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.