Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ritz Announces She's Considering Gubernatorial Run

Supt. Glenda Ritz
From the be careful what you wish for department, Republicans wishing to undercut Glenda Ritz from her position as Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction were informed today that Ritz will announce her intentions for 2016 in June.

That could include her running for Governor of Indiana.

Back in November, Ritz announced she would be running for reelection to her position as Superintendent of Public Instruction, but that was before the blatant attempt to knock her from power by the Indiana General Assembly and the emboldening of the State Board of Education which is controlled to a great extent by Governor Mike Pence.

It could be said that the state's highest elected official on education would be the Governor since that individual seats six of the soon to be nine slots on the State Board of Education.  In the waning moments of the 2015 General Assembly session and without public debate, the SBOE was placed into more of a policy-making role along side the Department of Education controlled by the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Ritz stated that she would get through this school year and decide with her family what is next for her this summer.  Her possible candidacy announcement overshadowed that announcement by John Gregg that he would be running for Governor again.
With Gregg in and Ritz on the fence, it will be interesting to see who else might step into the race on the Democratic side.  Pence is widely expected to seek a second term with Angie's List CEO Bill Osterle also considering a run on the Republican side.  

I think Ritz COULD be a tremendous candidate, but she will have the most work to do of the two possible Democrats so far.  I'll analyze her chances in tomorrow's Indy Democrat post.  

Gregg Decision May Be Imminent on Gubernatorial Aspirations for 2016 (WITH UPDATE)

John Gregg
John Gregg appears closer to announcing his intentions for 2016.

The man who closed from double-digit points down in polls a month out from Election Day to just three percentage points behind when the votes were counted has stated that he's interested in running for Governor again, and he's been campaigning like another run is in his future. 

Mike Pence is expected to run again on the Republican side for reelection and could see opposition from his own party.

Via Facebook, Gregg's asking supporters to sign up for an e-mail list to get the big news he's about to share first.

It's unclear as to who else might step up and join Gregg in running for the Democratic nomination for Governor (if that's the mustachioed one's big news).  I'm sure more will come into focus perhaps as early as today because the General Assembly session is now over.

You can sign up for Gregg's email list on his website at

Gregg's IN! About 1:00 p.m. today, the former Indiana Speaker of the House announced that he would be running again for the state's highest executive office.  Here's his campaign video.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

General Assembly to Embolden SBOE

The Indiana General Assembly changed its plan to remove power from Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz.

In the new plan, Ritz would remain in charge of the State Board of Education until her first term expires in December of 2016.  The new plan, which was completely decided by lawmakers with no input from voters or educators would instead put the SBOE on equal footing with the Indiana DOE as an "educational authority."

In January of 2017, the SBOE would then be able to choose its own chair.  That move would effectively cut the Superintendent of Public Instruction out of its powerful spot as the executive in charge of education in Indiana and place the DOE more on the same line with the SBOE.

What could possibly go wrong with two separate entities governing education?  Well, I guess Mike Pence, who would get SIX appointees on the newly-constituted nine member SBOE, would get his shadow DOE in plain sight.

I'll just be glad when this General Assembly session is gavelled closed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Silence of the Councillors

Bob Lutz
Jason Holliday
I was sitting at a Decatur Township Civic Council meeting last night at the Decatur Middle School, and City-County Councillors Jason Holliday and Bob Lutz were in attendance.

I am Jason's opponent in the General Election (as long as we both receive one vote on Tuesday, May 5), but I like Councillor Holliday.  He's been very cordial to me for years, and I do consider him a friend.  I've also gotten to know Councillor Lutz as well.

While I disagree strongly with both men on many issues, we're cordial, and I hope we'll stay that way when this campaign is all over.

As you know if you have been following this blog for any length of time, it's been a really interesting time to be a City-County Councillor.  For one, the Council just defeated Mayor Greg Ballard's veto on public safety funds by an overwhelming vote.  Both Holliday and Lutz voted to override the veto.  Secondly, the Council took a stand on RFRA urging its repeal at the state legislature and advocated adding LGBT Hoosiers to the state's anti-discrimination law.  Holliday voted against that measure while Lutz voted in favor.

Given the opportunity to report anything to the 20 or so people who attended the meeting, both Councillors Holliday and Lutz passed on the opportunity.  Councillor Lutz only adding a couple of dates to the given presentation by Keep Indianapolis Beautiful on emerald ash borer meetings (critical to the city, to be sure, but adding nothing to what the Council has been working on in the last month).

I'm not saying that you have to give a doctoral dissertation every month, but if after this wild month on the Council you have nothing to report, then when will you have something to report, Councillors?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Pence Pulls Pitchman from Koch Brothers Bullpen to Be Spokesperson

Gov. Mike Pence
Mike Pence is in trouble.

His poll numbers are fading fast, and there's some smatterings of political comebacks or primary challengers.  He needs to build a floor, and he needs to build it quickly.

So, a couple of weeks ago, the Governor's Communications Director, Christy Denault gave the old "leaving to spend time with family" excuse and headed out the door.  The Governor, again tested to see who the replacement would be, chose someone out of the Koch Brothers bullpen.

Matt Lloyd is returning to the Pence Administration after serving as the Director of Communications for Koch Industries.  He had previously served as Pence's spokesperson during the Governor's 2012 campaign (where he failed to gain a majority).

I can't imagine that a man like Pence that needs a PR boost is really going to get much love on this one from those of us on the left.  It's interesting to see how this decision will play to those on the right and in the middle, though.

It's an interesting move, though.  One makes you wonder how many strings might have been attached.  Time will tell.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Bayh Tantalizes Dems with "An Important Announcement" E-mail

Hillary Clinton and Evan Bayh
Yesterday, Democrats around the state received an e-mail from Evan Bayh with the subject line, "An important announcement."

As I waited for the e-mail to load on my phone, I anticipated what it might be.  Perhaps the former Senator had reconsidered his refusals from last month and was running for Governor or for Senator.  It's the only kind of "important announcement" I could think of from Bayh.

Finally, the announcement opened up, and it started out well.  Bayh wrote, "Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton formally announced her campaign to be our next President.  Now it's time to make an announcement of my own."

The announcement?  "She has my full support, I’ll do everything I can to help her, and I hope you will, too."

I have to admit, I was a little underwhelmed.  Kind of like this...(mild language)

Visions of retaking the Governor's Office and two Democrats in the Senate seats danced in my head until the let down.  As my friend Dan Foreman pointed out, a fundraising ploy from a man with millions of campaign cash in the bank kind of fell flat, too.

One thing's for sure...Bayh has to be in the VEEP derby if Hillary is the nominee.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hogsett Announces Teen Job Initiative

Joe Hogsett
In one of his first major policy initiatives, likely Democratic nominee for Mayor, Joe Hogsett, announced a plan to pull together Indy employers to provide summer employment for teens to keep them busy and off the streets in the critical summer months.

Hogsett's pledges to work towards a goal of 1,000 available jobs for teens at corporate employers and non-profits to work alongside the current "Your Life Matters" initiative started by Mayor Greg Ballard.  The hope is to provide young people something to do so they aren't just off doing anything possibly committing crimes or hanging with the wrong crowd.

“With no additional cost to taxpayers, our city has the capability to start a comprehensive summer jobs initiative next year that will give hundreds of young people job experience, useful skills, and productive alternatives to crime and gangs,” Hogsett said. “I learned as federal prosecutor that the best ideas don’t require more bureaucracy – they just require leadership that can harness the kind of energy and commitment that our city’s corporate and non-profit partners showed with last week’s release of the Your Life Matters action plan.”

From the campaign:
Rather than adding another layer of government bureaucracy, Hogsett will convene the diverse groups already working to employ our youth and direct those energies toward a comprehensive summer jobs initiative. As Mayor, Hogsett would also oversee further policy development, raise funds from individual and corporate partners, secure job commitments from employers, and seek to grow the initiative each year. 
Beginning in the summer of 2016, these jobs will be available to young people in Marion County. Participating organizations and employers will offer positions that range from 20 to 25 hours per week with wages of at least $8 per hour for six weeks during the summer. 
In addition to providing valuable life experience and meaningful income to the program’s participants, the City of Indianapolis would also work with participating organizations and employers to ensure that every young person receives job skills training that will equip them to be full participants in the local economy.
These skills would include résumé building workshops, job fairs for post-summer employment, and easily accessible information on the diverse educational and employment opportunities available for young people who may have different paths to individual achievement.
For 2016 and 2017, the estimated cost will be approximately $3 million – none of which will come from new tax revenues. Much of this funding will come from the corporate or non-profit partners, while additional funds from philanthropic organizations and federal grants will support positions with properly vetted non-profit or faith-based organizations.

Hogsett's plan harkens back to initiatives of the past when summer jobs provided by the city were available to young people in the parks and across the city.  It also reveals some "outside of the box" thinking we're just not used to over the last seven years.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

McQuillen Takes One for Mayor Ballard in Council Vote

Monday night, the City-County Council voted 28-1 to override Mayor Greg Ballard’s veto of a
Councillor Mike McQuillen
public safety proposal to spend $4.7 million on upgrades for IMPD equipment and upgrades and repairs at the aging police academy. It seems to have been an historic evening for the Council and an infamous one for Mayor Ballard.

Longtime Council observers can’t seem to remember the last time a Mayor’s veto was overturned, so there’s really no script for this sort of thing.

The margin was extra shocking.

The original proposal had passed the Council by a vote of 24-4, and many thought that if the Mayor’s veto were to be overturned it would be along those lines or even closer to the 20-vote margin necessary to overturn the Ballard action. I don’t think anyone, including Council Minority Leader Mike McQuillen could have thought it would be 28-1.

Suddenly, he was all alone, and McQuillen’s vote certainly stood out like a clichéd sore thumb. It was, however, almost a vote he had to make. As the leader of the Republicans on the Council, it is kind of his job to carry the water for the Ballard Administration along with balancing the concerns and needs of his constituents. Seeing as this vote was likely headed for an override anyway, his vote was less important and he could vote to support the Mayor’s position without putting the passage of the bill in danger.

It’s something that happens in Congress all the time. Sometimes the party’s leadership votes against their own proposals for procedural or other reasons. As a party leader, McQuillen was doing the loyal thing for his party’s Mayor and likely thought he wouldn’t be alone. When some of his caucus changed their votes…suddenly it was just him and the Mayor.

Long term, this could, of course, hurt McQuillen. While he has no opponent in the upcoming primary, he most definitely has an opponent in Ray Biederman in the general election in November. I’m sure IMPD officers and the FOP will take note of McQuillen’s vote. 

I’m not making excuses. The vote stands for what it was.

It’s a difficult road being in party leadership sometimes, but it is one that is chosen. During the victory lap, it’s great. When you’re on the other end of things, well, it’s Hell.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Battle for Indiana's 2016 U.S. Senate Seat

Tom LoBianco took a look at the Indiana U.S. Senate Race in the Indianapolis Star yesterday.

His work is here, but I think you can see among our state's Congressional Delegation who's building a possible war chest for a run if you look at their financial affairs as reported by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz on his Indy Politics website.

Two of our sitting Congressional representatives have over $1,000,000 in their campaign war chests in really non-competitive districts.  Todd Young has $1.11 million on hand, and Todd Rokita has $1.04 million on hand.  This easily puts them well ahead of the declared candidate, Eric Holcomb who has $125,000 in his account.  Marlin Stutzman has been mentioned as a possible candidate as well with $423K in his campaign account.

Of course, all of these candidates could hold off to 2018 as well.  Joe Donnelly is up for reelection that year though it would seem that their chances might be better in an open seat year.  That would be 2016.  The negative is that by declaring for Senate that they would have to give up their House seat.  To me, it just seems peculiar that both Todds would be holding on to this kind of campaign cash without any kind of purpose behind it when they likely will not need it in a tight reelection fight.

As far as Democrats who might run, Baron Hill's name is still being bandied about along with State Representative Christina Hale who seems very interested in a run.  She could be a wild card.  Hale has served a potential swing district in the Indiana House and has prevailed in two pretty tough election fights.  She has been a champion of women's issues in the state legislature.  Hale is the General Assembly's only Latino legislator.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Council Slaps Down Mayor Ballard Public Safety Veto, 28-1

Mayor Greg Ballard
Photo from Facebook
When Mayor Greg Ballard vetoed the $4.7 million that the City-County Council set aside for new cars, equipment, and police academy upgrades for IMPD, he made it clear that he was blaming the Democrats for being less than thrifty.

He went out of his way to mention "Council Democrats" in his veto statement in negative terms.

Well, Mr. Mayor, tonight the City-County Council made sure your veto was overriden by a 28-1 margin.

Enough of a bipartisan message for you, sir?  The only vote you received was by your Council leader, Mike McQuillen, and his vote, I'm sure, was more symbolic than anything.

If the Council leadership had just held the 24 votes that originally passed Proposal 47, then it would have been a message, but they gained four including the vote of a very sick Aaron Freeman who talked about how recent events and a discussion with the wife of an IMPD officer had changed his mind on the issue.

On some things, it's hard to separate out the politics from the proposal.  Mayor Ballard got caught playing politics with public safety.  The Mayor...not the this one wrong, and the Mayor was embarrassed by his own caucus that couldn't even hold all the original no's.

If this had been an NBA slam dunk, he would have just gotten posterized by the Council.

Ballard Camp Drops $400K on Brewer

Friday was the deadline for campaign finance reports to be turned in prior to the May Primary of the 2015 election cycle.

I'm sure everyone clamored to find out that I have $182 and some change in my campaign account.  It's a work in progress.  In reality, most were looking to see how much money each of the Mayoral frontrunners had raised in their campaign accounts.

Democrat Joe Hogsett heads into the post-primary season with $2.33 million raised and $2.16 million on hand.  In this year alone, Hogsett has raised over $955,000.

On the Republican side, slated candidate Chuck Brewer has raised an impressive $671,730 this quarter and has over $657,000 on hand.  When you dig deeper, you'll see a contribution from Mayor Greg Ballard's campaign committee in the amount of $400,000.  None of the other Mayoral candidates have raised much...if anything.

On one hand, you have to give Brewer some credit.  He got a late start, and he has raised some cash quickly even without the huge gift from the Ballard campaign.  You also have to applaud Ballard's campaign for writing the check.  I guess this should signal that Ballard is not looking to run for anything else.  He still has some money in the bank.

For Hogsett's campaign, this is extremely impressive.  $2.16 million cash on hand is formidable for any local race.  It means he can run pretty much the race he wants to run right now and the money will still keep flowing in.

As Bart Peterson will tell you, money isn't everything in a local race, and that much is true.  We know it's going to take more than cash to win, but I think Joe Hogsett as a favorite to win is extremely formidable because Joe's usually used to running from behind.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Cardwell In Tough Spot

Jeff Cardwell, I almost feel for him...almost.

The new Indiana Republican Chair took the seat at a trying time for his party. Noticeable cracks are beginning to show between the social conservative wing of which Pence and Cardwell are members and we’ll call it the Mitch Daniels wing of the party. That’s not to say Mitch isn’t conservative, but it just seems like the battle lines are being drawn.

Bill Oesterle, a former Daniels insider, stepped down from his seat at Angie’s List to, according to media sources, become more “civically involved.” Matt Tully opined that it might be to help redirect the Indiana Republican Party others have thought it might be to run for Governor.  

My blogging colleague over at Advance Indiana, Gary Welsh, believes Pence has been the unwitting victim of a Mitch Daniels silent takeover. He says the flames of the RFRA mess which have weakened Pence were inflamed by local media and others loyal to Daniels.
Daniels, after all, could reemerge after his stint as President of Purdue University. He could return to the Statehouse after a four-year hiatus from politics. The Indiana Constitution allows former Governors to serve two consecutive terms but allows them to return if they sit out a term. Some other folks saw Eric Holcomb’s candidacy for Senate as a signal that the party may turn back to those loyal to Mitch.

You can’t really blame the Republicans. Daniels' term seems like it was years ago after just three years of Mike Pence. While Daniels was dragged into the Right to Work battle at the Statehouse, he really tried to avoid other types of controversy when he was in the Governor’s Office. He certainly would have found a way to kill RFRA without the damage that we’ve seen doled out, and he had the General Assembly pretty firmly under his control. From day one, Pence’s relationship has not been nearly as good as Daniels’ was with the legislature. 

If the Indiana Democratic Party plays this right, they can be the big beneficiary. Dems need to be pouncing and giving Republicans an alternative before they turn back to Pence or Daniels. To me, that means begin to identify key 2016 candidates NOW and get them out and about. The Democrats at the state level have to make it a priority to chop down these supermajorities on one side of the General Assembly or another.

That brings us back to Jeff Cardwell. If I were him, I’d post “Gone Fishin” on my hardware store door and let this all play out. My feeling is that he can’t do that. He owes a lot to Mike Pence, and I think he will sink with him.

The soap opera continues!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

In Memoriam: Bill Newman (1939-2015)

Constable Bill Newman
Longtime Wayne Township Constable Bill Newman passed away on April 10.  

The former Marion County Sheriff's Deputy and Chief of the Clermont Police Department was first elected Constable in 2006.  He was reelected in 2010 by just nine votes and again in 2014 by a more comfortable margin.  

I knew Bill only a little, but I haven't heard a bad word uttered about him by anyone.  Anytime I had occasion to talk to him, he was good to me.  On Tuesday, the United Wayne Township Democratic Club honored him with a Moment of Silence at their meeting. 

Constable Newman is survived by his wife, Cheryl, his family, and so many friends on both sides of the aisle.  Many hearts are hurting across the city.  Viewing will be on today at Hope Baptist Church on Girls School Road from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.  With a service will follow the viewing.  There will be no graveside service.

My deepest condolences to the Newman family and to Bill's extended family of friends on this tremendous loss.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

House, Senate Keep Plugging Away at Controversy

Last week, I opined that the RFRA mess might have derailed the Indiana General Assembly from pursuing some of the more controversial measures left to deal with on its docket.

Boy, did I misjudge it.

Everything plugged on.  From the destruction of the common construction wage law today (which went through the Senate, 27-22, on third read)  to the I-69 bill to what was passed out of the Indiana House yesterday.

Yes, Senate Bill 1 passed the House.  Of course, the key provision of SB1 is the removal of Glenda Ritz, the duly elected Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction and only Democrat in statewide executive office, from serving as the chair of the Indiana State Board of Education.

The bill can either go to Mike Pence's desk for his signature or to a conference committee to work out a few of the bill's alterations, according to the Indianpolis Star.  It's a victory for the beleaguered Governor and for the Republicans who have done everything they could to marginalize Ritz thus marginalizing someone who was swept into office by angst over Tony Bennett's handling of his affairs.

The victory, however, can be hollow.  Instead of heeding my warning to stay away from controversy the rest of this session, the General Assembly continues to show signs of being power drunk.  With every bill like Senate Bill 1, it becomes more and more clear that the sobriety test of government just is likely to fail when it comes to the GOP.

Republicans really have no idea of the blue tide that's about to hit the Statehouse.  They will never see it.  That's what makes it even better.

PR Firm Hire Misses Fundamental Issue in RFRA Flap

Governor Mike Pence
In the wake of the damage caused by the consternation over RFRA, Indiana has hired a PR firm to repair its reputation spending millions in the process.

According to the Indianapolis Star, the state has hired the PR firm of Porter Novelli to do the tough task of making Indiana no longer a laughingstock across the country. The bill to taxpayers: $2 million plus more cash in advertising buys down the road.

It’s not 100 percent clear where the funds are coming from to pay the firm. Personally, I think Mike Pence, Brian Bosma, and David Long should scrape up money from their collective campaign accounts. After all, it was these three that did the damage to our state. It was their bullheadedness that didn’t allow them to see what might be the consequences of a broad RFRA action.

Besides, is this amount even enough to repair the damage? It’s not a PR problem. This is a fundamental issue of respect. LGBT Hoosiers deserve protections under our state’s anti-discrimination law. If lawmakers fix that wrong, then the reputation of our state will go a long way towards being mended.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Carson Introduces LGBT Non-Discrimination Resolution

Congressman André Carson
Congressman André Carson announced yesterday that he would be introducing a resolution in Congress that would express “the sense of Congress” that LGBT people should be protected under the law.

Carson said in a statement:
“As Americans, we pride ourselves on being the most free and open society the world has ever known. Yet, for far too long, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans have been forced to live in the shadows because of who they are. Year after year, we see attacks on the LGBT community as governments at all levels look to institutionalize discrimination in the name of religious freedom. Recently, we witnessed my home state of Indiana enact the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, giving businesses the right to refuse service based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 
“In the wake of the backlash of Indiana’s misguided law, it is clear that the vast majority of Americans oppose this type of discrimination. It is long past time for Congress to ensure that all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, know that they are valued members of our society. From housing to employment to education, they deserve to live their lives like any other American, free from intolerance because of who they are.

“I am proud to join with my House colleagues to introduce this resolution, which makes clear that the discrimination faced by the LGBT community is unacceptable. America is defined by the rich culture that results from our differences, not by intolerance towards a selected few. With this resolution, we are reaffirming our commitment to overcome this civil rights issue and ensure true equality for all Americans.”

The ball now falls to the House and the Senate to pass this resolution. I’m proud of my Congressman.

Monday, April 13, 2015

"Mayor Veto" Ballard Creates Controversy with Latest Veto

Mayor "Veto" Ballard
On "news dump" Friday, Mayor Greg Ballard metaphorically dumped the City-County Council's $4.7 million bipartisan plan to purchase new equipment such as police cruisers and make repairs and upgrades at training facilities for IMPD.

The reaction was swift and pointed.

City-County Council President Maggie Lewis wrote:
“I am deeply troubled by the Mayor’s sudden veto of the Council’s bi-partisan appropriation to adequately equip our police officers and make necessary repairs to IMPD facilities. I will immediately begin the preparations necessary to override this irresponsible veto. The Mayor’s veto sends exactly the wrong message to the men and women that patrol our streets and try their best to keep us all safe every day. It tells them that their work in our neighborhoods is not worth the price of having adequate vehicles or fully-functioning training facilities. This appropriation comes from available Public Safety Tax revenue that the Mayor and Council agreed to raise at the end of last year for purposes just such as these.”
Fraternal Order of Police #86 wrote:

"On Friday, 04/10/2015, our FOP membership learned of the Mayor’s veto of Proposal 47 which had been passed by the Indianapolis City County Council with overwhelming bipartisan support with a vote of 24 – 4 on March 30, 2015. The proposal appropriated $4.7 million to provide equipment to police officers and make needed infrastructure improvements at the training facilities of the IMPD. Our membership of police officers and their families are deeply disappointed by the decision of the Mayor to veto critically needed funding for the IMPD. We believe it is the expectation of Indianapolis tax payers to have public safety tax dollars spent on public safety needs. We collectively have concerns about these public safety tax dollars being shifted to unrestricted funds where they can be spent on other projects. 
We fully support the effort of the Indianapolis City County Council President to begin the necessary steps to override the Mayor’s veto on this proposal. In the interim, we look forward to a robust public discussion in the coming days about the funding priorities of the Mayor and the management of such dollars.

We encourage our members to monitor our website for ongoing updates on this matter. As always, the FOP will remain vigilant in working to ensure our police officers have the resources they need to continue faithfully protecting the residents and visitors of Indianapolis."

For his part, Mayor Ballard said he always told the Council he would veto the measure. The Council disputes this.  Ballard also said none of this had come up during the budget process.

Anyone that has seen an IMPD cruiser lately would know that these cars are clearly passed their operational use.  The FOP says the repairs and upgrades were for the police academy to install wi-fi and refresh some areas that date back to the 1950's.

I have a hard time understanding the Mayor's objection.  After all, he chose to spend close to $6 million on a World Sports Park on Indy's Eastside.  Having now seen the facility, I doubt his wisdom on that one.

The first opportunity President Lewis could have to override the veto would be one week from today on April 20.  She needs 20 votes.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Worst Kept Secret in Politics is Out: Hillary's In for 2016

Yep.  Hillary Clinton is running for President, and she announced with a sensational campaign video talking about people "Getting Started" into a new point in their lives.

I'm looking  forward to where this one leads in 2016.  It's going to be a tough battle for the Republicans to fight someone whose negatives have been out there and vetted for over 20 years.  By the same token, Hillary has to fight being inevitable and keep punching as if she's behind 40 points.

Should be a fun one!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Bill to Remove Ritz from Chairmanship of SBOE Advances

The Senate Education Committee, led by Dennis Kruse (an auctioneer), passed Senate Bill 1 through Committee 8-4. The bill will now go to the full Senate.

It’s another brazen move by the Indiana Senate which may or may not be out of political capital points after the RFRA debacle and other issues. 

SB 1 will remove Glenda Ritz from being Chair of the State Board of Education and marginalize her power. The Superintendent of Public Instruction has been the chair of the SBOE for over 100 years, but, for some reason that’s not good enough for this session of the General Assembly.

Voters went to the polls and elected Ritz in 2012 to be the Chair of the State Board of Education, and, with one swoop, the Senate booted her from that spot. Proponents of the bill say that it doesn’t change anything really and that Ritz could still be the chair of the State Board of Education if the SBOE selects her. Fact of the matter, the board has been working against her since she took office. Now, if this passes, an unelected person will be in charge of the unelected SBOE.

Why pay attention to the will of the voters when it’s this easy to overturn it, right? 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Exercise Your Franchise Early!

Voter registration closed on Monday.  That means that early voting has ramped up.

Marion County Clerk Myla Eldridge released this picture on Facebook today as a summary of when you can go vote early in Marion County at the Clerk's Office downtown.

Exercise your franchise and VOTE!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Ryan White's Legacy Continues to Help Others

Ryan White
Can you believe it's been 25 years since we lost Ryan White?

Twenty-five years ago, life was different.  We were a lot dumber about HIV and AIDS.  Science had not advanced to where it has today.

While you can't yet defeat HIV, it's now no longer a death sentence and people are living years and high-quality lives with the virus.  Treatment is expensive, and experiments continue.  I think within my lifetime, we will find a vaccine to help prevent it.

Ryan White acquired HIV through no fault of his own.  A hemophiliac, he contracted the virus after a bad blood treatment at the age of 13.  His indomitable attitude and positive outlook on life were inspirational even as he was the target of scorn and hate.  He was banned from attending school even though doctors and the Indiana State Health Commissioner, Woody Myers, said that he was no threat.  Eventually, his family won a lawsuit and he was able to attend school.  The backlash was too much, and he switched schools and found himself accepted, finally.  

His profile grew, and he became one of the most famous people in the world.  He put a new face on HIV and served as a spokesperson.  Legislation in his name has been instrumental in helping individuals live with HIV and continues to make a difference today.

It makes you wonder if Ryan had the access to the kinds of medicine HIV patients are able to use today what kind of difference he would have made in society.  Unfortunately, we never got to know.

Ryan White died on April 8, 1990.  His funeral a few days later drew dignitaries and celebrities.  Michael Jackson attended and Elton John performed.  Ryan's mother, Jeanne, continues to keep his legacy alive.

Here we are 25 years later.  Ryan, you made a difference.

I-69 Plan Moves Forward Over Objections of Perry Township

Perry Township would be back on the table as a route for I-69 if the full Indiana Senate passes a bill allowing it.

The Indiana Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee passed a measure allowing I-69 to come right through the heart of Perry Township yesterday by a vote of 5-3. The bill now goes in front of the full Indiana Senate for a vote that could come as early as today.
Rep. John Price of Greenwood, who doesn’t even live in Perry Township or along the State Road 37 corridor, sponsored the bill that overrides a piece of legislation passed eight years ago banning the interstate project from coming through the middle of the township and down one of its most important economic corridors.  Senators Brent Waltz and Pat Miller have said before they will do their best to block the bill.
According to the Indianapolis Star’s John Tuohy, business leaders located along the 37 corridor testified against the bill saying that I-69 would wreck their businesses. Indiana Chambers of Commerce from all around the state testified for the bill, according to Tuohy.
There’s still a long way to go before the interstate comes barreling through, but this plows the field for it to happen to Perry.

If it doesn't happen in Perry, Decatur Township would likely be next.  The Mann Road corridor has already been studied, and Tuohy's article above describes a path that would connect I-69 to I-70 near the airport.

I-69 will go somewhere. That much we know. The ramrod of progress will likely be needed to get it done at some point because it seems the southwest side would rather it go elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Boots Comments Symptom of Republican Power Drunkedness

Sen. Phil Boots (R-1955)
Phil Boots lost his ever-loving mind on Saturday at a legislative breakfast.

The Republican Senator from Crawfordsville has shown that he's ready to be laughingstock before having actually written a bill that questioned the federal law in Indiana for the 2013 session.  That bill, if passed, would have given Indiana the authority to declare federal laws it didn't like unconstitutional.  (Pause for laughter)

According to the Paper of Montgomery County Online and reporter Scotty Cameron, Boots was asked by a Wabash Professor if he was ready to add LGBT Hoosiers to the state's non-discrimination clause, and the Senator responded, "It's a bigger issue. I want to
know where my protected class is for me as white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant."

Boots' Horribly Gerrymandered
District 23
Yeah, no one is laughing at you this time, Senator Boots.  I'd try to explain civil rights law to you, but I'm not an attorney.  Furthermore, you seem to be so out of touch in your horribly gerrymandered seat that stretches from Boone County to the state line that you couldn't give a care anyway.

I'll give you a clue.  These are the kinds of things power-drunk Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly say and they usually come back to bite them.  So...drink away, Senator Boots.

Just the right conciliatory note to hit after these rough few weeks of the RFRA battle, don't you think?

Mike Pence's Political Future At Stake?

It seems to be suddenly popular to write off Mike Pence for 2016, but I'm not ready to do it just yet.  So much depends on the Democrats and the time that's left between now and then.

Before this RFRA battle cropped up, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Pence was in a strong position to run for a second term in 2016.  Certainly, he would have a challenge on his hands from the Democrats because he had vulnerabilities, but I would have said that he entered that race as the front runner.

Now, right or wrong, Pence has become the man that tried to discriminate against LGBT Hoosiers.  Of course, that's not quite accurate.  While Pence was the national face of Indiana through the controversy, it was really the Indiana General Assembly that wrote the bill and passed it.  Pence signed it with perhaps a little more arrogance than normal and then struggled to defend it.  His shaky performance in this crisis has left his Presidential aspirations in pieces for now.

Some here in Indiana have even whispered that Pence might want to seek other employment when his first term ends.  That's not going to happen.

At the state level, a long Republican bench makes Pence replaceable.  There's even some guy named Mitch that could come back.  Maybe you have heard of him.  He's likely not interested, but he always seems to just be an arm's length away.

Many have also criticized Governor Pence's response to the public health crisis in Southern Indiana.  He was slow to put into place a needle exchange program for intravenous drug users and Republican policy changes to Hoosier healthcare funding forced Scott County's Planned Parenthood to shut down in 2011.  Even anti-choice Democratic nominee for Governor in 2012, John Gregg, opposed those cuts while Pence supported them.

Pence has also used up pretty much all of his goodwill when it comes to teachers and their allies.  Many dyed-in-the-wool Republicans I've talked to say there's no chance that Pence will receive their votes ever again.  If that's a statewide trend, that is really an erosion of his base.

Speaking of that base, many of them are upset that he caved on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

That brings us back to the Democrats.  So far, John Gregg has yet to announce a second run at the office.  While I continue to believe he is the best opportunity to beat Pence, some Democrats want to see someone else step up.  That is less and less likely to be Baron Hill.  He looks more set on a statewide U.S. Senate run.  That leaves possibilities like Mayor Tom McDermott of Hammond, Mayor Greg Goodnight of Kokomo, Democratic legislative leaders like Scott Pelath or Tim Lanane, some other legislative leader I haven't named yet or maybe even former Senator Vi Simpson.

Whoever steps up, they should already be out there attacking Pence and the Republicans.  Only Gregg is doing that at the moment if you don't count the Democrats in the General Assembly.

By the way, it's my understanding the National Journal has their own opinions on the issue.  I didn't read them before writing this post, but you can check out their ideas here.

There's still plenty of time for the SS Pence to right itself, but I honestly have questions about whether or not the Governor is capable of doing it.

Monday, April 6, 2015

RFRA Fight Leaves General Assembly Supermajority Missing Some Teeth

The Indiana General Assembly has reached a crossroads in the Crossroads of America, and I think it's going to be tough to get anything controversial done from here on out.

This RFRA debacle has taken up precious legislative time that the Republicans could have used to screw teachers or union members or some other constituency group they typically are opposed to.  I'll be interested to see what happens from here on out.

The first big test will be the Common Construction Wage Law.  This 80-year-old law that was signed into law by Governor Paul McNutt forms boards with a variety of folks on them to set the wage for public construction projects.  It has assured that all stakeholders are represented and that there's no fleecing of the taxpayer.  It still stands, but Governor Mike Pence has put his own weight behind getting rid of this one.  He's been running incessant ads on the issue spending a lot of his campaign cash and capital trying to push it through.  His argument is that he can create savings by dumping the law.  At what price towards the economy and workmanship?

The Governor right now has to begin rebuilding his record.  He has no political capital left to use.  Across the country, he's now a pariah and a laughingstock and it's again Brian Bosma and David Long that appear to have the upper hand in state politics.  They, however, preside over a much different Republican Supermajority than the one they had just a few weeks ago.  Its numbers may be large, but its grip on state government is weaker.  Tim Lanane and Scott Pelath did an excellent job of driving home the minority's points over the last few weeks.  I wonder what the relationship between Pence and his supposedly loyal troops in the Indiana House and Senate is right now.

Some, like Gary Welsh, believe that Mitch Daniels is the puppetmaster behind all of this downfall for Pence.  I just believe Pence is a little dense when it comes to being an executive.  Daniels knew to stay out of the weeds.  He would have easily made the common construction law a think of the past by now if he had been Governor.  Pence doesn't have the ability to see the big picture like his predecessor.  Now, he's paying for it.

With less than a month to go, the General Assembly has to start wrapping things up.  We'll see if they try to challenge a resurgent but very vocal minority.  My bet is that suddenly they back off the Common Construction Wage Law for now while they know people are watching.  

But, we'll see.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mea Culpa

Shame on me.

That's right.  I said it.  Shame on me.

You can go back to the first post on this blog, and I realized today that prior to this RFRA controversy that I have never demanded in a blog post here that LGBT Hoosiers be added to the state's non-discrimination law.  Shame on me for never advocating for it, and shame on me for never bringing it up here.

I'm sorry to all my LGBT friends who live outside of one of the communities that have Human Rights Ordinances on the books that I've never fought for.  I'm very sorry.  I messed up, and it took this RFRA mess to make me realize it and to make me realize what I should be doing now on this blog.

I guess sometimes you miss what's right in front of you, and I should have done more prior to today to make LGBT Hoosiers a protected class under the state's non-discrimination law.

Now that I know where I've come up short in the past, I can correct my error.  This has become a front-burner issue so quickly, and we have those that passed the RFRA the first time around to thank.  It's at the front of our consciousness now, and I won't let it slide from mine.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

House Considers Bill to Change State Bird

State lawmakers have introduced House Bill 4141 which will replace the state bird of Indiana, the cardinal, with the bald eagle.

Representative Perry Ellsroth (R-Stone Head) says that even though the cardinal has long been the state bird that the bald eagle will underline our state's all-American zest for freedom and liberty. "After the controversy over the RFRA, I want to make it clear that Indiana believes in freedom and justice for all.  What better way than to make the nation's enduring symbol of a bald eagle our state bird," said Ellsroth

Governor Mike Pence's Office refused to comment on the new bill, according to the South Indiana Times, "We have a lot going on right now," said a harried staffer.  "Call back in a couple of weeks."

The bald eagle was just one choice considered.  Ellsroth said that they also considered the vulture and the peacock.  "The peacock was quickly taken out of consideration for obvious reasons.  This is Indiana, after all."

If you've read this far, Happy April Fool's Day!