Monday, February 25, 2013

Ohio Gov. Kasich Pushes for Medicaid Expansion

An important factor in the Affordable Health Care Act's ability to cover more Americans with health insurancwe is the expansion of Medicaid. While Indiana Governor Mike Pence is fighting with the feds about allowing Indiana to expand the Healthy Indiana Program instead of Medicaid, Ohio's conservative governor John Kasich is urging his Republican dominated legislature to allow the Medicaid expansion, and for very good reasons: “And I’ve got to tell you, I can’t look at the disabled, I can’t look at the poor, I can’t look at the mentally ill, I can’t look at the addicted and think we ought to ignore them.” Kasich is as conservative a governor as we have, and he's found biblical reasons to provide his state with significant federal dollars to support Medicare expansion. Maybe Gov. Pence is reading a different translation.

Read more about Gov. Kasich's biblically-based decision on Medicaid expansion here.

Sequester's Impact on Indiana

The White House has released a report showing the one-year impact of the sequester on each state. You can see the report for Indiana here.

Perhaps the biggest impact would be felt in Indiana's already struggling schools. Indiana will lose approximately $13.8 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 190 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 12,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 50 fewer schools would receive funding. In addition, Indiana will lose approximately $12.4 million in funds for about 150 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities. Around 2,170 fewer low income students in Indiana would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 1,020 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.

Indiana would lose about $3.3 million in environmental funding, and approximately 11,000 civilian Department of Defense employees
would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $64.4 million. Indiana's report also outlines the national repercussions.

Republicans charge that the President is exaggerating the damage that the sequester will do. Look at the numbers and decide for yourself. Keep in mind that the sequester was designed to be so awful that the parties would feel compelled to come together to prevent its meat cleaver approach to addressing the debt. Apparently it wasn't awful enough to overcome Republican's unwavering aversion to a balanced approach like the President's proposal that cuts two dollars in spending for every dollar of new revenue.

Ritz's Office Will Retain Control of Voucher Plan Implementation

House Republicans have dropped a bill that would have taken the authority to implement the state's controversial voucher plan away from the State Superintendent of Public Education's Office and given it to the Governor's office. House Speaker Brian Bosma and House Education Committee Chair Robert Behning spoke with Secretary Ritz about implementing the program despite her personal opposition to it and were satisfied that she would carry out the law. Behning said, "She has been very forthright that she will faithfully fulfill her obligations." On Thursday the House voted to expand the voucher program's reach. You can read more from the Journal and Courier here.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Klinker Votes in Favor of House Budget

Rep. Sheila Klinker voted in favor of the budget proposed by Republicans in the House of Representatives last week, a budget that lacked the ten percent cut in state income taxes that Governor Pence wanted. Klinker said her constituents did not want the cut:
"I know right now the governor is not happy with it because it does not add the 10 percent cut. But, Representative Truitt and I have surveyed many of our people and they would, rather than having the cut, they would rather have those dollars go to education."
The budget raises funding for education three percent, a strong motivator for Klinker: "Education has taken such a back seat in the last few years and has really had a tough time keeping their teachers on staff and recruiting new teachers. So, I think it's a good step forward."

WLFI coverage of the vote is below.

Budget without tax cuts moves forward

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pence's Tax Cut Left Out of Republican Budget; Pelath Promotes a Vote on It

Gov. Pence reported that he was "very disappointed" that his proposed ten percent cut in state income tax was not included in the budget proposed by House Republicans. Given the high profile the Governor had given that his proposal, "very disappointed" may be putting it mildly. You can read more about the administration's reaction to the slight here.

Oddly, House Minority Leader Scott Pelath says the Governor's tax cut proposal deserves a vote, that some of his fellow Democrats will vote for it, that it would benefit the state's middle class, and that he can force a vote on it through amendments. Some argue that Pelath is merely manuevering the Republicans into having to vote against a tax cut, a charge he denies. Read more about Pelath's interesting position here. And stay tuned!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Out-of-state Student Voting Bill Withdrawn

The J&C editorial staff put it well in their Friday editorial: "An assault on the voting rights of more than 11,000 out-of-state students at Purdue University — and for tens of thousands more in other Indiana college communities — has ended. For now." Indiana's home-grown version of voter suppression (HB 1311), one which would prevent anyone residing in our state for educational purposes only from voting in Indiana, has been withdrawn from consideration in the current legislative session and referred to a summer study committee.

The bill's nominal purpose was to prevent students from voting twice, once in the state where they are attending school and once in their home state; as the J&C editors point out, that is already a Class D felony. Never mind that no hard data on the extent of this particular form of vote fraud has been shown and that the college student population is more friendly toward a Democratic agenda than that of the supermajority Republicans. Most tellingly, like many of recent radical right proposals, this one is likely to be found unconstitutional. These self-proclaimed defenders of the constitution regularly ignore it when it doesn't support their ideology. As the J&C editors note:
"The biggest problem, though, is one that won’t go away by the time a study committee convenes this summer. The bill is likely unconstitutional. Similar efforts to screen college students and weed them out of local, Waller County, Texas, elections were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1979."
The editors call it as they see it: "The voter suppression effort here needs to be put out of its misery." Read the editorial urging legislators to "give up on the attack on students' voting rights" here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rokita Plans to Fill Obama Leadership Gap

Inside Indiana Business has provide a digest of the official reactions to the President's State of the Union by most of the members of Indiana's Congressional delegation. You can see it here.

Rep. Todd Rokita's response is unique in its vacuous epic-scale hubris. He begins by indicating that President Obama shows no leadership: "Once again the president has offered us empty promises and divisive rhetoric. I wish it were different, I wish I had a leader to work with." (What's with the first person singular pronoun? Has the US legislative agenda boiled down to a negotiation between Rep. Rokita and President Obama? Did we miss something here?) So where should the leadership-starved citizenry turn? Why to Rep. Rokita, of course.
"There is a better way. Through smart, limited, constitutional government, we can reclaim our birthright as Americans to live in an exceptional nation. In the coming weeks, I will be working to show that better way. First, I will work to pass a real balanced budget, one that will actually pay for our national priorities, and allow Americas the opportunity to succeed."
We are certainly blessed to have Rokita's balanced budget in the offing to restore our nation to its exceptional status.

Seriously?

2013 State of the Union

In case you missed it or simply want to see it again, here is President Obama's powerful State of the Union address from last night. The first since his convincing re-election, the 2013 State of the Union was considered his best so far by many reviewers.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Constitutional Ban on Gay Marriage Vote Deferred

While three other states are legalizing gay marriage, while the Department of Defense is granting marriage rights to married gay service members, while Great Britain (with the support of its Conservative Prime Minister) has legalized gay marriage, Indiana legislators are making an important decision on this issue as well: they will defer a vote on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Indiana. And for the best of reasons--they think there's a chance the conservative US Supreme Court will rule against state-level marriage bans this summer, conceding that gay US citizens have the right to marry whomever they please, just like heterosexual citizens. "It seems prudent for us to wait, given that the Supreme Court could find ours as well as many other statutes around the country, and constitutional amendments, unconstitutional according to the federal constitution, which would take priority over our own," says Republican Senate President Pro Tem, David Long.

Does the fact that Republican leaders consider it "prudent" not to act on a gay marriage ban suggest that they actually know, in their heart of hearts, it is unconstitutional and soon will be recognized as such? If they were confident that it is constitutional, why stop when they have super majorities in both Indiana chambers?

Read more about the decision to delay here.

Where Does the Pence Roadmap Go, Anyway?

The director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, John Krull, wrote an op-ed for the Louisville Courier Journal reflecting what he sees as a concern among Indiana legislators that Governor Pence is providing very little leadership for the legislature. He suggests that many of them would have preferred proven leaders like John Gregg or Becky Skillman as governor. He concludes, "At some point, Mike Pence will have to stop waving his roadmap around, get behind the wheel and drive the state somewhere. The question that remains is where he wants to go." You can read Krull's op-ed here.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mayor Roswarski's 2013 State of the City Address: “What Kind of Community Do We Want to Be?”

In Mayor Roswarski's 2013 State of the City Address, delivered at the February 4 city council meeting, he noted that over $600 million in public and private investments were made in Lafayette last year. Positive developments in the city included the opening of Nanshan Aluminum Technologies’ new plant; expansions at SIA, Alcoa, Heartland Automotive; and investments by Wabash National, Rea Magnet Wire, Kirby Risk, Lafayette Community Bank, Gander Mountain and Metro-Net Fiber. But the final part of his address focused on a broader question: “What kind of community do we want to be?” And he challenged community members to become involved:
“What can I do for my community? Am I willing to help address the tough issues and have the difficult conversations? What am I willing to do for the heart and soul of Lafayette? The bottom line is, we can all do something and it is unacceptable to do nothing!”
The J&C coverage of Mayor Roswarski's address is here. You can see Mayor Tony Roswarski's 2013 State of the City address to the Lafayette City Council on the YouTube recording of the February 4 meeting below. You can go directly to the Mayor's speech by forwarding to the 15-minute mark of the video.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Gerrymandering Still Shapes Indiana's Representation

Columnist Brian Howey wrote in his column published today that 2012 was the first election to feature the new districts mapped in 2011. The results show how gerrymandering still impacts state representation. Republicans won 53 percent of votes cast for the US House of Representatives,but won seven out of nine seats (78 percent). Likewise, in the state House Republican candidates carried about 54 percent of the total vote but won 69 of the 100 seats (69 percent). For the US House the situation was even more distorted, with Democratic candidates actually winning more votes than the Republicans, 49 percent to 48, but Republicans ended up with a 234-201 majority of the seats. Read Howey's column here.

Column Challenges Rokita on Gun Control

A guest column in the J&C challenges Rep. Todd Rokita's logic on gun control measures. Steve Eddy argues that rather than exercising "thoughtful deliberation," Rokita relies on "rigid ideology that seems to blind him to the needs of the people of the 4th District, as well as of the nation." Noting the Rokita argues that gun control would impinge on Second Amendment rights, Eddy notes that the Supreme Court, the ultimate adjudicator of constitutionality, has said (in an opinion by conservative justice Antonin Scalia), “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose ...” Scalia continues, “Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

In response to Rokita's statement that "more gun control will not stop evil," Eddy observes that "well-enforced gun control laws might prevent evil people from accessing weapons that allow them to kill 26 people in a matter of minutes at Sandy Hook, or killing or wounding dozens in Aurora."

You can read the rest of the op-ed here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Governor's Tort Reform Legislation Withdrawn

Mike Pence's version of tort reform--the loser pays all legal fees for both parties--was quietly withdrawn from the legislative agenda because, as Republican Sen. Brent Steele, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee observed: “It doesn’t work.” It is unworkable because determining just who is the loser in a lawsuit is difficult — and impossible in “no fault” divorce cases. Will the Governor's proposed 10 percent state income tax reduction meet the same fate? Seems like the Pence agenda isn't going over great with his own party. Maybe he'd do better with a jobs bill, as Democratic House leader Scott Pelath has called for. Read more about the vanished tort reform here.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pelath to Pence: "Where's the Jobs Bills?"

House Democratic leader Scott Pelath thinks Gov. Pence isn't providing much leadership for the legislative session that has Republicans with super majorities in both houses. Pence took office declaring that jobs are his top priority, and during this "honeymoon" period he should be making good on his election commitments. But, Pelath says, we haven't seen any action in that area: “There are a quarter million Hoosiers out of work, looking for work, and in danger of dropping out of the middle class, and a quarter of the (legislative) session is over and we have not seen a single measure to put people back to work now.” Read more here.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Man and His Shotgun

In an interview in the February 11 New Republic President Obama was asked if he had ever shot a gun, and the President responded "Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time." In our current political atmosphere his statement generated considerable skepticism, so Press Secretary Jay Carney tweeted the photograph below. The NRA was not impressed; see Huffington Post.