Jim Shella’s Political Blog

Soccer Stadium bill in jeopardy

March 19th, 2015 at 5:40 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The future of a new Indianapolis soccer stadium is in doubt.

Leadership in the state Senate is not sold on the idea.

Senate GOP Leader David Long made it clear Thursday that the soccer stadium is not a priority for him and other Senate leaders.

It’s news that came out on the same day as a Statehouse rally in support of the stadium bill.

It featured the mayor. Greg Ballard doesn’t hedge on his support for a new soccer stadium.

“We’re going to continue to draw that soccer is part of the experience that young families are looking for,” said Ballard, “and to have a professional team and a professional stadium is absolutely critical.”

Indy Eleven team Owner Ersal Ozdemir is seeking state support for the second time after being turned away in 2014.

“Obviously to have the greatest experience to have a great soccer match,” he told the rally, “we’re gonna need a venue that accomodates soccer and provides the fans the experience they need.”

He makes it clear that state support is required.

And that’s where Senate Leader David Long comes in.

“We’ll  have some final thoughts on that very soon,” he said, “as to whether this or some other idea or none at all will be the approach we take on it.”

For the moment Ozdemir just hopes to stay in the game.

“We’re open to discussions and alternatives basically that make sense,” he said. “That (his plan) wasn’t necessarily ‘this has to be the case.’”

Look for Senate leaders to propose ways to improve Carroll Stadium at IUPUI instead of building a new facility.

Committee approves gambling changes

March 18th, 2015 at 5:17 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

A committee in the state Senate gave its approval Wednesday for live dealers at table games at the racinos in Anderson and Shelbyville.

The vote was 10-to-0 for the bill that calls for live dealers at some table games. It would also permit riverboat casinos to move on land.

The live dealers, who would replace video dealers at the 2 racetrack casinos, are the most controversial element in the bill.
Casino owners argue that they don’t qualify as an expansion of gambling, mostly because gambling revenues have fallen in recent years.

The governor says he is opposed to an expansion.

“Offering live table games at our facilities in a limited format,” said Jim Brown of Centaur Gaming, “allows us to offer a more competitive product and attract customers from surrounding states.”

Peter Liguori of the Majestic Star Casino said that tax breaks in the bill are also important.

“The industry is really stressed,” he said “It’s under attack. “It is losing revenue, losing jobs.”

The committee chairman voiced support for all of the elements in the bill but stressed one of them.

“I strictly feel and hope that we will continue somehow, some way to go with the concept of live dealers,” said Sen. Ron Alting (R-Lafayette.)

None of this is a lock, however.

The bill must now be approved by the Appropriations Committee before it can reach the floor of the state Senate.

Governor calls for more DCS funding, caseworkers

March 18th, 2015 at 4:19 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Indiana is about to hire 100 new caseworkers for the Department of Child Services.

It’s the governor’s reaction to an outside study that found that despite the addition of over 100 people last year and more than 200 the year before, DCS is still understaffed, a circumstance that threatens the safety of high risk children in this state.

Mike Pence reacted by making a call for $15 million in new spending over the next two years to hire the 100 additional caseworkers as well as 17 new supervisors.

“We want to make sure not only that we’re meeting our statutory obligations in terms of the standards that have been set,” said Pence, “but we just simply want to do right by our kids.”

State Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, who has been calling for more funding for DCS for months, said it will remain a top priority for Democrats.

“The department study confirms that those standards are valid,” he said in reference to recommended caseloads, “that we do need additional caseworkers and staff to come in compliance and the plan now is to get that funding to make sure that that happens.”

Lanane said it’s a good day for the protection of children and that, in this case, the system worked.

Senate approves “Right to Try” bill

March 17th, 2015 at 3:47 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

A bill that would give hope to terminally ill Hoosiers is a step closer to becoming law.

The “right to try” bill would permit a terminally ill patient to take drugs that are not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration under certain conditions.

5-year old Jordan McLinn is the poster child for the bill. He appeared before a state Senate committee almost two weeks ago along with his mother Laura.

They explained how Jordan has a rare form of muscular dystrophy and, while 2 companies are working on drugs that might be effective for him, they are not yet approved by the FDA.

Author Ed Charbonneau told the state Senate Tuesday that patients including Jordan should be able to take investigational drugs if they have passed phase one of the FDA approval process.

“If the treating physician determines three things,” said Sen. Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso,) “One:  the drug poses no risk of danger.  Two:  the individual has a terminal disease with no comparable treatment options.  And three:  risk to the individual is no greater than the probable risk from the indivual’s disease or condition.”

The Senate voted unanimously to approve the bill.

Because the bill was amended in a Senate committee, however, the House must approve that change before the bill heads to the governor.

Lawmakers urged to spend more on road funding

March 17th, 2015 at 2:43 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The last time you went out driving you likely hit a pothole or two or, at the very least, dodged a few of them.

There’s not enough money to fix all of them, but state government is being asked to spend more.

The current version of the state budget calls for a $400 million increase in road funding. Meantime, the people who build and maintain streets and highways believe there is a billion dollar funding gap just to fill potholes and maintain Indiana roads.

They were at the Statehouse Tuesday to urge lawmakers to look for new ways come up with road money, possibly even a mileage tax to replace the gasoline tax.

They also came to point out that none of the proposed spending is earmarked for local or county governments who are now battling potholes on a daily basis.

More money to reconstruct crumbling state roads and build new ones is also on the wish list.

“Filling the potholes doesn’t get it anymore,” said Bill Schmidt of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns. “You need to have good, smooth streets because it makes a big difference in how people react to the conditions of your community.”

There is also a push for a user fee to be placed on electric vehicles.

“If you’re driving in an electric car, you don’t pay a road use tax,” said Dennis Faulkenberg of the U.S. 31 Coalition, “and we think that regardless of the type of fuel you use, you oughta pay to use our roads in Indiana.”

State lawmakers, meantime, are always reluctant to create new taxes and fees no matter what the need may be.

They are being told that more road funding would also lead to more jobs and economic development but it’s still a tough sell.

Religious Freedom bill advances

March 16th, 2015 at 5:41 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

A controversial bill called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed a committee in the Indiana House Monday.

Opponents call it a license to discriminate.

It’s the followup to last year’s battle over gay marriage with slightly smaller crowds and a little less national interest.

There is still plenty of emotion on both sides.

On one side: conservatives and religious leaders looking to send a message.

“That religious freedom is very important to the people of Indiana,” said state Senator Scott Schneider (R-Indianapolis.)

On the other side: many of the same people who fought to legalize gay marriage, including Amy Sandler who took part in the state’s first gay marriage, authorized because her late partner, Nikki Quasny. was dying of cancer.

She gave tearful testimony. “Please reject this mislabeled religious freedom restoration act,” she said.

The bill that has prompted some business owners to post anti-discrimination messages is also opposed by Eskenazi Health.

“Our patients might believe that they could be denied care because of a staff member’s religious belief about them or their families,” said hospital spokeswoman Jessica Barth.

But supporters of the bill filled the hallway outside the chamber and one of them, a pro-life activist, said it would protect a caterer who might be asked to supply food for a pro-choice reception.

“For a pro-life business owner in the state of Indiana to do a catering business specifically for the purpose of raising funds to advance the killing of unborn children,” said Mike Fichter of Indiana Right to Life, “would be a direct violation of that business owner’s faith.”

“This bill sends a message to those within the government,” said Mike Breen of the Thomas More Society, “that, that when in doubt err on the side of religion.”

And that argument won. The committee approved the bill 9-to-4 on a party line vote with Republicans voting for it.

It now goes to the full House.

Justin Moed returns to the Statehouse following scandal

March 16th, 2015 at 4:06 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

State Representative Justin Moed (D-Indianapolis) returned to the Statehouse Monday for the first time since he became the subject of a sexting scandal.

Not everyone welcomed him.

Some of Rep. Moed’s fellow Democrats in the Indiana House of Representatives didn’t want to see him come back and they staged a small protest of sorts when he did.

Others were supportive and reached out to demonstrate that support to Moed within public view on the House floor.

Moed took his seat in the House chamber for the afternoon session and cast several votes.

Four fellow Democrats, knowing that news photographers were focused on him, stayed off the floor to avoid being connected to this story.

One of them said he can’t believe that Moed showed up.

When asked if that gives him some idea of what kind of challenge he faces, Moed said, “Well, over the past week I’ve been very encouraged by all of the calls and emails from colleagues on both sides of the aisle encouraging me to come back and to get back to work.”

When asked if he intends to run again, he said, “That’s a conversation for a long time from now.”

Moed did say that he hasn’t considered resignation and that no
party leader has suggested it.

When asked directly about sexting with porn star Sydney Leathers and why he did it, he said that he can’t answer that question.

He called it a big lapse in personal judgement.


March 13th, 2015 at 11:18 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

All of the regulars are on the panel this week as Indiana Week in Review tackles these issues:

  • The Justin Moed scandal
  • The email controversy at the Roudebush VA
  • Tim Berry out, Jeff Cardwell in as State GOP Chairman
  • Dan Coats and “Waste of the Week”
  • A Twitter storm calling for a pause in ISTEP accountability
  • The Colts sign high profile free agents

Rep. Moed a no-show at the Statehouse

March 12th, 2015 at 5:24 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Rep. Justin Moed was a no show in the Indiana House of Representatives Thursday.

The Democratic lawmaker from Indianapolis had an excused absence, yet his recent sexting scandal was still a hot topic for legislative leaders.

And the problems continue to grow for Moed. A website called thedirty.com published more of the graphic text messages he sent to porn star Sydney Leathers. And, Inside Edition is now reporting on the scandal.

Justin Moed hasn’t been to the Statehouse in days.

“I think any reasonable person would think that he needs a little bit of time to himself,” said House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, “and I certainly understand that and I think the members of the chamber understand that.”

And while leaders in the General Assembly expressed compassion they also know that the scandal hurts all of them.

“It’s an unfortunate personal circumstance,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma, “and an unfortunate distraction, really, from the important business that we’re doing both for the public and for the members themselves.”

And Inside Edition will feature an interview with the woman who convinced Moed to share his fantasies and naked photos after she sent out a tweet.

“He was, I think, the first person that responded to that tweet,” said Sydney Leathers, the woman who was also involved in a scandal with New York politician Anthony Weiner.

Now that she knows his identity Leathers told Inside Edition she is disappointed to a degree.

“I wish this guy would’ve been a Republican,” she said. “I’m sick of getting liberals in trouble.”

For Moed, getting out of trouble is now the goal.

“It’s gonna depend on Justin,” said Pelath.

When he gets back to the Statehouse Moed will face two primary questions.

Can he hold onto his seat in the House?

And, if so, can he be an effective lawmaker?

Minority Leader Pelath said the answers may lie with his constituents.

Sen. Donnelly calls VA emails “disgraceful”

March 11th, 2015 at 3:58 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly filed three bills Wednesday that are aimed at improving mental health care for veterans.

Donnelly also spoke out regarding the recent controversy at the Roudebush VA Medical Center.

The Senator says the suspension of a health clinic manager at the Roudebush Medical Center is the right thing to do. He stopped short of calling for Robin Paul to be fired, however, saying that all of the facts need to be gathered first.

Paul is on administrative leave after following the disclosure that she sent emails to other VA employees that appear to mock the mental health issues faced by veterans.

One of the holiday season messages included the picture of an elf hanging from an electrical cord.

It upset Senator Donnelly, who said, “I have no understanding of why they’ve waited so long to jump on this, to deal with it.  You know, apparently they knew 2 months ago or even further back.”

He went on to say, “I was appalled by the email.  I thought it was disgraceful and I wish that the VA had dealt with it sooner and had been up front with it sooner.”

An internal investigation is underway at the Roudebush Medical Center.

Meantime, the bills filed by Donnelly call for new methods for treating mental illness, as well as training for physician assistants who could help address a shortage in mental health providers.

Donnelly calls it a mental health “care package.”