Tuesday, April 26, 2011

WL Dems Must Decide Between Bunder and Herr

West Lafayette Democrats have two candidates vying for the District 2 seat on the city council, incumbent Peter Bunder and challenger Tom Herr. Their differences on a Bunder-proposed historic preservation ordinance are featured in this Journal and Courier profile and mini-interviews. Below is a Channel 18 profile of the race.

Herr & Bunder fight for WL Council seat: wlfi.com

Monday, April 25, 2011

Early Primary Voting Continues This Week

Here are locations and times for early voting in the municipal primaries this week.

• Greentree at West Lafayette, 3575 Senior Place, West Lafayette, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 26.

• Pay Less Super Market, 1032 Sagamore Parkway West, West Lafayette, noon-7 p.m. April 27-30.

• Pay Less Super Market, 2200 Greenbush St., Lafayette, noon-7 p.m. April 27-30.

• Pay Less Super Market, 65 Beck Lane, Lafayette, noon-7 p.m. April 27-30.

VanBogaert Appointed to WL Council

County Democratic Chair Heather Maddox has appointed Eddie VanBogaert to serve out the term of District 1 Councilman John Hoggatt who is leaving the area to attend Harvard Medical School. VanBogaert is the Democratic candidate for the District 1 seat in the November elections. Read more about the appointment from the J&C here and from the Exponent here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Daniels/Duncan Town Hall on Education

Last week Governor Daniels and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a joint town hall meeting at at the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School, a charter school in Indianapolis, on the subject of education reform. Part One is below; the other two parts are here and here.

Homestretch

The regular session of the Indiana Legislature is scheduled to end this Friday, April 29. While Republicans have managed to pass much of their social agenda, we still haven't seen the budget that the legislature is constitutionally obliged to produce. Here are two analyses of where things stand as we enter the homestretch, one on the general view of things from the Evansville Courier Journal and the other on the "education reform" agenda from the Journal and Courier's Mikel Livingston.

President's Weekly Address, 4/23/2011

Here is President Obama's weekly address focused on gas prices and energy investments. You can also see West Wing Week here.

Governor Signs Bill Restricting Teachers' Collective Bargaining Rights

Governor Mitch Daniels has signed the first bill of his "education reform" agenda, a bill prohibit contracts between school districts and teachers unions from including anything other than wages and wage-related benefits starting July 1. According to Business Week, State Superintendent Tony Bennett said the new law gives local leaders freedom by removing restrictions, such as contracts that limit the number of meetings principals can have with teachers. Read more from Business Week here.

Senate Votes to Change Law to Keep Secretary of State in Republican Hands

Under current law if the Secretary of State is found to be ineligible for the office he has been elected, the second highest vote getter in the election assumes the office. But in the case of Charlie White, currently under indictment for seven felonies including vote fraud, the Republicans are planning to change the law rather than let the office fall to Democrat Vop Osili, who lost the race to White last fall. The Republican-controlled Senate has passed a bill containing the so-called "Charlie's Law" that overrides the existing law and allows the governor to appoint whomever he wants to the office. The bill passed the Senate 33 - 17 in an exact party-line vote.

State Democratic Chair Dan Parker had some thoughts on the subject:
“This is an unconscionable GOP power grab to undo misdeeds Charlie White committed when he was a candidate, misdeeds that should have prevented his certification as an elected official. What’s the point of having a process for this kind of situation if Republicans are just going to change the rules when their people get caught?”

“My thought is the loser shouldn’t win,” said amendment sponsor Sen. Michael Young, who voted for the current law in 1987, but now says the legislature "didn't think through all the implications." Sen. Young helpfully observes that there is no rule that requires the Republican governor to appoint a Republican.

Read more from the Indy Star here and from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Districts Ready for Final Vote

New districts for the Indiana House, Senate, US Congress were passed by the Senate today, meaning only a final vote in both houses remains before they become law. In last-minute changes Rep. Sheila Klinker's 27th District was redrawn to include some of Purdue. Sheila must have been pleased at that prospect: she was one of only five Democrats to vote for the plan. Read more here.

Indiana Senate Passes Abortion Limits, Defunding Planned Parenthood

Indiana stands poised to become the first state to defund Planned Parenthood, probably beating out Kansas. The bill that passed the Senate 35-13 requires doctors to tell women that abortions are "linked to" infertility, shortens the window for abortions from 24 weeks to 20, and cuts off tax support for the health services provided to 22,000 low-income Hoosier women by Planned Parenthood. It is estimated that the resulting unwanted pregnancies will cost the state $68 million in health care costs. The bill must be approved in the House which has already passed a similar bill. Read more here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

President Obama's Weekly Address--April 16, 2011

President Obama's weekly address pis about his proposal to reduce the national debt. You can also see West Wing Week here.

WL Democratic Councilman Faces Primary Challenge

First-term Democratic West Lafayette District 2 councilman Peter Bunder will face a primary challenge from Tom Herr, who has previously run for congress as a Republican and for the US Senate as a Reform Party candidate. You can read about the issues this this article from the Journal and Courier.

Funding for Full-Day Kindergarten to Rise

Because Indiana is projected to increase its tax revenues by half a billion dollars in the next two fiscal years, $150 million more will be directed to K-12 in the budget being crafted. Here's how the Star's Mary Beth Schneider reports the money will be allocated: "About 25 percent will be used to increase the funding of full-day kindergarten. Another, smaller fund will be set aside to help school districts give merit pay increases to teachers under the new performance evaluation system being passed in this year’s legislature. The balance, he said, will go into the school funding formula to benefit all school districts."

The state currently supports full-day kindergarten with a fund of $58.5 million, to which the projected additional revenues would add about $38 million. A Department of Education release says "the funding increase will provide all schools access to full-day kindergarten grants, which currently reach about 75 percent of all full-day kindergarten students. The funding increase will allow the state to provide them to the remaining 25 percent."

Though this additional support does not constitute full funding for full-day kindergarten in Indiana (see this article from the Terre Haute Tribune Star), it certainly seems a step in a positive direction. And it will also be incumbent upon the legislature to determine how the funding will will be administered. Will, for example, full-day kindergarten become mandated? (See WISH video below.)

House Democratic leader Pat Bauer observes that while the funding is good news, schools have been cut $300 million in the past two years: “Our schools already have to make do with less than we promised. In that light, it is a small victory for our schools that this governor is restoring some of that lost funding, but it does not make up for the lost programs and personnel that have been inflicted on schoolchildren.” (Read more from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette here.)

Read more from the Indy Star here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

After Hours County Council Meeting Well Received

The Tippecanoe County Council took a step toward greater transparency in local government by conducting its most recent meeting in the evening when many more working citizens can attend. You can read about the meeting here.

President Obama's Speech on the National Debt

In case you missed the President's historic speech on the national debt (and who didn't since it was delivered in the middle of the work day?), it is posted below. You can read the entire text here. You should take a little time to listen to his presentation; it is a clear delineation of how our country arrived at this juncture and a lucid explanation of how we can address the debt while remaining true to America's best principles.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Redistricting Meeting

Senate Republicans have released their versions of redistricting for the US House of Representatives and the Indiana House. A discussion of these plans will be held Tuesday (April 12) night from 6 to 8 p.m. at the YWCA, 605 N 6th St in Lafayette.

The public meeting will be sponsored by the league of Women Voters and will be run by the Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC) and will examine the new congressional and state legislative maps
proposed by the 2011 Indiana General Assembly and encourage a public
dialogue on how well the new maps fulfill public interest criteria
like compactness, preserving communities of interest, protecting
minority voting rights and encouraging competitive races. Comments
from the public meetings will be compiled and submitted to the
legislature.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

President's Weekly Address, 4/9/2011

Here is president Obama's weekly address on the historic budget deal deal reached this week. You can also see West Wing Week here.

Judge Rules Dems' Complaint Against Charlie White Merits Another Review by Recount Commission

Marion County Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg has ruled that the State Recount Commission's dismissal of Democrats' charges that now Secretary of State Charlie White committed vote fraud and was, therefore, not a legal candidate for the the office, must be reconsidered by the commission. The judge told the Commission to act as "expeditiously as possible" because "The Indiana political system and its credibility is at stake." Democratic state chair Dan Parker has replaced the Democrats' one member of the commission with a former judge, to remove, as Parker put it, "all politics out of the rehearing process," and challenged Republicans to do the same. Should White be found to have have been an illegal candidate, Democrats have argued that the second highest vote getter, Democratic candidate Vop Osili, should assume the office. Read more here.

House Democrats' Boycott Fees Being Taken From Weekly Stipend

Republicans imposed a $200 per day fee on Democrats who were boycotting the legislative session, and they are taking it of Democrats' weekly stipend for cost of living. The total topped $3000 for most legislators; the House will withhold 20 percent of their stipends until the entire amount is paid. Some have questioned the legality of this approach. You can read more here.

Local Teachers Rally Against Education Legislation

Greater Lafayette teachers gathered on the pedestrian bridge yesterday in the rain to protest pending legislation that they feel threatens public education in Indiana. This includes Republican-backed bills that would create a state school voucher program, restrict teachers' collective bargaining rights, and implement merit pay for teachers. Jennifer Smith-Margraf, a Spanish teacher at Lafayette Jefferson High School and co-president of the Lafayette Education Association, said "In our opinion, they don't reform education -- they're an attack on teachers." Read more from the J&C here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hoggatt to Resign WL Council

Jon Hoggatt, who was appointed to the West Lafayette city council to complete the term of Paul Roales, will resign to attend Harvard Medical School. "Jon came with strong recommendations from both sides of the aisle, which is one of the reasons I appointed him (in 2009), and I think he did a good job," said Heather Maddox, who will appoint another Democrat to complete the current term. Eddie VanBogaert is running for the seat in the 2011 election. Read more here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Obama 2012 Campaign Begins

President Obama's campaign organization, Obama for America, kicked off his 2012 re-election campaign with a 5 a.m. email to supporters linked to this beautiful video spot that sets a humane, intelligent, and idealistic tone for the race. The President doesn't appear in the ad; it is filled with the diverse faces of the country. The campaign website is www.barackobama.com; there's not much on the site yet except the video, but it's a great start.

The President will visit Allison Transmission in Indianapolis on Friday. Jim Shella speculates that the timing indicates that Indiana is very much on the White House radar screen.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bosma: Vouchers Not About Helping Kids Escape Failing Schools

Poised to pass the nation's broadest use of vouchers, Indiana Republicans seemed to hit a bump in the road. Democrats proposed an amendment that would limit voucher use to students attending so-called "failing schools." In response Speaker Brian Bosma said that helping kids escape from failing schools was never the primary goal of the voucher plan. When challenged he referred reporters to the House Republicans 2011 platform document, Strengthening Indiana Plan: “It says nothing about failing or successful schools there.”

But it does. Lesley Stedman Weidenbener points out that under the “Expand Educational Opportunities” section of the plan is this goal: "Provide children who attend failing schools grants [i.e., vouchers] to attend a school of choice." (Read the plan here.)And a recent television ad from Daniels’ political action committee cites a GOP proposal to help “a child trapped in an underperforming school who has no chance at a great education.” Weidenbener concludes, "By insisting the voucher bill is not about failing schools, Republicans have raised some questions about what they are really trying to do and whether it’s important enough to merit so much focus."

Read Weidenbener's column in the Louisville Courier Journal here.

President's Weekly Address, April 2, 2011

President Obama's weekly address is focused on energy security.  You can also see West Wing Week here.

Dems Want Daniels Ad Pulled

After the Democrats' walkout is over, it appears Republicans just can't let it go; evidently they feel political ground needs to be regained.  So, Governor Daniels appears in a TV ad saying that the walkout cost taxpayers $400,000.  Pat Bauer says it's not true and the ad should be taken off the air.  He argues that the state would have incurred those expenses anyway.  In fact, says Bauer, the state saved $150,000 in daily expense pay that the Democrats have declined to take for the walkout period.  And there's the $113,700 that the Republicans have levied in fines. 

Why an ad now? Pat Bauer sees it in a political context: "I think that they felt the exposure to the governor, and to them about what they were doing to collective bargaining, what they were doing to the unemployed and what they were doing to workers by driving them to the minimum wage had to be countered. They're trying to shift the focus away from these bills and what the actual legislation is."

Read more here.