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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