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February 27, 2014

Editorial: Toward a better Lifeline Law

Lawmakers poised to improve measure

TERRE HAUTE — In a perfect world, no college or high school student under 21 would drink alcohol, especially to excess. No student would be sexually assaulted. And no student would experience a drug overdose.

There is no perfect world.

Each night on college campuses, students — who generally, see themselves as invincible — drink or do drugs and put themselves in situations that are perfect breeding grounds for trouble.

Sometimes that trouble is as simple as an argument or a shoving match. The loud words fade, cooler heads prevail.

But other times, someone, surrounded by those under 21, is in medical distress. That distress may be alcohol poisoning from life-threatening high blood-alcohol levels, perhaps an alcohol-and-prescription drug interaction, perhaps a booze-and-street-drug combination or perhaps a condition not directly related to alcohol. (The Indiana Department of Health says more than two dozen Hoosiers under 21 have died from alcohol poisoning since 2004.)

In those medical distress situations, there is no time to waste. If nothing is done, the result could be far worse than a hangover. It could be death.

As has happened too many times in Indiana and around the country, these under-21ers can go into a panic when someone falls ill. Panic about getting into trouble — because what they have done is against the law and they could face fines, jail time and school discipline.

James Merritt, an Indiana state senator, sees it this way: “What is happening is kids panic and don’t really know which way is up. We don’t want them to panic. Just because someone made a mistake, they should not pay with their life.”

Merritt, a Republican from Indianapolis, said that in October 2012, when he visited Terre Haute — along with Attorney General Greg Zoeller — to talk up a partial remedy for the situation that had passed that previous spring’s legislature: The Indiana Lifeline Law.

That law, which became effective July 1, 2012, allows immunity to those who call for help and stay around to help a friend in peril and cooperate with police and medics.

Now Merritt and others in the legislature are back at it, admirably so. They want to expand that immunity to those — under the influence, under age — who are victims of sexual offenses and those who would report a crime or seek medical attention for any reason.

That bill has passed the state Senate 49-0, and just Wednesday, an expanded version of the Senate bill passed the Indiana House 96-0. Because the two versions of the bill differ, the matter goes back to the house of origin — the Senate — for its consideration of changes made in the House.

The House changes would require that a legislative commission study the reporting and underreporting of domestic or sexual violence. The House version of the bill also would authorize qualified medical technicians and some emergency responders to administer an overdose intervention drug in the field.

Those additions are improvements to the original Senate bill. The unanimous approval to date in both houses of the legislature suggests that those differences will be quickly dealt with, and that a new law — as does the original law — will work even better to protect lives that, literally, are on the line.

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Editorials
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  • tstribunestar Editorial: Continuing the standard

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    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

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  • tstribunestar EDITORIAL: Be safe, be responsible

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  • EDITORIAL: Celebrate your independence

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    July 3, 2014

  • Editorial: Texting law serves safety

    July 1 each year marks the day in Indiana when new laws take effect. But rather than focus on new laws today, let’s observe the anniversary of a law that went on the books three years ago this month — the law that barred texting while driving.

    July 1, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: For kids, an immediate need

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    June 28, 2014

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    The Monday morning “groundbreaking” at the site of the new Vigo Schools Aquatic Center in Voorhees Park was largely ceremonial. It will still be a few weeks before work on the $9.8 million facility actually begins. But that didn’t stop the highly anticipated event from taking place, and it was clear from remarks made by a host of VIPs who took turns at the podium that this project is destined to produce great things.

    June 26, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: A proud moment for Vigo County

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    June 25, 2014

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    June 21, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: Forging ahead

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    June 19, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: More needed from Speaker

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    June 18, 2014

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    June 17, 2014

  • tstribunestar EDITORIAL: Enticing more students back to campus a worthwhile initiative

    Of all of the educational initiatives paraded before Indiana residents in recent years — some ideas worthy, others flops — none seems more timely or more on point than one approved by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education last week.

    June 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • EDITORIAL: Celebrating local success

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  • EDITORIAL: Shoring up the VA

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    June 11, 2014

  • Editorial: Playing the Nazi card

    There was good news to report from the Indiana Republican Party Convention conducted last weekend in Fort Wayne. The GOP nominated three women to top its general election ballot in November. There isn’t much gender equity in Hoosier politics, so seeing these three rise to the top of the Republican ballot this year is refreshing. But perhaps the best news is that Richard Mourdock, two-term state treasurer and unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Senate in 2012, will no longer hold public office at the end of this year.

    June 10, 2014

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  • EDITORIAL: Ernie Pyle’s words told a personal story

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  • EDITORIAL: Ernie Pyle walked the beaches of Normandy

    NORMANDY BEACHHEAD, June 16, 1944 — I took a walk along the historic coast of Normandy in the country of France.
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    June 4, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: Remembering D-Day — in the words of Ernie Pyle

    NORMANDY BEACHHEAD, June 12, 1944 — Due to a last-minute alteration in the arrangements, I didn’t arrive on the beachhead until the morning after D-day, after our first wave of assault troops had hit the shore. By the time we got here the beaches had been taken and the fighting had moved a couple of miles inland. All that remained on the beach was some sniping and artillery fire, and the occasional startling blast of a mine geysering brown sand into the air. That plus a gigantic and pitiful litter of wreckage along miles of shoreline.

    June 3, 2014

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  • Editorial: GOP takes up marriage battle — again

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    May 29, 2014

  • tstribunestar Editorial: Sycamores march on into NCAA baseball tourney

    The traditional academic year at Indiana State University ended earlier this month, so a quieter time has fallen over the Terre Haute campus. But Sycamore pride is swelling this week nonetheless. ISU’s baseball team was selected on Monday to the field of 64 for the 2014 NCAA Baseball Tournament.

    May 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Liz Ciancone: Jail? He’ll cross that bridge when he gets to it

    Sometimes when I’m feeling as if I’m running on empty, someone will toss me an offbeat idea I would never have been able to dream up on my own. And so it was when a friend brought me a clipping from her hometown newspaper over in Illinois.

    May 26, 2014

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