Thursday, March 31, 2011

Restrictive Abortion Bill Passes Second House Vote

HB 1210 has passed a second vote in the House. This abortion bill, which will become one the nation's most restrictive laws, requires doctors to inform patients of the risks of abortion, including breast cancer, a link which, according to Rep. Peggy Welch, no studies have demonstrated. An amendment that would have exempted victims of rape or incest or women whose health would be harmed by a pregnancy was defeated. Republican Eric Turner urged his colleagues to vote against it because women would simply lie about a rape or incest in order to get the abortion. You can view Turner's appalling comments below, as well as the powerful rebuke by Rep. Linda Lawson, a former sex crimes investigator. She exclaimed, "They don’t make it up. Women don’t make this up! My Goodness! This is the state of Indiana!” Sadly, Rep. Lawson, this is Indiana--in the hands of a relentless, ideology-driven, uncompromising Republican legislature. Also sadly, this story has made the national online media: Think Progress, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo and Daily Kos. Here is the Indy Star's coverage.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Senate Passes Ban on Gay Marriage and Civil Unions

Today the Republican-dominated Indiana Senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions by a vote of 40 to 10. Having already passed the House, the bill needs to be passed by both houses of a separately elected legislature in 2013 or 2014. Then it would have to pass a public referendum vote. By 2014 it could be incorporated into the Indiana constitution. Thirty states have a similar constitutional bans on gay marriage; 20 include civil unions. Current state law prohibits gay marriages, but amendment sponsor Sen. Dennis Kruse said the measure would provide maximum protection for the basic family unit of society: "The family is the basic unit of society, and has been since Adam and Eve.” Read more from the Evansville Courier Press here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Back Home Again

They're back! House Democrats ended their 36-day protest of Republican anti-labor legislation today, having won some concessions, demonstrating that they will not be railroaded, and educating a significant part of the public about what Republican policies mean for Indiana workers. "We're coming back after softening the radical agenda," said Democratic House leader Pat Bauer, as he and his fellow Democrats were greeted by cheering union workers. "We won a battle, but we recognize the war goes on."

Democrats said they won the following concessions:

* Right-to-work legislation is off the table, preserving collective bargaining rights;

* The permanent ban on public employee bargaining is off the table in the House;

* Enabling legislation for private takeover of public schools is off the table in the House;

* Private school vouchers will be limited to 7,500 students in the first year and 15,000 in the second year, rather than the largest voucher program in the nation the Republicans originally wanted;

* Rather than an outright ban of Project Labor Agreements as Republicans wanted, PLAs still can be included with projects passed by public referendum; and

* The threshold for applying the common construction wage to projects would be $250,000 for 2012 and $350,000 for 2013, rather than the job-killing $1 million threshold the Republicans wanted.

But Deanna Martin, writing for AP thinks the main value was educational:
"The Democrats' most significant achievement may be that people across the state are talking about these issues. Bauer said the public needed a "timeout" to learn about the agenda pushed by Republicans who took sweeping control of the House in 2010 elections.

Thousands of people attended Statehouse rallies during the walkout, and hundreds of people attended local town hall meetings. Many teachers said they didn't realize Republicans supported vouchers and other measures they think will erode public education, and some union members said they wished they had voted."

Here's what state Democratic chair Dan Parker had to say about today's events:
“The Republicans called us names, threatened us with fines and tested our resolve, but in the end, compromise and negotiation trumped their radical agenda. This timeout gave thousands of Hoosiers the chance to take part in the process and have their voices heard by Republicans.
“Is this the perfect solution? No. But it is a solution that protects Indiana’s middle class from the GOP plan to lower wages and eliminate worker rights.
“I can only hope that Republicans will conduct the rest of the session in a tempered, moderate fashion instead of trying to ram their agenda through.
“I want to personally thank House Democrats for standing up for Hoosiers and forcing the GOP to listen.”
Here's video from WTHR.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Redistricting Talks Begin

Friday's meeting on Congressional redistricting drew a crowd of about 100. Below is Channel 18's coverage. Here is an op-ed on the subject from today's Journal and Courier arguing for a more reasonable drawing of the district boundaries, as opposed to basing it on political interests. The editorial board makes its point in part by shaping the type of its editorial like the district.

Redistricting talks begin in Lafayette:

President's Weekly Address for March 25, 2011

This week's address by President Obama is focued on the military mission in Libya. You can also see West Wing Week for last week here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bauer and Bosma Call Today's Meeting "Postive"

Both Democratic Minority Leader Pat Bauer and Republican Majority Leader Brian Bosma called their hour-long meeting in Indianapolis "positive." "We've had a pretty good talk with each other," Bauer said before departing for Urbana. "It's possibly the beginning of the end. It's a positive step that he returned to the Statehouse. I think that's great," said Bosma. Bauer indicated that it would probably be impossible for the Democrats to return for tomorrow's session, but left the door open for an early return after that. Read more about the meeting here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

National Ad Supports Indiana Democrats

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which is charged with getting more Democrats elected into state legislatures, began running the ad show below yesterday in support of Indiana Democratic legislators. Here is the ad as previewed on Talking Points Memo. These folks don't pull any punches!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Klinker Hopeful of End to Boycott

Here are Sheila Klinker's comments to Channel 18 regarding the state of the boycott.

Indiana Democrats remain in Illinois:

How Will the Democratic House Boycott Affect the 2012 Elections?

Indiana Democratic Chair Dan Parker says the boycott by Democratic representatives has been good for the party's base: “The base of the Democratic Party wasn't as engaged as it needed to be in 2010. There's been an awakening for a whole lot of folks.” He also thinks Republican legislators aren't helping themselves for 2012 in their choice of political battles: “Some of the issues that Republicans have embraced will come back to bite them next year. They're going to suffer the ramifications.”

Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne thinks the real impact in 2012 will be less on the party bases than on the center: “Right now, the walkout is galvanizing Democrats behind the Democrats. It is galvanizing Republicans behind Republicans. The question is that mass of voters in the middle.”

Read more from the News Sentinel here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Republican-led Redistricting Hearing in Lafayette Set for Friday

Next Friday and Saturday members of the House and Senate Election Committees will hold public hearings on redistricting in eight locations throughout the state. Republicans determined the sites and the schedule without consultation with Democrats. A hearing is scheduled in Lafayette on Friday, March 25 at Faith Baptist Community Center, 5526 State Road 26 E. from 10 a.m. to noon.

Senator Vi Simpson has called the Republican’s decision to set up the hearings without Democrats' input “not a very good way to begin the redistricting process.” She'd originally thought of holding separate Democratic hearings but will instead try to ensure that at least one Democrat lawmaker can attend the Republicans’ hearing.

The governor’s office said redistricting is the legislature’s job but that the governor will only approve new maps that “make common sense geographically and (are) drawn in the public interest.” Read more from the Louisville Courier Journal here.

Below are Senators Simpson's and Lanane's comments on the partisan nature of the redistricting process. More information about the redistricting process is available from Senate Democrats here.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Klinker Comes Home for the Weekend

Pat Bauer okayed Democratic representatives going home for the weekend because the House isn't in session anyway. Sheila Klinker was grateful for the opportunity to get away from the hotel in Urban and come home. As for how much longer she'll have to make the commute, Klinker wasn't sure: "I'm hoping that (House Speaker) Brian (Bosma) will have a little bit of a change of heart. In his letter to Pat (Bauer) yesterday, he was very conciliatory, but then he gets on TV and gets very angry. ... We're not sure where he is at this point." Read more from the J&C here.

President's Weekly Address, 3/19/2011

President Obama's weekly address this week focuses on creating jobs through exports to Latin America. You can see the latest West Wing Week here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Union Bill All That Keeps Dems in Illinois

House Democratic leader Pat Bauer says that there is substantive agreement on all legislation except on House Bill 1216, which affects the wages and union-job guarantees on local public construction projects. On that, said Bauer, Republicans "are not movable . . . So we're pretty far apart." The House voted to extend the deadline for action on bills by two weeks, which Bauer welcomed: "We have the ability to negotiate. . . . We can get this done." Meanwhile, Republicans are exploring garnishing Democrats' wages and threatening to "move on" without the Democrats. Read more from the Indy Star here.

Amendment Proposes Ban on Anything "Substantially Similar to Marriage'

The Senate is preparing to vote on a proposed amendment to the Indiana constitution banning anything "substantially similar to marriage," whatever that may mean. It could be applied to gay marriage, of course, but it could also apply to any kind of civil union. Mega-employers Eli Lilly and Cummins expressed their concern that it could apply to health plans for unmarried couples. Senator Ron Alting had similar reservations: "If a company like that wants to offer that benefit to those individuals, I want to at least make sure we have those out there in the 21st century."

Georgetown constitutional law professor Louis Michael Seidman said that language is so imprecise that a judge could interpret it almost any way he or she wanted -- including as a prohibition on domestic partner benefits. He expressed no opinion about the ban itself, but voiced concern that the constitutional amendment was constructed so vaguely: "It should be uncontroversial . . . that constitutional language needs to be precise and carefully drafted."

Of course, the vagueness is "precise" and "carefully drafted": it allows Republicans to ride a wave of carefully fueled homophobia to undermine all committed couples they find objectionable. Sadly, it also undermines Indiana's ability to compete for the best workers. Read more from the Indy Star here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bauer's Letter to Bosma Enumerates Dems' Concerns; Governor Decries "Sorry Spectacle"

House Minority Leader Pat Bauer has sent a letter to Majority Leader Brian Bosma regarding legislation that is of concern to Democrats. You can read the entire letter here. Bauer's tone is conciliatory and so-called "demands" are largely confirmations of items that have been discussed before. If this is all that is separating the sides, it would seem that a compromise should be possible.

In the meantime, the Governor was in a finger-wagging mode, insisting that any agreement with the Democrats include an explicit pledge never, ever to walk out again, a far cry from his original analysis that the walk out was a "legitimate" political action. (We assume he would extract the same pledge from Republicans who walked out to deny a quorum in 2001 and 2004.) Also, the Governor observes that "Indiana Democrats and the teacher's union here are the most backward in America, these very changes that we're proposing, these reforms, are championed by President Obama, his Secretary of Education. For all their 'hell no' posturing and rhetoric, there hasn't been one constructive or positive suggestion that they've made." Read Bauer's letter and draw your own conclusion about posturing,rhetoric, and constructive suggestions. Here are the Governor's remarks about the "sorry spectacle."

President Likes Purdue in Elite Eight

Even the President gets March Madness. He thinks Purdue will beat Notre Dame to get to the Elite Eight, but sees us losing to Kansas for the Final Four.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Madison Sees the Biggest Rally Ever

Bigger than the biggest Tea Party rally. Bigger than any of Madison's historic rallies of the 1960's. 100,000 to 150,000 teachers, farmers, students, cops, and government workers on the streets. That was the rally that occurred yesterday in Madison, one day after the Wisconsin Senate found a way to strip government workers of their right to collective bargaining. The 14 Democratic senators who had tried to block passage of the legislation returned to a hero's welcome, vowing to continue the fight with recall votes for the governor and Republican legislators. Wisconsin hasn't given up.

Read more from the Madison Examiner here and the New York Times here.

Weekly Address for March 12, 2011

This week the President recognizes Women's History Month and women's issues. Also, here is West Wing Week in which the President is focused primarily on education.

Deputy Secretary of State Resigns

Secretary of State Charlie White, indicted on seven felony counts, won't step out of his responsibilities, even temporarily. But his deputy and chief of staff apparently will. Deputy Secretary Of State Sean Keefer announced his resignation late Friday on his Facebook page, stating no reason. Keefer had managed White's campaign, and many felt it would be inappropriate for him to step into White's duties should White decide to heed the Governor's call for him to step aside.

Also on Friday White indicated that he was being "selectively prosecuted and picked on" and that he objected to his former wife being included as a target of the grand jury: "And now that my wife has been summoned as a target to the grand jury today I don't appreciate that and this is all getting very personal. I think that voters want a level of civility in politics. (If) we get to the point that we have selective prosecution; I think that sets a very dangerous precedent."

Criminal prosecutions are, of course, "selective," not random. Prosecutors investigate where they think there has been wrongdoing. Grand jury investigations are not politics, but a legal process, and one in which "civility" is not necessarily a useful concept.

Here's more from Channel 6.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mayor Roswarski Briefs J&C Editorial Board

Here is an interesting 57-minute video featuring Mayor Tony Roswarski briefing the editorial board of the Journal and Courier about the current state of the City of Lafayette and answering their questions.

Lafayette May Assume Maintenance of Sagamore Parkway

Mayor Roswarski announced that the City of Lafayette was negotiating to take over maintenance of US 52 from the Wabash Rive to Teal Road because the city feels it can maintain the road better. "We would never let it get to the point that it is now -- and has been for several years. It's actually a detriment to the businesses there," said Mayor Roswarski. Read more here.

Historic Rally in Indianapolis

Thousands gathered in a peaceful protest rally on the grounds of the Statehouse in Indianapolis today. Police estimated the crowd at 8,000; AFL-CIO estimated closer to 20,000. In either case, it was a rally of historic proportions and a great showing for Indiana workers defending the bargaining rights that have created the middle class in the US. Below is footage from WTHR in Indianapolis (apologies for the embedded commercials). If you can't see it, click here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

We Are Indiana Rally

If you would like a ride a bus provided by United Steel Workers to the rally and demonstration at the Statehouse tomorrow (Thursday, 3/10), call 765-474-5000. The bus departs at 7:30 a.m. Help us support Indiana workers and teachers!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Anybody Seen Charlie?

Secretary of State Charlie White has not been seen at his office since he was indicted last Thursday on seven felony charges related to voter fraud. His staff seems not to know his whereabouts. Read about his disappearance here.

Demonstration at Capital for Planned Parenthood

Supporters of Planned Parenthood demonstrated at the Indiana capitol today. "I stand here today against the war on women being waged in Washington, DC and right here," said Sen. Vi Simpson, Democrat of Ellettsville.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Walkout: Week Three

Minority Leader Pat Bauer seems undaunted by $250 per day fees levied by Republicans: "Those fines are minimal compared to all the pain the workers and the teachers and the students are going to receive from what these bad bills are doing, and so we can take some pain to help them avoid a lifetime of pain." Asked if Democrats were prepared to stay out till the end of the session on April 29, Rep. Terry Goodin of Crothersville said, "We are prepared to stay out as long as it takes. The principles we're fighting for here are the principles our party is founded upon." Read more here.

Meanwhile, Sheila Klinker says she doesn't know when they will go home: "I don't have any idea, but I'm hoping it's soon. Because of family matters and getting back to business ... it's as hard on us as it is on the Republicans." But she feels political support remains: "I hear lots of people saying don't come back until you get some results. It works on both sides of the aisle." Read more about Klinker's feelings about the walkout here.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

President's Weekly Address for March 5, 2011

Here is the President's weekly address for this week, focusing on how we should cut the budget.

You can also see West Wing Week, a generally light-hearted review of last week's White House activities, here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Indiana Secretary of State Indicted on Seven Felonies

Charlie White, Indiana's newly elected Secretary of State has been indicted on seven felony charges stemming from his having listed a false address (his ex-wide's) so that he could be re-elected to a position on the Fishers town council after he had moved outside the city and remarried. White contends his false reporting was merely an accident and says he will contest the charges and will "continue to do the job I was elected to do and carry on serving the needs of Hoosier taxpayers through the secretary of state’s office.”

Governor Daniels has said that stepping down from his duties while these charges are resolved is the "only course of honor" for White. Read the New York Times coverage here.

Our own US Representative Todd Rokita has also called for White to step down. Ironically, as previous Secretary of State Rokita served on the Indiana Recount Commission which dismissed a Democratic challenge to White's victory in the election based on these charges. Democrats continue to have a an active suit saying that White should not have been allowed to run and that the second highest vote getter, Democrat Vop Osili, should replace him. Read more here.

Here is video coverage from WISH TV.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Republicans Will Fine Dems $250 Per Day of Absence

The day after Speaker Brian Bosma and Minority Leader Pat Bauer had a fairly civil meeting that both felt made some progress toward resolving issues, Speaker Bosma announced that his Democratic colleagues would be fined $250 per day of absence during their walkout. He also threatened them with censure, a formal "shame on you that will be entered in the permanent records of the General Assembly." Bosma lamented, "We have little choice left but to consider these measures."

How's that reconciliation coming along? Read the Indy Star coverage here and UPI's here.

Klinker on Walkout: "This Is No Show"

Rep. Sheila Klinker takes a strong stand on the walkout in an op-ed piece in today's Journal and Courier. She objects to the J&C's editorial entitled "The show is over; now get back to work in Indy." Klinker retorts
"Does the editorial staff of the J&C really consider the future of public education and the rights of teachers and other workers to be just part of a theatrical show? If so, then the staff needs to talk with the educators and other constituents with whom I have been communicating during the past several months. This is not a show. This is real life with consequences that directly affect the lives of thousands of local families and the future of our state."
She recounts attending a February 20 forum at which constituents expressed concerns about the damage that would be done to public education by the "reform" bills: "The teachers and administrators, as well as local union members, asked me to be firm and change these detrimental bills. I gave them my word that I would. Perhaps the editorial staff does not agree with our actions; however, I was elected by the voters to represent them on all issues, including education."

Read Sheila's entire editorial here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"The Not-So Privileged Elite"

Who do you think Governor Daniels would consider “the most powerful special interest in America today”? The NRA? Big Oil? Wall Street? No, Daniels contends "it’s public school teachers, highway workers and prison guards, according to the Indiana governor, and they’ve used their 'muscle' to secure 'feather-bedded payrolls, very expensive salaries and benefits.'" An editorial in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette goes on to question whether public employees really fare better than workers in private business.

The editorial cites a study by the Economic Policy Institute contrasting Indiana's public sector workers to private sector ones. It finds, for example, that “On an annual basis, full-time state and local employees are under-compensated by 7.5 percent … in comparison to otherwise similar private-sector workers.” Further, it shows that "Indiana employees with a master’s degree, the average annual wage in the private sector is $63,027; in the public-sector, it’s $42,537 or 33 percent less."

Read the Journal Gazette's editorial here.

Bauer and Bosma Meet at Statehouse

Minority Leader Pat Bauer drove over from Urbana today to meet with majority Leader Brian Bosma at the Statehouse today. Was progress made? Hard to say. Bauer seemed impressed with some amendments to the voucher bill, but made no commitment on returning. Bosma saw Bauer's visit as a positive sign. Here is video of the meeting from WTHR. The WTHR site actually includes video of about 25 minutes of the discussion which was (remarkably) open to the press.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rally on March 10

A massive rally is being planned for March 10 down at the Indiana Statehouse and we need you there!! The logistics from this area are still being worked out, but the local Steelworkers are getting buses to transport folks down there. I promise this is something you do not want to miss! Please come if you can and spread the word to others.

In order for the Steelworkers to plan on buses, could you please indicate if you or your group plan on joining us? Please contact me here. We will probably leave Lafayette around 6:30 a.m.