Jim Shella


November 21st, 2014 at 2:24 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

State politics is the focus on Indiana Week in Review today as all of the regulars take part.  The topics are:

  • Organization Day in the General Assembly
  • Brian Bosma’s renewed call for ethics reform
  • David Long’s take on a possible shift to the right in the state Senate
  • Kelly Mitchell takes office early as State Treasurer
  • Indiana Chamber calls for an appointed state school superintendent
  • Straight No Chaser puts out a new holiday song

Pence considers a challenge to Obama immigration plan

November 21st, 2014 at 2:10 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The President’s plan to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation has come under fire on Capitol Hill and in the Indiana Statehouse.

The governor may file a lawsuit to stop it.

Mike Pence has been a vocal opponent of the President’s plan over the last three days and he’s already spoken to Attorney General Greg Zoeller about drafting a lawsuit. It would challenge whether the President’s executive order is constitutional.

Immigrants gathered at a local church last night to hear the President’s prime time address.
The plan to protect the parents of U.S. citizens as well as immmigrants who were smuggled here as children won approval there…

“It’s exciting,” said Cynthia Torres.

Barack Obama said he is acting because Congress has failed to do so. “I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law,” he said, “but until that happens there are actions that I have the legally authority to take as President.”

Greg Zoeller is one of 36 Attorneys General who signed a letter last year calling for Congressional action.

“Everything he said was absolutely on point,” said Zoeller, “in terms of the dire need to change our immigration laws.”

But Zoeller’s agreement stops there and so does the governor’s.

Mike Pence issued a statement saying, in part, “The President’s unilateral action is an unacceptable end run around the democratic process and must be reversed.”

He went on to say that “The State of Indiana will… take any available action necessary to restore the rule of law and proper balance to our costitutional system of government.”

The problem is in the President’s call to prosecute some immigrants but not others.

“Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids,” said the President. “We’ll prioritize just like law enforcement does every day.”

“There’s some huge constitutional questions,” said Zoeller, “about whether the President has wildly overstepped his authority.”

The President, said Zoeller, cannot ignore laws that are on the books.

If a lawsuit is filed Zoeller points out that his office has already battled the Obama administration on two lawsuits tied to a 2011 Indiana immigration law.

The state won one case and lost the other.

President’s plan leads immigrants to rejoice, Republicans to object

November 20th, 2014 at 4:08 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

President Obama will deliver a prime time address Thursday to announce a plan to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation. Immigrants are rejoicing and Republicans are protesting.

85 percent of the congregation at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church on the east side is Hispanic. Immigration issues are commonplace there and that’s why Father Chris Wadelton is applauding the President.

“It will have an immediate effect on a number of our families,” he said, “and give them a sense of relief.”

It affects people like Juan Perez, a contractor from Mexico who has been here since 1988. He has 3 children who are U.S. citizens.
He says they worry that he could be taken away from them at any time.

When asked if he’s afraid he might be deported, he says, “Yeah, really. Yeah.”

But for Senator Dan Coats the only issue here is his belief that the President is acting beyond his authority.

“It’s very discouraging right off the bat here to have the President take this stand,” said Sen. Coats, “granting amnesty to millions of people when the law strictly prohibits it.”

Governor Mike Pence is speaking out, too.

“Signing an executive order, giving a speech, barnstorming around the country defending that executive order,” he said, “is not leadership.”

But Ivy Tech student Brenda Martinez who came here from Mexico when she was 6 years old wants change and doesn’t care how it’s accomplished.

“I’ve been living here all my life,” she said, “and I consider this my home.”

Yet even Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly is objecting to the President’s approach. In a statement from Washington Senator Donnelly said the President shouldn’t make such significant policy changes on his own.

Federal judge throws out slating statute

November 19th, 2014 at 4:53 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

On primary Election day in 2012 a Democratic candidate for the General Assembly was threatened with arrest and his campaign materials were confiscated.  It led to a two year legal battle.

That candidate is Zach Mulholland, a local attorney who found out that when you get involved in politics, it bears no resemblence to what you learned in school.

A campaign flyer became the source of his problems. Mullholland, his family, and supporters were handing it out at polling places on primary Election day in 2012..

“And so it just said ‘Vote Democrat,’ he said, “and then it listed candidates that were going to be on the Democratic ballot.”

Trouble is Dan Forestal, the eventual winner of the race, was the slated candidate and the Election Board found that the flyer violated the slating statute.

When the flyers were taken from Mulholland he decided to sue.

“It’s about the idea that you can communicate to voters,” he said, “that you can exercise the fundamental right to engage in the political process.”

Now Federal Judge Sarah Evans Barker has ordered the case against Mulholland be dropped and, she ordered, the statute should never be enforced again.

Ken Falk is Mulholland’s attorney. “The statute as written is so broad,” said Falk, “that it criminallizes me writing you a letter saying vote for these two people.”

Zach Mulholland spent $326 on the flyers and will now be reimbursed. His attorney fees, about $80,000, will also be paid.

“I don’t know what the final tally is,” said Mulholland, “but I’m gonna guess it’s over a half a million dollars that has been spent defending a law that a first year law student could tell you is unenforceable.”

“(The statute) appeared to be there solely to protect the ability of the Parties,” said Falk, “to stifle people engaging in what the Supreme Court has said was the most important speech of all which is political speech.”

By the way, Mulholland believes he would have lost the 2012 race even if the flyers were all distributed.

Cody Kendall is the new chairman of the Marion County Election Board. He says he inherited this case and decided to “pull the plug” when a federal judge labeled the treatment of Mulholland “borderline harassment.”

He confirms, however, that Marion County spent somewhere between $300,000 and $500,000 to defend against the Mulholland lawsuit.

Long distance swearing in makes Organization Day unique

November 18th, 2014 at 4:46 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

State lawmakers returned to the Capitol Tuesday and they brought some political drama along with them. It was an Organization Day in the General Assembly unlike any other starting with the first long distance oath taking.

State Senator Jim Banks is half a world away but he was still sworn into office via Skype.

Banks, a Republican from Columbia City, is an officer in the Naval Reserve currently serving with an Army unit in Afghanistan. He is taking a leave of absence from the state Senate but needed to be sworn in first.

It was the same oath that was given first to the 100 members of the Indiana House and then to re-elected House Speaker Brian Bosma.
On hand was Representative Eric Turner (R-Cicero) who has promised to resign in the wake of an ethics scandal and ethics was a major theme in remarks made by the Speaker.

“We’re already consulting national ethics experts,” said Speaker Bosma, “trying to find a state of the art for part-time legislatures around the country and we’re gonna make it happen.”

Elsewhere in the Statehouse newly elected Republican Kelly Mitchell was sworn in early as State Treasurer. “I am so excited to get to work,” she said.

Mitchell will complete the term vacated by Richard Mourdock in September.

And back in the state Senate there was also a vacancy at the desk of Mike Delph, the Carmel Republican who just survived a tough re-election bid.

He is on vacation.

When he comes back Delph will join a GOP super majority that grew on Election day but Senate Leader David Long says a swing to the right is unlikely.

“We’re a pretty conservative body already.  I don’t think so.,” said Sen. Long. “I think we’ll continue to have a strong conservative voice here.”

For the record, Representative Turner had to be sworn in before he could resign. Sen. Delph had approval from Senate leadership to go on vacation.

And GOP Party leaders will choose a temporary replacement for Banks in coming days.

NFL should do more to reduce domestic violence according to the Hoosier Survey

November 17th, 2014 at 4:28 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Former NFL running back Ray Rice is seeking re-instatement after being suspended for an act of domestic violence. Meantime,  the WISH-TV/Ball State Hoosier Survey uncovered a feeling that the NFL isn’t doing enough to reduce domestic violence.

The numbers may have significance because Twitter is buzzing with speculation that Ray Rice could be picked up by the Colts because of an injury to running back Ahmad Bradshaw. The Hoosier Survey indicates that it would not be a popular move.

Rice could learn this week if he can return to the NFL. His two game suspension turned into a indefinite ban in September when a video surfaced of Rice punching his then fiancé, now wife, in an Atlantic City elevator.

It is the most high profile of several domestic violence cases involving NFL players that have recently come to light.

“It’s starting to rub people the wrong way,” said Ball State professor Ray Scheele, “in terms of what the players are doing.”

The Hoosier Survey found that a majority of people in Indiana believe the NFL could do more to reduce domestic violence.
55 percent said the league isn’t doing enough. Just 36 percent said it is.

“We strongly, strongly condemn and will punish behavior that is totally unacceptable,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell while defending what the league has done, but 47 percent of those questioned in the Hoosier Survey want to see the NFL impose permanent bans on players convicted of domestic violence.

43 percent would accept less severe punishment.

“Ah, but 51 percent of women say they should be permanently banned,” said Ball State professor Joe Losco, “so we do see a gender gap there.”

The NFL’s credibility could be on the line.

“Trust in institutiions, generally, in America has gone way down,” said Losco, “and I think that translates now into the private sector like the NFL as well.”

And that could be a consideration for any team that wants to hire Ray Rice, if he is reinstated. The owner of the Baltimore Ravens has already said that Rice will never play for that team again.

As for the speculation that Rice could play for the Colts, it’s just that. No one in the Colts organization has indicated that it’s a possibility.

Hoosier Survey finds overwhelming support for a Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage

November 14th, 2014 at 2:15 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Both supporters and opponents of gay marriage in Indiana are looking to the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the matter once and for all. It’s one of the findings in the WISH-TV/Ball State Hoosier Survey.

Gay marriage has been legal in Indiana for just over two months as the result of a federal appeals court ruling. That follows a battle that lasted more than a decade in the General Assembly and the Hoosier Survey found that support for gay marriage has leveled off.

47 percent favor it.  That’s down a tick from 48 percent a year ago, but it’s still a tick above the 46 percent who remain opposed.

Yet Ken Falk, the attorney for the ACLU of Indiana who led the fight for marriage equality, believes the Hoosier Survey has uncovered a temporary circumstance.

“Life has gone on without any sort of problems,” said Falk, “so I think that this is an issue in Indiana that is so new, the idea of legal marriages, that I bet your poll will change very rapidly in the future.”

Curiously, the Hoosier Survey found greater support for gay marriage in other states. 56 percent say that marriages conducted elsewhere should be recognized here with just 40 percent opposed.

Gay marriage opponent Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute said, “That’s an eye opener for me and it suggests that people are gonna be very tolerant and accepting of other state’s decisions about this thing, though it’s a controversial question.”

But here’s the most interesting finding in the Hoosier Survey: more than two-thirds, 71 percent, would like to see the U.S. Supreme Court end the legal wrangling. Just 24 percent like the status quo.

“This has been around now for a long time,” said Ball State professor Ray Scheele, “but i think people are saying it’s time to be resolved.”

That goes for gay marriage opponents. “We think we need a final answer,” said Smith.

And gay marriage supporters. “All along we thought this was an issue that should be resolved by the Court,” said Falk.

But it’s also a matter that may be resolved over time.  That’s because our survey found that the support for gay marriage is strongest among young people.

77 percent of those in the 18-to-24 age range support it.  That compares to just 30 percent for people 65 and over.


November 14th, 2014 at 1:33 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

All of the regulars are on hand for this week’s Indiana Week in Review.  The topics are:

  • Joe Hogsett’s formal announcement of a campaign for Mayor of Indianapolis
  • The document that called for castrating the Mayor of Carmel
  • The approval rating for Mike Pence
  • WISH-TV/Ball State Hoosier survey results on Pre-K funding and textbook fees
  • Crime concerns revealed by the Hoosier Survey
  • Sun King’s food menu

Hoosier Survey shows support for Sunday alcohol sales

November 13th, 2014 at 5:45 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Most Sunday alcohol sales are illegal in Indiana but the General Assembly will consider changing that in 2015. Results from the WISH-TV/Ball State Hoosier Survey indicate it would be a popular move.

The push for Sunday alcohol sales starts in the grocery stores who, along with big box stores, compete with the package liquor stores that are currently closed on Sundays.

House Speaker Brian Bosma recently made a statement that gave them hope that change might be on the way. “I really don’t have a problem with Sunday sales,” said the Speaker. “We have them already.”

Craft brewers and farm wineries are permitted to make sales to carry out customers.

“I think it’s time to change,” said John Elliot of Kroger. “We treat it appropriately as a controlled substance and it’s time to make the right decision for Hoosiers and move on.”

It’s a majority opinion according the Hoosier Survey. It found that 52 percent favor Sunday alcohol sales. 46 percent are opposed.

“There’s an old saying about public opinion that the public is always in front of public laws,” said Ball State professor Ray Scheele, “so it could very well be that public opinion now is leading this particular issue.”

But Patrick Tamm of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers is leading opposition that is still undefeated in the General Assembly. He represents package store owners who argue that Sunday sales would increase consumption and underage drinking.

“Alcohol is available in the state of Indiana for off premise consumption over 73 percent of the hours in a given week,” said Tamm.

Tamm is also fighting cold beer sales in grocery and convenience stores and the Hoosier Survey shows even more support for that. 57 percent favor it and 40 percent oppose.

Hoosier Survey finds broad support for ethics reform

November 12th, 2014 at 5:39 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Trust in Indiana government is generally low. That’s one of the findings in the WISH-TV/Ball State Hoosier Survey.

In the last year or so there have been 3 high profile scandals at the Statehouse. There are literally hundreds of smaller examples of public corruption and the folks at home are paying attention.

Former state school superintendent Tony Bennett agreed to a $5,000 fine in a deal approved by the state ethics commission.  His attorney, Larry Mackey, explained why.

“He could not, without a policy, use state resources for political activity,” said Mackey. “That’s what he did.”

Former lawmaker and former INDOT chief of staff Troy Woodruff avoided punishment but left government after multiple investigations into land sales that benefitted him and his family. And then there is state Representative Eric Turner who used his influence behind the scenes in a move that helped out his family business.

Bennett, Woodruff, and Turner are all Republicans and that led Democrats to make ethics a campaign issue.

“In this behind me, Mike Pence’s Statehouse, ethics has left the building,” said Democratic Auditor candidate Mike Claytor at a campaign news conference.

The Hoosier Survey found that just 47 percent believe that public officials are held accountable for misconduct. A bigger number of those surveyed, 49 percent, believe public officials are not held accountable, and there is a partisan divide.

“About two-thirds of Republicans think the state, which is of course in Republican hands, will do the right thing,” said Ball State professor Joe Losco. “Only a third of Democrats do.”

Consider also that Attorney General Greg Zoeller has investigated 250 cases of public corruption at the state and local level. State Inspector General Dave Thomas has called for the arrest of 100 state officials.

“Certainly trust in government generally is pretty low,” said Losco.

And that’s why House Speaker Brian Bosma has called for ethics reform.

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

The Hoosier Survey found that it’s a popular idea. 66 percent believe there is a need to strengthen state laws on ethics.

And that’s why the ethics committee in the Indiana House has already begun work on what is meant to be a bi-partisan plan to change the requirements for financial disclosure by lawmakers.