Jim Shella’s Political Blog

Eric Turner removed from leadership post

August 29th, 2014 at 4:49 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

There are new questions being raised regarding State Representative Eric Turner’s efforts to kill a nursing home construction moratorium during the 2014 General Assembly.  Those questions have led House Speaker Brian Bosma to remove Turner from a leadership post.

It’s a scandal that surrounds a company called Mainstreet Properties, founded by the son of state Representative Eric Turner.  Turner is an investor in the company.

The Mainstreet website currently tells of the $2 billion deal reached earlier this month to partner with an Ohio firm.

It’s a deal that likely was possible only because state lawmakers killed the proposed moratorium on nursing home construction.  Rep. Eric Turner admitted to lobbying fellow Republicans in private to kill the bill.

Bob Ashley is Turner’s Democratic opponent.  He called a Statehouse news conference to say, “We don’t know whether, um, whether this deal was in place or in negotiation at the time that Eric Turner successfully killed the nursing home moratorium in the Republican caucus.”

In April the House ethics committee investigated and cleared Turner.  He answered written questions and didn’t appear before the committee.

Ashley wants a new investigation.  “They didn’t get to the bottom of anything,” he said.  “This whole is standing out there and it still stinks.”

House Speaker Brian Bosma says the review was thorough but also says it revealed gaps in House ethics rules and he promises to file a new ethics bill in 2015.

But Bosma also criticized Turner for what he called an “irreconcilable conflict” in the debate of the nursing home moratorium.  He says Turner should have recused himself and that, as a result, Turner will no longer serve in the role of Speaker Pro Tem.

Turner released a statement saying that he intends to continue on as a state representative.

A spokesperson for Mainstreet Properties, meantime, says merger talks didn’t start until after the General Assembly ended.

Richard Mourdock leaves state government

August 29th, 2014 at 4:36 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

State Treasurer Richard Mourdock has resigned. He left office Friday more than four months before the end of his second term.

Mourdock, a Republican, submitted his resignation to Governor Mike Pence on Thursday.  It came as a complete surprise to Pence, who chose Daniel Huge of the Indiana Finance Authority to be a short term replacement.

A source says Mourdock cited changes in a state retirement plan that would reduce his benefits if he stayed in office past August 31st.

It’s a move that leaves a sour taste in the mouths of a number of taxpayers who criticized Mourdock on Twitter.

His legacy, however, will be forever tied to his defeat of Richard Lugar in the 2012 GOP Primary for U.S. Senate, a win that led to his own defeat by Democrat Joe Donnelly in November of that year.

That loss was attributed to controversial remarks that Mourdock made regarding rape and abortion.  He sparked controversy again this summer with a Nazi reference in a speech to the state GOP Convention.

The GOP now has three statewide officeholders who were appointed to fill vacancies.


August 29th, 2014 at 2:22 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

All of the regulars are on hand today.  The Indiana Week in Review panel will discuss:

  • Richard Mourdock’s resignation
  • 7th Circuit arguments over gay marriage
  • Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight taken into custody
  • Michael Claytor questions Mike Pence’s ethics
  • Evan Bayh’s upcoming political decision
  • New security gates coming to the governor’s residence

Details of new multi-state lottery game revealed

August 28th, 2014 at 3:25 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The Hoosier Lottery is confirming details of a new multi-state game called the Monopoly Millionaires Club.

It promises to produce more millionaires.

It is based on a weekly drawing that is similar to Powerball and Mega Millions with key differences.

First of all, tickets cost $5 compared to $1 and $2 for the other games.

The top prize is $25 million and a weekly drawing could produce as many as 10 additional million dollar winners.

Ticket sales and drawings will begin in mid-October and then in February there will also be a national game show.  Billy Gardell of “Mike and Molly” fame will host the show in Las Vegas and hand out additional prizes.  20 states are taking part.

The hope is that better odds of winning a million dollar prize will be more attractive than the huge jackpots in other games.

“This is also something that attracts people in focus groups that say we aren’t always for the biggest jackpot and one winner,” said Lottery Director Sarah Taylor.  “We like the idea of a top prize where more than one person can be a millionaire, possibly, and so I think that’s an attractive key point.”

It is part of an overall effort to increase lottery profits.  Lottery revenues topped a billion dollars for the first time in the fiscal year that ended July first.

However, that was still below the goal set by GTECH, the new private operator of the lottery.

Kokomo Mayor found in contempt, considers legal action

August 27th, 2014 at 5:23 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The Mayor of Kokomo is considering legal action against a Howard County Judge.  That judge ordered the Sheriff to take Mayor Greg Goodnight into custody Tuesday.

Judges William Menges found Mayor Greg Goodnight in contempt of court.

Outside the Howard County Courthouse there is construction underway on the Industrial Heritage Trail.  The construction has at times forced changes in the normal delivery of jail inmates to the courthouse.

Then, on Tuesday afternoon construction materials were placed in the driveway blocking access.  To Judge Menges that was an act of contempt by Mayor Goodnight.

He sent the Sheriff to Goodnight’s office with a message.  “If you don’t come with me over to the judge’s chamber,” Goodnight quoted the Sheriff as saying, “we’re going to take you to jail.”

Through a spokesperson the judge said he can’t comment on the record.  His contempt order says the mayor blocked access to the courthouse and says it was “intentional and done solely for the purpose of disrupting the regular proceedings of the court.”

The judge ordered that Goodnight be sent to jail but before he arrived there in a sheriff’s department van, the construction materials were moved.

Goodnight was dropped off at the courthouse.

Back in his office in City Hall, Goodnight thinks it’s all about the trail.  “I’d heard rumblings that he (Menges) was not a proponent of the project itself.”

Bear in mind that the Judge is Republican and the Mayor is a Democrat.

“The judge has shown what I would call bizarre behavior over time,” said Goodnight.

Judge Menges also threatened a Kokomo newspaper reporter with contempt Tuesday.  The reporter declined comment.

Two years ago the judge found a woman in contempt of court for having a noisy baby in the courtroom, and in 2011, he made headlines by issuing a court order instructing the county auditor to pay for the new copy machine he wanted.

Democratic candidate questions Mike Pence’s ethics

August 26th, 2014 at 4:09 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

A Democratic candidate for State Auditor accused the Pence Administration of being unethical Tuesday.  Michael Claytor says it’s the result of one-party rule in Indiana.

Claytor appeared outside the Statehouse to level a serious charge.

“It is clear to me,” he said, “that in this behind me, Mike Pence’s Statehouse, ethics has left the building.”

As an example Claytor pointed the criminal conviction in 1985 of state School Superintendent Harold Negley.  He was accused of campaigning on state time.

Claytor compared that with the recent $5,000 fine levied on former state Superintendent Tony Bennett by the State Inspector General.

“Decades later,” said Claytor, “a state Superintendent uses the same type of activity, using state equipment for political purposes and gets a fine.”

Claytor also points to ethics cases involving GOP state Representative Eric Turner and former INDOT employee Troy Woodruff, cases where no penalty was applied.

He made little mention of his opponent, GOP Auditor Suzanne Crouch.

State GOP Chairman Tim Berry responded by saying, “Ethics is a top priority of Governor Pence and always has been.”

He points to the state’s transparency portal and high ratings it has received from independent sources and accused Claytor of using faulty research.

“Today he wants to be the Inspector General,” said Berry.  “I think he doesn’t know what the job is that he’s runniing for.”

Claytor, meantime, plans to compile a list of examples where corruption has cost taxpayers money.  He has created his own website to display them.

Gay marriage opponents take lower profile

August 25th, 2014 at 4:09 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The opponents of gay marriage held no rallies Monday.  In fact, they’ve taken a low profile in recent weeks but they still hope to win the gay marriage battle in Indiana.

It’s a battle that started in 2004 and the supporters of traditional marriage have always felt they had a better chance of winning in the General Assembly than in the courts.  They also know that judges don’t pay attention to rallies.

If you go back to 2007 the biggest rally at the Statehouse that year was this one in support of a constitutional ban on same sex marriage.

It’s a cause that has been led primarily by three men.  Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute, who says, “We would much rather have legislators make laws and not judges,” Micah Clark of the Indiana Family Association, and Eric Miller of Advance America.

They have done their best to keep battle out of the courts.

If you go to their websites now there is no mention of the hearing in the federal appeals court, no mention of rulings that didn’t go their way, and no mention of any attempt to rally support.

“Our views, our voice has been registered through the friend of the court briefs,” says Smith, “but we have great confidence in our Attorney General.”

And the Attorney General will argue in Chicago that the same sex marriages conducted in Indiana in June were illegal.  Curt Smith hopes that the battle will someday return to the General Assembly.

“We haven’t given up,” he said, “we’re not going away.”

But it will be back in the General Assembly only if the supporters of traditional marriage win in the courts.

How the gay marriage case will play out in the Appeals Court

August 25th, 2014 at 1:27 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the Indiana gay marriage case in a Chicago courtroom Tuesday morning beginning at 10:30 Indianapolis time.

There will be 20 minutes set aside for attorneys for same sex couples and another 20 minutes for the state.  Solicitor General Thomas Fisher will make those arguments.

Then, both sides in a Wisconsin case will get the same opportunity.

A 3 judge panel that will be drawn from the 10 judges in the 7th Circuit will decide the case.  7 of them were appointed by Republican Presidents, 3 by Democrats.

Professor Joel Schumm of the I.U. McKinney School of Law says we won’t know the identity of the panel members until 10 a.m.

“If all three of the judges are appointed by Democratic Presidents then the same sex couples should feel really confident.” he said.  “If it’s not, if it’s a mix.  I don’t think that”s going to necessarily determine the outcome.”

That’s because in other appeals judges appointed by Democrats have always ruled in favor of same sex marriages and those appointed by Republicans have split.

In the cases in other parts of the country it has taken about 2 and a half months to get a ruling.

“I suspect this’ll be faster than that because the 7th Circuit’s expedited the cases,” says Schumm.  “They’ve shortened the time for briefs to be filed.  They’ve made it clear that they want to decide this pretty quickly, so I’d look for it within a few weeks.”

If you want to listen in you can do so at https://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/.

No matter what happens look for the case to go to the Supreme Court and the ruling to be stayed in the meantime.

A 2016 Bayh campaign would be a surprise

August 22nd, 2014 at 2:07 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Will Evan Bayh run for governor in 2016?

It’s a hot topic in Indiana politics but if Bayh says yes, it will be a surprise.

Indiana Democrats are gathering in French Lick this weekend for the annual Democratic Editorial Association meeting.  It’s an unofficial state convention and Evan Bayh won’t be there.

Yet the Democrats who go to French Lick will be asked to fill out this survey asking if they think he will run for governor.

In early July Bayh made it known that is considering a campaign for the job that he held from 1989 to 1997.  It was big news around Indiana and around the country.

Bayh friend and former aide Bill Moreau understands why.  “I know that his popularity is well up in the 60′s,” said Moreau.  “He’s as popular as any political figure in Indiana right now.  He’s still very, very, very well known.”

But when he appeared before the Indianapolis media on July 14th Bayh downplayed the possibility saying that he’s not focused on politics right now.

And Thursday, in a public radio interview spelled out some of the arguments that would discourage a run.

“Given the current makeup of the state legislature and the way the maps are drawn,” said Bayh on the WFYI program No Limits, “I just wonder if my style of leadership would be feasible right now.”

The man who has won five statewide elections doesn’t sound ready to try it again.

“I think it’s less likely than likely,” he said.  “Another way to say that is it’s unlikely.”

Bill Moreau says it would be good for the state.  “Just on a personal level,” he says, “I can’t figure out how it makes sense for him.”

“I won’t keep people waiting long,” said Bayh in the radio interview.  “I would expect I’ll have a statement to make sometime after Labor Day, in the week or so after that.”

In the meantime, others will be in French Lick this week trying to build support for 2016.  Among the potential candidates are Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott and the 2012 Democratic Nominee John Gregg.


August 22nd, 2014 at 11:45 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Lesley Weidenbener is in for Jon Schwantes and Jennifer Wagner is the Democrat on Indiana Week in Review this week.  The panel will discuss the following topics:

  • The ruling requiring Indiana to recognize gay marriages from other states
  • Mayor Ballard’s proposal for a commuter tax
  • An alternative to the Mounds Lake Reservoir
  • Loretta Rush takes over as Chief Justice
  • Greg Zoeller seeks protections for members of the military
  • Indianapolis ranks 14th in honesty