Jim Shella’s Political Blog

Mayor Ballard to be Grand Marshal of Pride Parade

May 22nd, 2015 at 5:00 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Mayor Greg Ballard will be the grand marshal of the Indy Pride Parade next month.

It is one more example of how gays and lesbians are receiving unexpected benefits from the RFRA controversy. The Pride Parade has never before had a mayor or a Republican as grand marshal.

The pride parade is a big event designed to show off this city’s diversity.

Organizer Nick Murphy described it two years ago by saying, “It’s just a fun day and it just shows we’re all the same.”

But when the governor signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act it pointed out that not everyone recognizes that.

Mayor Greg Ballard was among those who spoke up against RFRA.

“This isn’t about politics.  This is not about PR,” he said on March 30. “This is about doing what’s right for individuals, for our city.”

And so organizers of the 2015 Pride Parade invited him to be grand marshal.

“We appreciate that, so, we wanted to have him involved,” said organizer Shere Brooks.

The mayor quickly agreed.

We caught up with him at the 500 Festival Memorial service where he declined to talk about anything unrelated to Memorial Day but he issued this statement:

“For decades our city has been recognized as one of the world’s most welcoming communities. Hoosier Hospitality is alive and well, and the Pride Parade is going to be a great opportunity to demonstrate that.”

“This, locally, will make more people from the city go, hey, you know maybe we should come down,” said Brooks, “and see the parade.”

And, by the way this is not a new position for Greg Ballard. He has sent letters of support in previous years.

And organizers sent requested a letter of support from Governor Mike Pence this year.

There has been no response.


May 22nd, 2015 at 4:40 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

All of the regulars are in for Indiana Week in Review this time.  Here are the topics:

  • The governor’s re-election plans
  • BMV efforts to avoid a lawsuit
  • Needle exchange extended in Scott County
  • Joe Hogsett proposes term limits for mayor
  • David Letterman’s legacy
  • Indy 500 picks

Congress investigating Scott County HIV outbreak

May 21st, 2015 at 1:17 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Congress is now looking into the causes behind the HIV outbreak in Scott County.

State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams told a Congressional subcommittee Thursday that the HIV rate in Scott County is higher than the rate in any country in sub-Saharan Africa.

160 people have tested positive and Adams is asking for federal help.

Dr. Adams appeared alongside state health officials from Colorado, Massachusetts, and Missouri to explain what’s being done and what needs to be done to curb opioid addictions.

Members of the subcommittee include two Indiana members of Congress, Susan Brooks and Larry Bucshon.

Adams told them that there is a need for more drug education for everyone from school students to prescribers and he told the story of a young man in Scott County to make his case.

“He said I had an injury as a freshman in high school, knee injury playing football,” said Dr. Adams. “The doc prescribed me Vicodin.  I kind of liked how it made me feel so I took all the Vicodin he gave me, took some more, ran out. He said it was easy to get in the community. Got more Vicodin, finally that wasn’t doing the job, switched to Oxycontin till that wasn’t doing the job, then I started injecting and then he switched over to heroin and now he’s a 23-year-old HIV addict.”

Dr. Adams said there is a need to get to those people earlier and that 1 in 15 young people who pop a pain pill will go on to a heroin addiction.

He also said the flow of drugs needs to be stopped and there needs to be more efforts aimed at addiction recovery.

Donnelly “Care Package” wins committee approval

May 20th, 2015 at 5:03 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly is making progress in his latest effort to battle military suicide.

It involves better access to mental health treatment.

Back in March Sen. Donnelly proposed what he calls the Mental Health Care Package for service members and veterans.

It would provide training for private health care providers and some of them would get a service member friendly designation.

His legislation was recently approved by the Armed Services Committee.

Donnelly previously passed legislation that was named after the late Jacob Sexton of Farmland, Indiana who killed himself while on leave from the military.

It calls for better mental health treatment within the military but Donnelly says more needs to be done.

“We lost over 400 of our service members last year,” he said. “I want to get that to zero, 400 just to suicide. And so that’s our obligation, that’s our job.”

Donnelly has bi-partisan support for his proposal.

And the better news is that it is now included in the larger National Defense Authorization Act. That’s a bill that has been passed on an annual basis for the last 53 years.

Hogsett calls for mayoral term limit

May 20th, 2015 at 4:16 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Joe Hogsett is promising to establish higher ethics standards if he wins the race for Mayor.

Hogsett is trying to build on the reputation he built as U.S. Attorney.

It’s also the first policy position to be announced by either Hogsett or Republican candidate Chuck Brewer and Hogsett says it will be the first of many from him.

The Democratic candidate appeared outside the City County Building to call for, among other things, greater transparency in city contracts.

He pointed out that as federal prosecutor he brought charges against two members of the City County Council, Republican Lincoln Plowman and Democrat Paul Bateman. Both of them were convicted on corruption charges.

He also proposed a two term limit for mayor eliminating the Hudnut Forever law that currently permits unlimited terms.

“It often leads to kicking hard, tough issues down the road,” he said, “and I think a two term limit would impose on the chief executive a much needed encouragement to get the job of the people done in a short period of time.”

Hogsett said he would also reject memberships in country clubs and other perks traditionally offered to the mayor.

They are policy positions that are the foundation for a campaign that most voters will see only in TV commercials and those commercials are already in production.

BMV asks judge to throw out fee lawsuit

May 18th, 2015 at 12:10 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

A Marion County judge will decide if a lawsuit against the BMV will go to trial.

It involves as much as $60 million in overcharges and the BMV is asking that the lawsuit be thrown out.

Lawyers for the state agency say that would be in the best interest of taxpayers and that the BMV will be held accountable.

But attorney Irwin Levin is seeking a trial on the class action suit he filed that accuses the BMV of both overcharging fees and failing to pay timely refunds.

The overcharges began in 2002 and a recent independent study of BMV procedures found that they continue today.

In 2013 the BMV put steps in motion to identify and refund overcharges and its attorney argued Monday that paying fees to Levin and paying tens of millions of dollars in interest is contrary to the public interest.

“We made some, what we consider to be compelling legal arguments,” said Carl Hayes, “and we’re anxious for the court to rule.”

“The problem is, is that they’re not going to pay all the money that’s overcharged,” said Levin.

“They’re gonna pick and choose just as they’ve done thus far who they’re gonna pay and how much they’re gonna pay,” he said, “and they’re not gonna pay any interest.”

Judge John Hanley has taken the case under advisement.

He can throw it out or let it continue to a trial that is already set for December.

Baron Hill on the verge of a Senate run

May 15th, 2015 at 5:07 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Baron Hill intends to become a candidate for the U.S. Senate. The former Congressman said that in a speech Thursday night.

However, he is not yet in the race and is still planning a formal announcement to take place in June.

The Democrat wants to make it clear he intends to be a Senate candidate.

“That’s what I wanna do,” he said. “I want to be the next United States Senator from Indiana but I’ve not made a formal announcement yet.”

He went on to say, “There’s a lot you have to do in order to get to that point where you make a formal announcement and one of the things is reaching out to supporters and that’s what I’m doing.”

Hill got noticed in the 1990 race for Senate by walking from the Ohio River to Lake Michigan.

Nevertheless, he didn’t win enough votes to unseat Dan Coats, who decided not to run for re-election next year, creating the opportunity Hill now hopes to pursue in 2016.

“I guess it shows that we’ve both been around an awful long time,” said Coats. “I figure I’ve been around long enough and apparently Baron hasn’t, doesn’t feel the same way.”

But if the suggestion is that Baron is over the hill, during a taping of Indiana Week in Review it was Republican Mike McDaniel who pointed out that experience is important.

“In Baron Hill’s case, I mean, he knows how to campaign,” he said. “He’s done it. He’s campaigned statewide. And he’s been pretty competitive.”

“I love politics,” said Hill. “I love public policy. I like making a difference in people’s lives.”

2 Republicans are already in the race, Eric Holcomb and Marlin Stutzman, and there could be more.

And Hill may not be the only democrat. Evan Bayh is being pressured to run.

State Representative Christina Hale is considering a bid.

Pence criticized Obama for China trip

May 13th, 2015 at 2:15 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Mike Pence is in the middle of a trade mission to China, a trip similar to one he criticized Barack Obama for taking.

In November of 2009 Mike Pence was in Congress and Barack Obama traveled to Beijing.

In at least two speeches Pence suggested that the President should have stayed home.

This week Mike Pence is meeting with Chinese investors and government officials on an 8 day trade mission.

“We’re also, Jim, recognizing the fact,’ he said in a telephone interveiw, “that China is really looking to the United States for investment opportunities.”

But when the President went to China in 2009 his point of view was different.

“You know the President of the United States just said in China, quote, if we keep adding to the debt even in the midst of this recovery, people could lose confidence in the U.S. economy.  Close quote.” he said on the House floor at the time. “Maybe it’d help if the President said that in America instead of China.”

So how is his trip different? “The opportunity for me to come to China and really tell Indiana’s story,” he said, “I think, is an important part of my job as governor.”

And Pence was even more harsh in a 2009 speech to a dinner sponsored by the conservative magazine American Spectator.

“And where is the President this week?” he asked.

“In China visiting our money and being lectured on monetary policy by communist dictators.”

And so I questioned him about his trade mission again. Is it different from what the President was doing?

“I, I don’t recall that speech precisely, Jim,” he said, “and I don’t, you know, I think that, um, to the extent that I remember it, I think, it was at a time when our economy was struggling and, if memory serves, I was thinking the President should focus a little more on the domestic economy.”

It’s the latest example of how playing a partisan role in Congress is different from holding an executive office, whether it’s governor or President.

Karen Tallian begins campaign for governor

May 12th, 2015 at 3:55 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

State Senator Karen Tallian kicked off a campaign for governor Tuesday.

She’s a outspoken Democrat who says Indiana needs a change.

Tallian calls herself a progressive but believes she is closer to the middle of the road than Mike Pence is.

She is motivated by RFRA, GOP attacks on the Department of Education, and the repeal of the common construction wage.

But, in a Statehouse announcement, Tallian said she decided to run for governor two years ago.

She declined to say anything critical about fellow democrats John Gregg or Glenda Ritz.

And she made no effort to avoid her support of more lenient marijuana laws. Tallian supports decriminalization.

“I don’t believe that anybody should be going to jail because they’ve smoked pot,” she said. “I just don’t believe that.  If they have a problem then it’s a health problem not a criminal justice problem.”

She also said people from all over the state support legalizing medical marijuana.

“There’s no reason why we can’t give a dying person anything they want,” she said.

Some of the people in the crowd behind Tallian, including at least one Republican, were there solely because of her position on marijuana laws.

Tallian is long shot, nevertheless.

She starts this race with a couple of disadvantages. She is from northwest Indiana and she has almost no statewide name ID.

Pence holds RV reception in Beijing

May 12th, 2015 at 2:17 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Governor Mike Pence spent the second day of his trade mission to China promoting the sale of Indiana-made recreational vehicles in Beijing.

The governor co-hosted a reception Tuesday evening at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. The other sponsor of the event was the RV Industry Association.

Pictures distributed on twitter by a spokeswoman for Mike Pence show RV’s parked outside the embassy and events inside that attracted about a hundred business leaders.

China is the second largest export market for Indiana-made RV’s.

Earlier in the day Governor Pence met with a vice premier of the People’s Republic of China and state officials signed a memorandum of understanding to pursue new economic development possibilities.

On Day 1 of the trade mission the governor visited the Great Wall of China as well as examples of Chinese architecture. He’s also been to Tianamen Square.

The governor will be in China for the rest of the week with plans to visit Zheijang Province Wednesday.

That’s Indiana’s Chinese sister state.