Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pence Keeps Repeating Same Talking Points While State Says Fix Crisis

Governor Mike Pence
Governor Pence...we get it.

We get that Bill Clinton signed a version of RFRA into law in 1993.  We get that other states then have gone on to pass their own version of RFRA.  We understand that Barack Obama voted for RFRA in the Illinois Senate when he was a member.  We get that you believe RFRA is the best thing since sliced bread and that you love every ever-loving word of the thing.  We get that you don't think the bill is the problem.  We get that you blame the media.  We get all of it, sir.

What I'm concerned about is what you don't seem to get.  You don't seem to get what's happening right now in our state.  You seem to think all of this will blow over and you can get back to head nodding and union busting.  It's not going to happen.  Your administration as you knew it ended when you signed RFRA into law.  It's all playing defense from here.

Now, on the RFRA crisis, you're the only one with the capacity to fix it.  I know it will wrench your guts out to have to change your mind on something, but you must do this for the good of the State of Indiana and to save any chance you have of reelection.

You see, you may not remember this, but you ticked off a whole lot of teachers.  They'll never vote for you again.  When you add on the RFRA gang on top of it...well, Governor John Gregg (or whoever runs) sounds pretty darn likely.

Indiana is calling for its Governor to be a Chief Executive.  Quit canceling speeches and putting your head in the sand and let's fix this crisis.  Demand that the General Assembly repeal RFRA and add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's non-discrimination law.

If you abhor discrimination and truly want to put Indiana on the road to recovery, you'll do this.

Four Councillors Vote Against Prop 120

Councillor Jason Holliday
At last night's City-County Council meeting, four Councillors, all Republicans, voted against Proposition 120.

The special resolution passed the Council 24-4, and it urges the Indiana General Assembly to do exactly what Mayor Greg Ballard asked in his News Conference earlier on Monday.  It asked for the repeal of RFRA and the addition of protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Unfortunately, one Councillor told WTHR that he just doesn't believe these issues are the right issues of the day.  Councillor Jason Holliday said to WTHR's Mary Milz, "There's more important issues that are pertinent that we have jurisdiction and authority to address."

Councillor Holliday is correct.  The City-County Council certainly does not have jurisdiction to change state law.  This is absolutely true.  I would argue that part of the function of city government is to stand up for your city and send a message to higher forms of government that the policies and legislation they've adopted are wrong for the residents of Indianapolis.

As far as whether these issues are pertinent or not, Indiana is in the worldwide eye right now for the RFRA with almost everyone inside and outside of the state having an opinion.  Therefore, I would ask Councillor Holliday the following questions:  
  • What's more pertinent right now than how people feel or are treated in their city? 
  • What's more pertinent right now than the money leaving Indianapolis as people cancel trips and groups cancel conventions? 
  • What issue is more pertinent to our city that is currently the butt of every joke from SNL to the internet?
The bipartisan vote that was sent up Market Street spoke volumes, but Councillors Holliday, Sandlin, Cain, and Freeman were on the wrong side of it.

  • In the interest of full disclosure, Jon Easter is a candidate for City-County Council in District 20 running against Jason Holliday.

Ballard vs. Pence in 2016 Primary?

Greg Ballard
If you believe what you read from Abdul-Hakim Shabazz and others, the Indiana Republican Party is in full self-destruct mode right now over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

For years, the GOP may have had the wrong ideas, but they were so good at staying in lockstep with their Governor and their leaders that it has given them historic supermajorities in both Houses of the Indiana General Assembly.

Now, the cracks are showing.  The titular head of the Indiana Republican Party, Mike Pence, is in trouble and the incoming party chief, Jeff Cardwell, is of the Pence ilk and owes Pence everything for his position.

That leaves the flank way in the air for the Republican Party's leadership.  They are ripe for the pickings by a tough talking guy that can talk conservative values but can also be more socially liberal on other issues.

That man could be Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.  Since deciding to pass on reelection, Ballard's standing has grown, and it's unclear what his future plans might be.  While higher public office doesn't seem to suit him, Ballard has a discernible brand that some of the Indiana GOP's power brokers could see as very palatable to the voters in 2016.

Ballard's disliked by the far right of his own party, and there's not any question that he's rubbed some folks the wrong way locally by the lack of transparency on some of the dealings in his office, but right now, he sounds like the most reasonable Republican in the state when it comes to the issues of the day.

I don't think we'll see a Primary fight between Greg Ballard and Mike Pence, but it seems less shocking now than it did a week or so ago.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Slumbering Electorate Awakened, Angry Over RFRA

Today's Statehouse Rally
Photo Courtesy Indy Pride on Facebook
The electorate is awake.

From social media to public protests, Hoosiers have awakened in the name of civil rights over passage and signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  They're mad and they're motivated.

The sad thing is that it's March of 2015.  We're months from the next time the Indiana General Assembly and the Governor have to meet the voters, and there's ample time for that electorate to fall back into its slumber.  It's going to be the jobs of the 2015 candidates to keep this issue at the front of the discussion because it does effect every layer of government.

Angie's List announced today that it will no longer pursue the movement of its headquarters to the Eastside of Indianapolis.  While this will save Indy taxpayers $18+ million (YAY), it will also rob us of the potential jobs it may have brought.  Other companies have made the decision to stop doing business with Indiana, too.

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz has said that this law takes effect as of July 1 and that he expects a lawsuit soon after.  Translation: this issue is not going to die out.

I would add that folks need to stay vigilant.  There's still a month to go in this General Assembly session, and the Common Construction Wage appears next on the docket.  This 80-year-old law creates a board to set the wage for workers on public projects.  Governor Mike Pence is employing a full-court press to get rid of this law.  Get educated and speak out!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

ICYMI: Holcomb Running for Senate

Eric Holcomb

Oh yeah, Dan Coats Chief of Staff Eric Holcomb announced he's running for his boss's Senate today.  Holcomb's announcement was drowned out by all the hubbub around the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Holcomb is a former Indiana GOP Chair, and sources say he has broad support from the Mitch Daniels machine.  I'm assuming he'll also get Coats' support.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hill "Strongly" Considering 2016 Senate Run

Former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill
Baron Hill says he will "strongly consider" a run for U.S. Senate in 2016.

The former Congressman said in a statement that he is feeling "the passion to serve and to fight for our future."  In the statement, he also praised Dan Coats for his service to Indiana.

Coats said he would retire from the Senate at the end of his term in 2017 leaving the Republicans and Democrats scrambling to find candidates for 2016.

Hill actually ran for Senate before back in 1990.  He took on Coats in a Special Election to see who would fill the remaining two-plus years of Dan Quayle's unexpired term.  Coats had been appointed after Quayle became Vice President by Governor Robert Orr.  Hill waged a strong campaign literally walking much of the State of Indiana.  On Election Day, Coats won 53-46.

In 1998, Hill ran for Congress in the 9th District and held that seat for 10 of the next 12 years.  He was defeated by Todd Young in 2010 and has not run in the new 9th District.

Hill represents a candidate that has run in a statewide race in the past, that has fundraising capabilities, and has the ability to serve Indiana and Hoosiers well.

Former Indiana Governor and U.S. Senator Evan Bayh has not categorically ruled out a run for Senate and would be the strongest candidate for the Democrats.  It should be noted that it's my understanding that Bayh and Hill are friends.

On the Republican side, Representatives Jackie Walorski, Marlin Stutzman, Todd Rokita, Susan Brooks, and Todd Young are rumored by Brian Howey to have some interest along with Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, State Senator Jim Merritt, Indiana Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and Coats Chief of Staff Eric Holcomb.

Summers Should Apologize to McMillin, Family Over Floor Debate Remarks

Rep. Vanessa Summers
Vanessa Summers was wrong.

During an Indiana House floor debate over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Monday, Summers, a Democrat, claimed Republican Jud McMillin's 18-month-old son is afraid of her because she is black.

Now, I have not walked a mile in Rep. Summers' shoes.  I am not black, but I've had plenty of young children be scared of me.

Rep. Jud McMillin
While Summers may think that this child was afraid of her because of her skin color, it more than likely didn't
have as much to do with anything other than he saw her as a stranger.  I see the kids of my friends who I have met before hiding under their parent's legs at the age of even three or four when they meet me. I've never thought to attribute it to anything else other than adults are scary people to a child...especially one that's a year and a half old.

I don't know Rep. Summers at all, but I know good people that know her.  Rep. Jeb Bardon, for example, retired from the Indiana House rather than face her in a Primary Election because of his respect for her as a friend and legislator.  Knowing how much he enjoyed serving his constituents, I can't imagine him stepping aside for just anyone.

I'm really not sure how this story ends up.  I just I hope that Representative Summers has found a moment to find Representative McMillin and apologize to him, to his family and to his little boy.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

John Gregg NO LONGER Silent on RFRA Controversy (SEE UPDATE)

John Gregg
I make no bones about it.  I'm a big fan of John Gregg, the guy with two first names who might be running for Governor.  He's my friend.

As I've previously said on this blog, I totally believe that Gregg can beat Governor Mike Pence in a statewide election, and I totally believe that he earned a second shot at the Governor's Office with the way he closed from double digits to just a few percentage points behind.  He's never really quit running for Governor, and he continues to opine on many issues on Twitter and Facebook as if he is a candidate for the office in 2016.

There is no more visible statewide Democrat running for the office right now.  That's why it's so disappointing to hear nothing from Gregg on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act just passed by the Indiana General Assembly.  The bill, after it will be passed through a conference committee will go to Pence's desk where he "looks forward" to signing it.

Social media has been alive with talk over this bill.  My Facebook and Twitter followers have been weighing in.  Even the folks from Gen Con have threatened to look at their future relationship with the City of Indianapolis if the bill is signed.  This could have long-lasting and long-standing economic ramifications for our state.

On a human level, it shows that Indiana doesn't value diversity or people of all kinds, no matter who they are or who they love.  It gives governmental permission to discriminate.  I have friends from conservative to liberal who are against it.

John Gregg has yet to tell us what he thinks about the bill.  Granted, it might be smart politics to let this play out, but this is a big one.  This could swing those last few percentage points as I know diversity-minded Republicans that are fed up with this legislature and General Assembly.  With gerrymandering, it's unlikely that Democrats will win back the Indiana General Assembly, so we need a strong Governor who is willing to take the hits and support Hoosiers of all sorts.  That's what's most important!

Is that you John Gregg?

Now, maybe I'm being unfair to John.  Baron Hill, Tom McDermott, and other possible candidates have yet to speak up, but they aren't running as hard as Gregg is.  John Gregg needs to tell us where he stands on the RFRA.

UPDATE:
John Gregg responded at about 10:15 p.m. with this very heartfelt and impressive Facebook statement.

After a long day on the road, I am finally getting the chance to respond to what happened at the Statehouse today with RFRA. Please see my comments and share as you can...hopefully the Governor will listen. 
Fellow Hoosiers:
I sit at home tonight with my wife, Lisa. Many evenings we spend reading and I’ve just completed a series of biographies on many of our founding fathers. The current book is about Alexander Hamilton. My, what a talented, bright, independent, proud, freedom loving group of people: George Washington, Sam Adams, John Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Hancock, Ben Franklin and there were countless more. Many of these men were Christian, some were not but they all believed in religious freedom. That's why we have the First Amendment to the Constitution. 
I've always thought of the Constitution as something near sacred. Not to be messed with, because these founders got much of it right. And, their thoughts on the right to worship without interference from the government is mentioned as their NUMBER ONE concern, that's why it's the First Amendment. During the 2012 Campaign for Governor I mentioned time and time again, that we in Indiana needed to work on moving us forward together, creating better paying jobs, making college affordable, improving our public schools, infrastructure and the quality of life for the poor, aged and infirmed. 
All around the state I said to LEAVE SOCIAL ISSUES ALONE. Why we continue to ignore our problems is beyond me. 
As a born-again Christian, I am always amazed that many of my Christian brothers and sisters have done a great job of convincing other Americans what Christianity is 'against' but they never say what it's about. God is love. We are coming upon Easter, a very special time for me as a practicing Christian. I so look forward to our worship service that Sunday morning when I, as a private citizen, celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. 
But there are some things that really nag at me. It's how a few of my fellow believers continue to ignore Christ’s teachings about the poor, sick, widows, orphans and the message of love. During the campaign I called some Christian groups who wouldn't meet with me because I was a Democrat. I was attacked by some of my fellow Christians because I campaigned for a gay man running for the State Senate. I was scorned by many pro-life groups because I belong to the Democrat Party. Can you believe it...I guess they believe the Bible condemns Democrats and anoints Republicans. As much as some of my fellow Christians dislike me because I'm a Democrat, I'm equally as concerned about others who mock me because of my faith. Well I've read the Bible cover to cover, Genesis to Revelation and there's no mention of Republican or Democrat. 
The US Constitution provides for Religious freedom, we don't need to try and rewrite the US Constitution here in Indiana...none of our current leaders: Pence, Ellsperman, Bosma, or Long, seem to compare with Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton or Washington. So why are they doing this? I believe they do it because they don't want us to look at their failure to govern the state in a responsible manner. 
Governor Pence, I think you need to look at history and ask yourself is this RFRA necessary? Does the U.S. Constitution really need improved upon? If you believe it does, then I'm sure you will sign it. But I do not believe it needs improved upon and do not understand why we need this legislation and would urge you to view it as unnecessary, unneeded and takes the focus away from our myriad of problems here in Indiana. 
Now get to work.
-John Gregg

In Memoriam: Rep. Earl Harris (1942-2015)


My deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of State Representative Earl Harris of East Chicago.  His death was announced by the Indiana House of Representatives on Monday.

Rep. Harris had served in the Indiana House since 1982 representing the 2nd District.  Fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised him for his work and his dedication to his constituents.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Rep. Harris, but it sounds like I missed out.  Rep. Harris was 73 years old.

Coats Say No to 2016 Run...Will Bayh Say Yes?

Senator Dan Coats
Dan Coats said today that he will not run for reelection in 2016.

That throws the race wide open for the person that will replace him.  Expect a VERY crowded Republican field that will likely include some sitting U.S. Representatives...both Todds (Young and Rokita) and Marlin Stutzman chief among them.

This news also comes a day after some said that Evan Bayh is thinking about potentially trying a comeback.  The Daily Kos reports that Bayh simply said that he has no interest in running for his old job, "at this point."  That was before Coats decided to retire for a second time.  Bayh has tons of campaign cash and would likely raise more.

Former Senator
Evan Bayh
If Bayh doesn't run, it would make sense for Baron Hill to possibly make a play for the job.  He's also been mentioned as a possible candidate for Governor, and he did run for Senate before.  I'd be interested to see what Indiana Democrats come forward to run for U.S. Senate if Bayh does not.

The Coats decision to not run makes me wonder if he knows something about Bayh's intentions.  While he cited his age in an interview with the Indy Star's Matt Tully, this is, as you may remember, exactly what happened in 1998 when Bayh first took on a run for Senate.  Coats decided to "retire" from the Senate at that time rather than take on the very popular Democrat.

Whatever happens, I hope Bayh makes a quick decision on his future and doesn't let this string out.  Any Democrat that decides to run will need the time to build name recognition to play for what likely will be an uphill battle if Bayh is out.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Blog on Normal "Spring Break" from Daily Posting

Well, we've reached that moment in the spring where the blog goes on daily posting hiatus. I'm going to be taking a few days to step back and concentrate on my run for office.

There may still be postings here, but they won't be on my normal daily, Monday-Friday, posting schedule.  Daily posting will resume on April 6. As always, I'll still be writing here, just taking a break from daily posting, so make sure you follow me on Twitter @Johnnystir to get the latest from the blog or check back in.

Thanks again for all your support.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Religious Freedom Restoration Act Up For Vote Any Day

Any day now, the Indiana House is due to vote on Senate Bill 101 which is better known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

I'm going to assume it will pass, and I'm also going to assume that Governor Mike Pence will sign the bill.  When he does, that will give people ammunition to use their religion as a weapon to justify discrimination in the Hoosier State.

We have come to yet another crossroads in the state known as the Crossroads of America.  The disdain some have for the rights of others to marry the person they feel they were meant to love has caused us to arrive at this moment in time for our state.  Opponents may not be able to stop same sex couples from getting hitched, but, by golly, they don't have to tolerate it in their place of business, and they can now justify it in their actions.

Some will cheer when the legislation is passed.  I'll shrug my shoulders because I'm used to it here in Indiana.  Actually, most classes of minorities have been persecuted at one point or another here in the Hoosier State.  Why should gay people be any different?  The good news is that somewhere, sometime that someone sees the light.

Last June, I was in Tennessee when news broke that I could someday get married in my home state of Indiana if I wanted to do so.  That was something I never thought I'd see, and I cried happy tears as I saw men and women like me running to the Clerk's Offices to get married.  I saw the tide moving fast as my friend Andy Markle and others reported county-by-county which ones were issuing marriage licenses.  While my smile grew broader that day, I imagine someone else in this state's sneer grew more.  His or her soul harder and heart less tolerant.  The seeds of this moment were planted to grow.  More divisiveness was the goal.

We live in a tough time right now.  The headlines from around the world aren't good, and some days it seems easier to lie in bed and let the day pass by.  Hoosiers don't do that.  We're at our hearts good people who pretty much want the same thing for our families, no matter the structure.

That's why it's so hard for me to believe that we can't find a way to let in a little ray of tolerance for one another.  Why can't we realize that life is way too short for these kinds of trivial pieces of legislation.  Whether we simply die and go away or we live forever in the afterlife, life here on Earth would be better in the meantime if we looked out for one another a little more. This bill won't accomplish anything but make it harder to do that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Angie's List Proposal On Brink

It appears Angie’s List is about to get what it wants: $18.5 million in our tax dollars, courtesy the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council.

As you may remember, a proposed plan in front of the Council hands Angie’s List an $18.5 million shot in the arm and will allow the company to buy the old Ford plant and build a 500-car parking garage. The promise from the company is 1,000 new or relocated jobs to Indianapolis by 2019. 

This is the second time that the proposal passed through the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee., the full council sent the proposal back to committee at its March 2 meeting. Final adoption of the Angie’s List proposal could come as early as the March 30 full Council meeting.

It’s true that Indianapolis struggles to find good economic development projects outside of the mile square and especially in areas like the Near-Eastside. With that said, we cannot have an “any port in a storm” mentality when it comes to vetting these deals. Angie’s List, by its own performance, has left a number of questions as to whether it can or ever will live up to its end of the bargain. I have no doubt that the organization is solvent and isn’t about to go under, but how can we trust a company that has rarely turned a profit and just reduced its workforce by 97 jobs in August?

I just think it's too questionable.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Daniels Wants You to "Bet on a Boiler"

Purdue President Mitch Daniels
Sometimes, I don't even know where to start on something.  This would be one of those moments, so I'll just jump in.

You know how famous people or people with a lot of money will sometimes decide to donate a portion of that money to a school or to an endowment to fund scholarships?  Students then can qualify for those scholarships and take advantage of it to pay for post-secondary education.

Purdue President and former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels wants to turn that system on its head.

Instead of students taking out loans from a bank, Daniels wants to turn to investors (or alumni) to fund a student's education in exchange for a share of future earnings of that student.  He wanted to call the plan, "Bet on a Boiler".  No joke.

This sounds like a bad reality or game show.  Some have called it "indentured servitude" or worse.  Daniels says he needs some legislation to make his plan legal, and he plans to try to sell it to Congress.  I guess we'll see if he's successful.

I'm all for ways to fund college for people that want to go, but I think this creates an awfully slippery slope here.  I hate using that term, but this program really has bad idea written all over it to me.

Religious Freedom Restoration Bill Passes Committee

The so-called "Religious Freedom Restoration" bill passed out of the Indiana House Judiciary Committee and on to second reading for more amendments.

The bill, which would allow individuals of faith to discriminate on how they offer services based upon their religious beliefs now simply needs a marjority of House members and Governor Pence's signature to become law.

Translation: We're "this close" to putting discrimination into law in Indiana.

Freedom Indiana is doing its part.  They had a rally at the Statehouse yesterday morning which was followed by a rally of supporters of the law.  Freedom Indiana had this to say about the Judiciary Committee's decision:

"We're disappointed that the committee didn't heed warnings about the unintended consequences this bill will have on Indiana's economy and Hoosier families. 
"We're encouraged, however, that lawmakers were willing to make changes to improve the bill. We hope they are open to continuing the dialogue about protecting those who will be most negatively affected should Senate Bill 101 become law.

"On behalf of the more than 50,000 people who are part of Freedom Indiana, we will continue to fight this dangerous legislation, and we will make sure our voices are heard."
The fight goes on for this one.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Moed Returns to Work

Rep. Justin Moed
Rep. Justin Moed told reporters including Abdul-Hakim Shabazz that he's not going to resign from his seat in the Indiana House.

Moed said he's getting back to work and "rebuilding trust" with those who may have been shaken by his actions.

It's up to his constituents now as to whether or not Moed's future as a legislator is in danger in this seat.  He won't have to face the voters until at least May of 2016, and we'll see if he decides to run for reelection.

As political scandals go, this has been a relatively minor one locally, and that's mostly because of the job Moed has done so far.  On that note, Gary Welsh actually raises some really good questions over on his blog about the way the Indianapolis Star has treated the story.  Read that post here.

Moed had better hope that no more you know what hits the fan.  If he knows there is something else, he had better shine a lantern on his problem.  Some, like Welsh, will keep digging.

McDermott Could Be Different Kind of Democrat for Governor

Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott
Over the past few weeks, I've taken a look at a couple of the likely candidates to run for Governor in 2016 for the Democrats.  So far, I've looked at John Gregg and at Baron Hill.

Today, please go north with me to the City of Hammond as we look at the possible candidacy of longtime Mayor, Tom McDermott, Jr.

McDermott was elected Mayor way back in 2003 and took office in 2004.  That gives him far more executive government experience than anyone in the field.  McDermott has an interesting personal story of growing up as the son of a Republican Mayor (Tom McDermott, Sr.) but also having grown up in Napa, California where his mother resided.  That gives him a far different perspective of the Hoosier State than Gregg or Hill or any of the potential candidates.  He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy having spent six years plunging the depths of the world's oceans in a submarine.  He also is a veteran of the Gulf War.

Hill and Gregg have legislative backgrounds.  They are compromisers and consensus builders.  McDermott is known for and really famous for his in-your-face and aggressive style.  He's not afraid to express his opinion, and he's not afraid of who disagrees.  Some Hoosiers might be turned off by that boldness.  Others might find his sometimes brashness and abrasiveness as a benefit in running for statewide office against a guy like Mike Pence.  He certainly would be a different kind of politician standing next to him in debates.

Besides the contrast in styles, McDermott can also tell folks firsthand what the budget crunch has done to local governments.  Under the policies of Mitch Daniels and of Mike Pence, local governments have been pinched and pinched and pinched until being forced to balance their books on the backs of their residents while the state has sat on a huge surplus.

Of course, McDermott has made his share of enemies over the years.  Well-publicized feuds with other Lake County officials such as former Sheriff Roy Dominguez have made headlines.  Their spat has been personal and nasty over the years.  Then again, if everyone got along in Lake County, we'd wonder if everything was ok.

McDermott probably won't hold back on Mike Pence, but it remains to be seen if he'll give this race a shot.  It sure sounds like he's interested.  In true McDermott fashion, he's kind of running for Mayor with an eye on the Governor's Mansion.

If he decides to run, I look forward to a VERY interesting 2016.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Indy's Jeff Cardwell to Take Over Indiana GOP Chairmanship in April

Jeff Cardwell
Thursday produced some somewhat surprising news as Indiana Republican Chair Tim Berry announced that he will be stepping aside to make way for former City-County Councillor and current Mike Pence aide, Jeff Cardwell.

Berry, a longtime state-level officeholder, quit his job as Indiana Auditor to take over the party late in 2013.  It touched off quite a series of replacements.  He was replaced by Dwayne Sawyer who resigned for still unknown and untold reasons a few months later.  Suzanne Crouch was appointed by Governor Pence, and she won her own term in 2014.

As GOP Chair, Berry seemed to be trucking along nicely and somewhat quietly until today.  Pence's good friend Cardwell will now take over the party, and I personally think this will shift it even further right ideologically.  In the Pence Administration, Cardwell was in charge of faith-based initiatives before becoming a senior adviser, and he's not shy about his Christian faith.  I can't believe that won't be central to him again as he takes over the chairmanship.  I could be wrong, though, and I don't mean to imply that having your faith out front makes you a bad leader.  It's just that this is kind of Cardwell's thing, and I think it bears watching how he handles things.

I'm very interested to see if any whispers or rumors will escape the cone of GOP silence about why Berry suddenly became replaceable.  Was there some disagreement?  I'm also interested to see what happens next for Berry.  This leaves him without a position in government or politics for the first time in over 16 years.  It's hard to just turn things off.

One thing's for sure, it will be a different kind of leader at the head of the Indiana Republican Party than we've seen in a while.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

General Assembly Attacks Voting Procedures

Paul Ogden made the claim on his blog that General Assembly actions don't have anything to do with turnout in an election.  It's in response to a Nuvo piece by new co-director of the Indiana Elections Division, Trent Deckard.  

Deckard argues that three bills, which I will discuss later in this post, are going to further damage voter turnout.  Ogden claims that voter turnout hasn't really changed over time and that the General Assembly bills should be debated on merit. 

In my view, even the most staunch defender of the Republican Party must admit that there's really not much of a reason to get rid of straight-ticket voting and to force people to put their voter ID number on their absentee ballot envelopes.  There's also very little reason to bar college students from voting in their college towns.  These are superfluous actions designed to do very little to reform our electoral process and make it harder to vote.

(And, frankly, harder on Democrats.)

Getting rid of straight ticket voting will increase the time it takes to fill out a ballot.  It also increases the likelihood of undervotes for offices further down the ballot.  That won't spoil a ballot, but it will cause problems for the candidates for the offices that don't tend to be at the top of the ballot.  Republicans have used slow down tactics on Democrats for years because of proven D voting patterns.  There was no urgency or grassroots effort to get rid of straight ticket voting.  It was just an idea some Republican (Mike Delph) had.  Elections have consequences.

The voter ID number bill, sponsored by Senator Mike Young, is another tactic to suppress absentee voting.  Who the heck knows their voter ID number?  I don't.  Young says it's necessary to prevent voter fraud which we all know is such a problem in Indiana (sarcasm intended).  Again, this is designed to disqualify votes.  Elections have consequences.

Another bill, co-authored by Young, is a mess.  Just read the synopsis.  I got to about the fifth or sixth sentence when my eyes crossed.  This is another omnibus bill full of mess.  Buried in the bill is a provision that states a student's legal residence is either where they live when they are not at school or where they live at school only if they don't plan on returning to their former residence to live.  Just read this mess.  

So, regardless of what you think about turnout, these three bills are simply wrong for Indiana voters.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Coats Ready for 2016 Fight?

Senator Dan Coats
Matt Tully wrote a piece exploring the possibility of a Dan Coats reelection campaign for Senate in 2016 earlier this week in the Indianapolis Star.

Without a clear Democratic challenger, Coats is the easy front-runner for the job if he wants it again, but that will be the question for the then-to-be-73-year-old to answer.  Will Dan Coats want the job for another six years?

Coats was coaxed out of his post-legislative career as a lobbyist in 2010 and got a big boost when Evan Bayh decided to decline a likely third term in the Senate.  He faced Congressman Brad Ellsworth in a campaign that pretty much started and finished with him as the heavy frontrunner with the political wind at his back.  Ellsworth was a solid statewide candidate, but he suffered from a late start made necessary by Bayh's late exit.  Coats ran heavily on his foreign policy credentials and a more traditionally conservative domestic agenda.

It resonated, and he won by a landslide.  After a couple of quiet years, Coats has emerged and has worked his way back to the limelight in the Senate again.

It's hard to believe, but Coats, a conservative by ideology, finds himself to the left of the far right now in the Senate.  The current new guard Senator is so far to the right of Dan Coats that he must wonder where they came from.  Coats has never been a Richard Lugar-type moderate, but he's far from a wacky ideologue.  That's what he's seen invade the far right of his party in this new Cotton-Cruz-Ernst bunch.  

One must wonder if this might be a reason why someone like Coats would retire.  Perhaps a battle for the soul of the Senate with the far right is not something for an old hat like Coats.  Coats seems much better at ease when he's working with others than alone.  As the Senate moves further right, that keeps moving Coats, unbelievably, further left.  He was one of seven Senate Republicans that widely kept his name off that controversial Iran letter.

Dan Coats is someone I've never disliked, but he's someone that I've often disagreed with.  I still get the feeling that I could have a conversation with him, and I don't get that same kind of feeling with others in the U.S. Senate.  I think Coats has stepped very carefully in his second Senate go-around to protect that reputation.

If Coats steps away from the office, it will create a Republican civil war, and Democrats will no doubt scramble to pick up the pieces.  I would assume that several current U.S. Representatives would consider a Senate run, chief among those both Todds and Marlin, and I have no idea who the Democrats might find as it could come from somewhere in the Indiana legislature (I'd choose someone like Christina Hale).  Regardless, this race only becomes interesting if Coats isn't in it.

Unless Coats does something like declare his allegiance to the North Carolina Tar Heels, I'd say that he runs for another term in the Senate.  Frankly, Indiana, we could do a lot crazier on the "R" side of the aisle.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Thoughts on Justin Moed

Rep. Justin Moed
I've already fielded a couple of calls from folks asking me what I think about the allegations reported by WISH-TV's Jim Shella regarding my friend Justin Moed today, and I'll be honest.  I'm as shocked as anyone.  It's one I never saw coming.

I don't know the extent of the story beyond what has been reported and what I read online.  I'm sure more will come out as time goes along, and I think it's important to hear all sides.  I'm not defending anyone or anything or passing judgement.

What I do know is this.  Justin Moed has been a capable, caring, and excellent representative for District 97.  He's one of the nicest guys in the House...ask anyone. He has worked very hard to get things done for his district even in a climate that should have worked against him politically with the political realities of the Republican supermajority, and he has gotten results.

I have nothing but concern right now for my friend and his well being.  I hope that he understands that there are people out here thinking about him.

As I have done in the past, I won't be taking comments on this one.

UPDATE:
According to Indy Politics, Moed has apologized.

Try This Game!

Didn't have time to write much for today's entry, so I thought I'd catch up on some loose ends.

If redistricting is something you find interesting, you want to take a look at this game called "The Redistricting Game."

It's a simulation where you are the map drawing guru hired to put in new Congressional Districts.  There are five missions you can undertake, and I think it gives you an idea of how much power those that draw the maps truly have.

It's highly addictive, so play when you have some time to kill.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Republicans Cross Line with Open Letter to Iran

If you've been watching the news lately, you know that the United States along with a group of our allies is in negotiations with Iran currently to try to stop the spread and proliferation of nuclear weapons to that country.

Iran insists that it has no interest in developing nuclear weapons and that they are only pursuing nuclear technology for energy purposes an for peaceful means.

Earlier today, 47 United States Senators wrote an open letter to Iran that was written in a tone one might expect more appropriate for a child warning them that any deal reached would be considered null and void when President Barack Obama left office.

Backlash has been hard and fast on this one because there's no deal in hand, and it doesn't seem that either side is close to a deal at this point.  By playing this card out of the deck, Republicans (and not even a majority of them) are essentially trying to speak for the United States when it's typically the President through the Executive Branch of government that does this.  Congress' role typically begins where there is a deal in hand.

Conspicuous in his absence from signing the letter was Indiana Senator Dan Coats.  Coats, one of the most respected voices in the Republican camp on foreign policy, wisely steered clear of this one.

These colleagues did not:
Senator Tom Cotton, R-AR
Senator Orrin Hatch, R-UT
Senator Charles Grassley, R-IA
Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY
Senator Richard Shelby, R-AL
Senator John McCain, R-AZ
Senator James Inhofe, R-OK
Senator Pat Roberts, R-KS
Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL
Senator Michael Enzi, R-WY
Senator Michael Crapo, R-ID
Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC
Senator John Cornyn, R-TX
Senator Richard Burr, R-NC
Senator John Thune, R-SD
Senator Johnny Isakson, R-GA
Senator David Vitter, R-LA
Senator John A. Barrasso, R-WY
Senator Roger Wicker, R-MS
Senator Jim Risch, R-ID
Senator Mark Kirk, R-IL
Senator Roy Blunt, R-MO
Senator Jerry Moran, R-KS
Senator Rob Portman, R-OH
Senator John Boozman, R-AR
Senator Pat Toomey, R-PA
Senator John Hoeven, R-ND
Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL
Senator Ron Johnson, R-WI
Senator Rand Paul, R-KY
Senator Mike Lee, R-UT
Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH
Senator Dean Heller, R-NV
Senator Tim Scott, R-SC
Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX
Senator Deb Fischer, R-NE
Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV
Senator Bill Cassidy, R-LA
Senator Cory Gardner, R-CO
Senator James Lankford, R-OK
Senator Steve Daines, R-MT
Senator Mike Rounds, R-SD
Senator David Perdue, R-GA
Senator Thom Tillis, R-NC
Senator Joni Ernst, R-IA
Senator Ben Sasse, R-NE
Senator Dan Sullivan, R-AK

Shame on them all for disrespecting the Office of the President and for trying to derail these talks before anything is even decided.

Time Says It's Time to Accept DST

On Sunday, we flipped our clocks forward one hour to pretend it's an hour later than it really is in order to have an extra hour of sunlight.

It wasn't a hard thing to do, but it does take my body a couple of weeks to adjust to the change in daylight vs. clock time.  Once that happens, I'm pretty on board with the change...as silly as it seems.

You see, I grew up in an Indiana that didn't change its clocks.  We stayed on one time all year around, and we liked it!  We also walked uphill both ways to school barefoot and with no lunch money.  We liked that, too.

When the law changed, I fought it because I was a stick in the mud Hoosier.  I cried bloody murder about having to change our clocks.  I even know some people who, to this day, are always doing conversions in their heads because they REFUSE to change their clocks.

If you're holding on that hard, I'm sorry.  Times change...sometimes literally.  I've bought in to this, and you can, too.  If there is a debate to be had these days, it's does Indiana belong on Eastern or Central time?  There are certainly pros and cons to that discussion.  I'd love to have Sunday Night Football over an hour earlier on a night where I have to work the next morning, for example.

For me, this issue couldn't be more dead.  It doesn't ruffle my feathers, and, since I don't own a drive-in movie theater, it doesn't harm my business.  I'm just going with the flow these days.  The days of Indiana not moving its clocks are gone like single class high school basketball, Bob Knight, and a full house at the Brickyard 400.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sunday, March 7, 1965: Bloody Sunday


March 7, 1965...Bloody Sunday.

Hundreds of African-American marchers met Alabama police and residents mounted on horses and in riot gear.  Before the crowd had a chance to comply after being told to disperse, the police advanced on the marchers and beat many of them.  When it was over, some lay bloodied and beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge all in the name of voting rights.

And this happened in 1965...just 10 years before I was born.  Within the lifetime of many of you.  It hasn't been that long ago.

Today, many of us say we don't care about voting.  Others are content to just sit by and let things happen.  Those of us that do go to the polls here in Indiana have seen an ever-growing list of nonsense and hoops that we have to jump through in order to cast our ballots, but our struggle doesn't compare to those that fought 50 years ago.

It's those heroes who we should honor this weekend.  Those who risked their lives in order to give us the right to CHOOSE to vote or not to vote.  For many, the choice to exercise your franchise didn't exist prior to the work of Dr. Martin Luther King and those that marched with him in Alabama 50 years ago.

The words to Glory are so powerful, and John Legend and Common express them far better than anything I can write here.  It's important to remember, as the song says, "The war is not over. Victory isn't won."  We must fight along side the spirit of those heroes to make equality for all more than just a slogan.  Selma is now!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Carson's Incendiary Views Show Long Road to Presidency

Dr. Ben Carson
For someone so smart, Ben Carson sure sounds like an idiot.

The Republican Presidential hopeful said on CNN’s New Day program on Wednesday that being gay is a choice and prison proves it.

“Because a lot of people go into prison straight and when they come out, they’re gay,” the neurosurgeon told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “So did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”

Well, Dr. Carson, I can’t answer your question. I know probably a handful of people that have been to prison, and they didn’t change their sexual orientation. I know messed up things happen in prison, and there are some very tortured souls in our prisons. I would argue that sometimes the relationships that develop in prison are less a matter of choice and more a need for companionship or for something more sinister. Regardless, I don’t think you can use prison as a solid example of how people are either born or choose to be gay. That’s ridiculous.
I can only tell you from my own experience that there has never been a time in my life that I’ve felt right in a straight relationship, and, believe me, there was a time in my life that I wanted nothing more than to choose to be straight. I tried to date women, but I felt wrong inside. I knew who I was before I even knew what it meant to be gay or straight, and my life pretty much sucked until I got up the gumption to admit to myself who I was. I looked in the mirror and I said it. Once I was honest with myself about the person I am, life has been amazing. You couldn’t get me to choose to be anything but the person I am, and I have had no choice over that.

I could go deeper, but Dr. Carson doesn’t deserve any more attention on this subject. I just don’t know how a person who is supposed to understand the brain in such a way that he can operate on it can be more wrong about human nature.
Dr. Carson clearly doesn’t understand the Constitution, either. After slapping gay people in the face with the ridiculous prison example, he sets up that age old separate but equal example saying that gay people can join in a relationship with all the legal benefits and just not call it marriage. That, of course, violates the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution.

It’s clear Carson needs more education before he’s ready to raise his right hand and become President.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pre-K Investment Will Make Difference for Indy

I watched most of Monday night's City-County Council meeting from my living room on Monday night.  It's so good to have WCTY, and they do such a tremendous job of bringing City-County government to everyone across Marion County.

With interest, I watched the debate over the Pre-K plan that was passed.  I remembered what a struggle it was to get that proposal to the floor for a vote.  It took a tremendous amount of negotiation from what Mayor Greg Ballard originally wanted to what actually got sent to his desk for his signature.  It was an example of what the Council does right and an example of how compromise is not a dirty word.

The $4.2 million we will spend on the plan as taxpayers will bring in millions more in investment from private industry if the plan is successful, and that will provide millions of dollars for families to jump start the education of their youngsters.  It will also be an investment in education, and that benefits the entire community.

I don't buy it as a crimefighting technique, and I share the concerns of many Councillors who believe we don't do enough to build up the infrastructure of our city in roads and sidewalks, but I believe this plan builds up the intellectual infrastructure of our city.

Crime is something we need to pay attention to, and it's indeed great to hear homicides are way down in Indy so far this year.  I believe we could do more to help our teens and young people from turning to a life of crime, and I think we need to make that investment on that end of education as well.

We can discuss these important topics in the months to come, but this plan to invest in the education of our children is one way Democrats and Republicans came together to make a difference.  I know not everyone will agree, but it's a no brainer, in my opinion.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

House of Cards or House of Congress?

Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu
It seems more like a story line out of House of Cards: Congress going rogue and taking the extraordinary step of inviting a foreign leader to speak to Congress without consulting with the President. 

Unfortunately, that’s what will happen in reality today in Washington. The United States Congress is Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest campaign stop in his bid to keep his seat as Prime Minister in Israel, and Republicans are more than willing to be used as props as a foreign leader likely criticizes an American President on U.S. soil.

I want to be clear.  While I have my problems with Netanyahu, I understand his position as Prime Minister of Israel.  He feels he must do what keeps Israelis safe.  I also believe that with a tinderbox of nations around Israel that want to do it nothing but harm, it puts the country's Prime Minister constantly on the defensive.  I find Netanyahu personally a fascinating figure, and I have since I first became familiar with him in the 1990's.

That said, I believe many Republicans have a blind spot when it comes to Israel.  While I accept them as our friend and ally, I believe that Republicans and even some Democrats give the country and its leadership too wide of a berth.  Israel can not only defend itself against foreign enemies, but it has shown the ability to go overboard at times.

Thankfully, more than a few Democrats, including Indy’s own Congressman, Andre Carson, have seen through the politics of the speech. They won’t attend the speech. President Obama won’t be meeting with Bibi, either. The Vice President will also give Netanyahu’s speech the cold shoulder when he addresses the joint session of Congress.

All I have to say is that Congress is lucky Frank Underwood isn’t the President. Underwood likely would find a way to upstage Bibi’s speech and chaos would ensue. 

It’s clear that the Republican leadership in the House and Senate have gone rogue. It’s a dangerous precedent to set. Sure, President Obama has taken unilateral action, but his Executive Orders must pass legal muster. There’s no real litmus test for a Congress that has so heinously flaunted its own will and by extension dragged the American people into a far-off election.

Just imagine the uproar from Republicans if President Obama were to be invited by a foreign country to speak to their legislature just two weeks before a critical election.

Democrats aren’t doing that. They are simply doing what Americans have done for years when they disagree with something: boycott it. I wish Pete Visclosky and Joe Donnelly would join Congressman Carson and stand with the President against this moment in American history where Congress overstepped its bounds and an opportunistic politician played them like a fiddle.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hill Still Considering Gubernatorial Bid

Baron Hill
Baron Hill has made some noise about running for Governor.

The former U.S. Representative certainly fits the bio for a Democrat that might do well statewide.  He's no liberal and usually finds himself somewhere in the middle politically.  In Congress, he was a member of the blue dog Democrats.

His experience is a great asset.  Hill served in the Indiana House for eight years before leaving to run for Senate.  He was unsuccessful in that campaign against Dan Coats which was to fill out the remaining term of Vice President Dan Quayle.

After a few years in private life, Hill returned to public life and ran for Congress in 1998.  He would be reelected in 2000 and 2002.  In 2004, Mike Sodrel tripped him up, but Hill returned in 2006 to reclaim the seat and held on to it again in 2008.  In 2010, Hill was swept out of office by the Republican tide in that election giving way to Todd Young.  Since then, Hill has been doing a variety of things including what many former legislators do...opened up a lobbying business.

So now, he's refreshed again and apparently wants to explore a run for Governor after six years.  He says he will decide this month.

I think Hill brings a lot of baggage with him that makes him a much easier target to politically attack than some of the other candidates.  One of his biggest faux pas came on the campaign trail in 2010.  When video of him inartfully handling a question from a young journalist came to light.  Hill came off looking very bad in the clip, and I would assume that video would show up again.  In many parts of Indiana, Hill's vote for Obamacare likely won't go over well, either.  The baggage of a voting record in Congress can certainly be a problem.

There's no question, however, that Hill would be a good candidate for Governor.  He can raise money, and he knows how to do retail politics.  Nothing I mentioned in the above paragraph is, in itself, a problem that cannot be overcome with a strong campaign.

Baron Hill remains a name to watch for 2016.