best for them. Thanks to this legislation, Hoosier students and their families now have more educational options available to meet their individual needs. I applaud the General Assembly for their commitment to quality education in Indiana."
HEA 1003 expands the state's choice scholarship program, which allows students who qualify to use a voucher to offset the costs of attending a school of their choice. Students with special needs, siblings of current voucher recipients, and students who receive a scholarship from a Scholarship Granting Organization will now qualify. The new law permits current voucher recipients to continue participating in the program if their family incomes rise above the base income threshold. It also allows children who live in low-performing school districts to receive a voucher without having to attend one year of public school first. 
Representative Bob Behning (R) authored the legislation to expand the school choice scholarship program.  Representatives Todd Huston(R)  and Dale DeVon (R) coauthored it.   It was sponsored by Senators Doug Eckerty (R) and Carlin Yoder (R)  and cosponsored by Senators Dennis Kruse (R) and Jean Leising (R).
Pence also signed HEA 1334, which creates an additional option for teachers to cost-effectively insure themselves against professional liability by creating a statewide insurance pool that teachers can opt into if they choose.
"Teachers should be able to focus on educating our kids without fear of defending themselves against frivolous lawsuits and incurring expensive legal fees out of their own pockets," said Pence. "HEA 1334 creates a means for teachers to shield themselves against professional liability so they can concentrate on leading their classrooms and helping our children reach their highest potential."
HEA 1334 was authored by Representative Jeffrey Thompson (R) and coauthored by Representative Woody Burton (R).  It was sponsored by Senators Dennis Kruse (R) and Phil Boots (R) and cosponsored by Senators Scott Schneider (R) and Brandt Hershman (R).
Both pieces of legislation were part of a package of education reforms the Pence Administration advanced in this session. Also passed were HEA 1005, which addresses the need for remediation and dropout prevention in Indiana, HEA 1348, which will help increase on-time college graduation rates, SEA 465, which created Indiana Regional Works Councils, and SEA 532 which makes available more loans to higher education students.
Hoosiers can learn more about the bill signed by the Governor at: http://www.in.gov/gov/billwatch.htm.
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Vehicle Check Leads to LaPorte Man's Arrest for Dealing Heroin

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Christopher Miller
(Photo Courtesy of the LaPorte County Sheriff's Office)
An investigation into a vehicle check led authorities to arrest an 18 year old LaPorte man and charge him with dealing heroin. The LaPorte County Sheriff's Office reports officers located a vehicle today parked in the Stone Lake Beach parking lot, and upon checking the vehicle, called upon investigators from the LaPorte County Metro Operations Unit to assist. The Sheriff's Office reports a subsequent on-scene investigation led to the arrest of Christopher Miller, who was taken to the LaPorte County Jail, and at last check was being held on a 100-thousand dollar bond.
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$250 Grant Awared for Senior Club Garden at Bonner Senior Center

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garden 2013 May 8th
(Photos Courtesy of the Portage Twp Trustee's Office)
garden grant pic 2013
Portage Township Trustee Brendan Clancy, along with the staff at the Bonner Senior Center recently received a 250-dollar “Edible Community Garden Grant” from the Porter County Master Gardeners Association. The Bonner Senior Center has formed a garden club comprised of senior volunteers to prepare, plant, and tend the garden, which has become a therapeutic outlet for seniors with a passion for gardening, but who lack the space of funds to establish their own. Last year one-thousand pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables were donated to the Portage Food Pantry and this year's grant will be used to continue the community garden.
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ISP to Begin Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks Sunday

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Indiana State Police logo
Starting Sunday Indiana State Police will be participating in a program to deter unsafe driving behavior by passenger vehicle and commercial motor vehicle drivers when they interact on the roadway. Indiana State Police say the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's “Ticket Aggressive Cars and Trucks”, or TACT campaign, uses education and high visiblity traffic enforcement to reduce the number of crashes, and will specifically look for motorists who drive dangerously around semi trucks and other commerical motor vehicles. Some of the violations troopers will be concentrating on include: unsafe lane changes, failure to yield the right of way, following too closely and aggressive driving. In many crashes involving commercial motor vehicles, the crash is caused by non-commercial drivers operating in an unsafe manner.  The campaign runs through June 8th.
Indiana State Police encourage all drivers to follow these safety tips when driving around commercial motor vehicles:
• Allow plenty of space between you and the commercial motor vehicle. Drivers should allow one car length between their vehicle and the commercial motor vehicle for every 10 mph of travel or follow at least three to four seconds behind the semi.
• Stay out of the truck driver’s blind spot. If you can’t see the mirrors on the truck, the driver can’t see you.
• Always make safe lane changes around commercial motor vehicles. Use signals and leave plenty of space between you and the truck. It can take over 500 feet for a fully loaded truck going 65 mph to come to a complete stop.
• Always yield the right of way to commercial motor vehicles.
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Mayor Meer to Give MC State of City Address May 21st

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Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer announced today that he will deliver the annual “State of the City Address later this month and the public is invited. Mayor Meer is schedule to deliver the address on Tuesday, May 21st, at 6:30pm, at the Michigan City Common Council Meeting in City Hall. For those unable to attend, a copy of the “State of the City” will be posted on the City of Michigan City website, http://www.emichigancity.com/cityhall/mayor/.
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Dedication Ceremony Tomorrow of Quentin P. Smith Bridge

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A dedication ceremony of the Quentin P. Smith Tuskegee Airman Memorial Bridge will be held tomorrow afternoon in Gary. Members of the Smith family will be present, along with numerous civic and business leaders from Gary and Northwest Indiana. The bridge dedication is part of the Gary/Chicago International Aiport's 166-million dollar expansion project. Officials report the new 11-point-six million dollar Airport Road overpass in Gary is now open to one lane of traffic in each direction, with all four lanes anticipated to be opened by July. The dedication takes place at 2:30 tomorrow afternoon, at the Gary/Chicago International Aiport Administration Building. Quentin Smith was a long-time Gary native, World War II hero, member of the renowned Tuskegee Airmen, educator, and recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal.
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Shops on Main Anchors Announced

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Shops on Main Anchors Announced
We're learning now about anchor stores for a highly-anticipated development in Schererville at the corner of Main Street and US 41. Officials say some of the stores are scheduled to open in the spring of next year.
According to Regency Centers, Shops on Main will be anchored by fashion, footwear and home furnishings retailers, including Gordmans (50,079 square feet), Ross Dress for Less (25,069 square feet), HomeGoods (23,969 square feet) and DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse (18,361 square feet). Developed in conjunction with Boyer Properties, the first phase will include two shop buildings and five pads on 28 acres of the 35-acre site.
“We appreciate the support of the town of Schererville which is a proven retail market based upon historical sales,” said Nick Wibbenmeyer, vice president and regional officer for Regency Centers. “We’re excited to become an active member of the community by helping to create jobs. Shops on Main will reflect the key attributes that define a Regency center: market-leading anchors, prime location and enjoyable shopping environment.” Regency owns and operates 14 centers, totaling 1.8 million square feet, in the Chicago market.
[Image provided]
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What's Next for Hebron Schools?

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The MSD of Boone Township referendum asking residents to approve a property tax increase for Hebron schools failed by four votes, according to unofficial results from Tuesday's special election. Earlier, the Region News Team spoke to School Superintendent George Letz who said the district would be facing cuts without the increase.  "We will be faced with cutting nine classroom teachers if the referendum does not pass, and various instructional aides, and other support staff, " Letz told us before the special election, "and that's going to be very difficult".   You can hear more of our conversation here at our website at News Audio on Demand.

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Homicide in East Chicago

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The Lake County Coroners office says a 23-year-old East Chicago man suffered multiple gunshot wounds in a homicide in the 100 block of Butternut Street in East Chicago. Authorities say Carlos Velez the third was pronounced dead shortly before 11:15 last night at a local hospital emergency room. East Chicago Police are investigating.
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Governor Signs Felony Code Overhaul

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Steele HB 1006 5.8.2013 WinCE
Gov Pence Signs Steele’s Criminal Code Overhaul Bill: Pictured, from left to right at desk: Sen. Steele, Gov. Pence.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence has signed the first full-scale update to our state’s felony code in more than thirty years. House Enrolled Act 1006 requires offenders to serve at least 75 percent of their sentence as opposed to 50 percent under previous law. The measure also establishes a new sentencing system that divides felonies into six levels instead of four.   “Our criminal justice system cannot work effectively if it is not equitable and balanced, with prison resources focused on our most dangerous criminals,” said Bedord State Senator Brent Steele, a practicing attorney in Bedford. “I thank Gov. Pence for his support of the first full-scale update to our state’s felony code since the 1970s.”
[Photo provided]
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Opera House Repairs Continue

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Porter County Commissioners have approved spending an additional ninety-thousand dollars for maintenance at the Memorial Opera House in downtown Valparaiso. That brings the total cost of recent repairs stemming from water infiltration problems to 315-thousand dollars. The historic structure, built in 1893 as a memorial to Civil War veterans, continues to serve as a venue for local and national talent.
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State's Top Teacher Visits Schools in Northwest Indiana

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Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz took time today, during National Teacher Appreciation Week, to visit and observe activities at schools in Lake and Porter counties.  According to her website, Superintendent Ritz stopped by the Hammond Area Career Center then toured the Porter County Career Center before wrapping up her day in Northwest Indiana at  a meet and greet at the Valparaiso Community Schools Administration Building. 
Addressing teachers, administrators and the media, the state's top teacher talked on several topics including alternatives to the ISTEP and IREAD exams to gauge student growth, as well as rules that hold back students who do not pass the exams.  The superintendent said she would like to utilize growth measures saying her office will have an outreach organization consisting of 13 coordinators in nine regions to help schools with their school improvement plans.  The Times reports that the outreach coordinators will be hired from the region they represent.
Superintendent Ritz said literacy is a prime concern of hers and will be implementing a program to combat this summer by empowering organizations like the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs to provide reading in their summer programs.  The program is called "Hoosier Family of Readers," and Ritz says she will be kicking it off on May 10th from the school she used to teach at.
Ritz commented on the new law signed into law earlier this week by Governor Mike Pence that provide funding for officers in school saying that when it comes to project school children, the Department of Education leads the nation with security measures to protect students. 
The superintendent also received many questions from teachers and administrators alike and handled sensitive areas including the voucher program, when she said she is bound to carry out as part of her duties as state superintendent.  Ritz noted though clearly stated her position by stating that "public dollars should go to public schools."  She says due to current legislation, vouchers are paid for first before public schools, so in order to change that the change must happen through lawmakers.
Since it is National Teacher Appreciation Week, Superintendent Ritz said teachers need to be acknowledged more by educators as well as the community for the work they do in the classroom.   The following letter to teachers was posted on the Superintendent website:  http://www.ritz4ed.com.     You can hear the speech given by Superintendent Ritz's at the meet and greet in Valparaiso, it is available at News Audio On Demand at:  http://www.regionnewsteam.com  

A TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK MESSAGE FROM GLENDA TO EDUCATORS: 
Educators of Indiana,

In recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week, I wanted to take time to thank you for all that you do for the children and communities of Indiana. As a fellow classroom teacher, I know of the many hours you devote to your profession. 

Albert Einstein once said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Teaching is both a science and an art; it takes both to inspire students to learn.

Enjoy you time with students…your brief moments with them can make lasting impressions.

I chose the theme “Imagining the possibilities. Making them happen” for my tenure because of what you do everyday in the classroom. Our focus for the next four years will be about positive approaches that will impact teaching and learning…sharing the great things you do in your schools! We will empower each other to provide what we know is best for our students.

Together, we will imagine the possibilities, and make them happen!

Know that you are appreciated.

Sincerely,
Glenda Ritz
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction
Spt. Ritz  presented flowers   
Valparaiso Teachers Association and the Valparaiso Community Schools present State Superintendent of Public Education, Glenda Ritz (r) with flowers.
Spt. Ritz  with flowers 3
State Superintendent of Public Education, Glenda Ritz addresses a "standing room" only audience during the meet and greet at Valparaiso Community Schools Administration Building on Wednesday.
Spt. Ritz 1
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, emphasizes the point that there needs to be alternatives to the ISTEP and IREAD programs as well as rules to hold back students
(photos courtesy of Jay Stevens)
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