Jim Shella’s Political Blog

Governor intervenes to preserve Statehouse tradition

April 17th, 2015 at 2:27 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The governor is stepping in to preserve a tradition for interns in the General Assembly.

It comes after a WISH-TV story several days ago about the cancellation of a Statehouse tour that includes a walk up a secret staircase.

Interns were told 13 days ago that the Statehouse dome was off limits to them for liability reasons. It’s a tour, however, that the governor has taken and Mike Pence wants the interns to have the same experience.

And so, when the interns took part in another tradition, posing for pictures with the governor earlier this week, Pence told them he would come up with a liability waiver to make the tour possible.

It’s a tradition that has been in effect for more than a generation. It involves a walk up a circular staircase to a place above the stained glass that serves as a ceiling for the Statehouse rotunda.

Interns often leave their initials on the walls or in the dust and, for many, it’s an unforgettable experience.

Those interns can’t talk to the media but an intern supervisor reacted for them.

“After pointless meanderings by bureaucrats for no reason whatsoever,” said House Democratic Communications Director John Schorg, “it appears sanity has prevailed and thanks to the governor the interns will get the full experience they deserve when they work here at the General Assembly.”

There’s no word on when the tour might take place but the internships end in two weeks.

A spokeswoman for the governor confirmed his involvement but declined further comment.


April 17th, 2015 at 1:04 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Lesley Weidenbener is in for Jon Schwantes today as the Indiana Week in Review panel discusses the following topics:

  • Mike Pence’s falling approval numbers
  • The “Pence Must Go” movement
  • Bill Oesterle’s political plans
  • The common wage repeal
  • The bill to remove Glenda Ritz as SBOE chair
  • IMPD’s role in a promposal

State Rep. advocates arming domestic abuse victims

April 17th, 2015 at 12:50 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

State Representative Jim Lucas is known for his defense of gun ownership and gun rights.

Nevertheless, the Seymour Republican raised some eyebrows with comments made on the House floor.

Once a week this session, someone in the House presents a domestic violence fact in the effort to increase awareness regarding domestic abuse.

Thursday Lucas felt the need to react.

“There are options out there for women,” he said. “Applications for a license to carry a handgun are up significantly in the state of Indiana according to the Indiana State Police.  Women can take it upon themselves to defend themselves.”

Meantime, studies show that domestic violence is five times more likely to end in homicide when a gun is present.

New poll shows big drop in Pence approval

April 16th, 2015 at 2:35 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Governor Mike Pence’s job approval numbers are in the tank. The number of people who disapprove of his performance in office outnumber those who approve according to a new poll.

Howey Politics Indiana commissioned the poll.

It was conducted by a Republican pollster, Christine Matthews, and the results are eye-catching.

The governor’s job approval rating is just 45 percent in the poll from Bellwether Research.
46 percent disapprove.

It’s a big drop from six months ago when the WISH-TV Ball State Hoosier Survey showed the governor’s approval rating at 62 percent.

Pollster Christine Matthews says it’s all about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“They don’t think it should have happened in the first place,” she said, “and a majority think it’s going to have a negative impact on Indiana’s economy.”

In fact, 59 percent said that RFRA wasn’t needed.

The governor dodged the issue at a pre-kindergarten announcement.

“We’ll let politics take care of itself in the future,” he said, “but for now my focus is jobs and schools and seeing those bright and shining faces here.”

Meantime the poll finds that 54 percent of Indiana voters support civil rights protections for gays and lesbians.

Senate GOP Leader David Long thinks the damage is short term.

“I’m pretty confident long term we’ll put that behind us,” he said. “It’s just an unfortunate circumstance that occurred.”

But the poll finds that 50 percent expect that the Indiana economy will suffer long term effects and it has affected the governor’s favorability rating, too.

“People aren’t giving him the benefit of the doubt in terms of ‘I like you but you screwed up,’” said Matthews. “It’s sort of like ‘I’m not sure if I like you and you also screwed up.’”

Despite all that the poll shows Mike Pence leading in match ups against Democrats if the 2016 election was held now.

The closest challenge in this poll, by the way, comes from Glenda Ritz who is just 3 points behind Pence, within the 4 point margin of error.

And that’s despite the fact that Ritz’s approval rating is lower than Pence’s.

Senate approves construction wage repeal

April 15th, 2015 at 4:41 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The state Senate voted Wednesday to repeal the law that creates the state’s common construction wage. It’s a victory for the governor and for GOP leaders in the General Assembly.

Opponents call it a defeat for the middle class.

They believe it will reduce construction costs on public projects but even some Republicans have doubts.

The 27 to 22 vote in the state Senate was close and opponents of the wage repeal supplied most of the debate as GOP leader David Long worked to keep supporters on board.

“This is payback,” said Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage,) “payback for all those groups who support a national agenda to do this.”

The big rally against bill on Monday attracted thousands of union workers but failed to affect the outcome, even though supporters had trouble making a compelling case for the repeal.

“I don’t think anything’s gonna change,” said Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis.)

And some of the most outspoken opponents were Republicans, including Vaneta Becker of Evansville who said, “It will do nothing to cut cost.”

12 Republicans and all of the Democrats voted against the repeal.

“I do not think that this is good for middle class Indiana,” said Becker.

It’s the latest example of how the GOP is taking advantage of super majorities in the General Assembly.

Look for the House to agree with changes made to the bill by the Senate. That means it should get to the governor’s desk before the end of the week.

For the middle class workers who were at the Statehouse on Monday it becomes a campaign issue in 2016.

Rally opposes common wage law repeal

April 13th, 2015 at 5:17 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

There was a big rally at the Statehouse Monday conducted by opponents of the bill to repeal the common wage law.

It’s a repeal supported by the governor and GOP leaders in the General Assembly but Republicans took part in the rally, too.

It was a rally that looked a lot like the right to work rallies of years past that were staged by the labor unions. Most of the attendees were union workers.

But it was organized by contractors and many of them are Republicans.

The rally was attended by thousands and in the crowd was John Gregg, a former and possibly future Democratic candidate for governor.

Democratic lawmakers told the crowd to remember this come election time.

“Enough is enough,” chanted Rep. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend.) “Just vote no.”

But there were Republican lawmakers there, too, and Republican contractors who say that promises from the governor to cut construction costs by 20 percent on public projects just don’t add up.

“The only way they would get the savings,” said Phil Kenney of Wilhelm Construction, “is to drive wages and benefits down to next to nothing.”

Workers are worried.

“Take that away and it’s gonna hurt a lot of our families,” said Josh Rusher. “I mean a lot of us rely on this money and put it back in the community.”

“I think it would be a downward spiral,” said Nina Rivas, “and bring too many people from out of state to work (here.)”

But they also know they are fighting an uphill battle and that may explain some of the rhetoric.

“You tell me that it’s gonna save 20 percent to bring out of state contractors in here,” said contractor Frank Marshall. “Bull(bleep.)”

Some of the contractors who staged the rally met with the governor recently. They failed to change his mind and during the rally tweets from a Mike Pence twitter account encouraged the state Senate to pass the repeal.

The Senate, meantime, put off consideration of proposed amendments to the repeal Monday afternoon. Instead it will consider them Tuesday.

A final Senate vote on the repeal is expected by the end of the week.

Mike Pence no longer considered a presidential prospect

April 10th, 2015 at 5:15 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Republicans presidential hopefuls addressed the NRA convention in Nashville Friday.

One Republican who was not there is Governor Mike Pence. He cancelled at the last minute.

It adds to the growing evidence that his political prospects have changed.

The governor’s office says Pence didn’t go to Nashville because he was attending the funeral of a friend here in Indiana. Even so, there is a list of insiders who will tell you that he’s no longer considered a Presidential hopeful.

The headlines are harsh.  “The Week Mike Pence’s 2016 Dreams Crumbled” reads one.
“The Washington Post Dumps Mike Pence from Top 10″ reads another.

It’s all the result of the governor’s handling of the religious freedom battle and his unwillingness to answer a question about discrimination on ABC.

You might expect the jokes on Comedy Central where John Stewart applauded on the Daily Show, saying, “Here, here.  I didn’t realize that people in Indiana could not practice religion.  I’m excited.”

But check out the commentary on Fox News where Neil Cavuto said of running for president, “Make sure you can convince people you are Presidential because you do not get a second chance to make a first impression.  Just ask Indiana governor Mike Pence.”

Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia ranks 19 Republican contenders and this week Mike Pence is off the list completely.

Back in January CNN ran a headline about “Mike Pence’s Very Bad Week” on the week when he dropped the idea for a state run news service.

This is worse.


April 10th, 2015 at 5:06 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

All of the regulars are on hand today as the Indiana Week in Review panel tackles RFRA fallout from a number of angles.  The topics:

  • Local communities pass civil rights ordinances
  • RFRA supporter Curt Smith severs ties with law firm
  • Common wage bill advances
  • Illinois governor promises to “rip the economic guts out of Indiana”
  • Capitol dome tour for interns cancelled
  • Final Four report card

Bill to cut Ritz’s power advances

April 9th, 2015 at 11:34 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The bill to remove State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz as chairman of the State Board of Education is one step closer to becoming law despite objections union leaders.

“To say that we’re putting politics aside is just strictly laughable,” said Sally Sloan of the American Federation of Teachers. “That’s exactly what’s going on with this bill.”

Ritz is at odds with the Republican super majorities in the General Assembly and there is little she can do to fight back, except to cry foul.

That’s what the Democratic superintendent did at a committee hearing in January but Thursday she didn’t even show up, instead sending an aide to plead her case.

“We believe that this bill is the product of a very bad political decision on the part of the governor,” said John Barnes.

Governor Mike Pence made the bill that permits the state board to elect its chairman a priority in December and Republicans aren’t backing down, even though most of the testimony came from Ritz supporters.

“Let’s be clear, the battle over who shall chair the state board of education is a skirmish,” said retired educator Vic Smith, “in a greater war about whether a strong public education system built over the last hundred years will survive in Indiana.”

The bill to cut Glenda Ritz’s power now goes to the full House.

It has already passed both Houses in one form or another. Lawmakers are now working out what the final version will be.

It is a big change. It was pointed out Thursday that the Superintendent has served as board chair since 1913.

Senate GOP budget has education as a priority

April 9th, 2015 at 11:19 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

GOP leaders in the state Senate unveiled their version of the state budget bill Thursday and it was approved by a committee on a party line vote.

The $31.5 billion 2-year budget bill calls for 2.3 percent increases in school spending in both years. That’s similar to what the House passed earlier.

Changes in the school formula, however, will mean more money for districts that include IPS.

It’s a balanced budget that maintains a surplus of almost $1.9 billion.

Among other things, it includes an additional million dollars for the state tourism department to battle effects of the Boycott Indiana campaign.

It now goes to the full Senate.