Iowa silences whistleblowers
Fortunately for Hoosiers, the bill that would have made it illegal to surreptitiously take photos or video of an agricultural operation to gather evidence of wrongdoing died in this year’s General Assembly. But Iowa legislators have passed similar ag gag legislation and made it illegal for whistleblowers to disclose covertly gathered evidence of animal abuse or environmental violations at agricultural businesses.
Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, was the sponsor of the Indiana legislation that failed to pass out of a Senate committee.
Iowa is the first state to pass such legislation, which gives large farming operations greater protections in addition to standard laws against trespassing. But the laws are increasingly becoming popular in states where factory farming is growing. States such as Utah, Nebraska, Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois and New York are considering similar legislation – which raises much concern about the ability of whistleblowers to document wrongdoing as well as First Amendment issues.
Unusual issues follow I-69 expansion
The state’s biggest highway project has been in the news in recent days for vastly different reasons: Bats, wrecks, fires, injuries and serious illnesses.
Construction crews working on extending Interstate 69 from Bloomington to Evansville hurried to remove designated trees over 3 inches in diameter in recent weeks and had to stop last weekend. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources ordered a ban on removing such trees from April 1 to Sept. 30 – all because of bats.
Females of the species known as the Indiana bat give birth to their babies – called pups – during that time frame. Hundreds of thousands of bats are in southern Indiana, and government officials don’t want to interrupt the life cycle. The Indiana bat, an endangered species, faces a growing threat from the mysterious white nose syndrome that has killed more than a half-million bats in the eastern United States.
As part of the I-69 project, Indiana will set aside nearly 4,000 acres for forest preservation and reforestation.
A section of the road south of Bloom- ington is raising other concerns among a different group of officials: firefighters and medical technicians.
A 22-mile section between Bloomington and the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center will have no entrance or exits, and officials from two Monroe County townships believe emergency access gates should be installed to allow ambulances and fire trucks quicker access to the interstate.
Perhaps not surprisingly, officials from the two townships disagree on where the gates should be placed.