A time when the cameras are always rolling
Communities are fortunate when they have intelligent citizens who care, participate and lead. Cass County/Logansport lost such a leader a few days ago. Don Heckard was a leader in so many ways; he was a farmer all his life, school bus driver, business owner (Logan Ice Co.), officer of the Republican Party (local and state) and an advocate and board member for Ivy Tech Community College. These are just the obvious ones that I know about.
He was also a leader in his church and other community activities. We meet leaders as we go through life and sometimes don’t appreciate their role. Don was a quiet, thoughtful man, and he exhibited his leadership in an unassuming manner. He is, and will be, missed by this area and the State of Indiana very much. I am glad I got to know him.
Most of us older folks remember “Candid Camera,” the television program that caught people in awkward and compromising situations. Most of it was funny, but sometimes it made a social comment. I want to present two “camera” bills that have received attention in this General Assembly. They have produced what I consider to be a conundrum.
Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) filed House Bill 1368, a bill dealing with traffic cameras being used for enforcement in school zones and construction zones. I agreed to co-author the bill because I believe in protecting our highway workers and our children. The bill received immediate criticism from many different factions.
Most critics felt that this was just one more way for law enforcement to raise revenues from fines, and it was going to be automatic. A camera and computer could impose the citation on an unlucky motorist. There was harsh criticism given when all Rep. Soliday and I want to do is protect workers and children. The police cannot be present all the time in school and construction zones, but the camera can be. I am no fan of “Big Brother” tactics, but this may be bearable if it saves lives.
The second camera bill is Senate Bill 373, and it is authored by Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle). The bill would make it unlawful to take unauthorized photos or videos of a farm, livestock facility or a manufacturing facility if the intent is to defame or harm a business relationship.
The first question is: can’t the person be prosecuted because he is trespassing? Yes, but the real damage to the property owner is the dissemination of the photos on the internet and social media. It is hard to defend against a negative perspective on the worldwide web.
Opponents of the bill say it violates their 1st amendment right to free speech, but there are whistleblower protections in the bill if there is a good faith belief that the person was recording evidence of illegal activity; provides the recording to a law enforcement or regulatory agency within 48 hours; and does not distribute the recording to anyone other than a law enforcement or regulatory agency.
Proponents say that private property rights should prevail. Animal rights supporters say that cameras are necessary to expose abuse of animals.
Livestock producers will consistently say, “There is no profit in the abuse of animals.” And, I want those who mistreat their animals to be prosecuted by the law. The producers are in business to be profitable and want their animals as comfortable as possible. These folks say it is a property rights issue, and there are agencies in place to police the bad guys.
In looking at the road ahead for these two pieces of legislation, I hope that we can find agreeable solutions to increasing the protections for children in school zones, construction workers on the job and farmers attending to their livelihood. Please communicate your opinion, so that we can discuss this in a serious way.