Thursday, January 30, 2014

Curry Files for Reelection

Terry Curry
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry filed officially to run for reelection, yesterday.  It was a move that surprised no one.

Back in 2010, Curry started the race neck-and-neck with now Indiana Supreme Court Justice, Mark Massa, and pulled away from him slowly but surely by running a better campaign.  At the end of the campaign, Curry won the office by nearly four percentage points.

Since being sworn-in, Curry has systematically worked to undo much of the damage Carl Brizzi did to the office during his time there.
As one of his first orders of business, Curry refiled DUI charges that Brizzi had dropped against officer David Bisard.  Bisard was accused of running his patrol vehicle into a group of motorcyclists killing Eric Wells and seriously injuring friends Mary Mills and Kurt Weekly.

As you may remember, procedure was not correctly followed in obtaining blood samples from Bisard that would show that he was under the influence of alcohol when the accident occurred.  Brizzi dropped the DUI charges, but Curry reinstated them forcing a judge to make the call as to whether or not they would be admissible in court.  The judge backed Curry's decision, and the DUI charges stood.

Over three years later, after a long court battle and more controversy about how IMPD handled the case, Curry's Office came through with a conviction of Bisard.  He's now appealing the conviction, but he's serving 16 years (three suspended) behind bars.

That's just one reason Curry has shown the judgement to be Prosecutor.  From Curry's campaign:
“From the early days of our campaign four years ago, we pledged to restore integrity and public confidence in the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office,” said Prosecutor Curry. “I believe we have made considerable progress on that front, but our work is far from finished. Marion County faces significant challenges as it relates to public safety, and we look forward to continuing to be active partners in identifying workable and sustainable solutions to keep our city safe.”

Under Curry’s leadership, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office has aggressively prosecuted gun and violent crimes and has placed significant emphasis on implementing creative crime prevention strategies at the neighborhood level through community prosecution outreach and engagement.

Drawing on Curry’s experience as a former grand jury deputy prosecutor, the office has beefed up white collar and long-term investigations. The Prosecutor’s Office works closely with state and federal agencies to investigate and prosecute fraud against Indiana taxpayers, and for the first time ever in the State of Indiana, has filed Common Wage violations against contractors and subcontractors who do not pay required wages on public construction projects.

“It is an honor and privilege to serve as Marion County Prosecutor,” said Curry, who has been a practicing attorney for more than 30 years, “and I look forward to a positive, robust, and thoughtful campaign. I also am proud to work every day with the 400 men and women of the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, who are dedicated and committed to protecting the people they serve.”

Curry will participate in the Marion County Democratic Party’s slating convention on February 8, where it is expected he will be formally nominated by the party.

Curry will hold one of his first official campaign events on Saturday at Radio Radio down in Fountain Square.  The ever-popular Currypalooza features great music and  fun.  Tickets are $20 at the door, and showtime is 6:30 p.m.

So far, only one Republican appears to have filed for the office.  Duane Merchant has raised just $50 for his run thus far according to paperwork filed just a few weeks ago with the Marion County Clerk.  The filing deadline for the primary is Feb. 7.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

HJR-3 Final House Vote Displays Difference Between the Two Major Parties

Today's lesson in party politics is simple.

The next time someone tells you that there's no difference in the two major parties, look up the vote on House Joint Resolution 3.

There were 57 Yeas and 40 Nays.  Of the 57 votes in favor of writing discrimination into the Indiana State Constitution, 57 were Republicans.  Only a handful of Republicans led by the very brave Ed Clere of New Albany (who voted no in 2011 against HJR-6) joined all the Democrats in opposition to recognizing a marriage as only between one man and one woman in Indiana.

Democrats understand that the definition of marriage is about something more deep than just the gender of those being married.  Many Republicans, certainly not all, clearly still do not.

Again, just remind people that parties do stand for something, and it's ok to stand with a party...even if you don't walk 100 percent in lock step.  There were Republicans all across Indiana that were disgusted by this whole fight, and I salute those folks.  It's too bad that nine more weren't in the Indiana General Assembly.

As for HJR-3, it's off to the Senate.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ballard Can Detour Council on Rebuild Indy if Mass Transit Bill Passes

Whenever Mayor Ballard doesn't get what he wants from the City-County Council, it seems that the State Senate has his back.

Democrats shot down Ballard's plan to fix more roads and streets by issuing bonds.  Well, as part of the Central Indiana Mass Transit Bill, the Republican-dominated Senate said that Ballard could move forward with his road and street repairs and that the State of Indiana would issue the bonds rather than the city.  This avoids the need to go back to the Democrats in the City-County Council for approval.

The Indianapolis Star's Jon Murray reports that, according to Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn, Ballard had not even requested the measure.  This should sound familiar for those of us that remember the Senate Enrolled Act 621 fight from 2013.  Allegedly, Ballard didn't want all the power he was to be given under SEA621, but, of course, he gladly took it.

Advance Indiana's Gary Welsh goes even deeper into this one.

Ballard Left Little Wiggle Room for Superintendents

Hindsight is always 20/20, but it won't look back favorably on Mayor Greg Ballard's unilarteral decision to shut down the City of Indianapolis today due to a little sunshine and cold temperatures.

As I write this, Indianapolis remains under an orange travel watch for pretty much no reason.  The roads aren't bad, and I had no trouble getting out to dinner and back tonight.

The only roads that are bad are the ones in my neighborhood.  You could skate on them.  They are pure sheets of ice, but that will never change in a city where it takes six inches of snow to plow neighborhood streets.

The forecast was dire, and it did get cold.  It got down to -6 this morning, but the winds that were forecast to push the wind chill into the -40 range never materialized, and, by the time the kids would have been at the bus stop, it was bearable.  It was cold, but it was no colder out there than days before.

Listen, I appreciate the Mayor being out in front of things, but the fact that Indy is still under an orange travel watch and the city government was shut down today is just silly.  There are times that we need these types of actions, but it's clear that a beautiful winter day with a temperature that got up to 12 degrees just wasn't it.  The Mayor should have admitted as much.

When he knee-jerk reacted to shut down city and county government as well as go to orange on the travel status, public schools were almost forced to close for the day necessitating another make-up day for some and another waiver request for others.  This is the last thing a Superintendent wanted, believe me.

Yes, it was cold, but it's winter.  Mayor Ballard messed up on this one.

Pressure Stays On From Equality Advocates

The can has successfully been kicked...maybe.  It appears that House Joint Resolution 3 may be a fight two years down the road again...possibly.  If we're lucky, it could be never...hopefully.

Today, HJR-3 is half the resolution it was yesterday.  Gone is the second sentence which referenced, "a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals" and said that it, "shall not be valid or recognized."

That has now been deleted.  What remains is this.

"Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana."

Indiana already has a "DOMA-like" law on the books that the General Assembly passed many years ago.  Until that law is off the books and HJR-3 is nothing but a painful memory, equality advocates cannot rest or be settled in Indiana.

When Pickett's Charge collapsed at the Battle of Gettysburg, General George Meade, the Union Commander, did not think his troops were in any condition to go after the retreating Confederate troops.  His decision may have extended the Civil War.  Lee's troops were demoralized.  One of those disappointed in Meade's tactics was President Abraham Lincoln.  He plucked General Ulysses S. Grant from the Western Campaign in 1864 and put him in charge.  While Grant's strategies were brutal, they eventually wore down the South and the war ended in April 1865.

I'm not comparing this fight directly to the Civil War, but the tactics must be the same.  The pressure has to continue, and the move needs to now be towards full equality.  No doubt, this will be a tough fight, but it's a conversation we have to continue to have here in Indiana until the forces against equality cave in.  

It's a fight I'll continue with my words on this blog and with my energies off it on social media.  The letters, notes, and calls made a difference.  Keep them up!  

Republican Ed Clere was the only Republican to vote against HJR6 in 2011.  Abdul Hakim-Shabazz says that Clere said that deleting only the second sentence won't cure what's wrong with HJR3 in 2014.  It will take deleting both sentences.  

The federal government may do it for the forces for equality, but you can't count on it.  The cause continues, and it's not a lost cause.  I'm not a second-class citizen, and it's time that we raise up and tell our legislators that.  The time for can kicking has ended.  It's time to put this one in the trash for good.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Breaking: HJR-3 AMENDED by House on Second Reading; Future Cloudy

In a dramatic 52-43 vote, the Indiana House of Representatives voted to amend House Joint Resolution 3 to remove the second sentence of the proposed amendment.

So, HJR-3, after second reading,
looks like this:
Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. 
A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.
IF HJR-3 is left alone and no changes are made and it passes the Senate as amended, the process for constitutional amendments should start over again and the first time we'd see this on a ballot is likely 2016.  There are, of course, complications.

Legal experts at the Indiana General Assembly still seem unclear on all of this, but it appears that the Indiana Senate could pass HJR-3 as originally worded and then have the House pass an amended version in conference committee.  That means that it could show up on the ballot in 2014.

The General Assembly could also argue that since the first sentence did not change that it alone could go to the ballot in 2014.  Legal experts say that this would likely ignite a court battle.

Here is the Indiana Law Blog's interpretation.

While this possibly kills HJR-3 for now, it clearly likely still has a faint heartbeat for 2014 and a pounding heartbeat for 2016 depending on what the General Assembly does from here.  It bears watching.

HJR-3 Goes To Full House Today

Today is the big day.

Coming off a night that saw 34 couples (same and opposite gender) get married on the Grammy's while Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, and Mary Lambert performed their hit "Same Love", Indiana lawmakers are expected to go to work and hear on Second Reading, HJR-3.

Your guess is as good as mine as to whether it will pass or not.  At last count, the IndyStar placed it at 38 yes votes and 38 no votes.  The rest wouldn't comment or said they were undecided.

My State Representative, Bob Behning, is planning on voting for HJR-3.  I just want to thank him publicly for considering me a second-class citizen.  I hope that none of your other colleagues take that as truth and instead realize it's sarcasm.

I'll be good and trust the process.  HJR-3 must be defeated for my friends that have taken the steps to be married.  I am not sure that I can stay nice if this extends on out to November.  Not sure, as Motormouth Maybelle said in Hairspray that I'm ready for "a whole lotta ugly comin' at you from a neverending parade of stupid."

Whatever happens, the fight isn't over.  It takes a minute to go to and find out how you can get your last minute calls and e-mails through to the Indiana General Assembly.

It's all just the same love.

Whatever happens, I will still be a Hoosier at the end of the day.  If this passes or if it fails, the fight will still go on for equality.  It doesn't stop here.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

For Those Fighting HJR-3...

Yesterday was a downer.  I thought I'd give you a couple of reasons to pick up the fight again today on this COLD Hoosier morning.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Republicans Ignore Even Most Classic Examples on Marriage Fight

Since you read this blog, I know you probably are pretty well-read and are pretty smart.  That means that somewhere along your time on this planet that you've probably have heard the story of Icarus and Daedalus.

Daedalus, the great craftsman, the Ovid myth says, built a beautiful set of wings for himself and his son, Icarus, out of feathers and wax so he could escape King Minos' tower.

Daedalus warned his son to stay with him and follow his path and not fly too high or too low over the water.  Unfortunately, Icarus didn't listen.  Icarus' wings fell apart as the wax melted while he was too close to the sun, and he fell into the ocean.

The Indiana House Republicans are kind of acting a bit like Icarus these days.  Instead of focusing on the issues that Hoosiers have told them to focus on, they're getting a little greedy.  They are flying too close to the sun.  They're going for issues other than the bread and butter issues of bringing more jobs to the Hoosier State and improving the lives of Hoosiers.  They feel comfortable with their supermajority.

It may be time to crash back to Earth.

Now, let me be clear, I'm not wishing them ill.  I'm speaking in metaphors.  What an odd site it might be to see Mike Pence and Brian Bosma flapping their wings through the sky.  Metaphorically, the Republicans may be reaching too far and the voters may slap them back down a bit at the ballot box.

With the recent shenanigans by Bosma to secure the passing of HJR-3 through the committee process, I think that his die has been cast, and the Republicans are noe flapping away wildly higher and higher on their metaphorical wings and getting more and more close to the metaphorical sun.  They are passing all the warning signs and ignoring the prevailing political winds.

I'm done with the metaphors, but the fight has begun to prevent discrimination from being in the Indiana Constitution, and one side of the legislature chose to take us here...perhaps to their own political peril.

HJR 3 Passes Committee By 9-3 Vote

The Indiana House Committee on Elections and Apportions passed HJR-3 and its accompanying HB1153 out of committee just a few minutes ago by a 9-3 vote.

Three Democrats on the Committee, John Bartlett, Kreg Battles, and Phil GiaQuinta all gave compelling and personal reasons for their no votes after hearing hours of passionate and personal testimony in a 4.5 hour hearing.  The nine Republicans who voted simply recorded their yes votes as if ashamed.

Pretty much everyone was resigned to the fact that the new committee would easily approve the resolution that would essentially ban anything other than man-woman marriage in Indiana after House Speaker Brian Bosma changed the committee assignment on Tuesday.  The change showed that he did not have the votes in the Judiciary Committee to get it passed to the House floor.

Now that it's there, it's unclear if he has the votes to get it passed to the Senate.  However, if his caucus capitulates as quickly as the committee members did, it might just work making Rep. Ed Delaney's ominous prediction on Twitter come true.

Woodmansee Withdraws from Marion Superior Court Race

Attorney Todd Woodmansee has abandoned his bid for Superior Court Judge and has endorsed his prospective slating opponent, Marcel Pratt, according to a post on his Facebook site earlier today.

The move by Woodmansee leaves Pratt, the husband of U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, unopposed at the February 8 Marion County Democratic Party Slating Convention.  Woodmansee had been campaigning for the position for since even before he filed officially in May.

Democrats will see a slating ballot that features most of the incumbents unopposed.  It's unclear at this point what will happen with Judge Kim Brown as she continues to face the possibility of being removed from the bench by the Indiana Supreme Court.

The ballot will look like this for Democrats:
All Unopposed at Slating
Judge Barbara Cook Crawford
Judge Annie Christ Garcia
Judge David Dreyer
Judge Jim Osborn
Angela Dow Davis
Marcel Pratt

Contested Slots
Judge Kim Brown vs. Mark Jones vs. Shatrese Flowers
Karen Celestino-Horseman vs. Christina Klineman

No matter what happens at slating, new candidates can file after the convention or at any time up to the February 7 filing deadline.  The candidates that win in the May Primary, are almost assured election in November.

Demcoratic incumbents Judge Pat McCarty, Judge David Shaheed, and Judge Gerald Zore are all retiring.

Bosma's Desperation Boils Over

Brian Bosma is desperate.

After insisting that the marriage amendment was not on the Republican agenda this legislative session, the Indiana House Speaker clearly considered replacing members of the House Judiciary Committee after it adjourned without taking a vote last week.  Instead, he just removed HJR-3 from the Judiciary Committee and assigned it to the House Elections Committee.

This came after over three hours of testimony both ways on the issue last week.  The opposition largely needed ringers from out of the state to testify on behalf of the proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution.  Bosma's shocking move left some longtime Representatives exasperated.

Democrat Ed Delaney took to Twitter.

Delaney told the Indianapolis Star that he believes that HJR-3 will now go to the floor.  Abdul-Hakim Shabazz predicts on his Indy Politics site that the resolution will fail if it goes to the floor.  He says that there aren't enough votes.

I hope he's right.  Still, a desperate Brian Bosma and the power wielded by the Indiana Speaker of the House should concern those advocating the defeat of HJR-3.  It's no time to let up on the pressure.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pence Won't Leave Marriage Issue Alone

Governor Mike Pence continues to step in it when it comes to the issue of marriage in Indiana.

The Governor, who has no role in this fight other than cheerleader, is set to speak on Thursday at a luncheon that will no doubt attract many supporters of HJR-3.

According to the Indianapolis Star, Pence will keynote the Faith and Community Leader Legislative Luncheon at the Westin Hotel.  It's an event that's organized by the Indiana Family Institute and the Indiana Pastors Alliance.

When you go to the Indiana Family Institute's website, it asks for advocates to support HJR-3.  As I'm sure you're well aware by now, HJR-3 is the move by the Indiana General Assembly to approve a constitutional amendment in the Indiana Constitution that would ban pretty much everything but man-woman marriage in Indiana.

Pence is on the speaker's card along with Rev. Ron Johnson, a pro-HJR-3 pastor that is featured prominently on the Indiana Family Institute's website as well as the connected Indiana Pastors Alliance website.  Johnson features also prominently in the video on the website.

As you can see, they come from a certain point of view quite different than the point of view of Freedom Indiana.

I have many problems with the above video.  Rev. Johnson seems to think that the dialogue only comes if this issue reaches the voters.  That's not really true.  We're having the dialogue now.  He also quotes the Gettysburg Address in the video above that this is a government "of the people, for the people, and by the people."  He's right.  It's a representative government.  We elect our legislators to represent us.  If something doesn't get enough support to pass, then it dies away.  That's the way it works.  The court system is there to protect our rights.  Passing HJR-3 would only assure that so-called "judicial activism" will overturn it eventually.  It's a question of when and not if.

Anyway, this is the kind of thing our Governor has decided he wants to put his time and effort into supporting.  It's his time, and there's no doubt he's trying to come down on the right side of this issue for his constituency...that's the very far right.  It's just a shame that he can't be a Governor for all Hoosiers, like he promised, and just let this thing play out.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Remembering Dr. King

39 years.  This year, I'll reach that age.  It was the mountaintop for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He was gunned down at the age of 39.

It brings it all home.  When we think about Dr. King, do we think about how remarkable his 39 years on this Earth were?  The effect that such a young man had on society.  He brought about change that continues today and will never be finished.

Dr. King was a man of peace who was taken from us in an act of violence.  His dream continues today to be realized for Americans and people of the world as we continue to put aside our differences and concentrate on the humanity that binds us.  Yes, we have a long way to go, and sometimes it seems like we have too far to try.

Dr. King prophetically knew that we he wouldn't get there with us.  His spirit and his dream live on today in our youngsters.  Poll after poll shows that they don't have the same biases of previous generations.  Once we begin to see each other as human beings, things like melanin in our skin, sexual orientation, body image, religion, gender, body image, and anything else that keeps us apart won't matter.

That's the world I hope for.  Happy belated birthday, Dr. King.  You were a force for good and for peace in this world, and you were taken far too soon.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Hogsett Chooses Not to Run

Joe Hogsett has apparently made up his mind about 2015 and beyond. He’s decided to stay U.S. Attorney.

Yesterday, the Indianapolis Star’s Matt Tully reported that the former Indiana Secretary of State threw his cards on the table over a cup of coffee with him. That throws the race for the Democratic nomination wide open.

Hogsett’s early exit is both disappointing and understandable. He would have been a tremendous candidate on the stump, and he could have raised the millions he needed to defeat Greg Ballard. It’s not to be, though. The lure of his current job was just too strong, and he’s good at it, too. I can understand why putting bad guys behind bars might be more rewarding than trying to balance a city budget with chewing gum and bailing wire.

I’ll also be interested to see who else moves to jump into the race now. I believe Vop Osili is interested in the office. We know that Ed Delaney has said he’s “capable” of running. Frank Short has gone on record to say he will run if Hogsett doesn’t, and there are always the wild cards out there like Sam Carson. I’ve heard a number of other names bandied about, too. Brian Williams, Maggie Lewis, and John Layton are three of them.

This changes the calculus for a lot of people, even Mayor Ballard himself. Hogsett might have made him think twice about a third term. Now, who knows what he’s thinking.

It will be interesting to see how all this plays out.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ballard, Dems Still Undecided on 2015

Mayor Greg Ballard
2014 has barely had time to shake off the shrink wrap, but politicos know that 2015 is already pushing itself into position and getting ready to go.

The race for Mayor of Indianapolis continues to be the 2015 headliner while the districts for the City-County Council play out in court.

The Indy Star’s Jon Murray reports on Twitter that Mayor Greg Ballard is still considering a possible attempt at a third term and that he’s a “long way” from making a decision. Most political insiders I’ve talked to believe that too much is at stake for the Republicans to run anyone but Ballard in 2015. He remains their best opportunity to hold on to the office in a city that continues to get more and more blue.  Murray says Ballard has over $700,000 in his campaign account after raising $618,000 in 2013.

On the Democratic side, there are several candidates that are possibilities, but all roads lead to Joe Hogsett, first. The U.S. Attorney continues to build quite a resume as being tough on crime. That will certainly be an issue for the
U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett
next Mayor’s race. Hogsett is still the only field clearer.

Another interesting possible candidate is Ed Delaney, State Rep. from District 86. Delaney appeared on the Johnnystir Show on on Monday, and I asked him about his future plans. He remained non-committal beyond 2014 and his run for reelection in 86 saying he enjoys being in the legislature and running for office. He did say that he was “capable” of running for Mayor, and that he would be seeking the counsel of not only his constituents but others as he considers what the future might hold. He made it clear that he’s not running for anything but House District 86 right now.

Sheriff John Layton, City-County Councillor Vop Osili, and City-County Council President Maggie Lewis also remain possibilities as well as blast-from-the-past, Brian Williams, who ran briefly but mostly credibly in 2011. Democrats like Sam Carson, the son of Julia Carson, and Washington Township Trustee Frank Short (who tells the Indy Star's Matt Tully that he'll run if Hogsett doesn't) remain potential candidates.

Whether Ballard runs or not in 2015, the race is sure to be another referendum on his leadership. From cricket fields to police staffing and crime rates to snow removal to the increase of property taxes, Ballard Administration decisions on these issues and many others will be at the forefront.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pence Should Have Steered Clear of Marriage Debate in State of the State

Governor Pence
Governor Mike Pence has nothing to do with the passage of HJR-3.

Because it's a Constitutional Amendment, the Governor is relegated to the sidelines.  He doesn't have to sign the resolution or do anything.  If HJR-3 passes, it goes straight to the voters of Indiana with no action by the Governor.

Yet tonight, in front of a joint session of the Indiana General Assembly, there's Mike Pence, using the bully pulpit of the Governor's Office and his State of the State Address to address HJR-3 (without of course REALLY advocating for it...wink-wink).

Pence, a man who has made no bones about his religious beliefs, broke no news tonight when he said he supports so-called "traditional marriage" or the union of one man and one woman.  Here are Pence's remarks on marriage.

Now on the subject of marriage, we are in the midst of the debate over whether Indiana should join some 30 other states that have enshrined the definition of marriage in their state constitutions. Each of us has our own perspective on the matter. For my part, I believe in traditional marriage, and I have long held the view that the people, rather than unelected judges, should decide matters of such great consequence to the society. Reasonable people can differ, and there are good people on both sides of this debate. No one, on either side, deserves to be disparaged or maligned because of who they are or what they believe. 
So let’s have a debate worthy of our people with civility and respect. 
Let’s protect the rights of Hoosier employers to hire who they want and provide them with benefits that they earn. 
And let’s resolve this issue this year once and for all.
Pence is a citizen just like you and me on this issue.  His opinion gets amplifed because 49 percent of Hoosiers that went to the polls last November decided that they wanted him as their Governor.

We've seen, however, that Pence's opinion carries little weight in the Indiana General Assembly.  His legislative agenda has been taken apart, dissected, and put back together as something palatable by both houses of the state's legislature.  While he's the Governor of Indiana, he's got none of the political swagger or pull of Mitch Daniels.  Pence is a lightweight compared to Daniels.  He's a guy with a lot of power in certain ways but no real way to pass an agenda.

A smarter move would have been, in my view, to steer clear of the marriage question altogether.  Instead, I would have had a laser-like focus in my speech on jobs, improving wages, and improving Indiana's economy.  He did talk about those things.  Of course, he advocated for his other legislative agenda items.  You can read the entire speech here.

When it comes down to it all, Pence said little new about marriage.  He broke no new ground, and he essentially doesn't seem to understand that the passage of the constitutional amendment will not settle the debate.  The best way to stop the ever-famous "unelected judges" from getting HJR-3 in one of their courtrooms is to kill it now and let the current state law banning same sex marriages stand as law.  As Oklahoma found out last night, just because you slap it in the state constitution doesn't mean it's constitutional.

That's another blog post for another night.  In this case, Pence showed his hand far too much.  Politically, he would have been best served to keep his cards closer to the vest and let his previous comments stand for themselves.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Sarcasm Cup Runneth Over

Since the House Judiciary Committee failed to act on the marriage amendment yesterday and because I care about traditional marriage and ending the moral decay of our society, I'd like to announce that I will begin an effort to ban all divorce in Indiana.

That's right.  No more divorce.  Divorce is the biggest danger to marriage we have today.  As a Hoosier, I believe that we should codify this permanently in our great Indiana State Constitution.

My resolution will read, "All unions legally defined as marriages in the state of Indiana shall be deemed as marriages for the life of the parties joined in marriage.  On the death of one of the parties of the marriage, the other party shall be allowed to remarry."

I know that I will meet great resistance to this, so that's why I've decided to file a companion bill to clarify the legislative intent of my resolution.

My bill would be entitled the defense to the defense of marriage amendment.  In there, it would make exceptions for mental and physical abuse, irreconcilable differences, infidelity, and anything else that could cause the dissolution of a marriage.

Of course, my sarcasm is running wild here, but is my fake quest to end divorce any sillier than the quest to prevent anything other than man-woman marriage in Indiana...when it's already the law of the land?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Lawsuit Filed in Grant County Against Marion Mayor Seybold

Mayor Wayne Seybold
Mayor Wayne Seybold of Marion wants to be the next Treasurer of State here in Indiana, but he is having to answer questions about why American Express filed a civil lawsuit against him in Grant County over what they claim to be unpaid credit card bills totaling over $5,300.

Karla Bowsher of the Chronicle-Tribune in Marion writes that the American Express lawsuit says Seybold owes $5,357 to the credit card company.   Sources close to the Mayor's campaign say that the lawsuit is overblown and tell Indy Democrat that it was essentially motivated by Seybold's questions and disputes over the bill.

Republicans Don Bates, Jr. and Kelly Mitchell are both in the hunt with  Seybold for the Republican nomination.

Seybold was in Carmel on Saturday on the campaign trail.

Delegates to the Republican state convention will select their nominee for not only Treasurer but Auditor and Secretary of State.  Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson and Auditor Suzanne Crouch will in all likelihood be on the ticket.  Seybold is the favorite to claim the nomination for Treasurer having wrapped up many high-profile endorsements and having the backing of some high-powered Republicans.  He is a past candidate for U.S. Congress.  So far, the Democrats don't have a candidate for Treasurer.

Incumbent Treasurer Richard Mourdock is term-limited and is rumored to be interested in running for the 8th District Congressional seat currently held by Larry Bucshon.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Lanane: Republican Leadership Can't Run From the Choice They've Made

Sen. Tim Lanane
This OpEd was originally posted on the Senate Democrats briefing room site:
By Indiana Senate Democrat Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson)

No matter how hard Republican leaders in the General Assembly attempt to frame their decision, they can’t run from the choice they’ve made. In moving forward with renamed House Joint Resolution (HJR) 3, they have elected to launch a needless fight over locking discrimination into our state’s constitution. The course they’ve set will be divisive, it will likely end in costly litigation and will certainly distract the legislature from deliberating on other critical issues.

From the onset, this effort to codify prejudice has been an exercise in unintended consequences. Legal experts have cast significant doubt on the wording of the two-sentence amendment, questioning whether passage of HJR 3 would make partnership benefits offered by public universities and local governments to their employees unconstitutional.

In an attempt to ease those concerns, Republicans leaders will take an unprecedented approach, and in doing so, all but admit the amendment is poorly drafted. The leaders offered up a three-page bill in conjunction with the resolution, aiming to clarify the legislature’s intent when drafting the amendment. The only problem: when questioned this week, the Senate President Pro Tempore and Speaker of the House themselves did not know how the accompanying bill would impact civil unions or other partnership agreements. If the driving forces behind this approach are unsure of the legal ramifications, perhaps that’s reason enough to admit the amendment is fatally flawed?

For states that have gone before us in passing constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriage and similar partnerships, there is a common thread: lawsuits. Wisconsin passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 and has been tied up in litigation since. A similarly-worded amendment has been winding its way through the Michigan courts for 9 years, piling up legal bills and doing nothing to address other issues.

In Indiana, there are counties where Hoosiers earn incomes equivalent to the national average in the 1970s. In Indiana, women in the workforce earn 73 cent for every dollar men make for comparable work and Hoosier children too frequently go without access to high quality early childhood education. The debate over this amendment of intolerance threatens to detract from addressing these pressing concerns.

No clean-up bills attempting to clarify legislative intent will change the fact that this is a question of whether or not the legislature should permit discrimination to be enshrined in the state’s guiding document. Republican leaders have played their hand, it’s my hope now that individual lawmakers will stand up and recognize this amendment for what it is: a misguided, distracting amendment of intolerance that is simply wrong for Indiana.

Sen. Lanane represents Indiana Senate District 25 includes the portions of Madison and Delaware counties, including the City of Muncie and the southeastern portion of the City of Anderson. For more information on Sen. Lanane, his legislative agenda or other State Senate business call 1-800-382-9467 or visit .


Bosma's Fake Out on Marriage Equality Won't Be Forgotten

House Speaker Brian Bosma
Old Brian Bosma gave us a headfake before the give and go.

Just a couple of days ago, Bosma said that the marriage amendment wasn't among the Republicans' top priorities this session.  He gave us some bull that everyone wants to hear.  You, education, blah blah.

That was before Bosma passed the ball to his Speaker Pro Tem, Eric Turner.  Turner took it right to the hole and scored the basket as he filed the bill...House Joint Resolution 3.  It's the bill formerly known as House Joint Resolution 6 2011.  It's set for a hearing Monday at 10:00 a.m. in the House Judiciary Committee.  If it passes there, it goes to the full House and then to the Senate and then to the voters.

As you probably know, this is the resolution that, if agreed to by the House, the Senate, and Indiana voters in 2014 would add the following language to the Indiana Constitution:

Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana.

A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.

Forget that there's already a law on the books.  Forget that passing HJR-3 will bring forth legal challenges.  Forget that Turner's House Bill 1153, filed to try to mitigate the damages of HJR-3, will bring up what's sure to be another legal mess.  This is pure political theater.  It's a cow-tow to the powerful far right culture vultures that are hellbent on protecting so-called "traditional marriage."  Their puppet strings were barely hidden behind that wry smile and smug cockiness Bosma projects every day at the Statehouse.

I'm not the only one who noticed the fake out, putting up one agenda while pushing another behind the scenes.  The Indianapolis Star's Matt Tully called the GOP's refusal to address the marriage amendment simply, "marketing."

He's right.  It's all marketing.  Marketing concocted to make Hoosiers think that its General Assembly actually was changing its stripes into a state legislature valuing, perhaps someday, equality for all.  Bosma knew though.  This was coming all along.

Now the Republicans have picked a fight.  It's not just with the Democrats or with gay people.  The Republicans have picked a fight with moderates concerned about equality.  To placate the Eric Millers of the world, the GOP has cast its lot as the party that would write discrimination into the Indiana Constitution.

Bosma told reporters that he appreciates that this is a "personal issue" and that is sure to draw emotion.  He also told reporters that it wouldn't "devastatingly" effect Indiana one way or another.  I guess we're going to see.  The GOP has reached the point of no return.  They've gone so far down one road that it's going to be tough to come back.  It's going to be nasty.  It's going to be personal.  It's going to be all of the above, and Hoosiers will be devastatingly affected by this fight.  Families will be in the middle.  It will be families of all kinds.

The old give and go might have scored the first basket, but Bosma and the GOP has now released a full-court press by Freedom Indiana that may just result in a victory for the other team.  Whatever happens, this game...this fight...could have been avoided by simply letting HJR-6 pass quietly into the ether and taking up issues of real concern to Hoosiers.

Speaker Bosma, I hope you're proud of what you did to the Hoosier State.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

And the Award for Revisionist Historian Goes To...

This guy.

Congratulations, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor Ballard, appearing on WTHR's Eyewitness News at Noon, retracted his statement from yesterday.

The Number You Have Reached Has Been Changed...The New Number Is...HJR-3

The resolution attempting to put marriage discrimination into the Indiana Constitution has been known as House Joint Resolution 6 in Indiana since it passed in 2011.

Nix 6 has become the rallying cry for Freedom Indiana and others interested in seeing the resolution die.

Yesterday, Brian Bosma, the Speaker of the House, said that marriage was not on the Republican agenda for 2014.  The next day, Eric Turner, Speaker Pro Tem of the Indiana House, filed the language of HJR-6 as HJR-3.  He also filed a companion bill, House Bill 1153, which will govern the ballot language should HJR-3 be passed by the General Assembly.

It's a mess.

Bottom line is that HJR-6 is now HJR-3.  Please make a note of it.

Today Marks Tipping Point for Ballard Administration Storm Response

So far, I've given Mayor Greg Ballard a bit of a pass on his response to the deadly winter storm that hit the city on Sunday.

Mayor Greg Ballard
Over 11 inches of snow followed by a cold blast directly from the North Pole have made conditions difficult for snow removal and city services.  There was essentially no game plan to go by, and it seems that since his early failings as the storm moved in that the Mayor has been active and accessible to his constituents.

Today, the gloves begin to come off.  A good number of the roads remain to be in difficult condition for normal travel forcing schools to cancel for yet another day.  The temperature on Facebook notably seemed to go up a couple of degrees last night, too.

It's time for the Mayor's Administration to make big strides with the roads by tonight.  Otherwise, many will continue to question its ability to respond to snowstorms.

Let me be clear, this is not a knock at the Indy Snow Force or the plow drivers of DPW.  Those folks have to be commended for the work they are doing.  I wouldn't want their jobs!  I just think people are starting to tire of hearing the same old excuses when clearly the conditions are improving weather-wise.

I also have a minor beef with whatever person in the Ballard Administration that made the decision to close the Mayor's Action Center at the normal time on Wednesday.  We've spent nothing but the last few days hearing that the line was THE LINE to call for city services.  When I called to report the dreadful road conditions on two major Decatur Township roads, I found the line shut down and staffed by a message to go online or call back tomorrow.  I went online and tried to find the service that I need, but there was nothing there about snow removal.  Eventually, I sent a tweet to DPW and Indy Snow Force.

For safety's sake, I hope a lot of progress happens today and that we're crediting the Mayor and not criticizing him tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Advance America Joins HJR-6 Fight with Not-So-Slick TV Ad

Letters...we got letters!
Freedom Indiana's 6K letters opposing HJR-6.
Photo from Facebook
As the Indiana General Assembly launched its 2014 short session on Tuesday, Freedom Indiana was busy delivering some 6,000 letters from the opponents of House Joint Resolution-6.  This morning, it appears that Advance Indiana has stepped up an effort on the opposite side to push the resolution.

For those of you hiding under a rock since 2011, HJR-6 is the amendment to the Indiana Constitution that would outlaw not only same-sex marriage but legal recognition of essentially anything like marriage.  The specific wording has gotten the attention of many Hoosiers:

Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. 
A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.
It passed easily through the Indiana House and Senate in 2011, but it must pass again.  Because it failed to gain traction last year, it must pass this year or it will die.  If it passes the Indiana General Assembly, it will go straight to the ballot for a vote in November.

Freedom Indiana has spent the last few months gathering support for the fight against HJR-6.  In my informal talks with individuals connected to Freedom Indiana, they remain cautiously optimistic that the message is getting through to legislators that most Hoosiers don't want this Amendment and want nothing to do with writing discrimination into the Indiana Constitution.

That isn't all Hoosiers.  Eric Miller's Advance America organization is running the first ads targeting seven Indiana House legislators that will decide whether or not to even bring HJR-6 back to the floor.  It shows the pictures of the legislators and gives their names saying that they stand between Hoosiers and the right to vote to "protect marriage"...whoopee!  All the while, dastardly and dark music drones in the background as "Hoosiers" plead for the right to vote on the issue.  Advance America's ad is decidedly low budget and not really effective.

Advance America has been active thus far.  The Indianapolis Star reported last month on a flier being distributed to church-goers in the Hoosier State.  Some have questioned the credibility of the information in the flier.  It's clear that Miller's group is falling back on fearmongering.  It smacks of desperation, and the ad the organization has produced for television does as well.

I question whether Advance America REALLY wants this fight.  Freedom Indiana has done a sensational job to this point spreading the word about HJR-6.  I've seen multiple anti-HJR-6 bumper stickers on random cars and know of multiple people outside of the political sphere that are not only up on and paying attention to this issue but very strongly opposed to the amendment.  Freedom Indiana also has a ground game that it hasn't necessarily employed yet.  It's the same type of ground game that turned Indiana blue in 2008.

This will be one to watch.  My sources say that even the most staunch right wingers in the General Assembly are doubtful that this legislation will even pass through a second time.  I remain skeptical.  Forgive me, but I don't have much confidence in this General Assembly to do the right thing.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Ritz Breaks with Bennett Policy

I guess it should be no surprise that Glenda Ritz sees things a bit differently than her predecessor, Tony Bennett.

Glenda Ritz
Ritz's office announced on Monday that schools missing Monday or Tuesday due to the winter blast would not need to make up those days at the end of the year and that waivers would be granted.

We have a long, long way to go in this school year, and we didn't see our last major winter storm until the end of March last year.  There's already inclement weather in the forecast for Thursday and Friday of the upcoming week with a mixed bag of precipitation forecast to fall.  It's conceivable that some smaller districts in some areas of the state will have several days out of school.  Plus, make-up days are famous for low attendance and high student apathy.

Perhaps Bennett would have seen things the same way as Ritz in this unusual set of circumstances, but one just don't know for sure.  His words in office say that he would have likely disagreed with Ritz.  He made it clear from the beginning of his time in office that he was no fan of waivers even going so far as to tell districts not to even bother to apply for them after the great ice storm of 2011.

Whatever the case, this seeming shift in DOE policy under Ritz seems to signal again that there's a new sheriff in town.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter Storm Smashes City

It's a storm for the ages.  Someday, you'll tell your kids and grandkids about this one.

The biggest snowstorm to hit Indianapolis since the Great Blizzard of 1978 continues to wreak havoc on the city today as people across the city wake up to bone chilling wind and low temperatures.  It's a rare one-two punch from Mother Nature, and it connected right in the solar plexus.

Mayor Greg Ballard started the day behind the eight ball, but he had recovered and looked like a leader by the end of the day.  

His early afternoon briefing came, in my view, several hours too late as NFL Football had taken over the airwaves and over 7,000 citizens had no power.  I believe Mayor Ballard should have been out earlier before the snow started with more than just a press release.  

Once the heavy stuff arrived, he and his team did save the day making a set of solid decisions.  The decision to put Indianapolis under a travel warning was not easy.  It comes at a cost to the city economically as many businesses may choose not to open today due to the travel prohibitions.  For the citizens of the city, it was the absolute right decision as the coldest weather in at least 20 and maybe nearly 30 years hit the city.  We'll see how his response continues from here.

While Ballard denies it, it's clear that the criticism he absorbed a few days ago from Councillor Zach Adamson and citizens across the city must have had some effect on his decision to be on television on the late night news programs.

IPL's performance gained much praise and criticism.  As of press time, 27,314 customers remain without power.  The amazingly tough conditions have created kind of a whack-a-mole situation.  It's hard to criticize IPL given the harsh conditions across the city.

As Indianapolis digs out and deals with the frigid cold, this becomes a 72-hour event.  The first 24 hours have been pretty well-handled.  It's how the rest of it goes.  

In the meantime, if you need information on city services, the Mayor's Action Center is open at 327-4MAC.  For emergencies, dial 9-1-1.  If you have a medical condition and need assistance, dial 2-1-1.  For more information, click here.