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Panel Advances Lakefront Bill

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The Indiana House has approved a bill of special interest to officials wanting to expand tourism opportunities along the Region's lakeshore. Senate Bill 173 allows the alcohol and tobacco commission to issue up to six new permits to sell alcoholic beverages in the city of Whiting to restaurants located within three blocks of Lake Michigan. The bill needs to go back to the House before it can go to the Governor, because the Senate version limits the number of permits and limits them just to Whiting. The measure was introduced by State Senator Ed Charbonneau.
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Hoosiers Rally for Independent Living

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[Photo provided]
Braving the early Spring snow that hit Indianapolis, hundreds of Hoosiers from all parts of the state rallied at the Statehouse to show support for seniors and people with disabilities getting caring in their homes, and be able to live independently. A-A-R-P Indiana State Director June Lyle says they sponsored Tuesday's Rally for Independence to bring a human message to legislators. In recent months, Indiana's Division of Aging has been working diligently to get more people off waitlists for home and community-based services.
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High School Teacher Arrested

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There's been no comment at this time from Hammond School officials after a 27-year-old Morton High School math teacher was reportedly arrested Wednesday, accused in federal court of asking underage female students to text sexually explicit pictures of themselves to him by cellphone. Published reports say the investigation began when the mother of a 17-year-old girl suspected her daughter was sexually active with the man, who told officials he had been a teacher Morton until very recently. Reports also say he denied having sexual contact with the girl.
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Group Exits Trash-to-Ethanol Project

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What's next for a long-proposed trash-to-ethanol plant in south Lake County? The Times reports a second potential financier of the project has pulled out after being unable to secure the necessary funding. It's unclear what action the Lake County Solid Waste Management Board may take at their meeting coming up April 18. The idea has been to turn municipal solid waste into the biofuel at a plant that would be built in Schneider.
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General Assembly Approves Drug-Free Indiana Plan

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INDIANAPOLIS – Today the Indiana Senate increased efforts in the fight against drugs in Indiana by passing a bill authored by Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary) that improves the Commission for a Drug-Free Indiana (DFI).
            House Bill 1575 changes the current status of legislator members of the commission to allow them to be voting members. According to Smith, this proposal allows for more input from the members of the General Assembly who have experience dealing with law enforcement and youth-related issues. The members also may have experience in family relations, education, civic or private affairs, medicine, local government, judiciary or self-help, among others.
            “The goal is to give voting rights to members of the commission who have valuable insight to the issues DFI tries to solve,” he said. “This is a way of improving the commission so we can reach our ultimate objective, which is to create a healthy, safe, drug-free home for Hoosiers.”
            DFI was established in 1989 by the General Assembly to help Indiana combat substance abuse. The commission works in collaboration with 92 local coordinating councils representing all of Indiana's counties.
            The Senate passed the bill on a unanimous 47-0 vote.
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Sentencing for McCowan Tomorrow

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Dustin McCowan
(Photo Courtesy of the Times)
Sentencing is scheduled for tomorrow for 20-year-old Dustin McCowan, who last month was found guilty of murdering former girlfriend, 19-year-old Amanda Bach, of Portage, by fatally shooting her in September 2011. McCowan faces anywhere from 45 to 65 years in prison.
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Felony Neglect Charges Against LaPorte Woman

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A 38 year old LaPorte woman faces two felony counts of neglect of a dependent for allegedly striking her two teenage children in mid-January.. Published reports say the woman was reportedly drinking with two male friends at the residence, in the four-hundred block of Glenwood Avenue, and playing the radio at a high volume, when her 14 year old son and 15 year old daughter turned the volume down, after their mother refused to do so upon request. The girl reportedly suffered several marks and scrapes on her body, while the boy suffered a swollen foot, and punches to the face.
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Hammond PD Traffic Safety Campaign Results

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The Hammond Police Department recently participated in the statewide Driver Sober or Get Pulled Over traffic safety campaign.  Funding for this campaign was provided by NHTSA through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.  Officers from our department conducted a sobriety checkpoint, 12 roving DUI patrols, and 31 Aggressive Driving patrols.  During the course of the blitz, officers worked a total of 242 manhours and issued 920 citations including 310 speeding citations, seven arrests for operating while intoxicated and 50 automatic signal/stop sign violations.  Officers from the Hammond Police Department will continue increased enforcement in the month of April while focusing on impaired drivers and seatbelt enforcement.
 
The Hammond Police Department recently performed a reciprocity (also known as out of state plates) sweep throughout the city.  During the month of February, officers issued nearly 1,000 warnings to vehicles parked in residential neighborhoods.  During three follow up enforcement periods, officers impounded 129 vehicles for failing to transfer their plates to Indiana within the 60 period granted by state law.  Upon getting their vehicles released, vehicle owners were issued citations for the out of state plates and additionally for out of state drivers licenses when necessary.  Officers also discovered 33 vehicles had in fact transferred the registrations to Indiana.  Officers plan on performing additional follow-up enforcement in the weeks to come.
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Gary PD Investigating Monday Night Shooting

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Gary Police are investigating a shooting incident from Monday that injured a 19 year old. Gary Police Public Information Officer, Corporal Gabrielle King, says at approximately 8:07pm, officers were dispatched to the four-hundred block of East 41st Avenue in reference to a shooting victim, and arrived to find Derek Woodhouse on the porch with gunshot wounds. King says Woodhouse reported to officers he was speaking with friends on the porch, when he heard a loud squeal and pop from a vehicle, and then felt some pain, and realized he had been shot. Authorities say the victim was taken to a local hospital for treatment. Anyone with information is asked regarding this incident is asked to contact Gary Police Detective Lorenzo Davis, at 881-7435.
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No ID or Cause of Death Yet in Gary Fire Death

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The name of a Gary woman who died at a local hospital shortly after being transported there from a house fire Monday night remains unknown at last check, as well as a cause of death. Gary Police Public Information Officer, Corporal Gabrielle King, says officers responded to the 24-hundred block of Buchanan Street, at 6:45pm, in reference to house fire, and upon arrival learned of a person inside. Corporal King says once entry to the home was made, a 73 year old woman was discovered, and was immediately taken out of the home, where CPR was performed before being hospitalized.
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I-65 Night Lane Restrictions in Lake County Start Monday

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LAKE COUNTY, Ind. – The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) announces I-65 will be restricted to one northbound lane and one southbound lane during evening and overnight hours between the U.S. 231 exit (mile marker 247) and just south of the State Road 2 exit (mile marker 240) beginning Monday, April 1st through early December 2013. Lane restrictions will be in place no earlier than 6 p.m. and no later than 10 a.m. during a Monday night through Saturday morning work week. Two lanes of traffic in each direction will be open during daytime hours. Crews are resurfacing the roadway in addition to pipe and drain work.
In the event of back-ups or slowed traffic, message boards on I-65 will alert drivers to an alternative route to avoid the construction zone.
INDOT reminds drivers to use caution and consider worker safety when driving through a construction zone. For the latest road closures and project updates from INDOT, like us at www.Facebook.com/INDOTNorthwest and follow us at www.Twitter.com/INDOTNorthwest.
You can find traffic restriction information at www.trafficwise.IN.gov.  Contact the LaPorte District toll free at 1-855-GO-INDOT.
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Groundbreaking in Gary for South Shore Commons

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Gary South Shore Commons Groundbreaking
(Photo Courtesy of the City of Gary)
A groundbreaking ceremony was held this morning in Gary for South Shore Commons, a 60-unit, two-story permanent supportive housing development for the homeless going up on vacant property on 20th Avenue east of Grant Street, between Lincoln and Pierce Streets.
J. Forest Hayes, Director of the Gary Department of Commerce and Gary Economic Development Corporation, says the project is an example of collaborative efforts underway in the city.
The units are to be placed in service by the end of this year. Edgewater Systems for Balanced Living is partnering with U-P Development, Broadway Area Community Development Corporation, and N-S-P Consultants on the 12-million dollar project.
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SR 55 Closure in Newton County Begins April 1st

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NEWTON COUNTY, Ind. – The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) announces the closure of State Road 55 to through traffic between State Road 16 and State Road 114 beginning Monday, April 1st through the end of June 2013. Crews will be replacing a bridge. All traffic will be restricted at the work site, one mile north of State Road 16.

A detour will take northbound SR 55 drivers west on SR 16, north on U.S. 41, east on SR 114, and back to SR 55. Southbound SR 55 drivers will travel west on SR 114, south on U.S. 41, east on SR 16, and back to SR 55.
INDOT reminds drivers to use caution and consider worker safety when driving through a construction zone. For the latest road closures and project updates from INDOT, like us at www.Facebook.com/INDOTNorthwest and follow us at www.Twitter.com/INDOTNorthwest.
You can find traffic restriction information at www.trafficwise.IN.gov.  Contact the LaPorte District toll free at 1-855-GO-INDOT.
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Cedar Lake Man Pleds Guilty to Murder and Arson

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Anthony LaPorta
(Photo Courtesy of the Times)
Sentencing is scheduled for April 26th after a judge accepted a plea agreement in which a 24 year old Cedar Lake man pleaded guilty to arson and murder. Published reports say Anthony LaPorta could serve 62 years in prison for murdering a 32 year old neighbor,18 years for setting the victim's house on fire, and a two-year sentence after pleaded guilty to a separate incident of sexual battery of a minor, which would reportedly be served concurrently to murder and arson charges.
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EC Lawmaker on Canada Relations Cmte

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East Chicago State Representative Earl Harris has been appointed to the Indiana House Midwest-Canada Relations Committee. The committee established in 1991 is a forum between eleven states and their counterparts from the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan to share and discuss ideas and mutual concerns, including law enforcement, border security and Great Lakes ports.
More recently, the committee has focused on trade-related issues, North American relations, and efforts to build an international bridge between Detroit and Windsor. “I’m honored to be appointed to this committee,” said Harris. “I look forward to working with my counterparts from other states and Canadian provinces to learn best practices and to discuss the issues that affect our communities. This is a great opportunity to share ideas with our neighbors.”  Harris also will serve on the committee with Reps. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) and Dennis Zent (R-Angola).
For more information go to www.indianahousedemocrats.org. You also can contact Harris at his Statehouse office at 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, Indiana 46204. His office can be contacted toll free at 1-800-382-9842, or via email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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Statewide Tornado Drill Today

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Listen for tornado sirens in Lowell and other Indiana communities today. It's not because of approaching severe weather -- it's because today is the statewide tornado drill that's part of Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Indiana. 
The National Weather Service, in conjunction with Indiana State Police, Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Iindiana Department of Education, and the Indiana Broadcasters
Association, will conduct a statewide test of emergency communications systems Wednesday March 27 between 900 am and 930 am Central Daylight Time and again between 630 pm and 700 pm Central Daylight Time.
A test Tornado Warning will be issued for all Indiana counties, and will be disseminated like an actual warning and broadcast on NOAA weather radio transmitters serving Indiana
with same/eas codes and the tone alert.
Meteorologists say it's be a good time for Indiana residents to review severe weather procedures and participate in a tornado drill whether at home. at work or at school.
To hear our interviews with Jim Allsopp, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service Chicago, and Valparaiso  University Meteorology Professor Dr. Bart Wolf on severe weather preparedness and safety, visit On Demand here at our website.
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South Shore Commons Groundbreaking

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The City of Gary is hosting groundbreaking today for South Shore Commons, a 60-unit, two-story permanent supportive housing development going up on a piece of vacant property on 20th Avenue east of Grant Street, between Lincoln and Pierce Streets. Edgewater Systems for Balanced Living is partnering with UP Development, Broadway Area Community Development Corporation, and NSP Consultants on the 12-million dollar project
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Griffith 'Secession' Bill Changes Again

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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

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The state's highest court has unanimously upheld Indiana's school vouchers 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

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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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