Jim Shella

Susan Brooks questions the Obama Administration Ebola response

October 17th, 2014 at 2:35 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The President is under growing pressure from Republicans in Congress who want to see an increased response to the Ebola crisis.  One of those Republicans is Indiana Representative Susan Brooks (R-5th District.)

Rep. Brooks is the chairman of the Emergency Preparedness subcommittee of the Homeland Security committee in Congress.  In that role she sent two letters to the Obama Administration this week urging that new travel restrictions be created.

A letter to the director of Homeland Security and Secretary of State John Kerry recommends the suspension of over 13,000 visas held by individuals in West Africa until the outbreak is under control.

A second letter is prompted by news that Ebola victim Amber Vinson traveled by plane from Dallas to Cleveland after being exposed to the virus.  Brooks calls on the Director of the Centers for Disease Control to place healthcare workers who, like Vinson, treated an Ebola patient on a Do Not Board list for a minimum of 21 days.

“So that individuals who are coming into contact with any of these victims should not be allowed to board our airplanes right now,” she said.

Brooks says she is pleased by the selection of Hoosier Ron Klain to be Ebola Czar even though he has no expertise in the battle against infectious disease.

But she is also critical of the Obama Administration for eliminating the position called Special Assistant to the President for Biodefense Policy that existed in the Bush Administration.

“How is it,” she asked, “that there isn’t someone in the White House who wakes up each and every day concerned about biodefense?”

Brooks has requested that the CDC respond to her questions by next Tuesday.

In the meantime, Representative Brooks will meet with leaders from the State Board of Health and the Marion County Health Department on Monday.  The goal is to help create better coordination with the federal government as the battle against Ebola continues.


October 17th, 2014 at 12:58 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

All of the regulars will be on hand today as the Indiana Week in Review panel considers these subjects:

  • House Speaker Bosma calls for more education funding, Democrats call him a hypocrite
  • Bosma promises bi-partisan ethics reform
  • A to F school grades delayed
  • Big name campaign help for Mike Delph’s opponent
  • Bosma opens the door to Sunday liquor sales
  • Jim Irsay returns from suspension

Adults are targeted in juvenile expungement fair

October 16th, 2014 at 3:38 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Youthful indiscretions. Maybe you committed one or two and, just maybe, the cops were involved.

If that’s true, you have a record, and that record follows you unless you do something about it.

The legal term is expungement. A judge can, in some cases, wipe your record clean.

But you have to request it.

Trouble is, many people who have made a trip to the Juvenile Justice Center believe that juvenile records are private and, in some cases, they are public.

“And they also tend to think that if they turn 18 that it magically goes away,” said Juvenile Defender Jill Johnson, “and that’s not the case.”

But that trip to the juvenile center can be erased from your record if you file a petition to a judge seeking expungement.

JauNae Hanger of the Children’s Policy and Law Initiative is one of the organizers of a first-of-its-kind expungement fair that will be conducted Saturday to increase awareness.

It will take place at four locations around town, including Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, where lawyers will show people how to seek expungement of their juvenile records.

“It could be somebody who just has an arrest on their record,” said Hanger. “That doesn’t go away unless you expunge it.”  And that’s even without a conviction.

The Edna Martin Christian Center will also host the fair. “You can make a mistake as long as you recover from it,” said Altina Truss of the Martin Center. “So, this is an opportunity for some people to recover from that one mistake.”

And if it’s successful there will be more fairs to follow.

Expungement, meantime, is not guaranteed.  It may require a hearing and a judge must make a ruling.  It can take 6 to 8 weeks to accomplish.

Federal grant will fight housing discriminatiion in Indianapolis

October 15th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Housing discrimination is a big problem in Central Indiana and the federal government is now spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to combat it.

A recent study found that more than 80% of African Americans in this area have experienced housing discrimination.  The same is true for 70% of Latinos.

It comes in various forms, for example, banks have been found guilty of a failure to maintain foreclosed homes in diverse neighborhoods.

Both Bank of America and Wells Fargo have agreed to settlements in the last two years for their actions in neighborhoods like the one on the south side where Crystal Kostal lives.

“The one house, the weeds grow up past it,” she told 24 Hour News 8 last year, “and coons live in it.”

Those settlements were reached with the help of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana.  Amy Nelson is the executive director, who says, “We’ve also filed some cases against some mobile home parks, one of which was refusing families with children.”

Wednesday Nelson’s organization was awarded a $325,000 grant to continue its efforts to eliminate housing discrimination.

Congressman André Carson helped secure the grant.  “It’s necessary because the government can’t do it all,” he said.

“This is life and death, yeah,” said Nelson. “We couldn’t survive without this particular grant.”

The money will be used to investigate claims of discrimination like the ones that were uncovered on the south side.  It will be renewed for three years, meaning the Fair Housing Center will receive almost a million dollars.

“We need to dismantle a mentality,” said Rep. Carson, “that says minorities should not be a part of the greater society and they shouldn’t be great contributors as it relates to paying rent and being upstanding citizens.”

The Fair Housing Center receives about 125 complaints of housing discrimination in Central Indiana each year.  It won the grant in a national competition and this is the first time it has ever received a multi-year grant.

Speaker Bosma opens the door to Sunday liquor sales

October 14th, 2014 at 5:22 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

House Speaker Brian Bosma opened the door Tuesday to renewed debate in the General Assembly over Sunday liquor sales.

“I really don’t have a problem with Sunday sales,” said the Speaker.  “We have them already.”

Bosma is referring to the Sunday sales that are permitted for craft brewers and farm wineries.

State lawmakers avoided the issue of Sunday sales for retailers earlier this year but big box stores and grocery chains continue to push for the opportunity to sell alcoholic beverages seven days a week.

In a news conference called to spell out his 2015 priorities Bosma said a House committee will take up the matter.

“It’s a market share issue and it impacts individual businesses and they’ll have to do what’s best,” he said of committee members.

Turner scandal leads House Speaker to call for ethics reform

October 14th, 2014 at 4:31 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

House Speaker Brian Bosma announced his priorities for the 2015 General Assembly Tuesday and ethics reform is one of them.  It’s part of the fallout from the scandal involving State Representative Eric Turner.

Turner, a Cicero Republican, has announced that he will resign his seat before the General Assembly returns but he will still cast a shadow over the 2015 session.

The Speaker has scheduled an unprecedented meeting of the Ethics Committee on October 20th to consider changes.

When Turner lobbied in private for passage of a bill that benefitted his family’s nursing home business earlier this year, it prompted an ethics investigation.  That investigation found that he violated no laws.

“Our pledge is to strengthen those disclosure laws,” said Bosma, “increase transparency, and to seek to safeguard the public trust.”

It’s because Turner had over a million dollars at stake in a deal that was announced just a few months after lawmakers went home.

“I learned that there are some areas with the statement of economic interest that we can do better,” said Ethics Committee Chairman Greg Steuerwald. “We can make them more transparent and I think that’s one of the things we’re gonna deal with.”

Turner may also spark changes in the election laws because he will stay on the ballot even though he’s announced plans to resign following the election.

“Hopefully there’ll be some change in that, some leeway for people who have announced that they are not going to serve after the election to be replaced on the ballot,” said Bosma.  “It would seem to be the fairest to voters.”

The Republican House Speaker pledged that the ethics reform effort will be bi-partisan and Democratic Leader Scott Pelath is on board.  He released a statement applauding the ethic reform elements of the GOP proposal.

Big name Democrats join the effort to unseat Mike Delph

October 13th, 2014 at 4:50 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

GOP State Senator Mike Delph of Carmel is a target in the November Election.  Democrats believe that Delph’s vocal battle against same sex marriage will have a negative effect on his performance at the polls.

So, Delph’s Democratic opponent, JD Ford, is getting some big name help.  It started Monday with an assist from U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly.

Ford has been knocking on doors since March and Donnelly joined him in the effort to drum up votes in Carmel in a Republican leaning district.

“Actually 54%, Senator Donnelly won this district,” said Ford, “so that tells me people are independent thinking.”

“I know how hard he’s worked,” said Donnelly of Ford, “and I know because he’s worked so hard he’s right in the hunt.  He’s got a great chance to win.”

On the other side is Mike Delph who declared during the General Assembly that, “I don’t accept the lifestyle of homosexuality.  I think it’s wrong.”

As the most vocal opponent of gay marriage he engaged in a twitter tirade criticizing GOP leaders for their strategy regarding a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage.

He was stripped of a leadership post and forced to sit with Democrats as a result.

And so, with the gay marriage battle over, Ford and Donnelly are suggesting that Delph is out of touch.

“Who’s focused on making sure that kitchen table issues are being discussed?” asked Donnelly. “That we don’t worry about this social issue or that social issue.”

“A vote for my opponent,” said Ford, “is to vote for no voice because the Republicans threw him out of their own caucus.”

It’s a case that JD Ford has made at the door of 15,000 homes so far.  Tuesday John Gregg, the 2012 Democratic nominee for governor, will go door-to-door with him.

Mike Delph, meantime, declined to be interviewed for this story and didn’t respond to a text message when asked him how it feels to be a target of the Democrats.

Gay marriage become routine in Indiana

October 10th, 2014 at 4:30 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

It’s been just 4 days since a Supreme Court decision made gay marriage legal in Indiana and it’s no longer the novelty it was when a court ruling made gay marriage legal for 3 days in June.

For example, Cronley Hurt and Joe Cottrell showed up to get a marriage license Friday.  They wanted to get married in June and missed the opportunity.  “We’ve waited 14 years,” said Hurt, “and we thought that was enough time to wait.”

And yet they couldn’t get to the Clerk’s office until four days after gay marriage became legal again.

“We’re here and now there isn’t a rush,” said Kyle Megrath, who heads up the group known as Hoosiers Unite for Marriage, an organization that is still conducting marriage equality seminars.

But it will soon disband because it’s mission has been accomplished.

And that means there is no need for same sex couples to speed up marriage plans.  “They can plan their wedding,” said Megrath.  “They can do it the way they really wanna do it and this is just a great opportunity.”

Consider this:  In three days in June more than 500 same sex couples lined up to get a marriage license in Marion County.  About 450 wedding ceremonies were conducted in the City County Building.

This week, fewer than 50 same sex couples have requested marriage licenses here and there is no waiting.

“When the decision came down on Monday we had more members of the press here than we actually had couples,” Clerk Beth White, “because they finally could say, ok, let’s get married and do it the way we wanted to do it and not  the way the courts or others have said we have to do it.”

“It does.  It feels normal,” said Megrath.  “Marriage is just marriage now.”

And already the first divorce filings for same sex couples are beginning to arrive at the Clerk’s office.  There was one filed in August and 2 or 3 this week.

That’s going to be part of the routine, too.


October 10th, 2014 at 11:53 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

All of the regulars will be on hand today as the Indiana Week in Review panel tackles these topics:

  • The captivity of Abdul-Rahman Kassig
  • Gay marriage is legal in Indiana
  • Selection process for Marion County judges found unconstitutional
  • Mike Pence’s trade mission to Canada
  • First statewide political ads on TV
  • The peace dove

Co-payments are the snag in HIP 2.0 talks

October 9th, 2014 at 5:30 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The governor made it clear Thursday that winning federal approval for his plan to expand the Healthy Indiana Plan will be difficult.

It’s clear that Mike Pence is unwilling to back off elements of his HIP 2.0 plan that include co-payments and health savings accounts.

It’s also clear that his alternative to expanding medicaid is unacceptable to leaders in the Obama Administration.

Pence made his case to Barack Obama in a face-to-face meeting when the President came to Evansville last week.

Earlier this week he traveled to Washington to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, and Thursday he pointed to patient contributions as a snag in the negotiations.

“That’s fundamentally different than traditional medicaid,” he said, “so I recognize that we’re asking a lot of federal officials to allow us to use traiditional medicaid dollars to create a program like the Healthy Indiana Plan on a much broader basis.”

He went on to say, “We’re having a very substantive dialogue but differences remain.”

The governor stands by his belief that traditional medicaid is a flawed system.

He says that if it is to be expanded here it must be done the Indiana way.