Jim Shella

Pence stance on gambling leads to confusion

February 26th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Mike Pence is opposed to an expansion of gambling, but he supports taking steps to help out the gambling industry.

It’s a position that has led to confusion.

During the gambling debate in the Indiana House of Representatives this week the governor was working behind the scenes to kill the idea of live dealers at table games in Anderson and Shelbyville.

Yet when he met with reporters in his Statehouse office Thursday Pence refused to say whether live dealers fit his definition of a gambling expansion.

Instead Pence said that his position will be made clear if the gambling bill arrives on his desk.

Two days ago the House voted to take live dealers out of the bill and then voted again to put them back into it.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath says the governor’s input has not been helpful.

“He got involved in a way that he doesn’t usually get involved in it,” said Pelath of Pence, “and it turned it into a fiasco.  I’m glad we were able to right the ship.”

“If the bill gets to my desk I’ll evaluate it from the standpoint of, of first my view that we should not, I don’t support an expansion of gaming,” said Pence, “but also, I’ve also made it clear that I am open to common sense reforms in business practices that allow these businesses to remain competitive.”

The House vote was strong enough to override a veto should the governor choose to take that step.

In the meantime, the gambling bill will get a hearing in the state Senate and lawmakers have two months to craft a bill that the governor might sign.

Governor Pence: soccer stadium deserves “fair look”

February 26th, 2015 at 11:56 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Governor Mike Pence says he will give a fair look to the plan that calls for state involvement in the financing of a new Indianapolis soccer stadium.

The Indy Eleven wants state tax money generated by the stadium to be used to help pay for it.

Plans call for an $82 million downtown facility with18,500 seats.

The governor says it needs to be a fiscally responsible plan.

“I wanna make sure that anytime we see a public facility that has public support,” he said, “that the public that enjoys that facility will be the ones we look to for that financial support.”

The Indiana House approved the plan on Wednesday.

It now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

Indiana House approves soccer stadium bill

February 25th, 2015 at 4:40 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

A new downtown soccer stadium is one step closer to reality.

A plan to finance the $82 million facility won approval in the Indiana House of Representatives Wednesday.

The surprising 73-to-21 vote in the Indiana House was in favor of a plan to let team owners capture state tax money generated at the stadium and at a hotel now being developed downtown.

Up to $5 million a year could be used to pay off bonds sold to finance the 18,500 seat stadium that would be home to the Indy Eleven, a team that has played just one season in the North American Soccer League.

“There is a demand for this,” said Rep. Todd Huston (R-Fishers.) “There is excitement around this.  It’s a league, the North American Soccer League, that consists of cities like New York, Atlanta, Tampa, and San Antonio.”

“I know we talk about how we built up downtown Indianapolis,” said Rep. John Bartlett (D-Indianapolis) who voted against the bill. “If downtown Indianapolis is doing that great, let it support itself.’

And prior to the vote in the House Senate GOP Leader David Long made it clear that he has no plans to embrace the stadium idea.

“We’re really focused on our priorities here,” said Long. “Those have to come first. If the soccer stadium makes fiscal sense we’ll certainly consider it.”

Indiana House votes in favor of gambling changes

February 25th, 2015 at 3:47 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The Indiana House of Representatives voted in favor of live dealers at the racetrack casinos in Anderson and Shelbyville Wednesday.

The governor is opposed to an expansion of gambling and the live dealers at table games are intended to bring more business to the racinos.

That’s a conflict.

Nevertheless, the House voted 75-to-18 in favor of the bill that also permits riverboat casinos to move on land.

It’s a effort to bolster a sagging gambling industry in Indiana as new competition has surfaced in surrounding states.

The debate in the House was relatively brief as the author of the bill argued that replacing the electronic dealers in Anderson and Shelbyville is not really an expansion.

“If right now they have 48 e-table games or electronic table games,” said Rep. Tom Dermody (R-LaPorte,) “it will maintain 48 but they could convert up to half of those, 24 say, to live dealers.”

Senate GOP Leader David Long indicated that the Senate will consider the gambling bill.

“I think we have to figure out what is and what is not an expansion of gaming,” he said, “live with that definition, and then see what we can do to help these institutions survive in a day of increased competition.”

However, changes in the bill are anticipated and you can expect that the governor will attempt to influence the Senate debate.

Indiana House votes in favor of live dealers at racinos

February 24th, 2015 at 4:01 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Governor Mike Pence is against the addition of live dealers at racetrack casinos in Anderson and Shelbyville.

At least that’s what House Speaker Brian Bosma says.

It’s why the Indiana House of Representatives voted to remove live dealers from a gambling bill at one point Tuesday.

However, minutes later it voted 76-to-22 for an amendment to put live dealers back into the bill.

The idea of replacing video dealers with real people is viewed by some as an expansion of gambling, something the governor says he won’t support.

It’s also facing opposition from the casino employees in Rising Sun who see live dealers as unnecessary competition.

Supporters believe they would help lift sinking casino profits and the tax revenues that come from them.

“Live table games at casinos has been an integral part of that discussion,” said Rep. Sean Eberhart (R-Shelbyville.)  It’s been a part of the bill, again, since Day 1 and I’m asking that we keep that intact.”

“I think this is common sense,” said Rep. Tom Dermody (R-LaPorte.) “It is not expansion to add live dealers in Shelbyville or Anderson.”

A final House vote on the gambling bill is anticipated Wednesday.

It still includes the provision that would allow riverboat casinos to move on land but some controversial tax changes were removed on Tuesday.

The bill to legalize Sunday alcohol sales is dead

February 24th, 2015 at 11:44 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

There will be no vote to legalize Sunday alcohol sales in the
Indiana House of Representatives this year.

The battle for unrestricted Sunday sales got tangled up in an effort to restrict the way booze is sold 7 days a week and, in the end, the bill died for lack of support.

The author of the bill, Republican Tom Dermody of LaPorte, killed it himself by deciding that he wouldn’t call for a vote in the Indiana House.

It means that the battle over Sunday sales is over until next year at the earliest.

Supporters began this session with high hopes but they were dashed when Dermody made the determination that the bill was doomed.

When asked why he didn’t call for a vote anyway and he said he learned what he needed to know when an amendment failed last week.

“And then talking with members,” he said, “I don’t think there’s a necessary requirement to add that fuel to the fire when I know I don’t have support for the bill.”

“It’s a sad day for consumers when they were not able to get the simple ability to purchase alcoholic beverages on Sunday,” said Grant Monahan of the Indiana Retail Council, “like they can the other six days of the week.”

It’s a victory for liquor store owners who would agree to Sunday sales only if new restrictions were placed on big box stores 7 days a week.

“Opening 8 hours a day on Sunday would have been about a $420,000 cost to Big Red,” said lobbyist Matt Bell, “with no promise of increased sales.”

Meantime, the public wants Sunday alcohol sales.
The WISH-TV/Ball State Hoosier Survey found 52 percent in favor.

That’s why this issue will be back again in 2016.

Indiana House votes to repeal common construction wage

February 23rd, 2015 at 5:20 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Indiana became a right to work state three years ago and now there’s a new effort to reduce the influence of labor unions in this state.

It’s a bill to repeal the common construction wage.

This is all about the wages that are paid to construction workers on public projects like schools and prisons and it’s being led by House Speaker Brian Bosma.

The Indiana House voted 55-to-41 Monday for the bill that would repeal the local boards that set now set wage rates on public projects.

Supporters say it will reduce the cost to taxpayers on any given project.

“We’ve heard testimony in committee and I’ve seen studies that show it could save somewhere between 10 and 20 percent on public works projects,” said Rep. Jerry Torr (R-Carmel.) “This for your local communities, your schools.  This is taxpayer protection.”

Opponents say it will also reduce the quality of the work and save little.

“You’ve got something you’re dealing with here that’s been in for 80 years,” said Rep. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend.) “For 80 years the common construction wage has helped working families, working people, has brought extra tax dollars into this state for almost 80 years.”

That bill now heads to the state Senate and an uncertain future.

It’s a hot potato that is viewed as GOP proposal yet two dozen Republicans voted against it.


February 20th, 2015 at 4:42 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

All of the regulars are on the Indiana Week in Review panel.  Here’s what they’ll discuss this week:

  • The state Senate vote to remove Glenda Ritz as state Bd. of Ed chair
  • The Statehouse rally in support of Ritz
  • The House GOP budget proposal
  • The move to repeal the common construction wage
  • The new plan for public financing of a soccer stadium
  • Bill Bellichick visits I.U.

Pelath calls for Democratic leadership

February 20th, 2015 at 2:53 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Indiana Democrats are a minority party in search of a leader.

It won’t be state Representative Scott Pelath but Pelath wants to help direct the search.

Pelath is one of the people who gets mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate for governor in 2016. He said Friday that he’s not interested in higher office, at least not yet.

But in a weekly get together with the Statehouse media Pelath voiced frustration with his ability to block the actions of the Republican majority.

He said he saw examples in the House of Representatives this week of what he called “power drunkeness” on the part of the GOP, and he made this call for leadership from within the Democratic party.

“We need a clear statewide leader,” he said, “and I want somebody to, ah, I want somebody to look at that goal and tackle it.”

“And,” he went on to say, “I’m, I’m a little concerned that we, that there’s not an obvious, clear name yet and that needs to be rectified sooner rather than later.”

Pelath’s comments could be interpreted as a slight to Glenda Ritz, who is the only Democrat in a statewide elected office.

Three Democrats are mentioned most often as potential candidates for governor.
They are 2012 nominee John Gregg, former Congressman Baron Hill, and Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott.

Pelath said he doesn’t have anyone in particular in mind but made it clear that he needs help spreading the Democratic message.

Casino owners battle over efforts to help the gambling industry

February 19th, 2015 at 4:10 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Live dealers at central Indiana racinos are one step closer to reality, however, opposition is growing.

If live dealers come to Anderson and Shelbyville it could hurt the business at two southern Indiana casinos in Rising Sun and French Lick.

It’s why efforts to help out the gambling industry in this state have also sparked a battle between casino owners.

Employees of the Rising Star Casino in Rising Sun showed up at the Statehouse in force dressed in blue in an effort to stop the bill aimed at making Indiana casinos more competitive with casinos in other states.

“We just don’t want live table games in the racinos,” said casino employee Joe Barbieri. “It’s gonna hurt our business and other riverboat businesses in Indiana.”

But it had no effect on the House Ways and Means committee.

It passed the bill that also lets riverboats move on land and gives them incentives to do so.

“And so what we offer,” said Rep. Tom Dermody, “is a ten percent tax credit up to $40 million on any type of construction at their facility.”

For the people in Rising Sun it’s no consolation. “We don’t have the money go on land, anyway,” said CEO Dan Lee.

They believe presence of video dealers in Anderson and Shelbyville is the only reason they attract customers from Indianapolis.

“Well, that’s the only competitive edge we have,” said Lee. “So the question is whether we can stay in business.”

It’s a position also held by the owners of the French Lick casino.

“With all the competition looking to come in from Kentucky and other places,” said Steve Ferguson of the Cook Group, which owns the French Lick casino, “it just makes it a very, very difficult situation.”

Jobs are on the line but it’s not just a question of how many but also where those jobs will be located.

The reality is that the majority of Indiana casino owners will benefit from the current bill which also includes new tax breaks.

They kept a low profile today but lawmakers are listening to them.

The bill now goes to the full House.