Jim Shella

HIP 2.0 signups underway

January 30th, 2015 at 4:53 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Thousands of people with no health insurance are now signing up for the Healthy Indiana Plan.

350,000 people are eligible to take part in HIP 2.0, the expansion of medicaid here in Indiana.

It will take some time before the majority of them get on board.

At 12 call centers operated by the state of Indiana agents are signing up callers who want to take part. They are busy.

“We have received over 11,000 applications since the announcement on Tuesday,” said Adrienne Shields of the Family and Social Services Agency, “and yesterday alone we received over 3,600 applications.”

The announcement by the GOP governor on Tuesday that federal approval was granted kicked off a new era in health care in this state.

Thursday a Democratic leader in the General Assembly promised to help make the implementation as smooth as possible.

“We’re gonna make the leap into the Affordable Care Act here in this state,” said House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, “and now we’re gonna work hard to make sure it works.”

It’s an effort that actually began in August when hiring was stepped up at call centers so that staffing could meet the demand this week.

This Spring business should get even more brisk because state government is planning a public awareness campaign that will include tv and radio ads as well as advertising on billboards and buses.

“To get the word out there to all Hoosiers who believe that they’re eligible,” said Shields. “We want them to come in and apply.”

And for those who call, coverage will begin as soon as Sunday.

State officials hope that eventually all 350,000 of those eligible will sign up.


January 30th, 2015 at 2:03 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Lesley Weidenbener is in for Jon Schwantes and John Hammond is Republican on the panel today on a busy week in Indiana politics.   Here are the topics:

  • Just IN
  • HIP 2.0
  • What the governor’s mom says about 2016
  • Glenda Ritz battles GOP power play
  • New soccer stadium proposal
  • Sneakers in the Statehouse

Governor Pences terminates state news service

January 29th, 2015 at 4:33 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Governor Mike Pence has pulled the plug on plans for a news agency operated by state government.

It’s a response to criticism that came in from around the country and from members of both parties.

A memo went out to state agency heads Thursday telling them that Just IN, the planned state news service, is terminated immediately.

The announcement comes after two days of unsuccessful damage control by the governor and his staff, who said that Just IN was really meant as a clearinghouse for news releases despite terminology in draft documents that suggested otherwise.

The controversy distracted from a big win for the governor, the federal approval of the Healthy Indiana Plan expansion.

And the memo was made public shortly after Democrats in the General Assembly attempted to block funding for it in the Indiana House.

“All across state government in every single agency of our bureaucracy we’re going to have people attempting to create their own news,” said Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington,) “rather than just providing information allowing a free and independent press to do it.”

“I think in this case the best thing is simply to zero out funding,” said Rep. Scott Pelath (D-Minority Leader,) “for something that would endeavor to replace our free and independent media here at the Statehouse.”

House Speaker Brian Bosma expressed sympathy for that amendment but ruled it out of order regardless.

It was a strong message to the governor to pull the plug or watch lawmakers do it later.

Mike Pence got the message.

Two employees assigned to the website will be reassigned within state government.

Bill to limit Glenda Ritz’s power passes committee

January 29th, 2015 at 3:36 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

A committee in the Indiana House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill Thursday that would lead to the removal of State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz as chairman of the State Board of Education.

Ritz is a Democrat who is at odds with Republican appointees on the State Board of Ed.

The governor thinks the way to address that stalemate is to remove Ritz as chairman and put one of his appointees in control.

Current law says that the state superintendent automatically serves as chair of the board of ed.

Ritz showed up in person to challenge the plan to remove her when it came up in the House Committee.

She read a prepared statement and then walked out without taking questions, unusual behavior for any witness in a legislative committee.

The bill permits the board to elect its own chairman and the committee passed it on a party line vote with 8 Republicans voting yes and 3 Democrats voting no.

“This political power move of House Bill 1609 and other similar bills,” Ritz told the committee, “is unnecessary and will do nothing to resolve the real governance issues that this policy making body must address.”

Ritz aide John Barnes stayed to answer the questions that would otherwise go to her.

“We feel like the tensions in the board meetings have for the most part been manufactured by the governor’s appointments,” said Barnes, “and that that gives an excuse to remove the Superintendent.”

The bill is now headed to the full House for consideration and passage is all but guaranteed with the Republican super majority in place.

It is written to take effect as soon as it becomes law which could happen in a matter of weeks.

Pence Administration admits mistakes on Just IN

January 28th, 2015 at 3:22 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The Pence Administration is prepared to drop the idea for a controversial new website that has been called a state run news agency.

First, there is an effort to convince the media that mistakes will be corrected.

The governor’s communications director, Christy Denault, met with the media Wednesday and admitted that the wrong terminology was used in planning for the Just IN website.

For example, the title of “managing editor” will be changed to “content manager.”

She said there is no effort to make an end run around the media.

The governor was in Fort Wayne where, again, the belief that he is launching a state run news agency distracted from his effort to take credit for federal approval of HIP 2.0.

“It’s really our intention from the outset and going forward,” he said, “was really to create a website that’s a resource for the press and the public, not a news source.”

“If we’re going to do this,” said Denault, “we want to do it right.”

Denault said that the Administration was simply looking for a better way to present information that is already going out.

She disclosed mock pages for the website that won’t go live until at least mid-February and said it will contain news releases not stories, even though internal documents call for daily stories.

“We were very dismayed that we caused so much consternation and confusion,” she said. “Was never the intent.”

Political opponents of the governor, meantime, aren’t letting up. “Pull the plug on the thing,” said House Minority Leader Scott Pelath.

Just IN has given them just cause to criticize.

“Whenever you’re sharing a paragraph with Kim Jong Un,” said Pelath, “it’s probably time to say this just didn’t work out.”

And the governor’s staff will consider dropping Just IN.

“I think we need to do a very careful evaluation,” said Denault.

And now the Society of Professional Journalists and the Hoosier State Press Association will be asked to review the content on Just IN.

At the very least it’s an admission by the Pence Administration that it’s media relations could stand some improvement.

Governor announces federal approval of HIP 2.0

January 27th, 2015 at 11:56 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Governor Mike Pence confirmed Tuesday what WISH-TV first reported on Monday. The federal government has granted approval for HIP 2.0.

The governor delivered the news in a speech at St. Vincent Hospital.

The announcement means health care coverage for as many as 350,000 people in Indiana who currently have none and it’s being done with no tax increases.

HIP 2.0 is a medicaid alternative that requires co-pays or health savings accounts.

Signup begins immediately (at hip.in.gov) and coverage begins February first.

“This is not about policies and programs and dollars and cents,” said Governor Pence. “It’s about people, it’s about members of our family.  It’s about co-workers, neighbors, friends.”

Despite the announcement the governor said he still believes that Obamacare should be repealed.

Rally organizers seek minimum wage hike

January 26th, 2015 at 3:24 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

There was a demonstration at the Statehouse Monday designed to stir support for an increase in the minimum wage.

Union members, community organizers and others held a rally and then contacted lawmakers with a request to increase the Indiana minimum wage.

It is currently $7.25 an hour.

“Minimum wage is not just for teenagers anymore,” said Yin Min Kyi of the Service Employees International Union. “Majority affected are women and most of them are raising families and have college education.”

Organizers are planning a followup rally near the end of February.

It’s unlikely, however, that majority Republicans in the General Assembly will grant a public hearing for bills that would increase the minimum wage.

Canned hunting controversy re-ignited

January 26th, 2015 at 2:51 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

There’s a new battle at the Statehouse over the regulation of private hunting preserves.

State Representative Sean Eberhart (R-Shelbyville) has authored a bill that would establish rules for the four existing hunting preserves in Indiana. There currently are none.

Eberhard is seeking approval from a committee in the Indiana House.

Opponents want the practice. sometimes called canned hunting, to be abolished.

Among other things, they say it contributes to the spread of chronic wasting disease in the deer population.

Erin Huang/HSUS: The addiction of large antlers has led to the development of Frankendeer,” said Erin Huang of the Humane Society of the United States, “or animals with antlers so large and grotesque that they can barely lift their heads.”

“The idea of canned hunting is pretty much repulsive to the average hunter,” said hunter Jack Corpuz.

The committee did not take a vote on the canned hunting bill.

HIP 2.0 approval expected

January 26th, 2015 at 2:40 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The federal government and the Pence Administration appear to be on the verge of an agreement over HIP 2.0.

The governor’s plan to expand medicaid has been in negotiation since May of 2014.

In recent days vendors have been gearing up for a February 1st launch of the plan that could bring healthcare coverage to as many as 400,000 Hoosiers who currently don’t have it.

A public announcement of the agreement is anticipated for Tuesday or Wednesday.

2 Indiana members of Congress help delay anti-abortion vote

January 23rd, 2015 at 5:17 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

A bill in Congress to ban all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy is now on hold and pro-life forces are disappointed.

It’s a development that put a damper on a pro-life celebration.

Indiana Republicans Susan Brooks and Jackie Walorski want changes in the controversial anti-abortion bill. Walorski removed her name as co-sponsor and House leadership called off a scheduled vote.

The streets of Washington were filled with half a million abortion protesters Thursday. The annual March for Life takes place on the anniversary of the Roe versus Wade decision that legalized abortion.

In the crowd were hundreds of Hoosiers.

“Buses and busloads from different cities all over the state of Indiana,” said Sue Swayze of Indiana Right to Life. “If I had to guess I’d say 500.”

They expected that the march would take place following a vote in Congress to pass the bill banning abortions after 20 weeks.

“And that’s why the House had planned to vote on it that day,” said Swayze, “and that would have been meaningful for us, yes.”

But, instead, Jackie Walorski and others debated a bill to ban taxpayer funding for abortions. “56 percent of Americans are opposed to taxpayer funding of abortions,” said Rep. Walorski in the floor debate.

They approved it on a 242-179 vote.

Walorski and Susan Brooks are among a group of Republicans concerned about a provision in the original bill that requires rape victims to file a police report.

In a statement Brooks said, “We must be mindful that a majority of the victims of these horrendous crimes do not come forward to law enforcement.  I’m hopeful these concerns can be addressed.”

And so GOP leadership called for a vote on the other abortion bill, a bill they could support.

The marchers, meantime, still hope that the original bill will get passed and that’s still possible.

The bill banning abortion after 20 weeks will likely be changed and brought back for a vote in February.