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.