Jim Shella’s Political Blog

NRA Convention means downtown visitors will be armed

April 24th, 2014 at 3:37 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The National Rifle Association Convention gets underway downtown Thursday and before the weekend is over some 70,000 people will attend.  Many of them will be armed, including New Jersey gun owner Anthony Colandro.

“As long as it’s legal and legally posted,” he said, “I will carry a gun.”

A convention priority for NRA members is the push for a new federal law.  It would require all 50 states to recognize concealed carry gun permits from other states.  Indiana already does.

That means a good percentage of downtown visitors will be armed.  And that’s a prospect that bothers some people, including David Mason.

“It makes me nervous,” he said.  “I wouldn’t bring my kids down here or my grandkids.”

But more than half a million people hold a gun permit in Indiana.  Lieutenant Pete Wood is an attorney for the State Police who says it is safe to assume that a number of people are armed in downtown Indianapolis every day.

He points out that if you have an Indiana gun permit there are few restrictions.

“For the most part,” he said, “a license to carry a handgun allows you to carry a handgun in any public area.”

It’s one reason why Indianapolis chosen as the site for the convention.  The NRA says there is no reason for concern.

“The NRA members are probably the most law abiding group at a convention that you’ll ever get,” said NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortenson.

Anthony Colandro, for one, predicts that crime will go down during the time the NRA is in town.

Rep. Eric Turner will avoid discipline

April 23rd, 2014 at 4:37 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Members of the House Ethics Committee indicated Wednesday that state Representative Eric Turner will not be disciplined for a private lobbying effort that could benefit his family business.

The bottom line is that Eric Turner, apparently, broke no rules. but his behavior may yet lead to the adoption of new ones.

When the Ethics Committee met to consider actions by Turner he was’t there.  His attorney, Toby McClamroch, sat in the front row but never spoke.

Turner, a Cicero Republican, did send written responses to committee questions and Chairman Greg Steuerwald read some of them aloud including one where Turner said, “I violated neither House rules, nor the code of ethics.”

It’s all about legislation that could benefit the Mainstreet Property Group, a nursing home company that builds upscale facilities.  It’s owned by Rep. Turner’s son and Turner is an investor.

During a private GOP caucus Turner argued against a nursing home moratorium that would hurt the company.  He admitted to doing so in a written response.

“I offered my particular expertise on the nursing home industry and the nursing home moratorium,” he said in answer read aloud by Steuerwald.

The committee found that there are no rules that apply to private caucuses.

“What went on in caucus, stays in caucus,” said Rep. Clyde Kersey (D-Terre Haute.)  “As far as everything else, he followed the rules.”

“The facts that were stated in there are certainly consistent with the code of ethics that they adopted just four months ago,” said McClamroch following the hearing.  “So, we’re pleased with the direction.”

A government watchdog says it’s not fair to the public.  “If you can act one way in public and behave totally differently privately,” said Julia Vaughn of Common Cause, “that really raises concerns and I think it makes the public part of the process a charade.”

The committee will meet next week to rule on Turner’s behavior but it will just be a formality.

The committee will also meet later in the year to consider changes in the House rules that could include new reporting requirements.

That’s because Turner reported ownership in a parent coporation but didn’t report ownership in the nursing home company, unless it was inside the private caucus.

Very low turnout expected in the 2014 Primary

April 22nd, 2014 at 4:50 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The 2014 Indiana Primary Election is two weeks away and all indications point to a very low voter turnout.

This is an off year election but that may not fully explain the situation.  Because there are no statewide races on the ballot for the first time in 14 years, you could call it an off, off year election.

As a result, Terrance Cox showed up at the Marion County Clerk’s office to vote early and found himself alone.  Even though it was the lunch hour, he was one of just a handful of voters to cast a ballot during what is usually a peak time.

“It’s our duty to vote,” said Cox.  “It’s our right, we need to vote.”

When the people who work in the clerk’s office measure turnout they compare 2014 with 2010, the last off year election, and when it comes to absentee ballots there is a big difference.

“I think we have around 900 mail-in ballots right now,” said spokeswoman Erin Kelley, “but compared to 2010, we had almost 3400 at this point.”

Drive around, and, in Marion County, you do see many political yard signs and when you do, it is often for a little known township office.  There are no high profile battles.

Republican party leaders don’t seem to mind.

“Yeah, anytime that we can avoid costly fights in the primary,’ said Marion County GOP Chairman Kyle Walker, “it’s a better day for the Republican Party.”

And it’s no different with the Democrats.

“The primary is a family activity and the family activity is held in house with other members of the family,” said Marion County Democratic Chairman Joel Miller, “and then we go out and do business with the other families after the primary is over.”

They know that a minority of voters feel the way Terrance Cox does.  “Everyone has an obligation to vote and they need to come out and vote,” he said.

If they do, there is no waiting.

The best race in Marion County is the Democratic primary for sheriff where John Layton is being challenged by Mark Brown.  Even there Layton is considered a strong favorite.

There are some potentially good races outside Marion County, however, including the race for Mayor of Fishers.

New Indiana education standards adopted by governor’s Education Roundtable

April 21st, 2014 at 5:25 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The Governor’s Education Roundtable adopted new academic standards for Indiana schools Monday. It was the key vote in a controversy that surrounds the Common Core.

Indiana is the first state to abandon the Common Core standards that were initially embraced by more than 40 states.  We are now on the way to a unique set of standards but the Common Core controversy continues to thrive.

Hundreds of people opposed to Common Core rallied at the Statehouse because they believe the national academic standards are not going away.  They believe that proposed new Indiana standards amount to little change.

“The proposed standards are simply a cloned version of the Common Core rebranded,” said rally organizer Heather Crossin.

The opponents then packed the Education Roundtable meeting at times mocking Governor Mike Pence.

When he said, “Clearly these standards were written by Hoosiers and for Hoosiers,” there was audible laughter in the room.

But Pence, a Republican, was firm in his support of new standards developed with the help of Indiana teachers and administrators.

He said, “To those who would have preferred that we deferred more to out of state experts from Washington, DC to the east coast to the west coast  I ask, isn’t that the kind of elitist thinking that got us Common Core in the first place?”

Also in support was the Democratic state School Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

“I am once again proud of Indiana’s educators’ finest work on our new standards,” she said.

And when it came time to vote the controversy evaporated.  21 of 24 Roundtable members expressed support for the new standards.

Opponents say they won’t give up.  “Not a single one of our concerns about content was addressed,” said Crossin, “and that’s a real shame.”

The new standards must still be approved by the State Board of Education in a vote scheduled for next week.

If approved then, the standards will take effect at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.

Indiana exceeds Obamacare enrollment

April 18th, 2014 at 4:32 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The President reported yesterday that the number of Obamacare enrollees is 8 million, a million more than the administration goal.  We now know the Indiana numbers also exceeded the goal.

The state by state numbers are not yet published but they’re pretty easy to figure out, starting with the fact that the goal for Obamacare enrollees in Indiana was 100,000.

Congressman André Carson (D-7th District) says the Obama Administration would only share percentages, but those percentages show Indiana reaching 119% of its Obamacare goal, so that would translate to 119,000 enrollees.

The Congressman was also told that in Indianapolis enrollees are at 121% of the goal.

“So I think Hoosiers understand this far more deeply than politicians give them credit for,” said Rep. Carson.

“The repeal debate is and should be over,” said President Obama on Thursday.  “The Affordable Care Act is working.”

But Republican Senator Dan Coats still has doubts.

“I was with someone who said, I have 7 enrollment numbers,” said Sen. Coats.  “Wow.  I mean is this 8 million a legitimate number or not?”

And even Congressman Carson will tell you that switching to Obamacare was uncomfortable for him.

“Premiums have gone up, deductibles have gone down,” he said.  “It’s the war we’re fighting but 5, 10 years from now, I think we’ll be great.”

Before then the voters will weigh in.  Senator Coats says the debate is far from over.

“You know we got an election coming up in November,” he said.  “It’s going to be talked about and I think it’s going to be the issue.”

And Congressman Carson, a Democrat, will tell you that it will be a successful issue for at least some Republicans, but one of the the most important things in politics is expectations management.

We now know that, both here in Indiana and around the country, the Obama Administration kept expectations sufficiently low and then exceeded them.


April 18th, 2014 at 11:21 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

John Zody is the Democrat today as the Indiana Week in Review panel tackles these subjects:

  • Mike Pence talks foreign policy on German trade mission
  • Pacers get new deal to stay in Indianapolis
  • Indiana tax burden climbs from 43rd to 22nd
  • Sen. Merritt calls for tougher juvenile justice measures
  • Karen Pence conducts art exchange in Germany
  • Glamping arrives at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Video of Pence speech criticizing Obama now available

April 17th, 2014 at 3:18 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Thursday is Day 4 of the governor’s foreign trade mission to Germany.

But Mike Pence is still getting noticed for remarks he made on Day 3 that were critical of the Obama Administration.  The video was made available Thursday morning here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoI0mw5n0yo#t=19

It comes from a Berlin Hotel where the governor hosted a reception for friends of Indiana.  During it, he delivered formal remarks that veered from economic development into foreign policy.

“History teaches us that weakness and appeasement invite aggression,” he said.

It wasn’t off the cuff.  Prepared remarks that were sent to the media, including Fox News, before the speech was delivered included the following criticism of the Obama Administration.

“With Russian aggression on the rise again,” said Pence, “it’s clear that our policy of conciliatory diplomacy has failed.”

It led to this editorial in the Washington Examiner which called the speech “the clearest sign so far that Pence is considering a run for the White House.”

Pence even had foreign policy proposal of his own.

“I believe we must take immediate steps to strengthen our mutual security by deploying a robust missle defense in all of Europe including Poland and the Czech Republic,” said the governor, “to protect the interest of all our NATO allies and to protect the interest of our country in this region.”

And that caused Indianapolis Star political cartoonist Gary Varvel to draw a cartoon comparing Pence to Ronald Reagan.

In case you wonder if that’s the reaction the governor wanted, on his facebook page he published only the foreign policy portions of the Berlin speech.

The views expressed by the governor are consistent with views he shared as a member of Congress where he served on the foreign affairs committee and he made that clear in the speech.

Nevertheless, his policy statement had political overtones that were unavoidable.

Pence talks economic development, foreign policy in Germany

April 16th, 2014 at 4:27 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Mike Pence is in Berlin Wednesday evening where he conducted a reception for German business owners looking to make investments in Indiana.

He’s on a trade mission that has produced 2 jobs announcements so far, but the numbers aren’t big and he used the opportunity to make some eye catching remarks on foreign policy.

The story of the governor’s trade mission is told in photographs on the state website.  He and first lady Karen Pence visited a military base and soldiers from Indiana before he began pursuing economic development.

“And when you look at Germany and you see it really is the heart of the economy of Europe,” he said in an interview over an Internet hookup, “I think this represesents a great opportunity for our state.”

The two jobs announcement are captured on video.  Norres, an industrial hose manufacturer, will establish a plant in South Bend.

“And we’ll very soon start with production and sales in Indiana,” says a Norres spokesman on the video.

It means 30 new jobs.

The Jäger Group, an automotive supplier, will expand an existing plant in LaPorte.

“And we will need 50 new people within the next two years,” said Andreas Jäger.

They are relatively small investments but the governor expressed his belief that they constitute momentum.

“I think we’re sowing important seeds,” he said.  “We’re hearing some good news but I think the long term is going to be very, very positive here in Germany.”

The governor also visited with companies that already have Indiana facilities.  ‘It’s all a part of what I think is a very important process,” he said, “of telling Indiana’s story in countries around the world.”

And at that Berlin reception tonight he managed to criticize American foreign policy regarding Russia.  He called it conciliatory and said it’s failed.

It has already led to media speculation that Pence is in Germany to lay groundwork for a Presidential bid in 2016.

Thursday he will visit the American embassy and meet with German government leaders.

Doctors turned lawmakers oppose medicaid expansion

April 15th, 2014 at 3:26 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

An Indiana Congressman has teamed up with a state representative to battle Obamacare.

They’re both physicians who became lawmakers.  GOP Congressman Larry Bucshon is a heart surgeon.  GOP Representative Tim Brown is an emergency room doctor.

A Tuesday town hall at the Statehouse is one of 11 stops on a statewide tour for Bucshon and Brown, who both answer to representative but prefer to be called doctor.

“I have day to day experience in my real job,” said Dr. Brown, “cause I still go work in the ER on the weekends.”

But the message here has to do with public policies regarding medicaid.  “It doesn’t make any sense to expand a program that’s already failing,” said Dr. Bucshon.

An expansion would mean health insurance for thousands of Hoosiers and the money for it would come from the federal government.

“Let’s get it right before we decide to spend it,” said Dr. Brown, “as opposed to spend it and then say we’ll try to get it right.”

They both support the efforts by Governor Mike Pence, however, to expand the Healthy Indiana Plan.  A ruling from the federal government is expected in May.

“I’m optimistic that it’ll happen,” said Dr. Brown.  “I don’t have a crystal ball but I’m optimistic.”

And Dr. Bucshon will tell you that it’s too late to repeal Obamacare.  “We can’t go back to the status quo,” he said.

But, he says, the cost of health care is too high.  He told the audience, “It’s a very complicated thing to make that happen.”

And that’s led state Senator Tim Lanane, who for the record is a lawyer and a Democrat, to accuse Brown and Bucshon of playing politics with medicaid.

In a statement he said medicaid should be expanded immediately and said the two doctors don’t need a statewide tour to know the issues.

Trapuzzano murder sparks effort to identify violent teens.

April 14th, 2014 at 4:53 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The murder of Nathan Trapuzzano could lead to new efforts aimed at identifying violent teenagers.  16-year-old Simeon Adams is accused in the Trapuzzano killing.

State Senator Jim Merritt is taking a lead role, arranging a meeting with Juvenile Judge Moores, police,and public safety officials to seek changes in the law that might prevent similar murders in the future.

“Do we need a violent juvenile prison?”  asked Merritt.

“Right now we have 70 young men in our detention facility,” said Judge Moores.  “21 of them have gun charges.”

Judge Moores is bothered by a lack of good parenting.  “There’s a huge parental supervision and responsibility issue,’ she said, “that I don’t see being addressed.”

“Too many kids have ADD,”  said Bill Stanczykiewicz of the Indiana Youth Institute, “Adult deficit disorder.”

He sees an example to follow in Boston.  “Over about an 8 year period,” he said, “they went from 60 juvenile homicides to zero and it was a combination of government, the health sector, schools, after school programs, the faith community all coming together to surround these kids with support and positive influences.”

Or, he says, they will find negative influences.

“Something’s got to happen,” says Senator Merritt, “and we have to instill into the parents some sort of responsibility where they are part of the solution.”

Because the trouble with juveniles is now everyone’s problem.