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Furthermore …


Cliff talks give second wind to energy credit

Local wind farm projects received a reprieve on Tuesday. The fiscal cliff deal passed by Congress includes a one-year extension of the production tax credit.

The credit, which gives green energy producers 2.1 cents in tax credits for every kilowatt-hour of energy, has been a major driver of wind farm development.

Many wind energy development companies claimed green energy projects would be forced to be canceled if the credit were allowed to expire. Some wind energy proponents say the extension will prevent downsizing of American wind industry jobs this year. Some claim the short extension only prolongs the agony.

The American Wind Energy Association was asking for a six-year phase-out of the credit.

There is a minor change in the credit that allows any project under construction in 2013 to claim the credit even if it doesn’t begin producing energy until 2014. The production tax credit that expired Monday could only be claimed for wind farms that went online before the end of the year.

That’s one reason owners of the Wildcat Wind Farm near Elwood were racing to finish Phase I of their project.

The extension is expected to help development of a major wind farm in Wells County. Construction on the wind farm owned by Apex Wind Energy of Charlottesville, Va., is scheduled to begin in the spring. It includes 87 turbines, roughly between Bluffton and Montpelier.

C. Scott Mossburg, the Wells County commissioner serving the district where most of the turbines will be built, said: “If the (tax credit) didn’t go through, the project would have been dead.

“I think the wind farm will be good for Wells County,” he said. “I know some people may not agree. But it will be a good thing as far as economic development goes.”

County officials say the project is scheduled to be completed in the last quarter of 2013.

Chief justice urges lawmaker-fine deal

Trial-level judges in civil cases frequently urge the two parties to compromise, but such advice rarely comes from a Supreme Court bench.

But that is exactly what Indiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson told lawyers for Indiana Democratic state representatives and for state government in the legal case challenging fines that House Speaker Brian Bosma levied against Democrats for depriving the Indiana House of a quorum by walking out.

The Democratic reps say Bosma has no authority to take fines out of lawmakers’ paychecks, while Bosma and the state say the court system cannot become involved in internal legislative proceedings.

“If it would be at all possible for the political parties in Indiana to set a national example of cooperation, this might be an ideal opportunity for you, both sides, to solve this matter by compromise, and we encourage that to be considered,” Dickson said at the close of oral arguments in the lawsuit between Democrats and the state Thursday.

How did the two sides react to Dickson’s suggestion?

“I would never fail to take the advice of the chief justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Indiana,” said Fort Wayne attorney Mark GiaQuinta, who is representing the Democrats. “I didn’t see it coming, but I think it was a very appropriate thing for the chief justice to say.”

But Bosma issued a statement that said nothing of compromise.

“Our court system has no jurisdiction to review or overturn the internal workings of the Indiana General Assembly,” Bosma said. “I look forward to the Supreme Court confirming the limitation of judicial authority over the legislative branch.”

Senate unanimous in support of children

So much attention was paid to the dysfunction of the 112th Congress that many might believe its members couldn’t accomplish anything. But the last day of the session saw the Senate vote unanimously – yes, unanimously – to approve H.R. 6655, An Act to Protect our Kids.

The legislation, which will create a new, two-year national commission to develop strategy for addressing child abuse and neglect deaths, required unanimous consent.

An obscure final-day Senate procedure stipulates that not a single senator can object to the bill or it dies. Remarkably, no one objected, even though some GOP senators were hinting before the vote that they would oppose it because of the $2 million cost over two years or for ideological reasons – claims that the government shouldn’t be in the business of child abuse prevention.

Fortunately, a last-minute press by child protection advocates turned what looked like a lost cause into a win for endangered children.

The bill was approved by a 330-77 vote in the House two weeks ago. The no votes all were cast by Republicans, including Reps. Marlin Stutzman, Ben Quayle, Todd Akin and Todd Rokita, newly appointed chairman of the House’s education subcommittee. Congressman Mike Pence abstained.

About 2,500 child abuse and neglect deaths occur in the U.S. every year.