Friday, December 13, 2013

Mary Cheney Speaks at Freedom Indiana Fund Raiser

Mary Cheney, a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, spoke in opposition to the proposed same sex marriage amendment at a fundraiser for Freedom Indiana. Cheney is in a gay marriage herself and spoke of the need to support all families:
"As a conservative, I also believe that strong families are the cornerstone of our society, and that we as a society need to do everything we can to ensure that all families are provided for the greatest opportunity. I believe that all families - regardless of how they look, or how they're made, or where they live - that all families deserve to be treated with the same respect, rights and legal recognition."
Read more here.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

President Obama on Nelson Mandela: "He Belongs to the Ages Now"

President Obama remembers his friend and inspiration, Nelson Mandela, who inspired his first political act--a protest against South African apartheid.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Eiler and Others File Complaint Against Board of Education Marion County Court

After a complaint to the Public Access Counselor failed to bring about action, Ed Eiler and three others have filed a complaint with the Marion Superior/Circuit Court regarding a violation of the state's Open Door Policy when the State Board of Education signed onto a letter to lawmakers by email. Their complaint seeks a declaration of a violation, injunction against future violations and voiding of any action taken. Eiler said
"Having been member of the State Board of Education, I think the current board is acting in fashion inconsistent with my experience in the state board as well as my experience on any other public board in terms of Open Door Laws. I think it is incumbent upon boards to not only honor the law, but the intent of the law, which is that the public has a right to know when (the board members) are in the process of deliberation and making a decision about something. (The public) has a right to know what they’re thinking and discussing."
Read more from the J&C here.

Department of Education Releases Document Showing Plan to Unseat Her as Chair of Board

The Department of Education has released a copy of the Center for Education and Career Innovation's 2013 Education Policy Document that demonstrates its intent to remove her from her role as chair of the State Board of Education. It recommends that the legislature "Revise the statute to provide that the governor appoints the chair of the State Board of Education from among the gubernatorial appointments." Ritz has claimed that there is an intent to unseat her from her leadership role with the Board, and the document adds credibility to her assertion. You can see the CECI Policy Document here, and you can read more from the Indy Star here.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mayor Roswarski Speaks Out on Marriage Amendment

Mayor Tony Roswarski has added his voice to the growing chorus (Republicans and Democrats) of opposition to the passage of HJR-6, the proposed constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in Indiana. The Mayor's entire statement on Freedom Indiana's website reads as follows:
“HJR-6 is unnecessary legislation that hurts Hoosier families, hurts Hoosier businesses, and sends the wrong message to the global economy. We need to ensure that our State and local communities are welcoming, that all people and their contributions are valued, and that we send the message of respect and understanding. In Lafayette we work every day to bring people together to find solutions to difficult problems, to lift people up, move Lafayette forward and to create a quality of life for everyone to enjoy.”

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pence and Ritz Agree to Mediation by National Group

After a one-on-one meeting last week, Governor Pence and Superintendent Ritz announced their agreement to engage the National Association of State Boards of Education to help mediate a review with Indiana State Board of Education members regarding roles, responsibilities and the operations of the board. Pence said, "I also appreciate the Superintendent's willingness to work with members of the Indiana State Board of Education and NASBE to resolve differences that have arisen on the board." Read more from the Evansville Courier Press here.

Mayor Roswarski on WLFI's Mayor Monday

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Access Counselor Rules Citizens' Complaint Against Education Board Not Valid

After Glenda Ritz's suit against the state Board of Education was dismissed on the grounds that she lacked the legal authority to press it, a group of four citizens (including Ed Eiler) filed a complaint with the state's Public Access Counselor that echoed Ritz's suit. The complaint charged that the Board's crafting of a letter requesting that the Legislative Services office calculate school grades constituted a meeting held in secret in violation of the state's open door rules.

On Tuesday Public Access Counselor Luke Britt ruled that he could not "definitively" find a violation of the open door law; emailing doesn't count as participation in a gathering. But he warned that public agencies should avoid using email to take action: "Final decisions are meant to be open and transparent . . . The appearance of action taken which is hidden from public view is particularly damaging to the integrity of a public agency and contrary to the purposes of transparency and open access."

"In this instance the email exchange could be interpreted as a ratification of a final decision by vote,” Britt wrote. “I do not think it rises to that level but the perception of the public is of significant importance."

Read more from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette here.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Donnelly in Lafayette: Sorts Canned Goods, Donates Shutdown Salary Money to Food Bank, Supports Filibuster Change

From the Journal and Courier

Saturday, November 23, 2013

JFK's Visits to Lafayette Remembered

Purdue Senate Urges Defeat of Marriage Amendment

The Purdue University Senate has passed a resolution urging the defeat of House Joint Resolution 6 on the basis that it would be contrary to Purdue's equal opportunity policies and would be detrimental university recruitment of faculty and other employees. The resolution reads, “The Purdue University Senate opposes the Indiana State Constitutional amendment concerning marriage (HJR-6) and therefore strongly urges the Indiana General Assembly and the Governor of Indiana to oppose adoption of HJR-6.” Meanwhile, with leadership from President Jo Ann Gora, Ball State has aligned itself the Freedom Indiana coalition opposed to the amendment. Purdue administration has not yet taken a position on the amendment. Read more from the Purdue Senate vote J&C here.

Ritz Tours Storm-Damaged Local Schools

Glenda Ritz toured TSC schools damaged by last week's storms. Read more from the J&C here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Indy Council Passes Resolution Opposing Same Sex Marriage Amendment

The Indianapolis city council has passed (22-6) a resolution urging state legislators to vote against the proposed constitutional ban on same sex marriage in Indiana. Indianapolis Republican mayor Greg Ballard supported the council's resolution, even going so far as to sign it before the Democrat-led council had voted on it. A statement by Ballard said
“I understand that many people hold differing views on this subject, but Indiana law already defines marriage, and I don’t see the overriding government interest in adding such an amendment to our state’s constitution. My hope is that we can continue to work ­together and focus on those things that make Indy a place where people want to live, work and raise a family.”
Read more from the Indy Star here.

Ritz Says Governor Attempting "Takeover" of Education

Glenda Ritz published a letter in the Indianapolis Star defending herself against charges that her dispute with the Board of Education is hurting Hoosier children and to make another point: "I want the public to know that I will work to ensure that our students will not be hurt by what appears to be an attempted takeover of the Department of Education by Gov. Mike Pence." She recounts the Governor's efforts to undermine her authority and to transfer it to unelected boards. Superintendent Ritz concludes
"I must not tolerate a power-grab of the Department of Education’s authority and ability to conduct business for Indiana students. Last November, Hoosier voters said very clearly that they want me to fight for public education in our state and to serve as a check and balance to the governor. It is now clear that Gov. Pence is not seeking a power-grab, but rather a complete takeover of education. That is the real threat to our children."
You can read Ritz's letter here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Eiler and Others File Complaint Against Board of Education

Now that Judge Louis Rosenberg dismissed Superintendent Glenda Ritz's suit against the members of the state Board of Education, agreeing with Attorney General Greg Zoeller that Ritz does not have the authority to bring a suit an arm of state government, four private citizens have stepped into the breech and filed a complaint with the Public Access Counselor against the State Board of Education. They charge, as did Ritz, that the Board violated the state's open door law in privately drafting a letter to the House and Senate leaders requesting that school grades be calculated outside the Department of Education. One of the four is Ed Eiler, former superintendent of Lafayette Community Schools and a staunch opponent of the Tony Bennett school reforms. You can read more about this action from StateImpact here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Judge Will Decide If Ritz Can Bring Her Suit Against Education Board

Marion County Judge Louis Rosenberg learned on Tuesday that Glenda Ritz had asked Attorney General Greg Zoeller to file her suit against the state's Board of Education and he declined to do so. And Zoeller says only the attorney general can bring a suit against the state government. So Ritz now argues that she should not be deprived of her right to sue and has only the recourse of use her own attorneys. Judge Rosenberg will render a judgment on whether she can do that as early as Friday. Read Jim Shella's coverage here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Daniels in the 2012 Presidential Campaign

John Heilemann's and Mark Halperin's new book on the 2012 election, Double Down, apparently gives a good bit of attention to Mitch Daniels' role in the 2012 presidential election--not just in his decision not to run for president, but also in his active recruiting of other candidates to oppose Romney and personal distaste for his party's nominee. The author's cite Daniels referring to Romney as a "preprogrammed automaton" with a "plutocratic demeanor." The authors also cite a Fox News interview in which he was asked if he was waiting for a call from the Romney campaign regarding the vice presidency. Daniels responded, "Of course not. If I thought the call was coming, I would disconnect the phone." Ouch. Read more from the J&C here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pelath Lays Out Democrats' Priorities for Upcoming Session

In an interview with Northwest Indiana Times, House Democratic leader Scott Pelath described his vision of the party's priorities in the upcoming legislative session with a focus on strengthening the state's middle class. As the Times reports, Pelath feels this should include a "focus on job creation, making the state more socially tolerant, expanding healthcare coverage and creating a first-rate education system. He said this could all lead to a better climate for businesses to grow or move to the state." Pelath says the party will also lead opposition to the the constitutional ban on same sex marriage. Being in the minority in both houses, can Democrats accomplish anything? Pelath thinks so: "We are not Washington D.C. We can still come together on the things that we do agree on and that's what differentiates us." Read a summary of his interview with the Times here and view the entire 14-minute interview below.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

IU Opposes Constitutional Amendment to Ban Gay Marriage, Joins Freedom Indiana

IU President Michael McRobbie announced today that IU opposes the proposed amendment to Indiana's constitution to ban gay marriage in the state. McRobbie said the amendment would “codify an intolerance that is not representative of the best of Hoosier values.” McRobbie went a step furthr in announcing that IU would join Freedom Indiana: “We are proud to join the Freedom Indiana coalition and, in doing so, stand with some of Indiana’s most respected employers and organizations on the side of fairness.” Read the J&C coverage here.

Dave Bangert notes in his column that a similar declaration would be problematic for Purdue president Mitch Daniels because, as governor, he supported the stature and the amendment, and he has sworn off partisan politics. But he cites former president Martin Jischke's 2002 desicion to provide benefits to same Purdue sex partners. “We recommend this, first, to encourage an atmosphere of diversity and understanding, and second, to attract outstanding faculty to this university,” said Jischke.

Mitch Daniels won't go there, however. Julie Griffith, vice president of public affairs for the West Lafayette research institution, said Purdue would not enter the debate: “Over the years, Purdue has traditionally declined to comment on social issues that have been contended in the public arena. Any departure from this policy should be undertaken only after careful consultation with the university’s many and diverse stakeholders.” Read more here.

Forum Makes Strong Case for Expanding Indiana Medicaid

Last weekend's local forum on the urgency of expanding Medicaid in Indiana got great coverage in local media. You can read the Journal and Courier's story here and see WLFI's video below.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Board Members to Ritz: "Put Politics Aside, Drop Suit"

Four members of the the state Board of Education have given Glenda Ritz a letter taking the position that they "don’t believe politics have any business in education,” and urge the Superintendent to drop her suit against them, to “put politics aside and come to the table ready to put the interests of students, teachers and schools first.”

Do these political appointees really believe that public education is outside politics? When they took their desire to speed up the school grading process to the two leaders of the state legislative bodies and the governor? When voters replaced an incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction with a different one precisely because they were unhappy with the his approach to public education? When education is one of the biggest items on the state's budget? When the voucher program, school grading, charter schools, school funding are some of the hottest political issues in our state?

It's not that one side is being political and the other isn't. It's that there is a difference of policy, a difference in ideas about what constitutes "putting the interest of students, teachers, and schools first." However, it must be said that Indiana voters explicitly rejected the Board's Tony Bennett policies when they elected Glenda Ritz. If any politics should be "put aside" here, it's theirs.

You can read the Board members' letter here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Zoeller Seeks Dismissal of Ritz Suit Against Board of Education

Attorney General Greg Zoeller is seeking dismissal of Glenda Ritz's suit against the members of the State Board of Education, arguing that she had no authority to file the suit. Ritz has indicated that she will use Department of Education attorneys in the case, but Zoeller argues that they cannot serve that function: “As the lawyer for state government and the state’s chief legal officer, the attorney general has sole legal authority to represent state officials and agencies in court or to permit outside counsel to do so. In-house agency lawyers cannot appear in court on behalf of the state,” said Bryan Corbin, Zoeller’s spokesman. (However, it seems perfectly okay with Zoeller and Gov. Pence for the Board itself to usurp Ritz's statutory authority to preside over the Board, and for the Legislative Services Agency to usurp the Department of education's statutory authority to produce the state's A-F grades for schools.) Read more from the Indy Star here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Glenda Ritz and Mike Pence Explain Their Positions

Indiana Republicans Demand State Obamacare Enrollment Numbers

The Republican Indiana congressional delegation is demanding that the Obama administration provide them with the exact number of Hoosiers who have enrolled in insurance programs since the October 1 launch of Obamacare. Oh, and they need it broken out by congressional district. And they'd like that report on a weekly basis, please.

And why do they need this information so urgently? Are there services to their constituents that depend on those numbers? Do the numbers impact planning activities? No, their request is for no discernible reason other than to rub the President's nose in a less than stellar beginning to the program, a fact that is already apparent enough. Their request is merely to try to sweep up every crumb of political advantage to help them recover from the government shutdown/debt ceiling fiasco that has left their party at record low approval ratings. Even after five years of relentless Republican trashing of the program, Obamacare is more popular today than the Republican party.

Obamacare will likely recover from a bad website as citizens start to benefit from its services; it's not so clear that Republicans will recover from their foray into extortion politics.

Read more about Indiana Republican's demands here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

John Gregg Says He Won't Run for Governor Again

Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013


As many of you know, since the election I have not stopped working. While my primary focus has been on my family, law practice and some exciting business opportunities (stay tuned), I have spent countless evening hours and weekends on the campaign trail.

I have attended more than three dozen Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinners and thirty labor meetings, thanking all for their hard work and support during the 2012 election, while asking for their continued support going forward. I have met with scores of Democratic Party leaders, elected officials and everyday citizens around the state, kept the phone lines humming and had more than my fair share of Hoosier cuisine. My intent had been to be our Party’s candidate for the office of Governor in 2016. After all, we ran the closest governor’s election in over fifty years, coming within two and a half percent, while being outspent two-and-a-half times. I believe that we would be victorious in 2016.

However, as I have been reminded many times over the years, sometimes life events curb one’s focus. I have always been about more than ‘politics’ and over ten years ago I stepped back from the political world and its demands to focus on my family.

It was a great choice – and one I am making again today.

Despite the overwhelming support and encouragement to make another run, I am announcing that, at this time, I am no longer actively seeking the Indiana Democratic Party’s nomination for Governor in 2016.

And while, I may not be a candidate I plan to stay involved. I still care deeply about the issues we talked about in 2012: Jobs that pay a living wage; working to develop our potential as a state with job growth in advanced manufacturing, medical devices, life sciences, energy and agriculture; and taking politics out of our public education system.

However, I as I have known for years and was reminded of that daily during the last campaign, you can affect change without being on a ballot or holding public office. In 2012 I met so many people who made a difference every day who were not officeholders. I intend join their ranks and, as I have for the last thirty years, continue to work to make Indiana a place that we’re proud to call home.

I hope you accept my decision and will support it. As you know, faith is very important to me and I am confident in knowing that whereas I may not know what the future holds for me, I know ‘Who’ holds the future.

Thank you again for everything you have done for me and my family.

John Gregg

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ritz Sues State Board of Education

So, last week the state's governor-appointed Board of Education took it upon itself to request a calculation of the A to F grades of Indiana schools by the state's Legislative Services Agency because they felt elected Superintendent Glenda Ritz's Department of Education was taking too long. This request was approved yesterday by House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long, and Governor Pence has distributed a letter in support of their action. This despite the fact that Indiana Code requires the board issue grades for schools based on performance measures calculated only by Ritz's Department of Education. The superintendent is the nominal chair of the Board. Read more about yesterday's attempts to circumvent the popularly elected official's authority to regulate education in the state here.

Today, Superintendent Ritz announced that she is suing the Board for violation of the state's secrecy law, alleging that ten Board members violated Indiana’s Open Door Law in yesterday's request Senator Long and Speaker Bosma. "The suit alleges that no public notice was issued for a meeting that allowed for this action and that Superintendent Ritz was not made aware of this action until after it was taken, despite her role as Chair of the State Board of Education," as reported by the Northwest Indiana Times.

Read more about the suit from Indiana News Center here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Donnelly Says Moderate Senators Will Be Involved in Budget Discussions

Joe Donnelly says that the group of 14 moderate senators that has been credited with helping to break the shutdown/debt ceiling crisis will continue to exert influence in the newly established budget negotiations. As WIBC reports
The negotiations on a longer-term spending plan are in the hands of a 29-member conference committee led by Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-Washington) and House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). But Donnelly says leaders have invited the 14 senators to "make suggestions if things start to bog down. . . . Donnelly says he's hopeful the strain of what he says was an unnecessary 16-day shutdown has made lawmakers more open to a deal, preferably for more than just the next year.
Read more about Donnelly and the Senate moderates here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Donnelly Credited with Helping Dems Win the Standoff

Joe Donnelly, along with Republican Todd Young, are among those being credited with helping to bring about the deal that ended the government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling. WISH coverage is below.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

How the Indiana Congressional Delegation Voted on Shutdown/Debt Ceiling

For the record, here's how members of Indiana's House delegation voted in last night's 285-144 roll call on the bill to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.

Democrats — Carson, Y; Visclosky, Y.

Republicans — Brooks, Y; Bucshon, N; Messer, N; Rokita, N; Stutzman, N; Walorski, N; Young, Y.

87 Republicans were willing to vote to protect their country from fiscal disaster, including Reps. Brooks and Young. Five Indiana Republicans, including District 4's Todd Rokita, thought it wiser to continue depriving their country of the services of its federal government and to threaten its full faith and credit.

In the Senate, both Senators Joe Donnelly and Dan Coats voted "yes." But, according to the Star's Matt Tully, Coats had to grumble about it:
Coats criticized both inaction on the debt and the deal’s “Band Aid” approach, but said “the only thing worse would be a continued government shutdown, the United States defaulting on its debt obligations and the elimination of the spending reductions enacted by Congress in 2011.”

Tully's column says of the three Republicans "yes" voters, "You have to at least give them credit for breaking from the nonsense that is too common on Capitol Hill these days." That said, not voting for "nonsense" is a pretty low bar for those responsible for our country's governance.

You can see the entire House roll call here and read Matthew Tully's column here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Protesters: "Repeal Rokita"

Monday was a day of nationwide protest of the Republican government shutdown/debt ceiling coordinated by MoveOn. Here is Exponent coverage of the Lafayette protest outside Todd Rokita's office, and below is WLFI coverage.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Donnelly Working with Senate Moderates for Deal "For the Middle, From the Middle"

Joe Donnelly has been working with a bipartisan group of moderate senators to reach a compromise solution to the shutdown/debt ceiling disaster. The Washington Post described them as working to create a deal "for the middle from the middle." The Post reports the group’s Democrats include Donnelly, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and independent Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with Democrats. Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, John McCain of Arizona, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Mark Kirk of Illinois. Donnelly and the others are keeping pretty tight lipped ("coy" as the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette put it) about their efforts, which is probably a good thing in the midst of a crisis that seems fueled by partisan rhetoric. It's encouraging to see there is a center and that it is trying to act. Read more from the Journal Gazette here and from the Washington Post here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tara Nelson Announces District 4 Candidacy

Tara Nelson, who ran against Todd Rokita in 2012, has announced she will again seek the Democratic nomination to represent District 4 in Congress at the Democratic District 4 meeting in Rensselaer last Saturday. Nelson says
“With the government shutdown and our congressman making the national news regarding putting down a CNN newswoman anchor, and regarding his comments with affordable healthcare being the most insidious law man has ever made – I really feel that our district deserves better representation.”
Read more from the J&C here, from WBAA here, and WLFI here.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Meyer Will Run for Superior Court Judge

Lafayette councilman Steve Meyer has indicated that he will form a committee for the purpose of running for judge in Tippecanoe County Superior Court 2. Incumbent judge Thomas Busch has said he will not seek re-election. Meyer will have to win the May primary to appear on the November 2014 general election ballot. He will make a formal announcement of his candidacy after the first of the year. Read more from the J&C here.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Center for American Progress Rank Indiana Among Worst States for Women

The Center for American Progress has ranked Indiana as Number 9 in it Top Ten Worst States for Women list in it study "The State of Women in America: A 50-State Analysis of How Women Are Faring Across the Nation." Our state's wage gap in which Indian women earn 73 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn leads the statistical package that includes the state's poverty rate for women and girls (Indiana's was 16.8%,25th highest), percent of women in the legislation (Indiana's was 20.7%, 17th lowest), and the infant mortality rate (Indiana's was 7.6 per 1,000 births, 6th highest). Read more about the ranking from the Detroit Free Press here.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Poll: Majority of Hoosiers Don't Favor Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

Is there momentum for an Indiana constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Indiana? The most recent polling by the bi-partisan Freedom Indiana coalition suggests that there isn't strong voter sentiment for it. 64 percent of survey respondents felt amending the constitution was not the right way to deal with the marriage issue, while 36 percent said it was. 52 percent said they would vote no on the constitutional amendment, and 33 percent said they would vote yes, when asked a question that indicated the amendment also would ban civil unions and domestic partnership benefits offered by employers.

If the Republican-dominated Indiana legislature passes the amendment bill for a second time in the upcoming legislative session, it will go onto the 2014 election ballot as a referendum; should the referendum pass, it would become an amendment to the state constitution. Same-sex marriage is already banned in Indiana by statute. Read more from the J&C here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Post Declares Stutzman "Poster Boy" for the Shutdown

It appears that Todd Rokita isn't the only Indiana legislator embarrassing himself in the spotlight of the Republican's ludicrous government shutdown. While Rokita was scrambling to recover from his sexist remarks to a CNN reporter, Rep. Marlin Stutzman revealed the utter cynicism behind Republican tactics in one quotable utterance: "We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."

Stutzman's gem became the quote of the day in the national media from the Huffington Post to ABC News (who noted the President Obama quoted Stutzman in a speech) to the Washington Post, which noted that Harry Reid offered a mock apology for disrespecting Stutzman and had his quote on a poster beside him at a press conference. The Post's Ezra Klein used Stutzman to illustrate his point about hollowness of the Republican position:
The fight over the shutdown has become unmoored from any particular policy demands the GOP believes it can secure. It's become an issue of pride and politics. At this point, Republicans simply need something so they can tell themselves, and their base, that they didn't lose. They don't know what that something is, exactly. But it needs to be something.
The Post offered this accolade to the Hoosier congressman: "Marlin Stutzman, for becoming the shutdown’s poster boy, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something."

Looks like Rokita's competition as the new Dan Burton is heating up.

Protest Over Rokita's Support of Shutdown

You can see WLFI's coverage of the protest against Todd Rokita's support of the Tea Party shutdown of the federal government here. You can read the Journal and Courier's story on the protest here and see J&C video below.

President's Weekly Address: "End This Shutdown Now"

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bangert Examines Rokita's Stance on the Shutdown and Obamacare

In Dave Bangert's column today on Todd Rokita's stance on healthcare and the shutdown, the J&C columnist noted the negative response to Rokita's statement that Obamacare is "one of the most insidious laws ever created by man," (including mockery from John Stewart) and his condescending and sexist behavior toward CNN reporter, Carol Costello(she cuts off the interview with his with the smug remark, “You’re beautiful, but you have to be honest, as well.”) Bangert concludes as follows:

Why should Todd Rokita worry?

He’s not going anywhere soon. Not at this rate. He’s in his element in this shutdown.

You decide if that’s OK.

You can read Bangert's column here. You can see his interview with Carol Costello here, and John Stewart's take down of Rokita here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pence Appoints Democrat to State Board of Education--Because Law Requires Him To

Governor Pence appointed Democrat Democrat Gordon Hendry, former Director of Economic Development for Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, to replace resigning Republican David Shane on the State Board of Education. But this is no sudden outburst of bi-partisanship on the Governor's part--it is the law. Indiana code requires that there be no more than six members of any party on the Board. The Governor had been passing off Daniel Elsener as an independent, an independent who'd voted in the Republican primary in nine of the past ten elections and had donated thousands to Republican candidates. The unelected Board of Education is a vehicle Governor Pence has chosen to circumvent the elected Democrat Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz. Let's hope Mr. Hendry can serve as a deterrent to those devious efforts. Read more from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Indiana Congressional Responses to Obama's Syria Address

WIBC has provided a digest of responses by members of the Indiana congressional delegation to President Obama's address on a potential strike against Syria and the prospect of a diplomatic solution involving Syria's surrendering its chemical weapons. (Senator Joe Donnelly is not included.) Republicans, unified in their opposition to anything the President proposes, seem to be having a difficult time staking out a reasonable position.

Fifth District Congresswoman Susan Brooks said "I don't believe that a strike will have the intended consequence that we need and that's to, in my view, figure out what is going to happen with all of these chemical weapons that (Bashar al-) Assad has." If the disposition of Assad's weapons is her main concern, why isn't Brooks vigorously supporting negotiations to bring Syria into the chemical weapons convention?

Senator Dan Coats was skeptical of Russia's proposal, fearing some chemical weapons have been moved or stored elsewhere. "It just doesn't seem like a plan that is going to be able to be executed in a way that will make a difference," Coats said. What portion of Assad's chemical weapon supply would have to be destroyed before Coats would consider it to have "made a difference"? 95 percent? 80 percent? 50 percent? It seems like any significant reduction of Assad's access to these weapons could be construed as "making a difference."

And of course Todd Rokita has his usual difficulty in making sense at all.
Fourth District Congressman Todd Rokita said Obama's comment that an attack on Syria would be a limited, targeted strike and not an open-ended conflict was a mistake. "No one can guarantee that. Absolutely no one," Rokita said. Sure, and no one can guarantee that the universe won't end tomorrow at 7:08 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. But certainly designing a strike to be limited in its nature with a promise of "no boots on the ground" means something. Clearly, no movement of troops and materiel comparable to the build up to our "open-ended conflicts" in Afghanistan or Iraq is in progress.

And can anyone parse Rep. Rokita's next statement? "All you do when you say something like that is embolden the guy that you're trying to go after because if he can survive this limited attack, figuratively or literally, then supposedly all is good."So if Assad survives a strike that is not designed to kill him, he wins? What?

You can read more from WIBC here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lake County Court Rules "Right to Work" Unconstitutional

Below is a letter to AFL-CIO members published at the Fox 59 website. Read more here.

Brothers and Sisters,

The Superior Court in Lake County has ruled that Indiana’s falsely labeled right-to-work law violates the state’s constitution – a victory for working families across Indiana and around the nation.

According to the judge’s ruling Indiana’s right-to-work law violates a provision in our state constitution barring the state from requiring a person’s services “without just compensation.”

And while we are overjoyed that this unsafe, unfair and unnecessary law that was rammed through the Indiana General Assembly has been ruled unconstitutional, the fight is not over.

The State of Indiana, through the office of the Indiana Attorney General, will now have the right to appeal the ruling – and the right-to-work law remains in effect until any appeal is concluded.

Regardless of the appeal or what happens next, the working families of Indiana will not rest until it’s off the books altogether …again.

In Solidarity,
Nancy Guyott
President, Indiana AFL-CIO

Sunday, September 8, 2013

State Education Board Does End Run Around Ritz on Strategic Planning Initiative

The Republican assault on Glenda Ritz, Indiana's elected state superintendent of public instruction,continues unabated. Last week the the governor-appointed State Board of Education, which Ritz chairs, voted unanimously to embark on a strategic planning initiative which was sprung on Ritz with no advanced notice by board member and Tony Bennett ally, Daniel Elsener. In the proposed initiative the Board would set a "clear direction" over the next six months so Indiana schools "can move forward faster." Superintendent Ritz asked for a delay so she could review the proposal, but Elsener demanded an immediate vote: "The board wants a strategic plan, and we're going to move forward with it." The plan is for Ritz to participate in strategic planning discussions, but the goal-setting process will be directed by Elsener and the board.

You nay recall that the week before Gov. Pence announced the creation a new state agency, the Center for Education and Career Innovation, without consulting or even informing Ritz.

If Tony Bennett was treated with such high-handed disdain by Democrats, it was a well-kept secret.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

How Indiana Representatives May Vote on the Syria Strike

Yesterday the Huffington Post published a projection of House votes on President Obama's Syria strike. It does not show any Indiana representative voting in favor. In the Undecided column it shows Democrats Carson and Visclosky and Republicans Brooks and Messer; in the No/Lean No it shows Republicans Buschon, Rokita, Stutzman, Walorski, and Young. For the record, the combined projected Yes and Undecided votes would give the President 196, well short of the 217 projected No's. You can see the entire House projection here.

Late yesterday, Republican Luke Messer announced that he would vote for the Syrian strike; see here for details.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pence Uses Obamacare Healthcare Exchanges to Benefit His Health Indiana Program

While Gov. Pence is certainly an uncompromising foe of Obamacare, he seems perfectly happy to take advantage of its provisions to benefit his pet Healthy Indiana Program. HIP has been funding some Hoosiers making up to 200 percent of the poverty level. Under the Affordable Healthcare Act, people making over 100 percent of the poverty level must purchase healthcare through the state healthcare exchanges. While Pence wouldn't support creating a state-run exchange for Hoosiers, he seems to view that as a good deal for his program: “That frees up space for people to enroll in the Healthy Indiana Plan that doesn’t exist today. So there will be more people that move into the exchanges and then it will free up about 10,000 more spots here.” That will help about 20 percent of the 53,000 Hoosiers on the waiting list for Healthy Indiana, leaving about 43,000, not to mention the 400,000 or so who would have coverage under the expanded Affordable Healthcare expanded Medicare coverage that Pence is resisting tooth and nail. Read more here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pence Granted One-Year Extension for Healthy Indiana

Governor Pence has been granted a one-year extension of his pilot of Healthy Indiana, which provides insurance for about 36,000 low-income Hoosiers. The decision allows Pence to continue his continue "a good faith dialogue and discussions with federal officials" about the extension of Medicaid which would provide better insurance for 400,000 uninsured citizens. Governor Pence sees this as a victory; House minority leader Scott Pelath doesn't: "The governor is basically saying he’s willing to let 400,000 people remain uninsured in this state. He’s willing to tell them that their only choice for healthcare is to go to the emergency room, which is costly, wildly chaotic and expensive and passed on to the other taxpayers and premium payers."

(According to the Indianapolis Star, Pelath's characterization of Pence's "emergency room" solution is pretty accurate; the Star reports, "Pence told reporters that the Healthy Indiana Plan is not the only resort for uninsured Hoosiers. He said they can also apply for hospital charity care, or if they have serious health problems, they can 'walk into an emergency room and receive health care.'")

Pelath says Medicaid, with funding from the Affordable Care Act, is the only program that can significantly expand coverage for low-income Hoosiers: “And the fact is, they just don’t want to do it. And they don’t have a good reason; it’s purely about politics and posturing and it has nothing to do with actually making people’s lives better.” Read more from WBAA here.

Monday, September 2, 2013

State Advertises in Times Square

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation is advertising the state's economic environment in Times Square, where two 15-second ads promoting Indiana run every hour on a 26-foot wide digital screen. One such ad is shown below. You may notice hints of Purdue's "Makers All" campaign in the ad. For more on the New York campaign, click here. If we can make it there, we'll make it anywhere . . .

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Indiana Congressional Recations to President's Deferral to Congress on Syria Strike

Today the Indianapolis Star published responses of seven members of the Indiana congressional delegation to President Obama's announcement that he will not move forward with a strike against Syria without the support of Congress.

Senator Joe Donnelly said: “As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I am following the situation very closely. I support President Obama’s decision to seek Congressional approval. Like all Hoosiers, I strongly condemn the use of chemical weapons and am carefully reviewing proposed options for ongoing humanitarian assistance and possible military action. I will be in Washington tomorrow for the briefing and look forward to the debate.” More reaction from Donnelly was published in the Goshen News.

Representative Andre Carson said: “While the images we have seen from Syria are horrific and cannot be ignored, we must be deliberative when it comes to military action. It is clear a chemical attack occurred and that it is just the latest in a series of atrocities in Syria. I am glad the President is coming to Congress. In the coming days I will be considering all available information to make the best decision for Hoosiers and our nation.”

As we have come to expect, Rep. Todd Rokita's response was partisan, confrontational, disrespectful to the President, and illogical. Concerning Obama's suggestion that he feels he has constitutional authority to act without Congressional approval, Rokita suggests the President, who has taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, has no respect for the Constitution: “Unless I misunderstood what he was saying, his attitude suggests that he does not respect the constitutional boundaries of his job.” Rokita also argues that the Syrian conflict is of no strategic interest to the US: “You have to remember that these are two groups of people that if they weren’t fighting each other, they’d be fighting us. I’m just not seeing the connection as far as national security.” Good luck sorting out the logic of that statement!

Read all of the Star's responses here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

J&C Editorial Urges Backing Away from Gay Marriage Amendment

An editorial from the Journal and Courier urges the Indiana GOP not to move forward with the proposed amendment to the Indiana constitution banning gay marriage (there is already a statute against it). If legislators in both houses vote in favor of the amendment for a second time in the upcoming legislative session, it will appear as a referendum on the 2014 ballot, and, if successful, it would then be incorporated into the state constitution. The editors note that public opinion in Indiana is changing on the subject, with the Indiana public now about evenly split on the subject. The editors also note the centrist opposition to the amendment from Freedom Indiana, opposition which includes Indiana-based corporation Eli Lilly and Cummins. The editorial concludes: "There’s still time for the General Assembly to back away from a constitutional amendment that never needed to be considered in the first place." Read the entire editorial here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

President's Speech on 50th Anniversary of March on Washington

Rokita Says Belief in Human-Caused Climate Change Is "Arrogant"

The Huffington Post reports that Rep. Todd Rokita told the Purdue Exponent that not only that he does not believe in human-caused climate change, he doesn't believe that humans are capable of affect the climate: “I think it’s arrogant that we think as people that we can somehow change the climate of the whole earth when science is telling us that there’s a cycle to all this and that cycle was occurring before the industrial revolution and I suspect will occur way into the future.” No one would argue that there haven't been major changes in climate before humanity was even on the planet, but the Exponent cites "a report to be released next month by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will say that scientists are 95 percent certain climate change is caused by humans." Here is the Huffington Post article, and here is the Exponent article.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Donnelly Visits Purdue Defense Lab

On his Serving Those Who Serve tour of the state, Senator Joe Donnelly stopped in West Lafayette today to visit Purdue's Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, where student engineers and researchers develop defense systems. Donnelly said, "I would hope that everybody who says that no (federal) funds are wisely spent, that there’s no need for any government to be involved in anything, would take a look at what we’re doing here at Purdue." Purdue has received nearly 700 defense- and security-related awards, totaling $244 million since 2008. Defense is a growing element in the state's economy; the number of defense contractors in Indiana has grown from 400 in 2001 to more than 1,100 in 2010, according to Indiana Business Research Center. Read more from the Journal and Courier about Sen. Donnelly's visit here.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pence Cuts Ritz Out of the Planning for New Center on Education and Jobs

Last Thursday Governor Pence announced the creation of the Center for Education and Career Innovation to serve as a collaboration point for state agencies helping students and adults prepare for quality careers. The announcement indicated that the new center would "partner" with the Indiana Department of Education, led by Superintendent Glenda Ritz who defeated then incumbent Tony Bennett in the 2012 election. This prompted a terse response from Ritz's office:

Partnerships require communication. Unfortunately, Superintendent Ritz learned about the creation of this new agency through news reports, rather than from Governor Pence. Superintendent Ritz has met with the Governor on many occasions, including as recently as two days ago. However, neither he, nor his office, mentioned the creation of this new agency until this morning.

“Superintendent Ritz remains committed to transforming Indiana’s K-12 education system into one of equity and high quality for all students and she looks forward to working with all Hoosiers to achieve that goal. Last November, 1.3 million Hoosiers said that they trusted her to run the Department of Education. Hoosier students would be better off if the Governor would work with her, rather than around her on this vital issue.”

The Center may be a fine initiative to help the state move forward, but why would the Governor exclude Ritz from the discussion except for political reasons? But, at another level, wouldn't it have have benefited Pence to include her in the initiative, to show that he was willing to ignore politics to benefit the people of the state?

Here is the Star's coverage of the Center's launch. And here is an editorial from the Muncie Voice, arguing that Pence was attempting an "end-around" of Ritz.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

LIlly and Cummins Join the Battle to Resist Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment

Two of Indiana's largest corporate employers, Eli Lilly and Cummins Engines, have joined Freedom Indiana's campaign to derail a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in Indiana. Lilly spokesman Rob Smith called the marriage amendment unfair: “So our values and our commitment to diversity require us to take a stand opposing this amendment.” Cummins spokesman Jon Mills said, “We need a welcoming environment in order to recruit, attract, and retain the best talent." A WISH-TV/Ball State Hoosier Survey conducted late last year found 54 percent opposed to the marriage amendment and just 38 percent in support; respondents were evenly split on legalizing gay marriage at 45 to 45 percent. If the amendment passes in the upcoming legislative session, it would be voted on as a referendum in the 2014 elections. Read more about the fight against the amendment here and here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

State's Largest School System Rejects School Grades

The state's largest school system is bailing out on the state's school grades because, as the Tony Bennett scandal demonstrated, they could be manipulated. The Ft. Wayne Community Schools board voted 6-to-1 for the resolution that says it will no longer give public recognition to A to F grades. Board president Mark GiaQuinta said, “Once we learned that the system could be manipulated based, in part, on campaign contributions,that certainly was the final nail in the coffin.” The board has invited other districts to adopt their resolution. Chuck Little of the Indiana Urban Schools Association said "I’m glad that someone led the way." Read more here. WLFI reports that Lafayette School Corporation is not likely to follow Fort Wayne's lead.

LSC unlikely to join grading scale rejection

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pelath and Lanane Request Broad Ethical Review

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath and Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane have written to Indiana's Inspector General David Thomas requesting, in the light of the Tony Bennett scandal, a broad review of ethical matters in Indiana state government, including "concerns about rulings involving Interstate 69 land deals by an Indiana Department of Transportation official and his family and former Gov. Mitch Daniels' appointment as Purdue University's president upon leaving office in January," according to the AP story you can read here.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Obama Administration on the Same Side of Prayer Issue as Republicans

The Fort Wayne News Sentinel notes that the Obama administration is on the same side of the issue of prayer at the start of legislative sessions as Republicans, including Indiana attorney general Greg Zeller. Zeller offered an op-ed piece to Indiana papers arguing that it was his "duty" to offer an amicus brief supporting the overthrow of an appeals court ruling at prayers at the start of legislative sessions. Surprisingly, the Obama administration has also submitted an amicus brief lines up on the same side of the issue. The Obama brief argues the following: “The historical purpose of providing such an opportunity is not to provide a forum for private prayer; it is to solemnize the body’s proceedings and seek divine guidance for the body’s deliberations.” You can read the Obama brief at the NPR site here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Medicaid Expansion Would Reduce Indiana Uninsured by 55%

A study by by the Urban Institute for the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid projects that the expansion of Medicaid sought for Obamacare would reduce the number of Indiana's non-elderly uninsured adults from 17 percent to 8 percent. Indiana would be one of the largest beneficiaries: its 54.6 percent drop would be the eighth largest drop among the states. (In fact every state would see at least a 25 percent decrease in their uninsured, except Massachusetts, which has only 5 percent uninsured thanks to Romneycare!) Meanwhile, Gov. Pence is trying to get the Healthy Indiana initiative approved as a substitute for Medicaid, despite the fact that the federal government will pay for all of the Medicaid expansion for two years and 90 percent after that (Republicans say they think the feds won't honor that commitment). This is a purely political boondoggle on the Governor's part, one that will deny health security to thousands Hoosiers whose lives would be significantly uplifted by it. And that is a great shame. Read more about the report here.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Task Force to Review School Grading System; Two Public Schools Could Have Avoided Take Over by Christel Standards

In further fallout from the revelations of Tony Bennett's efforts to manipulate Indiana's school grading system, Senate President Pro Tem David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma have announced Friday the creation of an independent task force to review the system. The two members of the task force are John Grew, a former aide Gov. Frank O’Bannon, and Bill Sheldrake, the former head of the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute. The task force's work is expected to be completed by Labor Day. Read more here.

Scott Elliott of the Indy Star reports that two struggling Indianapolis public schools would have avoided being taken over by the state had they been granted the same considerations given to Christel House. Like the charter school, the two public schools had just expanded to include middle school students who brought the schools' grades down. Unlike Bennett's extraordinary efforts to help Christel House by excluding its middle schoolers, Bennett refused to honor the request of of the IPS superintendent to do the same for his schools. The president of the Indiana State Teachers Association made no bones about how she viewed Bennett's actions: "It’s time to call the Tony Bennett letter-grading scandal exactly what it is — cheating. There are no excuses for the actions taken by Bennett and his staff, as revealed in the string of emails, other than favoritism, cronyism, self-interest and hubris — none of which has a place in public school policymaking.” Read more here.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bennett Resigns as Florida's Education Commissioner

Still defiant about the "malicious, unfounded reports" of rigging Indiana's school grading system to favor a donor's charter school, Tony Bennett stepped down today as Florida's commissioner for education. After a meeting with Gov. Rick Scott, who had praised Bennett yesterday, Bennett decided to resign rather than become a distraction to the governor's education initiatives. Bennett asked Indiana’s inspector general, David Thomas, to investigate the matter, and feels confident he will be exonerated. Here is New York Times coverage, and you can see more in-depth coverage from the Indy Star here; this includes video of Bennett's resignation speech.

Here is Chris Hayes' commentary on the "culture of corruption" reflected in Bennett (thanks for the tip to Mike Smith).

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ritz Will Review Bennett School Grades; Long Calls Grade Manipulation "Completely Unacceptable"

In the light of the revelations of Tony Bennett's manipulation of his own A-F grading system for schools, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz says her Department of Education is examining the current A-F grade calculations "to ensure that every school has the grade they earned in 2012; nothing more, nothing less." Meanwhile, Bennett maintains that he urged changes in the grading system because he thought it was flawed: "It is absurd that anyone would believe that I would change the grade of a school based on a political donor or trying to hide schools from accountability. That's fictitious at best and it's totally unfounded." Read the emails, folks; it's absurd to believe anything else.

Happily, Bennett's disingenuous claims aren't selling too well. Republican Senate Pro Tem David Long is calling for annual third-party audits of the A-F grades: "The big issue is the fact that it would appear one or more school's grade was manipulated. That's completely unacceptable. . . . If there's one thing that can't be allowed, it's that any school grades can ever be allowed to be manipulated again." And Pioneer Institute executive director Jim Stergios said Bennett should resign his new position as Florida's education commissioner for violating the trust of Indiana students and parents. "All you have as an official is your credibility. And that people trust you to do the right thing. He has been entrusted with the hopes of parents and the aspirations of children. That's a sacred trust."

Read more reactions to the Bennett school grading scandal here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bennett Emails Show Grade for Donor's Charter School Changed From C to A

The same enterprising investigative journalist who exposed Mitch Daniels emails about Howard Zinn has uncovered what might be a worse scandal involving former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett actually falsifying his patented A-F letter grading system for schools to move a Republican donor's charter school from an earned C to an A. Christel House Academy charter school is funded by Christel DeHaan, who "has given more than $2.8 million to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett and thousands more to state legislative leaders," according to the AP story. When Bennett learned that the school would receive a C grade, he wrote to Gov. Daniels' chief of staff, "They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work." (Think about the Alice in Wonderland logic of that statement!) Later he wrote to her, "This will be a HUGE problem for us." Finally Bennett wrote to his staff as follows:
“I am more than a little miffed about this. I hope we come to the meeting today with solutions and not excuses and/or explanations for me to wiggle myself out of the repeated lies I have told over the past six months.”
And lo, the system was somehow manipulated so that Christel House Academy got the A rating that was HUGE to Bennett. Read more from the Journal and Courier here.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Refinancing Saves Lafayette $8.3 Million

Taking advantage of record low interest rates, the City of Lafayette is refinancing 11 bond issues that will save the city a total of $8.3 million, says the Journal and Courier: "The refinancings eliminated $6 million in interest on water pollution control projects; nearly $1.9 million in interest on road and infrastructure improvements; and about $415,000 in interest on parks projects." Mayor Roswarski notes that savings on the park bonds "puts money back in the pockets of taxpayers." The mayor is also optimistic about using the savings on water pollution to help the city meet new federal standards on phosphorous. Read more from the J&C here.

Monday, July 22, 2013

"Trayvon Martin Could Have Been Me": Pres. Obama's Remarks on the Zimmerman Verdict

Here is President Obama's carefully reasoned and yet personal statement responding to the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. You can read the the text of it here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Donnelly Opposes House Farm Bill Without Food Stamps

The House of Representatives has passed a farm bill that does not include any funding for food stamps. Sen. Dan Coats (who voted for the Senate-passed farm bill with food stamps included) thinks this is fine: "I think it’s created problems to the point where we ought to identify both of these as essential programs that have to be addressed. I don’t believe they need to be tied together." Sen. Joe Donnelly understands that food stamps were included in the farm bill to win votes of legislators from largely urban states: “In the House’s version, we have no plan to be able to provide a single lunch to a needy child and I don’t see how that passes." Donnelly's biggest concern is House Republicans' lack of any plan for food stamp funding, even in separate legislation. Read more here.

Pelath Reminds Republicans Why Indiana Has a $1.94 Billion Surplus

Gov. Pence and other Republican are touting the unexpected growth in the state's end-of-fiscal-year surplus to $1.94 billion. Gov. Pence says the reserves lay a “foundation for economic growth and prosperity, upon which I believe we will be able to get this economy moving again.” Businesses want fiscal stability: “It is a lead selling point for the state of Indiana. It is an asset to all of our businesses, and it is directly related to job creation."

House Democratic leader Scott Pelath reminds them of an inconvenient truth:
“Families still are struggling to keep their heads above water. Our local schools still must grapple with doing more with less. Thanks to the stubbornness of our leadership, too many families still must rely upon the emergency room as their only health care option. And let us not forget that these huge surplus numbers also were built on providing fewer services for the people of Indiana.”
Read more from the Indy Star here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Legal Costs Rung Up by Republicans Tilting at Ideological Wndmills

Political columnist Brian Howey has a great column on the expenditures of Republican administrations defending "controversial" laws that are transparently unconstitutional. Howey notes the record:
In the past five years, legislation passed by the Indiana General Assembly has defunded Planned Parenthood and created new immigration laws, and there have been moves to amend the Indiana Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. In addition, the Indiana attorney general has challenged a key provision in the Affordable Care Act, and the Indiana treasurer attempted to thwart the 2009 merger of Chrysler and Fiat.
The Planned Parenthood law and parts of the immigration bill have been judged unconstitutional. "The irony here," Howey observes, "is that Hoosier lawmakers and officeholders — many carrying a copy of the U.S. Constitution in their pockets — routinely pass legislation that fails to pass constitutional muster." This happens often enough that Indiana has paid $916,426.37 in plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees to American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana in 16 lawsuits where ACLU prevailed against the state since 2008. And Richard Mourdock paid $2 million to a New York law firm in a hopeless challenge to the Chrysler/Fiat merger that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear (and which would have put Chrysler out of business and thousands of Hoosiers out of work).

How many taxpayer dollars will be poured down legal drains so that Republican administrators can try to score ideological points? Read Brian Howey's column here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Rokita and the Limits of Democratic Discourse

Dave Bangert wrote eloquently in Sunday's J&C about the problem that eats at our legislative processes: the ideological intransigence of one party (you can figure out which one) that prevents them from even considering another perspective on questions that are vital to our interests as a country and do, in fact, have more than one side to them. Bangert illustrates this principle with Congressman Todd Rokita's Congress on Your Corner session last week:
"During a question-and-answer time with a West Lafayette teen — one who had been part of a contingent from the local Moms Demand Action, a pro-gun control group — Rokita was pressed on his frequently stated belief that gun ownership is a God-given right protected by the Second Amendment. . . . After some muddy attempts to question Rokita’s use of faith in governing, the question came back to this: You may have a right to defend yourself, but when it comes to gun control, isn’t it the job of the government to set and control those rights? Rokita salted the question: 'No. See, that’s why you’ll never be able to communicate with me this way, because you have a fundamental different perspective on who gives someone the rights found in our Constitution.'"
So Rep. Rokita's belief makes it impossible to speak to the issue with a constituent? How can a democracy run on that basis? Or as Bangert frames the problem:
"So when a constituent asks about how better background checks on gun purchases might fit in with that God-given right and a congressman implies the question itself is proof that there’s no reason to continue the conversation, we have a bigger problem than just a debate over where the Second Amendment begins and ends. . . . Can we just talk here? Apparently only if we’re fundamentally on the same page."
Read Bangert's column here.

Indiana Democratic Party Seeks Interns

Do you know a student or young person looking to gain hands-on experience working in politics? The Indiana Democratic Party is seeking talented and dedicated individuals to fill internship roles at its headquarters in Indianapolis for Fall 2013. This is an outstanding opportunity to get hands-on experience working in the exciting office of a state political party. Positions will be awarded through a competitive application process.

Click here for more information!

If you or someone you know is interested in taking part in the IDP Internship Program, please e-mail Peter Hanscom at or call 317-231-7100.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Donnelly, Coats Split on Immigration Reform Bill

Just for the record, Sen. Joe Donnelly was among the 68-vote majority in favor of the Senate immigration reform bill. While considering it an imperfect bill, he viewed it a step in the right direction. Sen. Coats voted against it because only requires the government to promise increased security measures. Coats is counting on the House to craft “more credible” legislation. What are the odds Sen. Coats will be disappointed in that hope? Read more here.

Pence Has No Alternative if Healthy Indiana Can't Subsititute Medicaid Expansion

Gov. Pence is not preparing an alternative plan if the federal government opts not to recognize Healthy Indiana as an alternative to Medicaid expansion in Indiana. As reported by Northwest Indiana Times:
Debra Minott, Indiana's secretary of the Family and Social Services Administration, told the General Assembly's Health Finance Commission the governor believes preserving the Healthy Indiana Plan, which covers 37,316 participants, is a higher priority than negotiating a Medicaid alternative, which would cover some 400,000 Hoosiers.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence has refused to expand Medicaid eligibility as directed by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, because he believes the federal government will not keep its promises to adequately fund the program.

As a result, Indiana will give up 30,000 jobs and an estimated $10.45 billion in federal money that otherwise would be spent in the state through 2020, according to the Indiana Hospital Association.
And what is the plan for the uncovered Hoosiers if the feds do not recognize Healthy Indiana? "We will be making sure they are aware of the community health centers in their communities, free clinics that are available in multiple places around the state and other safety net-type resources," says Secretary Minott.

So, to summarize, Gov. Pence is willing to leave about 360,000 Hoosiers without health care coverage (not to mention the funds and the jobs) based on his belief that the federal government will keep its word to fund Medicaid expansion.

Read the NWI Times complete coverage here.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

House Leader Pelath's Response to DOMA Overturn

Here is a message from House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath regarding the Supreme Court's overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act.
“For many years, Republicans argued that nothing was more important than preventing marriage equality. Many Democrats, including me, argued that the prosperity of our workers was pre-eminent. Today, there was vindication of Democratic priorities.

At the same time, I am embarrassed for those who continue to press the case for inequality. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled. The federal Defense of Marriage Act has been ruled unconstitutional. Public support for marriage equality continues to grow at a time when any legal justification for inequality is withering. The time has come for Indiana lawmakers to pour their energies into helping our state’s struggling middle class. There is no need to muddy up our state’s highest document with an amendment that is likely to be a blemish on Indiana’s history. A number of states now have marriage equality. From them, we have learned several things. Families remain important. People still practice the Golden Rule. And folks have a lot greater concerns than who loves whom.

We have many problems in the state of unemployment rate that continues to hover over 8 percent, families scrambling to make ends meet, and public schools trying to do more with less. We need to fight for changes that make people’s lives better, not waste our people’s vitality on more division.”
Note the contrast to Gov. Pence's bleak statement of yesterday.