Sunday, January 31, 2016

SB344 Passes Committee Vote; Will Be Debated and Voted on in Senate

A bill that attempts to balance the civil rights lesbian, gay and bi-sexual individuals with religious freedom, SB344, passed out of a Senate committee last week (7-5) and will be debated in the full Senate this week. The deadline for the bill to be passed to the House for consideration is Wednesday. You'll note that rights for transgender individuals were not included; the bill calls for a study committee to consider those issues. Despite criticism from both proponents and resisters of LGBT rights, Senate President Pro-Tempore David Long, feels SB 344 marks major progress:
“Senate Bill 344 is a major step forward and an amazing proposal for change in Indiana. It fixes the issue of balance between strong religious freedom protections and civil rights protections for the LGB community and considering where we were a few years ago this is a big step in the right direction for Indiana.”
Meanwhile House Majority Leader Brian Bosma says whether the bill is heard in the House will be determined not by the chair of a committee, which is the usual practive, but by a caucus of all the Republican members. Bosma has also specualted on whether that any bill could meet the requirements of Governor Pence, who indicated in his State of the State speech that he would not sign any bill that did not completely protect religious rights. Bosma said, “I think [Pence's position] does make passage more difficult because I’m not certain there is a solution on the table that meets the requirements that the governor indicated he is looking for.”

You can learn more about the status of SB344 here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Truitt Won't Seek Another Term

Republican Represenative Randy Truitt of West Lafayette says he will not seek another term as representative for Indiana House District 26 in November. Truitt said, “My goal was to make a difference, and I feel I have. I did not want a career in politics in Indianapolis, and there are many others in District 26 who may like the opportunity to serve.” You can read more about Truitt's announcement here.

Monday, January 25, 2016

"Four Words and a Comma" Rally Draws Crowd at Statehouse

Supporters of the 'four words and a comma" approach to LGBT civil rights in Indiana gathered at the statehouse on Saturday to encourage the legislature to pass Senate Bill 2, the Democratic-proposed bill that would simply add LGBT civil rights to the state's current civil rights law with four words and a comma--“sexual orientation, gender identity.” You can read more about the rally from the Indy Star here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Gregg Raised $3.7 Million for Governor Race

In 2015 John Gregg raised $3.7 million for his 2016 gubernatorial campaign. The Northwest Indiana Times reports that "At this point in the 2012 race, Gregg raised just $1.2 million to Pence's $3.7 million, forcing Gregg to spend a lot of time fundraising, instead of campaigning, throughout the election year."

Governor Pence raised $3.5 million in the past six months, more than $5.1 million for the year and has nearly $6.8 million cash on hand. While John Gregg will certainly be better funded than he was in 2012, when he lost to Pence by only 3 percent, he will be facing a very well funded incumbent and will need the ongoing support of Democrats. Read more about the fundraising race here.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pence "Encourages" Lt. Gov. Elspermann to Get a New Job

Gov. Mike Pence is encouraging Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann to seek employment elsewhere--namely as Ivy Tech's next president. According to Indiana political analyst Brian Howey, the governor's communication chief indicated that "The governor believes that the lieutenant governor is uniquely qualified for the opportunity” at Ivy Tech and “he strongly encouraged her to apply."

Apparently Elspermann's position on RFRA and gay rights is not to the liking of the governor and his social conservative supporters. She told legislators and other Republicans that RFRA created a "mess" that needed to be cleaned up. She also told the Statehouse File that Hoosiers "want to be assured 100 percent that there is no further discrimination. My opinion is that we should get that fixed, whatever that looks like." Howey concludes that Indiana's Republican party is a "house divided." You can read Howey's column on Elspermann v. Pence here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Despite Trump's Muslim Ban, Pence Would Vote for the Republican

Governor Mike Pence was pretty explicit in his condemnation of Donald Trump's proposal to prevent all Muslims from entering the US, as were other Republican leaders. (Pence is apparently content to have them immigrate to the US, so long as they don't think they're going to live in Indiana!) However strong his objections are to Trump's unconstitutional ideas about a religious test for immigration, those concerns don't seem to trump his party loyalty. As reported in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, when asked if he would vote for Trump for president if he is the nominee, Pence responded, "I will be voting for the Republican nominee for president of the United States."

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Chidress Runs for District 13 Seat

Tippecanoe County Democrat Mike Childress has announced that he will run to represent Indiana District 13 in 2016. He sees key issues as roads and infrastructure, public education and employment. Childress views bi-partisanship as a key for making progress: “You have to work across the aisle in order to create real sustainable good. Not just for the people in your party, but for the people in every party — from every walk of life.” You can read more about Childress's candidacy here.

Visit Mike's Facebook page here.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Ritz's Teacher Shortage Commission Finishes Its Report

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz's Blue Ribbon commission to address Indiana's teacher shortage has completed its report. The 49-member panel makes several recommendations to revitalize the teaching profession. It recommends elevating teachers' pay to a professional level with regular pay raises rather than one-time stipends and bonuses. The panel advocates returning to the system of rewarding teachers for advanced education and masters degrees as well as creating career paths for advancement that don't remove good teachers from classrooms. Mentoring of new teachers by experienced ones was also encouraged. The commission also advocates recruiting a more diverse teaching force. You can read summaries of the commission's report here and here.