Jim Shella’s Political Blog

Electric car agreement still controversial

August 21st, 2014 at 3:25 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

There’s a new agreement to limit what ratepayers will be charged to establish the electric vehicle program backed by Mayor Greg Ballard, but the proposal is still the source of controversy.

The plan calls for 200 charging stations around Indianapolis and Indianapolis Power and Light wants ratepayers to help pick up the tab.

The average bill for a residential customer of IPL was scheduled to go up 44 cents a month.  Now, the estimated rate increase is 28 cents per month.

The deal reached between IPL and the Office of Consumer Counselor also calls for profits from the deal between Blue Indy and the city to go back to ratepayers.

It’s a deal that must still be approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

State Representative Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) wants its members to know that she considers this a tax increase demanded by the Mayor.

“I will continue to try to work on convincing the IURC to reject the proposal, or the compromise, and to also reject the proposal outright,” she said.  “This is a private business that’s wanting to do this enterprise and a private business should have to pay for it.”

Consumer Counselor David Stippler issued a statement saying the deal is in the public interest and should be approved.

It calls for the city to seek federal grants and corporate support to reduce the burden on ratepayers.

There is no timetable for the IURC to take action.


DeLaney calls for bigger IMPD

August 21st, 2014 at 3:16 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Democrat Ed DeLaney says Indianapolis needs more police officers and new ways to pay for them.

The 2015 mayoral candidate is continuing to attack the policies of GOP Mayor Greg Ballard even though the election is not until next year.
He says Greg Ballard isn’t doing enough to bolster IMPD.

DeLaney appeared outside police headquarters to make the case that staffing in the police department has gone down by 12 percent from over 1700 officers to just over 1500 since Ballard first took office.

He said there is need for about 200 more officers and that, if elected he would seek state funding and federal grants to make it possible.

“It’s an expensive proposition but I don’t think there’s any choice about it,” said DeLaney. “The public lacks confidence in the level of the police force.  That’s a very bad thing.  We don’t believe that we have enough officers.  We have to get rid of that fear.”

Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter says the mayor inherited a police department with almost 100 fewer officers than the figure cited by DeLaney.

“Indianapolis is one of the few big cities that has not laid off police or firefighters or city officials that way,” he said. “so we’re trying to do the best we can wilth the means that are provided.”

The major difference between the two of them is the pursuit of federal grants called COPS grants.  They pay the cost of new officers for 3 years.

DeLaney says he would apply for one.

Ballard won’t pursue the grants because, he says, the jobs won’t be sustainable.


Anthem seeks approval for online prescriptions in Indiana

August 20th, 2014 at 3:49 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

If you have a minor affliction you can now avoid a lengthy wait in an emergency room.  Just go online for a video appointment with a real doctor.

Indiana patients, hoever, can only get a disagnosis.  That’s because an online doctor cannot write you a prescription if you are a patient in Indiana.

It’s something that doctors can do for patients in 41 other states.

At the headquarters of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield we got a demonstration of the Live Health Online website operated by the Indianapolis-based health insurance company.  They hooked us up with Dr. Matt Goldstaff at his office in Texas.

“I feel like I’m doing some good by getting these people taken care of,” said Dr. Goldstaff of his patients.

The former emergency room physician uses a secure, private connection to give medical advice, but if a prescription is required, Indiana law requires a face-to-face doctor visit.

“Having the ability to prescribe in other states is a real benefit,” said Dr. Goldstaff.

“There’s no controlled substances, no narcotics, no lifestyle drugs are even available,” said John Jesser of Anthem.

Anthem representatives did a presentation for BioCrossroads Wednesday in the effort to win support for a change in the law.

Among those in attendance was David Wortman, who heads a local company called Diagnotes that develops software for video visits with a doctor.

“It makes them more productive,” said Wortman. “It makes the care more effective and it improves the quality of care to the patient as well and their level of satisfaction.”

And it can save money.  A video visit at Live Health Online costs $49, a fee that may be covered by insurance.

The General Assembly this year approved a two month pilot program that will permit online doctors to write prescriptions for Indiana patients.

In 2015 lawmakers will be asked to change the law permanently.


Mayor Ballard unlikely to win approval for a commuter tax

August 19th, 2014 at 3:16 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Mayor Greg Ballard’s budget proposal calls for local tax hikes to pay for more police officers.  He would like to see those tax hikes replaced next year by a commuter tax.

It’s a tough sell.

Among the 200,000 people who come to Indianapolis to work you can find some who are willing to pay a commuter tax, but when the mayor called for a commuter tax in his budget proposal his spokesman made it clear that the attempts to pass local tax hikes will come first.

“If we’re successful next year in getting the General Assembly to enact a commuter tax,” said Marc Lotter, “then we can always reduce that levy and let the commuter tax pick it up.”

The odds of that happening are not good.  The reasons why were spelled out on a recent episode of Indiana Week in Review.

“There is no, you know, desire in the legislature to raise a commuter tax for Marion County,” said former State GOP Chairman Mike McDaniel.

“First, a commuter tax is not popular.  Any tax increase isn’t popular,” said Lesley Weidenbener of thestatehousefile.com. “Secondly, the legislators that represent Indianapolis are Democrats and they are way out of power right now.”

The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce has been calling for a commuter tax since 2006 and will push for it in 2015.  Yet President Michael Huber knows what he’s up against.

“It would be very difficult,” said Huber, “and we’re trying to not be naive to the fact that there’s not an easy fix.”

And as long as Indianapolis has the ability to raise taxes on its own, help from state lawmakers will be hard to come by.


Loretta Rush takes over as Chief Justice

August 18th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Loretta Rush was sworn in Monday to lead the Indiana Supreme Court.   She is the first woman to become Chief Justice in Indiana.

It was in a small, brief, and private ceremony conducted in an out of the way place, the law library in the Statehouse. Rush said there was a large public ceremony when she joined the Supreme Court two years ago and she wanted to handle it differently this time.

“Why did I ask that swearing in be in this law library?”? she asked.  “Because I consider it to be a jewel in our beautiful Statehouse.”

She repeated an oath administered by Mike Pence.  It came following an endorsement from outgoing Chief Justice Brent Dickson, who said, “She can be a dynamo in her leadership.”

And another from the governor, who said,  “She was the best choice to lead the best Supreme Court in America as its Chief Justice.”

While Rush is the first woman Chief Justice in Indiana but joins twenty women who hold that role in other states and she downplayed it while playing up her other qualifications.

“I bring 30 years of having worked in courtrooms,” she said, “as an attorney, as a judge.”

Her top priority, she said, is to increase trust in the court system.  “That anyone standing outside a courtroom before they go in expects and deserves fair treatment.”

She is serving a five year term but said she hopes to be on the court for many more years.


New lottery game promises more millionaires

August 15th, 2014 at 2:47 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The state of Indiana is joining as many as 20 other states to create a new lottery game with multi-million dollar jackpots.  It’s significantly different from existing games like Powerball and Hoosier Lotto.

Jackpots will be capped at a reported $25 million.  The idea is that a single drawing could create dozens and maybe hundreds of millionaires.

The game called The Monopoly Millionaires Club and uses a theme borrowed from the popular Monopoly board game.

The Hoosier Lottery already has a Monopoly themed scratch off game that is designed to pave the way for the new drawing game.

The goal is to attract lottery players familiar with Monopoly, including Gary Edwards.  “I love Monopoly,” said Edward. “I’ve been playing it since I was a kid.”

Hoosier Lottery officials confirmed plans to sell the game that uses $5 dollar, higher than other drawing games.  Lottery officials could not, however, confirm other elements of the game.

It will be similar to the Canadian game called Lotto Max, which limits jackpots to $50 million dollars with multiple million dollar winners.

“That would make players want to actually play more,” said lottery player Chandra King, “if they know that, even though it’s a little more with the price, if they know that they’re going to have more chances to win.”

“What would I do with $600 million,” said Edwards, “you know, 50 million’s good enough.”

Comedian Billy Gardell of Mike and Molly fame will also host a weekly TV show from Las Vegas where additional prizes will be handed out.  Like the TV show, drawings will take place weekly.

The Monopoly Millionaires Club will begin in October.  Actual details of how the game will work will be available in the next two weeks.


Hogsett enters race for mayor, DeLaney signals he’s in to stay

August 14th, 2014 at 3:58 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The 2015 race for Mayor of Indianapolis picked up momentum Thurssday as Joe Hogsett made the first formal step to create a campaign.  Meantime, another Democrat attacked the mayor.

Ed DeLaney sent the message that he is in the race to stay even if Joe Hogsett is considered the leading Democrat.  With almost 15 months to go before election day this race is already taking shape.

Joe Hogsett invited the media to be present when he stopped by the FOP to buy a t-shirt honoring fallen officer Perry Renn.  He said he launched an exploratory committee rather than a formal campaign committee because he believes that’s what every candidate should do.

“I’m gonna use this period of time, I don’t think it’ll be lengthy,” he said, “but I’m going to use this period of time to do a lot of listening.”

DeLaney is already doing a lot of talking.  He was in front of the Central Library to point out that GOP Mayor Greg Ballard’s preschool/crime plan would take $400,000 away from the library.

He said it’s not well thought out.  “He’s afraid that the crime issue is not being addressed, he hasn’t addressed it,” said DeLaney, “and he’s going to do something now.”

Marc Lotter, a spokesman for the Mayor said the plan, that relies on elimination of the homestead exemption on the property tax, is gaining popularity, but didn’t argue with DeLaney

“The library, obviously, and some of the taxing districts,” he said, “would stand to lose some revenue from this.”

The Mayor is most concerned about Hogsett and that’s why political advisor Kyle Walker accused Hogsett of a potential violation of federal law Wednesday, a charge Hogsett rejected.

“I guess it’s inevitable,” he said, “that there’s always some partisan, petty, political gamesmanship but that’s not something I’m going to get involved in.”

Campaign season has arrived ahead of schedule.


GOP attacks Hogsett, suggests he broke federal law

August 13th, 2014 at 3:04 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Joe Hogsett hasn’t filed the paperwork yet to launch an exploratory campaign for mayor, but Republicans are already on the attack.

Wednesday they suggested that Hogsett has broken a federal law.

Joe Hogsett announced in mid-July that he would step down as U.S. Attorney at the end of last month.  That same day former Senator and Hogsett friend Evan Bayh held a news conference saying, “I think he would be a great mayor.”

“Are we supposed to believe that Hogsett didn’t solicit Bayh’s support?” asked  Marion County GOP Chairman Kyle Walker, the political spokesperson for Republican Mayor Greg Ballard.

Walker is now suggesting that Hogsett violated the Hatch Act.   It prevents federal employees from engaging in political activity.

“There appears to be significant political coordination between Hogsett and multiple parties,” said Walker. “This activity is ethically questionable and potentially illegal.”

When Hogsett announced political plans 4 days after leaving his federal post saying, “I intend to vigorously explore (running for mayor,)” Walker says that also indicated that he was planning a campaign before he legally free to do so.

The Hogsett campaign referred reporters to Joel Miller and the Marion County Democratic Chairman rejected the claims.

“It’s pretty obvious and pretty thin in this press release that Ballard has put out,” said Miller, “that there’s nothing there.”

Walker won’t back down but he also has no proof to back up his charges.

What this tells you is that the Republicans hope to hurt Hogsett’s fundraising before it starts.  They also hope to damage his reputation before he can present himself to voters.

It also tells you that could be a very competitive race for mayor.


D.C. Democrats praise Rep. Carson’s job fair

August 12th, 2014 at 4:12 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Democrats on Capitol Hill are pointing to a job fair put on by Congressman André Carson as an example of how they hope to rebuild the middle class.  His job fair is now part of the sales pitch for the jobs plan pursued by Democrats in Congress.

It’s also winning praise from LaToya Mason.  She teaches high school equivalency at River Valley Resources on the west side.  The idea is to prepare young people for the job market and last week she sent 11 of her clients to the job fair conducted by Rep. Carson.

“Of the 11, 4 of them have already received call backs,” said Mason.  “There have been no call backs before and I’ve sent more to different job fairs.”

At the job fair hundreds showed up to apply for jobs offered by 78 companies.

It exceeded Representative Carson’s goals.  As a resuslt he was selected to be one of four Democrats on a national conference call on Tuesday.

“We had employers looking for candidates with educational backgrounds, with some schooling, no schooling,” said Carson on the conference call.

LaToya Mason says high school graduates were given no advantage over her clients.  “They felt like they had a fair shot,” she said, “because they were given a fair shot.”

For the Democrats this is all about their Make it in America Jobs plan, a plan that has so far been blocked by the Republicans.  The idea is to convince voters that Congressman Carson and others are working to create jobs during the summer break.

Yet Carson needs no new legislation to continue his efforts.  This was his 5th job fair since being first elected in 2008.


Taxpayers to help fund Natatorium improvements

August 11th, 2014 at 6:36 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The effort to restore the Indiana University Natatorium to its past glory got a boost from the the Capital Improvement Board Monday.

The Natatorium needs an overhaul and it is getting $10 million from I.U. and $10 million from the Lilly Endowment for that purpose.  Now taxpayers are chipping in $5 million.

The CIB voted to attributed $500,000 every year for 10 years.  It is money that will go to a maintenance reserve fund.

“We are in a daily battle with cities all over the country that are chasing our tail,” said Alison Melangton of the Indiana Sports Corporation, the entity that operates the Natatorium.

The Natatorium is the biggest and fastest indoor pool in the country but in the last 5 years 10 to 15 events went elsewhere because of maintenance issues.

“I think it’s very important to have a strong Sports Corporation and that they have what they need to provide a bevy of opportunities within our community that drive significant tax revenue,” said CIB President Ann Lathrop.

The vote on the CIB was 5-to-2 with City County Council President Maggie Lewis and Democrat Doug Brown voting no.

Lewis sais the city is already contributing $10 million, but that’s money that is going to improve streets around the Natatorium.