Monday, October 20, 2014

Indy Star: Pence Makes Bad Call on Preschool Grant

The editors of the Indianapolis Star are of the opinion that Governor Pence's passing on a potential federal grant of $80 million for Indiana preschools is a bad call. His explanation, they say, is fear of "federal intrusion" into the state's new preschool program and that "Indiana isn't ready for the federal funding because the state's pilot program doesn't launch until January. It's too much money too soon, and with strings attached." The Governor's argument doesn't hold water, says the Star:
But that argument is perplexing given that Indiana had previously applied for the grant; the federal government rejected the state's bid a year ago. And state officials, including several inside the Pence administration, had spent months working on a new application. By all indications, Indiana had an excellent chance this time around of receiving the federal money.
The editors conclude, "[Pence's] sudden step back is a hard blow for the state. And worse, for its children and their families."

When Republican politicians make sudden, unexplained and "perplexing" turns, they are usually catering to their party's far right wing.

Read the Star's editorial here.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pence Walks Away from $80M for Indiana Pre-School Initiative

Today Indy Star political reporter Matthew Tully described how Governor Mike Pence surprised the bi-partisan educators he has been working with on a badly needed pre-school initiative by unilaterally deciding to walk away from an $80 million federal grant the group had been aiming at. Tully characterized the governor's decision as "surprise, last-minute and largely unexplained." Members of the Pence-created Early Learning Advisory Committee were informed of the decision not to apply for the grant the FSSA and the Department of Education had been pursuing for a year by an email sent on Wednesday, the day the grant proposal was due. There must have been a lot of disappointment, and puzzlement, over that one.

But maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise. Gov. Pence is now doing to Indiana preschoolers what he has been doing for the uninsured in Indiana for over a year: refusing to accept large sums of federal money that would hugely benefit the people of the state he governs to promote his political prospects as a Republican presidential candidate in 2016. If you think Pence's decision isn't political, read his "explanation" of it here: he represents himself as heroically resisting the siren call of federal money with "strings attached" and boldly positioning Indiana to go its own way on pre-school, much as he has been doing by refusing federal medicare funding that would protect hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers. He can surely imagine the ads his primary opponents would run against him if he sullied himself with payouts from the demonic hands of Barack Obama. Meanwhile, Indiana's students fall further behind and Indiana's uninsured continue to live in the shadow of ruinous healthcare costs.

Read Matt Tully's reporting here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

What Could Beat Sheila

Dave Bangert's frontpage column in the J&C speculates on whether Sheila Klinker could lose her race to return as the representative of Indiana House District 27. Bangert does not present any compelling case from her opponent as to why Sheila should be replaced or why he should be the one to do it. It seems likely that the most serious threat to Sheila would be indifference and low turnout, and we can't let that possibility be realized.

We all understand that Sheila is an energetic public servant, a powerful spokesperson for our community, and a skilled, experienced legislator who can work across the aisle. And we know that there is no greater advocate for Indiana children and public schools, and both desperately need a strong advocate in the current environment. Let's be sure to remind Sheila's constituents of all that she brings to the table, and get them to the polls to vote for Sheila and the other great Democratic candidates!

Monday, October 6, 2014

As of Today, Same Sex Marriage Is Legal in Indiana

Today the US Supreme Court indicated that it would not hear appeals of lower court decisions that same sex marriage bans in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington and Indiana were unconstitutional. As a result, those rulings stand, the bans are overturned, and same sex marriage is legal in Indiana. It is theoretically possible that the Supreme Court would opt to take up another lower court decision at a later time, but there is no reason to believe, based on dozens of court decisions, that the Court would then declare thousands of marriages illegal.

Most state Republicans are conceding that the battle is done.

Indiana Senate President Pro Tempore David Long said "It is surprising, given the importance of this issue to our society, that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to take up this matter but instead to rely upon lower court rulings. That being said, the court appears to have sent a message that if they ultimately do hear these cases, they will support these lower court rulings and find that same-sex marriage is on equal footing with traditional marriage." Long also said efforts to amend the Indiana Constitution to include a ban on gay marriage were at an end.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller continued to call for the Supreme Court weigh in: "Our nation and all sides involved needed a conclusive Supreme Court ruling to bring finality to the legal question of state authority to adhere to the traditional definition of marriage." But he also conceded that same sex marriage is now the "law of the land" in Indiana and that the county clerks would commence issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples as soon as the Circuit Court lifts the stay.

Speaker of the House Brian Bosma declined to comment.

Governor Pence said his office would abide by the court's decision:"Under our system of government, people are free to disagree with court decisions, but we are not free to disobey them."

House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath said the Supreme Court ended the debate: "For political purposes, we have squandered nearly a decade of our people's energy on the issue of who loves whom. The gamesmanship has dragged on and on through the past few legislative sessions. But as one court after another has struck down bans on same-sex marriage, the pointlessness of this maelstrom has become even more obvious." With the debate over, Pelath said "Let's move on."

Read about the impact of the Court's decision from the Star here and from the Statehouse File here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

President WIll Speak at Steel Plant in Southern Indiana

On Friday, October 3, President Obama speak at Millennium Steel in Princeton, Indiana as part of Manufacturing Day. The President will speak on the economy and job creation. This will be his first trip to Indiana since 2011. Read more here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why You Need to Vote: Getting Hoosiers to Participate in Democracy

Indiana has the nation's third lowest voter participation. Surely, that is a record both Democrats and Republicans can deplore, but Indiana's Republicans are hell-bent on protecting us from non-existing voter fraud by making it harder to vote. Democrats' candidate for Secretary of State Beth White wants to address that problem in commonsense ways. For example, Indiana is one of only three states that close their polls as early as 6 p.m. White concedes that it would cost a bit more to keep polling places open later, but she thinks that is not as important the increased participation from extended hours. She also notes that other states have used nonpartisan commissions to create more competitive districts and increase voter turnout. Having a Secretary of State who cares about voter participation and runs the state's elections accordingly could make a real difference!

Read more about Beth White's position on voter participation here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Why You Need to Vote: Taking Domestic Violence Seriously

Governor Pence took funds budgeted for domestic violence programs by the legislature and put them back into the state's general fund to "save money." Only when the Ray Rice video began to draw attention to the issue did Pence's presidential ambitions inspire him to gradually replace the domestic violence funds. Even though Pence's withdrawing the budgeted domestic violence funds was counter to the will of the legislature, the Republican supermajority wasn't about to fight him on it. Now that the Governor is beginning to dole out some of the earmarked funds, his team is promoting the idea that domestic violence will by 35 percent higher than last year: “At Gov. (Mike) Pence’s direction, applications for these funds will be expedited so they can be made available to shelters as soon as possible,” said Mary Allen, executive director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. The Governor taketh away, the Governor giveth back if there is political advantage to be had. We need to weaken the Republican supermajority so that, even if still in the minority, Democrats can resist Pence's cynical actions and provide consistent protection of Indiana's women against abusers.

Read more about Pence's defunding/funding of domestic violence programs here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bayh Won't Run for Governor--For Sure!

Last Friday Evan Bayh's position on running for Indiana governor in 2016 went from "highly unlikely" to "definitely not." Here's an excerpt from his statement:
“Over the years I've been asked whether I would seek the governorship again. The inquiries and encouragement have accelerated in recent months regarding a possible candidacy in 2016. After serious consideration, I have decided that I will not be a candidate for governor in 2016. I hope that my decision will enable others to step forward and offer their ideas for making Indiana an even better place to live, work and raise a family.”
You can read more about Bayh's decision here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What Is Indiana Spending to Defend the Gay Marriage Ban?

State Democratic chairman John Zody has submitted a public records request asking state Attorney General Greg Zoeller for information about how much the of the state's tax dollars are being spent to defend the ban on same sex marriage in the courts. At a time when funding is being cut for state agencies, Zody argues, it seems questionable "to keep fighting on an issue that we are seeing nationwide is becoming less of an issue.” Read more about Zody's request here.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Court of Appeals Rules Against Indiana's and Wisconsin's Gay Marriage Bans

Today the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against gay marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana; the three-judge panel was unanimous in their ruling. Judge Richard Posner, a Republican appointee, called the states' arguments in defense of the bans "totally implausible." The outspoken judge continued
"Heterosexuals get drunk and pregnant, producing unwanted children; their reward is to be allowed to marry. Homosexual couples do not produce unwanted children; their reward is to be denied the right to marry. Go figure."
Undeterred, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he will seek a suspension of the appeals court ruling pending a quick decision from the Supreme Court. This despite the fact that more than 30 courts have ruled in favor of gay marriage since the Supreme Court gutted the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013.