Jim Shella’s Political Blog

Mike Pence vetoes gambling bill

May 8th, 2015 at 4:46 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Mike Pence got the veto pen out on Friday.

He rejected a gambling bill passed by the General Assembly.

The governor has three choices when it comes to action on any bill passed by state lawmakers: he can sign it into law, he can veto it, or he can let it become law without his signature.

This year he has made use of all three options.

He let two gambling bills become law without his signature. One is the bill to let riverboats move on land.

It also could lead to live dealers at the racinos in 2021.

The other is a bill that deals with horse racing promotions and other matters.

He vetoed a bill that would permit what’s called advance deposit wagering on horse races.

It would permit not only in-person bets but also bets made on electronic devices and Mike Pence saw that as an unacceptable expansion of gambling.

And there’s one other bill that he permitted to become law without his signature.
It calls for a 3-year moratorium on most new nursing home construction.

That was a tough one for the governor because he’s in favor of letting the free market work.

The effort to stop the moratorium, however, is what led to an ethics scandal last year involving former state representative Eric Turner.


May 8th, 2015 at 2:14 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

All of the regulars are on the Indiana Week in Review panel today.  Here’s what we’ll talk about:

  • Jim Brainard and the other Hamilton County winners in the primary election
  • The November match up for mayor in Indianapolis
  • Low voter turnout
  • Mixed results in school referendums
  • Bill signings by the governor
  • Deflategate

Pence signs budget, power grab bill, promises veto

May 7th, 2015 at 5:35 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Governor Mike Pence says that a new state budget backs up his promise to make the 2015 Session of the General Assembly an “education session.”

The governor signed that budget into law Thursday in a ceremony that may have something to do with rebuilding the governor’s image.

Pence has been advised that, in order to get his sagging approval rating back up following the RFRA disaster, he needs to concentrate on jobs and education.

He leaves on a trade mission to China Saturday and Thursday he spent some time with school children.

It was a big show. More than 300 school children joined the governor for a bill signing that he called historic because of 2.3 percent increases in school funding over the next two years.

“And we provide the kind of funding that more accurately supports the principle,” he said, “that the resources should follow the student.”

But the superlatives weren’t matched by the governor’s host, Lebanon superintendent Robert Taylor who described the budget by saying, “As we sit today, it is sufficient and adequate.”

And Democrats who voted against the budget on the last night of the General Assembly 8 days ago, stand by the arguments made then.

“The governor said this was going to be an educational session,” said Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis,) “unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, it devolved into a RFRA session and now from the budget we present today it’s going to be a RIF session.”

In fact, more than a hundred school districts will lose money under the budget.

And before the governor left Lebanon, he promised to sign an even more controversial education bill, the one that takes power away from state school Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

“But I also said we needed to fix what’s broken,” said Pence, “and the challenges we face in the State Board of Education are well known to people all over the state.”

The governor did wait until a Board of Education meeting ended before he acted.

Friday the governor will finish acting on bills passed by the General Assembly and there may be a surprise or two.

He promised at least one veto and he declined to indicate what he will do with the gambling bill. It permits riverboats to move on land, could lead to live dealers at racinos in 2021 and suddenly appears vulnerable.

Are Republicans avoiding the RFRA debate?

May 6th, 2015 at 5:44 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

RFRA remains a hot button issue in Indiana.

In fact, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act may be too hot for some lawmakers to touch.

We are now one week away from a legislative session that will be long remembered for the religious freedom controversy and the ensuing battle over gay rights. It’s a time when lawmakers typically meet with constituents to explain what went on.

That’s what happened at the Bloomington Country Club Wednesday where the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce invited all of the lawmakers who represent Monroe County to take part in a question and answer session.

5 Republicans were invited. None of them showed up.

The two Democrats who were there said more needs to be done to repair this state’s image.

“So just the fix for RFRA, just a sentence or two within that language,” said Sen. Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington,) “is not enough to fix the overall impression that the world has of Indiana as a place that is not fighting discrimination but is actively encouraging it.”

“I think you would have to repeal the RFRA law,” said Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington,) “then sit down and redo it. And then match that up with the real protections for the LGBT community in our civil rights statutes.”

Some of the Republicans who missed the luncheon cited conflicts but it was scheduled to match the availability of a couple of them.

Lee Hamilton’s nephew wins Bloomington primary

May 6th, 2015 at 4:03 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Bloomington will have a new mayor following the November election and the favorite in that race comes from a famous political family in Indiana.

John Hamilton won the Democratic primary in Bloomington with a surprising margin, 58% to 40%, over his closest challenger.

Hamilton is the nephew of longtime Congressman and Indiana political legend Lee Hamilton.

This was his second bid for mayor in Bloomington.

He has experience leading both the Family and Social Services Agency and the Department of Environmental Management in state government.

“Most of my government experience is at the state level,” he said, “but this is my hometown and I love it and I’m very excited about this place. It’s a wonderful community to live in and great potential and I am so excited about the chance to work with the wonderful people of Bloomington to chart where we’re going to go next.”

Hamilton will face a Republican challenger in November but that challenger, John Turnbull, got just 344 votes in an uncontested primary.

Bloomington is predominately Democratic and, while Hamilton says he will take the race seriously, he is a prohibitive favorite in this one.

He hopes to replace retiring Democrat Mark Kruzan.

Westfield primary is a referendum on Andy Cook

May 4th, 2015 at 5:42 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Mayor Andy Cook is seeking re-election in Westfield Tuesday where the GOP primary is the election.

It’s a referendum on Cook who is facing a first-time candidate.

Andy Cook has guided Westfield as it has grown from a small town into a booming suburb.
The keystone of that growth is Grand Park, a sports complex with almost sixty fields and ball diamonds.

“We had to find an industry,” he said, “and what we found was, ah, we put forth tapping the $8 1/2 billion family travel sports industry.

Four years ago Cook barely won re-election because voters questioned his plans for Grand Park.  Now that they’ve seen it, Cook hopes that his reward is a third term.

Grand Park supplied $43 million to the local economy in its first year according to Cook, but his challenger, Pike Township firefighter Jeff Harpe, is not impressed..

“I would say the problem with Grand Park is that city officials haven’t done their due diligence,” he said, “as to what it’s gonna cost to actually be sustainable.”

Harpe says supports the growth in Westfield but thinks the city has too much debt.

“Right now I believe we have a mayor and a rubber stamp city council,” he said, “that has totally disregarded the voice of the people.”

Cook is mostly worried about voter turnout after that close call in 2011.

“I had so many people come to me the next day and say, ‘Andy, we didn’t know you had a problem,’ didn’t bother to vote,” he said. “Now, they said at that time it wouldn’t happen again, we’ll see.”

Andy Cook is running a modern campaign with polling, advertising, and a focused message.

Jeff Harpe has conducted most of his campaign on social media and has spent $7 thousand dollars of his own money in the process.

Cook is the favorite.

Intern tradition revived with Statehouse dome tour

May 1st, 2015 at 2:47 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Interns in the General Assembly were permitted to carry out an annual tradition Friday by taking a tour to the top of the Statehouse dome, a tour that was previously cancelled.

24 Hour News 8 reported several weeks ago that the dome tour was cancelled for liability reasons. Then, the governor stepped in and found a way to make it happen.

As a result, three groups of interns were escorted to the very top of the Statehouse dome.

They signed a liability waiver before entering a little used doorway on the fourth floor of the Statehouse.

“It will be a memorable experience, ” said Joshua Corum, an intern from the University of Nevada Las Vegas who was given permission to speak even though talking to the media is normally forbidden.

We followed him up the winding stair case that leads to a catwalk above the Statehouse rotunda.

“I think there are a lot of little nooks and crannies of this old building,” he said, “that a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to see and for us to be able to go up there is pretty rad.”

Then, its up another set of stairs to a level where round windows in the dome provide a view of downtown sites.

They are about halfway up the dome.

“I’m not real great with heights and a couple of us were discussing that on the way up,” said Corum, “our sheer panic of what, 3, 4 stories in a very tight circle.”

And then, no more than 6 people at a time, a trip up another set of stairs that leads to the cupola on top of the Statehouse dome and some fabulous views.

It’s also a place where visitors are all but required to leave a signature.

Picture taking is also mandatory.

And then it’s a dizzying trip back down, past the message left by Governor Mike Pence, with a memory that is hard to match.

“It’s nice to be able to be able to add my name to that list,” said Corum.

For Joshua and the others, the internship is now complete.

2016 race for governor begins

April 30th, 2015 at 2:57 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The 2016 race for governor of Indiana began Thursday, and it’s no coincidence that it is the first day following the 2015 General Assembly.

For any politician it makes sense to wait until lawmakers go home before you declare your intentions. For one thing, state law prohibits fundraising during the General Assembly.

Democrat John Gregg didn’t wait long, releasing a web video Thursday afternoon declaring his candidacy for governor in 2016.

“I’ll be a governor who stays focused on education and rebuilding Indiana’s economy,” he said in the video.

Gregg hopes to take on Republican Mike Pence in a rematch of the 2012 race.

But there was a lot of 2016 talk at the Statehouse as another Democrat, Glenda Ritz, announced that, once the school year ends, she will consider a bid for governor.

“After that I’m going to sit down with my family and determine what is best for the children and the families in Indiana,” said Ritz, “and I’ll give you more information about that in June.”

And the governor indicated that he has given up thoughts of higher office in 2016.

“We’ve been certainly preparing to seek re-election over the last two years,’ said Mike Pence, “but I will tell you that the morning after the session of the General Assembly my focus is on completing the work.”

It’s a day to send political signals and kick off fundraising efforts.

And the field for governor could grow on both sides before we get to 2016, in large part, because Mike Pence is considered vulnerable as a result of his handling of the RFRA controversy.

State lawmakers pass budget at the deadline

April 30th, 2015 at 12:26 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

State lawmakers are on the way home following the conclusion of the 2015 General Assembly.

It ended right at the midnight deadline in the Indiana House.

The final vote on a new 2-year state budget that increases overall funding for schools.  Republicans wrote it.

“We live within our means, we mean that,” said Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville.) “We protect taxpayers, we have adequate reserves, we have a structural surplus and we plan for the future.”

Democrats argued that 137 school districts will actually lose money.

“The governor said this was going to be an education session,” said Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis.) “Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, it devolved into a RFRA session and now, from the budget we present today, it’s going to be a RIF session.”

The House vote on the budget was 69-to-30.

The state Senate earlier voted 40-to-9.

No live dealers at racinos till 2021

April 29th, 2015 at 5:30 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

State lawmakers will work late Wednesday night ahead of a midnight deadline to finish their work for 2015, and one of the unresolved issues is the bill that calls for live dealers at the racinos in Anderson and Shelbyville.

As the gambling bill stands currently it calls for live dealers at the racinos but not until 2021.

That’s because replacing video dealers with real people would amount to an expansion of gambling, according to the governor, and he doesn’t approve.

Mike Pence, in fact, made a trip to the House Speaker’s office to move the effective date of the bill back to March of 2021 from January 1 because, if he’s re-elected, he will still be in office until mid-January of that year.

He doesn’t want it to happen on his watch.

“I just finished meetings with the leadership of the House and Senate going over some remaining issues that we have,” he said on the way back to his office, “but again, I’m very encouraged.”

The bill will still permit riverboat casinos to move on land and it includes other measures meant to help Indiana casinos compete with out of state competition.

Still to be voted on are the bill that would take power away from state School Superintendent Glenda Ritz and a new 2-year state budget that includes increases in education spending.