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Griffith 'Secession' Bill Changes Again

Legislation on Griffith's attempt to leave Calumet Township has changed again. The measure, House Bill 1585, was approved by the Indiana House 66-to-32 last month. A Senate panel has now restored the opportunity for residents to vote on the issue, but only under certain conditions. The referendum option, which was in the House version, was removed altogether earlier this month by a different Senate committee. The town says they send significantly more in tax dollars to the township than they get back.
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Indiana Voucher Law Upheld 5-0

The state's highest court has unanimously upheld Indiana's school voucher law. The 5-0 decision in the case of Meredith et al v. Pence et al, affirmed a lower court and ruled that House Enrolled Act 1003 of 2011 (Public Law 92) does not violate the Indiana Constitution. As lawyer for state government, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller's office defended the statute -- he says the Indiana Supreme Court found that the Legislature, in creating a voluntary program to broaden educational alternatives for Hoosier children followed the Indiana Constitution by leaving the decision whether and where to use a scholarship to qualifying students and their families.

The Choice program was being challenged in court by the Indiana State Teachers Association. Governor Mike Pence issued a statement following the decision, saying he has “long believed that parents should be able to choose where their children go to school, regardless of their income.” The Indiana Choice Scholarship Program was enacted in May of 2011. Pence also said the state must continue to find ways to expand educational opportunities for all Indiana families.

Rep. Vernon G. Smith (D-Gary), ranking Democratic member on the House Education Committee.Smith, also an education professor at Indiana University Northwest, reacted to the decision saying he thought it was "unfortunate that the Supreme Court made the decision that it made," and that he is hoping that those "who believe that it is unconstitutional" will "continue to pursue other avenues to stop the decimation of public education".
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Two Injured in Portage Stabbing

Police in Portage are trying to sort out what happened to prompt a dispute that led to an apparent stabbing incident between two men in which both were injured. Sgt. Keith Hughes says it happened in the 61-hundred block of McCasland Avenue. The SWAT team was callled out and yesterday morning's search for a suspect eventually led to the second individual being taken into custody outside an apartment complex on Canden Avenue, and he and the other man were both taken to an area hospital. Their injuries are NOT believed to be life-threatening, according to police.  Sgt Hughes says at this point they are still gathering information.
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Fire Territory Approved Pending Approval

Valparaiso City Council and Center Township have approved the creation of a fire territory, pending approval by Indiana's Department of Local Government Finance. Published reports say the territory encompasses the city and unincorporated areas of the township, and will take effect July 1st if approval is granted. A five-member board will reportedly oversee the operation. The total rate is about 28-cents per one-hundred dollars of assessed value, so the owner of a one-hundred-thousand dollar home in the city will reportedly see an annual increase of about three-dollars-36-cents, while an owner of a similar home in the township will see an annual increase of about 42-dollars.
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Police Seek Help Locating Missing Dolton Teen

Austin Battle 19
Austin Battle Age 19
(Photos Courtesy of Dolton Police Department)
Austin Battle was last seen on Tuesday (March 19). His last known location was Sibley and Burnham in Calumet City. Battle made a call to his father on Tuesday night and asked that
his father pick him up at Sibley Blvd. and Burnham Ave. That was the last time anyone heard from him. When the father went to pick him up, Battle was nowhere to be found.
Battle’s cell phone records indicate that there has been no activity since that last call made to his father.   Dolton Police also contacted the Cook County Morgue who had no possible matches or results.
The police are asking for assistance from the public in locating this missing teen. Austin Battle is 19 years old. He is 5 foot 11 inches, and was last seen wearing a grey hoodie, blue jeans, and black boots.   Battle is a graduate of Thornridge High School. He also attended South Suburban College, and is known for having bouts of depression.
Those with information should contact the Dolton Police Department, Commander Blaudin, at 708.841.2533 or 708.201.3211.  
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MC Man Arrested on Felony Heroin Charge

Timothy Hampton
(Photo Courtesy of Michigan City Police)
An ongoing investigation into the distribution of heroin in Michigan City has authorities there announcing another arrest today, and say while the investigation continues in this arrest, more arrests could be made in the future. Michigan City Police say during a search warrant of 37 year old Timothy Hampton's residence on Friday, in the two-hundred block of East 8th Street, a quantity of heroin, pills, drug paraphernalia, and currency were seized as evidenced. Hampton was arrested on probable cause for felony possession of heroin with intent to deliver, and his bond was set at one-hundred-thousand dollars cash.
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Woman Pulled from Gary House Fire Dies

A 73 year old woman died shortly after being hospitalized Monday evening after being removed from house fire in Gary. Published reports say the cause of death is pending at last check. The fire reportedly occurred in the 24-hundred block of Buchanan Street. No further information is available at this time.
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Philpot Denied Release on Bond Pending Appeal

Former Lake County Clerk and Coroner Thomas Philpot had his request to be released on bond, pending appeal of his criminal convictions, denied today, according to published reports. Philpot surrendered himself to a federal prison in Michigan earlier this month to begin serving an 18-month sentence for paying himself more than 24-thousand dollars in bonuses from federal child support incentive funds while he was County Clerk. He was convicted last August on theft and public corruption charges.
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Cargil Donates $5,000 Check to Housing Opportunties

Cargil Donation
VALPARAISO, Ind. — Cargill’s Greater Indiana Farm Service Group received the 2012 Spirit of Cargill Award for its work with Housing Opportunities.
The Spirit of Cargill Award is given to businesses that best exemplify the legacy and passion of the company’s founder, William Wallace Cargill. 
The recognition included a $5,000 check that the Greater Indiana team will present to Housing Opportunities on Tuesday, March 26th.  Housing Opportunities is a HUD-approved and state-certified housing agency serving Northwest Indiana. It provides housing and access to food pantries for individuals and families in the six-county area of Porter, LaPorte, Jasper, Newton, Starke and Pulaski counties.
In 2011, about 70 Cargill Greater Indiana employees helped refurbish an old hotel in Valparaiso that is used as a housing center and food bank for the homeless.
“The organization helps motivated people by providing them not only with shelter, but education to help them be successful and be able to provide for their families,” said Tim Kay, a Leadperson with Cargill in Aylesworth.  “Just shy of 450 hours were contributed to this project and each one was very much worth this cause.”
In addition to working on the hotel, the Greater Indiana team donated $6,250 to Housing Opportunities and that was matched with $6,250 from the parent company. 
Cargill’s Greater Indiana Farm Service Group is a network of grain elevators and farm service centers in Aylesworth/Kouts, Bremen, Burns Harbor, Lafayette, Lapaz, Linden and Tipton.
An innovator, business leader, family man and philanthropist, W.W. Cargill was recognized for his devotion to his community and his genial and optimistic nature that led his business and person life.  
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Prosecutors Office to Review Chalkboard Comments

Lake Station Police say they take any statement seriously when it involves schools and guns – and announced today that case summaries regarding chalkboard and Facebook comments have been turned over to the Lake County Prosecutors office for review. Police say as they were investigating a highly-publicized chalkboard image circulated on Facebook that had comments like “the guns are loaded” allegedly written by a veteran high school teacher, Facebook comments about solving problems and needing guns were brought to their attention. Lake Station Police Chief Kevin Garber says it appeared to officers that an administrative staff member at Edison High School, a teacher at Edison Senior High, and a teacher at Polk Elementary participated in the online conversation.
Lake Station Police say for the past three weeks, detectives have interviewed over 55 students and several staff and administrators of the Lake Station School Corporation.
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