Jim Shella’s Political Blog

Pence Administration admits mistakes on Just IN

January 28th, 2015 at 3:22 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The Pence Administration is prepared to drop the idea for a controversial new website that has been called a state run news agency.

First, there is an effort to convince the media that mistakes will be corrected.

The governor’s communications director, Christy Denault, met with the media Wednesday and admitted that the wrong terminology was used in planning for the Just IN website.

For example, the title of “managing editor” will be changed to “content manager.”

She said there is no effort to make an end run around the media.

The governor was in Fort Wayne where, again, the belief that he is launching a state run news agency distracted from his effort to take credit for federal approval of HIP 2.0.

“It’s really our intention from the outset and going forward,” he said, “was really to create a website that’s a resource for the press and the public, not a news source.”

“If we’re going to do this,” said Denault, “we want to do it right.”

Denault said that the Administration was simply looking for a better way to present information that is already going out.

She disclosed mock pages for the website that won’t go live until at least mid-February and said it will contain news releases not stories, even though internal documents call for daily stories.

“We were very dismayed that we caused so much consternation and confusion,” she said. “Was never the intent.”

Political opponents of the governor, meantime, aren’t letting up. “Pull the plug on the thing,” said House Minority Leader Scott Pelath.

Just IN has given them just cause to criticize.

“Whenever you’re sharing a paragraph with Kim Jong Un,” said Pelath, “it’s probably time to say this just didn’t work out.”

And the governor’s staff will consider dropping Just IN.

“I think we need to do a very careful evaluation,” said Denault.

And now the Society of Professional Journalists and the Hoosier State Press Association will be asked to review the content on Just IN.

At the very least it’s an admission by the Pence Administration that it’s media relations could stand some improvement.

Governor announces federal approval of HIP 2.0

January 27th, 2015 at 11:56 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Governor Mike Pence confirmed Tuesday what WISH-TV first reported on Monday. The federal government has granted approval for HIP 2.0.

The governor delivered the news in a speech at St. Vincent Hospital.

The announcement means health care coverage for as many as 350,000 people in Indiana who currently have none and it’s being done with no tax increases.

HIP 2.0 is a medicaid alternative that requires co-pays or health savings accounts.

Signup begins immediately (at hip.in.gov) and coverage begins February first.

“This is not about policies and programs and dollars and cents,” said Governor Pence. “It’s about people, it’s about members of our family.  It’s about co-workers, neighbors, friends.”

Despite the announcement the governor said he still believes that Obamacare should be repealed.

Rally organizers seek minimum wage hike

January 26th, 2015 at 3:24 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

There was a demonstration at the Statehouse Monday designed to stir support for an increase in the minimum wage.

Union members, community organizers and others held a rally and then contacted lawmakers with a request to increase the Indiana minimum wage.

It is currently $7.25 an hour.

“Minimum wage is not just for teenagers anymore,” said Yin Min Kyi of the Service Employees International Union. “Majority affected are women and most of them are raising families and have college education.”

Organizers are planning a followup rally near the end of February.

It’s unlikely, however, that majority Republicans in the General Assembly will grant a public hearing for bills that would increase the minimum wage.

Canned hunting controversy re-ignited

January 26th, 2015 at 2:51 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

There’s a new battle at the Statehouse over the regulation of private hunting preserves.

State Representative Sean Eberhart (R-Shelbyville) has authored a bill that would establish rules for the four existing hunting preserves in Indiana. There currently are none.

Eberhard is seeking approval from a committee in the Indiana House.

Opponents want the practice. sometimes called canned hunting, to be abolished.

Among other things, they say it contributes to the spread of chronic wasting disease in the deer population.

Erin Huang/HSUS: The addiction of large antlers has led to the development of Frankendeer,” said Erin Huang of the Humane Society of the United States, “or animals with antlers so large and grotesque that they can barely lift their heads.”

“The idea of canned hunting is pretty much repulsive to the average hunter,” said hunter Jack Corpuz.

The committee did not take a vote on the canned hunting bill.

HIP 2.0 approval expected

January 26th, 2015 at 2:40 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The federal government and the Pence Administration appear to be on the verge of an agreement over HIP 2.0.

The governor’s plan to expand medicaid has been in negotiation since May of 2014.

In recent days vendors have been gearing up for a February 1st launch of the plan that could bring healthcare coverage to as many as 400,000 Hoosiers who currently don’t have it.

A public announcement of the agreement is anticipated for Tuesday or Wednesday.

2 Indiana members of Congress help delay anti-abortion vote

January 23rd, 2015 at 5:17 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

A bill in Congress to ban all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy is now on hold and pro-life forces are disappointed.

It’s a development that put a damper on a pro-life celebration.

Indiana Republicans Susan Brooks and Jackie Walorski want changes in the controversial anti-abortion bill. Walorski removed her name as co-sponsor and House leadership called off a scheduled vote.

The streets of Washington were filled with half a million abortion protesters Thursday. The annual March for Life takes place on the anniversary of the Roe versus Wade decision that legalized abortion.

In the crowd were hundreds of Hoosiers.

“Buses and busloads from different cities all over the state of Indiana,” said Sue Swayze of Indiana Right to Life. “If I had to guess I’d say 500.”

They expected that the march would take place following a vote in Congress to pass the bill banning abortions after 20 weeks.

“And that’s why the House had planned to vote on it that day,” said Swayze, “and that would have been meaningful for us, yes.”

But, instead, Jackie Walorski and others debated a bill to ban taxpayer funding for abortions. “56 percent of Americans are opposed to taxpayer funding of abortions,” said Rep. Walorski in the floor debate.

They approved it on a 242-179 vote.

Walorski and Susan Brooks are among a group of Republicans concerned about a provision in the original bill that requires rape victims to file a police report.

In a statement Brooks said, “We must be mindful that a majority of the victims of these horrendous crimes do not come forward to law enforcement.  I’m hopeful these concerns can be addressed.”

And so GOP leadership called for a vote on the other abortion bill, a bill they could support.

The marchers, meantime, still hope that the original bill will get passed and that’s still possible.

The bill banning abortion after 20 weeks will likely be changed and brought back for a vote in February.


January 23rd, 2015 at 4:55 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Tim Berry is the Republican this week as the Indiana Week in Review panel tackles these issues:

  • Two Republicans enter the race for Mayor of Indianapolis
  • Democrat Joe Hogsett makes his candidacy official
  • Rep. Bob Behning seeks to start a lobbying practice and then backs away
  • Lawmakers consider extending the statute of limitations for rape
  • Dan Coats wins a subcommittee chairmanship
  • Deflate-gate

Utilities, consumers fight over energy conservation

January 22nd, 2015 at 3:37 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Consumer groups and power companies are squaring off again at the Statehouse in a battle that could affect your electric bill.

It’s about getting all of us to reduce our use of electricity and eliminate the need for new power plants in Indiana.

Everyone agrees with the goal. The fight is over how to get there.

A year ago lawmakers did away with Energizing Indiana, a program that forced utilities to become more efficient by, among other things, providing energy audits to ratepayers.

Now Governor Mike Pence is leading the effort to launch a new energy efficiency program. Pence aide Dan Schmidt appeared before a state Senate committee.

“When it comes to energy policy the governor’s goal is affordable, reliable energy,” he said. “The question is:  will there be electricity coming through the wires when we flip the switch and will it be at the lowest cost possible?”

“We, ah, support certainly energy efficiency,” said utility industry spokesman Tim Rushenberg.

Consumer advocates objected.

“We view this bill as an anti-ratepayer bill,” said Kerwin Olsen of the Citizens Action Coalition, “that will bring harm to customers.”

He doesn’t like the fact that governor’s bill let’s utilities decide how and where to cut back usage.

“The bill let’s the utilities set the conservation goal,” said engineer Ray Wilson. “The state needs to set the goals.”

Yet the committee passed the bill on a 7-3 vote. It now goes to the full Senate where there will be changes made.

“This is the beginning of the conversation,” said Schmidt. “This is not attempting to dot every I and cross every T on the approach for energy efficiency in Indiana.”

In the meantime, utilities are engaged in voluntary programs that should reduce energy usage by one percent this year.

And some of the consumer opposition to the bill was reduced because it was amended. It now requires an independent third party to review the conservation efforts by utilities.

Hogsett makes it official

January 21st, 2015 at 4:28 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Joe Hogsett filed the paperwork Wednesday to get his name on the ballot in the May primary for Mayor of Indianapolis.

The Democratic candidate is running a textbook campaign to this point and that means that he has managed to get six months worth of publicity out of his decision to enter the race while offering little more.

So far, he has done everything possible to avoid controversy.

Hogsett appeared at the City County Building with his wife Stephanie for an event that was planned as a photo opportunity as opposed to a news conference.

He filed his paperwork, obtained a copy from the clerk’s office, and then went on his way, stopping only briefly to answer questions.

When asked, he declined to say anything about the two Republicans who entered the race this week.

“Not here to talk about politics today,” he said. “I filed my candidacy and frankly this is less about who’s running and more about what people expect from their next mayor.”

When asked again, he said, “I really don’t intend to comment on any of my opponents.  I’m going to focus on the vision I have for the future of the city and I hope that it is responded to by the voters.”

Those two Republicans, Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams and businessman Chuck Brewer, begin the race at a disadvantage.

That’s because Hogsett has already raised over a million dollars and this is now considered to be a Democratic county.

Hogsett did make it clear today that he still believes that crime will be the biggest in the issue in the campaign and says he will soon take steps to lay out his vision for the city.

Sen. Coats criticizes the State of the Union

January 21st, 2015 at 11:20 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Indiana Senator Dan Coats said the State of the Union speech left him and his GOP colleagues scratching their heads.

Coats said he questions whether the President wants to work with Congress and whether he understood the message from the 2014 Election when Republicans won control of the Senate.

He said it’s sort of like the President and Congress are on different planets.

“His agenda has no chance of getting approved in this Congress,” said Coats. “There are even Democrats, take Keystone Pipeline, 10 Democrats supported Republicans and the President said, send me that and I’m going to veto it. So, it’s even affecting his own party and they are saying, wait a minute Mr. President, I thought we were going to work together.”

Coats compared the State of the Union to a campaign speech.