IL Senator Kirk Recovering from Gall Bladder Surgery

Republican Senator Mark Kirk is recovering at an Illinois hospital after undergoing surgery this morning for stomach pains.  ABC News reports Senator Kirk's office says the junior Senator from Illinois was admitted to a hospital in Illinois Saturday morning after complaining of stomach pains. Doctors determined Kirk had gall stones, and needed to have his gall bladder removed. He underwent successful surgery this morning. His doctor expects a quick recovery. In 2012 Kirk suffered from a stroke. He returned to the Senate a year later. ...

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New Leaked Documents Reveal NSA Spying on Gamers

Did the National Security Agency spy ... on gamers? New documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveal American and British spies went looking for potential terrorists who were playing online video games. ABC News reports they weren't going to be content looking for needles of information in haystacks of emails and phone call metadata so American and British spies also went looking for terrorists in the fantasy land of online video games - like World of Warcraft and Second Life. This latest revelation from classified documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden says intelligence officials worried bad guys could exist as avatars or elves and talk to each other in code. But the documents don't say they actually found any terrorists in these potentially target-rich environments. ...

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US Marshals Fugitive of the Week: Michael Saunders

Michael Saunders
(Photo Courtesy of the US Marshals Service)
A 33 year old man wanted by the Lake County Sheriff's Department for child molestation is this week's US Marshals Service, Great Lakes Fugitive Task Force “Fugitive of the Week.” Michael Saunders is described as a black male, six-feet tall, with black hair and brown eyes who has been known to reside throughout northwest Indiana with ties to Gary, Hobart and Lake Station. 
Anyone with information on Michael Othell  Saunders  and his whereabouts may contact task force investigators by calling toll-free (888) 805-6119 or by texting “capture” to Tip411 (847411). All tipsters will remain anonymous....

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Pence Announces Cost-Saving Measures

Gov Mike Pence
Indiana Governor Mike Pence today announced the state will take a number of cost-saving measures in light of the November revenue report, which shows state revenue is 141 million dollars lower than projected this fiscal year. The state will require agencies to hold back an additional one-point-five percent of their appropriations, sell the state plane, delay planned expenses for the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute and require a two-percent reserve on university operations and line items, which will reportedly save an additional 57 million dollars this fiscal year. The measures come on top of previous steps to preserve the state's structural surplus, which have already saved the state 116 million dollars.
The November revenue report and commentary from Budget Director Brian Bailey have been posted on the State Budget Agency webpage. The report can be found here.
The full list of cost-saving measures can be found here....

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Gary Councilman Charged with Failure to File Tax Returns

Charges and a plea agreement were officially filed today against a Gary City Councilman. 42 year old Ronier Scott, of Gary, has agreed to plead guilty to two-counts of willfully failing to file income tax returns for the 2008 and 2009 calender years. The charges were filed as a result of an investigation by the IRS and Scott could face up to a year in prison if convicted. Scott represents Gary's 6th District. ...

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Wanted Subject Arrested in LaPorte

marcus koehn new
(Photo Courtesy of the LaPorte Police Department)
A man previously listed as the LaPorte Police Department's “Wanted Person of the Week” in November was arrested over the weekend. LaPorte Police today announced 28 year old Marcus Koehn, was taken into custody without incident at 11:12 pm Friday night after a search warrant was obtained for an apartment at County Acres Apartments Complex in LaPorte. Koehn was wanted on a warrant through LaPorte Police for felony theft, and misdemeanor battery and invasion of privacy. He was also wanted by the LaPorte County Sheriff's Office on charges of battery and failure to appear. A 22 year old woman, whose apartment Koehn was found in, was also taken into custody and charged with felony assisting a criminal....

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Region School Joins Ind Challenge of Obamacare

The Indiana Attorney General's Office today announced two dozen other school districts, including one in the Region, are joining a lawsuit filed by the state against the Internal Revenue Service, challenging the multi-million dollar tax penalties the IRS could potentially impose under the employer mandate of Obamacare. Fifteen schools and the state filed the federal suit October 8th. East Porter County Schools are among the 24 additional districts joining the lawsuit. Reiterating the initial complaint, the now 39 schools and the State allege the IRS exceeded its legal authority under the Affordable Care Act, the federal healthcare restructuring law that Congress passed in 2010.
News Release from Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller:
INDIANAPOLIS – Another 24 school corporations have joined the lawsuit the State of Indiana and 15 schools filed against the Internal Revenue Service, challenging the multi-million-dollar tax penalties the IRS potentially could impose against state and local governments in 2015 under the “employer mandate” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Plaintiffs today filed an amended complaint in federal court listing 24 additional schools that joined the lawsuit since the original group of 15 schools and the State filed it October 8.
Reiterating the initial complaint, the total 39 schools and the State allege the IRS exceeded its legal authority under the ACA, the federal healthcare restructuring law that Congress passed in 2010.  The IRS this year issued a regulation that has the effect of charging large financial penalties in all states against large employers who do not offer health insurance to those working more than 30 hours per week as full-time employees.  The lawsuit alleges the IRS regulation contradicts specific ACA wording Congress passed, which had authorized the IRS to impose employer-mandate penalties only in those states where state-established health-insurance exchanges exist.  Indiana is one of 27 states that opted not to create a state exchange, meaning the federal government runs an exchange for Indiana residents.
Under the employer mandate, the potential penalty for large employers for non-compliance is $2,000 per employee for all full-time employees in the organization.  The State of Indiana is employer to approximately 28,000 executive branch workers.  In the lawsuit, the State is represented by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office.
“Before being subjected to draconian IRS tax penalties, the State and 39 schools ask the federal court whether they are under federal taxing authority like private-sector employers.  The objective of this case is to defend fundamental state authority to structure our government workforce to provide services; and individuals’ access to health insurance never has been the focus of the suit,” Zoeller said.
The amended lawsuit asks the federal court to issue an injunction blocking the IRS and other federal agencies from applying the unauthorized regulation and penalties against the school corporations and State as government employers.  Plaintiffs also ask the federal court to issue a declaratory judgment finding the IRS regulation as applied to State government and schools is unconstitutional and void under the Tenth Amendment.
“Our State should be protected as is constitutionally guaranteed from federal government overreach under our American system of federalism, and the participation of so many school corporations in the challenge reflects mutual concern that this principle has been undermined by the IRS’s actions,” Zoeller said.
The 24 additional school corporations who joined the lawsuit in the amended complaint filed today are:
Area 30 Career Center Education Interlocal, Greencastle, Ind.
Charles A. Beard Memorial School Corporation, Knightstown, Ind.
Cloverdale Community School Corporation, Cloverdale, Ind.
Daleville Community Schools, Daleville, Ind.
Eastern Howard School Corporation, Greentown, Ind.
East Porter County School Corporation, Kouts, Ind.
Eminence Community School Corporation, Eminence, Ind.
Fayette County School Corporation, Connersville, Ind.
Greencastle Community School Corporation, Greencastle, Ind.
Monroe Central School Corporation, Parker City, Ind.
Nettle Creek School Corporation, Hagerstown, Ind.
Northeastern Wayne School Corporation, Fountain City, Ind.
North Putnam Community School Corporation, Bainbridge, Ind.
Northwestern School Corporation, Kokomo, Ind.
North West Hendricks School Corporation, Lizton, Ind.
Old National Trail Special Services Cooperative, Greencastle, Ind.
Salem Community Schools, Salem, Ind.
Shelby Eastern School Corporation, Fairland, Ind.
South Gibson School Corporation, Fort Branch, Ind.
South Putnam Community School Corporation, Greencastle, Ind.
Taylor Community School Corporation, Kokomo, Ind.
Union School Corporation, Modoc, Ind.
Western School Corporation, Russiaville, Ind.
Western Wayne Schools, Pershing, Ind.
The original 15 school corporations who were plaintiffs along with the State in the initial complaint October 8 are:
Metropolitan School District of Martinsville, Martinsville, Ind.
Perry Central Community Schools, Leopold, Ind.
Benton Community School Corporation, Fowler, Ind.
Community School Corporation of Eastern Hancock County, Charlottesville, Ind.
John Glenn School Corporation, Walkerton, Ind.
Monroe-Gregg School District, Monrovia, Ind.
Mooresville Consolidated School Corporation, Mooresville, Ind.
North Lawrence Community Schools, Bedford, Ind.
Northwestern Consolidated School District of Shelby County, Fairland, Ind.
Shelbyville Central Schools, Shelbyville, Ind.
Southwest Parke Community School Corporation, Montezuma, Ind.
Vincennes Community School Corporation, Vincennes, Ind.
Madison Consolidated Schools, Madison, Ind.
South Henry School Corporation, Straughn, Ind.
Southwestern Jefferson County Consolidated School Corporation, Hanover, Ind.
The 39 school corporations are represented by Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, while the State is represented by the Attorney General’s Office.
No court dates have been scheduled yet in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.  No response has been filed yet by the federal defendants, which include the IRS and its acting commissioner Daniel Werfel, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Department of Treasury and Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew, and the U.S. Department of Labor and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez....

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US 6 Closed Sun Evening After Gas Main Break

Traffic was shut down on US 6 in both directions for about four hours in Liberty Township, just west of Meridian Road, near Whispering Sands Mobile Home Park, Sunday evening after a natural gas line was struck. Porter County Sheriffs Police Sgt. Larry LaFlower told the Region News Team crews working on the new pipeline from Canada to Griffith were doing some excavating and struck a natural gas line, resulting in a gas main break in that area.  The highway was shut down from about 4:30pm  to 8:30 pm for safety reasons. NIPSCO responded and made repairs, police say, and there were no injuries reported....

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Illinois Gov Proclaims Dec 9 Ditka Day

Today is officially "Mike Ditka Day" in Illinois.  Illinois Governor Pat Quinn made that proclamation in recognition of the Chicago Bears retiring Ditka's jersey number, 89, during halftime when the Bears take on the Dallas Cowboys tonight in Chicago. The former Bears player and coach becomes the 14th player to have his number retired by the team.
“When people think of football they think of Mike Ditka,” Governor Quinn said. “He was the best tight end of all time, and 'Da Coach’ molded and guided arguably the best football team of all time – the 1985 Super Bowl-winning Bears. He is one of just two men to win a championship as both player and coach. I urge all Illinoisans to join me in congratulating him today.”
Mike Ditka was a football standout at the University of Pittsburgh in his native Pennsylvania before being drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1961, where he won Rookie of the Year. He played tight end for the Bears through 1966, was selected for the Pro Bowl each year, and was part of the championship 1963 team in the years before the advent of the Super Bowl. While with the Bears, Ditka amassed 4,503 yards receiving, first among Bears tight ends; and 316 receptions and 34 touchdowns, placing him fifth of all Bears players.
Ditka was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1967 and then to the Dallas Cowboys in 1969, where he played for four seasons and caught a touchdown pass in Super Bowl VI. Ditka was the first tight end enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988 for his blocking, 427 career receptions for 5,812 yards, and 43 career touchdowns.
After his playing career ended, Ditka was part of the Dallas Cowboys' coaching staff from 1973 to 1981. He was named head coach of the Chicago Bears in 1982, guiding them to a Super Bowl victory in 1985, and remained as “Da Coach” through 1992. Ditka was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1985 and 1988.
Ditka has also been a sports commentator on national television and owns restaurants in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Phoenix....

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Pelath: Governor's Agenda Overlooks Middle Class

Representative Pelath
Indiana House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath of Michigan City is critical of the Governor's recently announced legislative agenda for 2014.  Pelath says he agrees with the governor on improving crumbling infrastructure, but says "the vast majority of tax breaks being proposed are being lavished on corporate board rooms and not families".  One major point of contention already brewing between parties is Governor Pence's proposal to phase out the personal property tax businesses pay on equipment.
State Representative Pelath's statement:
"From an initial look at his agenda, the Governor is not offering a striking vision of where Indiana needs to go.
"I agree that we must improve our state's crumbling infrastructure, and I applaud his desire to help families with child care.
"But as I look at the scope of these proposals, I wonder how he plans to reconcile new spending with his own reputation as a rabid fiscal conservative. I also wonder how fellow Tea Party politicians will react to any deterioration of their precious state surplus, which they value more than the prosperity of our citizens.
"And I cannot help but think that this agenda continues the recent tradition of leaving our state's middle class by the side of the road.
"Consider that once again, the vast majority of tax breaks being proposed are being lavished on corporate board rooms and not families. Despite recent improvements in Indiana's unemployment rate, our state still lags behind the rest of the country, and it is becoming rapidly apparent that consistently cutting taxes for those with all the power and all the money is not doing anything for middle-class pocketbooks.
"In fact, this trend toward more corporate giveaways is going to end up hurting families who will not find much protection from the property tax caps, and local units of government that again will be forced to choose to cut services or increase fees to pay for them.
"Once again, the improvements in our state's educational system are weighted toward vouchers and charter schools available only to a select few. Our traditional public
classrooms are forgotten.
"Since there may be some criticism of this agenda from members of the governor's own party, I simply will add that House Democrats will study this program in-depth in
the weeks leading up to the start of the 2014 legislative session, and we will be prepared to offer improvements where necessary and alternatives that make sense.
"It's not all bad. But our state has many problems that this agenda ignores."...

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