Jim Shella’s Political Blog

Pence is in Iowa but it has nothing to do with 2016

September 8th, 2014 at 3:18 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Mike Pence is a potential candidate for President in 2016 and speculation increased this week because the Indiana governor is in Iowa.

Iowa is the first caucus state and anyone who is running for President aims to begin building support there early in the election cycle.

Yet Mike Pence traveled to Iowa to attend the annual conference of the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association.
The state Department of Commerce has posted photos of his interaction with Japanese business leaders who are interested in creating and maintaining jobs in Indiana.

Political consultant Pete Seat says, “The motive is clear.  It’s all about economic development.”

We’re in the midst of silly season in politics,” he said, “where everyone is trying to be the first to figure out who is going to run for President.”

A year ago Mike Pence left for Japan on his first foreign trade mission as governor saying, “Japan is our most important bi-lateral partner.”  He timed that trip so he could attend the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association conference which was held in Japan in 2013.

But this year’s Iowa trip Does include some political activity.  Pence hosted a fundraiser for Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

“Governors campaign in support of other governors,” said Seat.  “Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie have all come here to support Mike Pence and he’s just returning the favor to his friends.”

If this year’s conference was in Minnesota, said Seat, no one would be talking about Mike Pence’s travel schedule.

Downpayment grants mean home ownership for 250

September 5th, 2014 at 5:08 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

250 people in Indianapolis are about to get a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a home through a program called NeighborhoodLIFT.  It was created by Wells Fargo and gives down payment grants to potential homeowners who need the help.

Those grants are worth $15,000 each.

Maria Wright is one of the people who will benefit from NeighborhoodLIFT.  She’s about to leave an apartment and purchase a home.

“I have to be real honest,” said Wright.  “I had a very minimal down payment saved.  It had taken four years.”

Wright and the others must make less than 120% of the poverty level but also must be pre-approved for a first mortgage.

“There are thousands of Marias,” said Moira Carlstedt of the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership.

The $15,000 will come from a $4.5 million donation by Wells Fargo that was announced at an east side event attended by Mayor Greg Ballard.

It’s all about addressing the housing crisis that faces a lot of big cities.

“Hopefully, you know, this will spark something with other major lenders, right,” said Kim Smith-Moore of Wells Fargo, “other banks to do something similar.”

And for Maria Wright, who lives with a daughter and two grandchildren, it will mean a lifestyle change.

“They need a room and they need, again, that forever home,” she said, “someplace they can come back to and keep their memories.”

Anyone interested in one of the $15,000 downpayment grants should attend a workshop at the Indiana Convention Center on September 26th and 27th.


September 5th, 2014 at 10:48 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

All of the regulars are on hand today as the Indiana Week in Review panel tackles these topics:

  • The gay marriage ruling by a federal appeals court
  • The right to work arguments in the state Supreme Court
  • Jim Irsay’s punishment
  • The Labor Secretary visits Indy
  • Larry Bucshon delivers the GOP Address
  • The 50th anniversary of the Beatles concert at the State Fairgrounds

Supreme Court hears right to work arguments

September 4th, 2014 at 3:01 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The battle over Indiana’s right to work law made its way to the state Supreme Court Thursday where a Justice suggested that it is anti-union.

The emotions behind the right to work battle produced giant demonstrations two years ago.  It’s a law that says no worker can be forced to join a union.

But when the state Solicitor General asked the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that found the new law unconstitutional, the argument was pretty basic.

“There is a need to protect rights of individuals in the workplace who don’t wish to join a union,” said Thomas Fisher.  “That’s what this is about.”

And a union attorney was just as matter of fact.

“The law does not allow members only representation,” said Dale Pierson, who represents the International Union of Operating Engineers.  “That’s the bottom line.”

It was Justice Steven David who sparked reactions when he said, “Let’s cut to the chase.  This is certainly anti-union legislation, ok, or certainly not pro-union legislation.”

“I was impressed that finally someone in the public arena such as Justice David today said that this was an anti-union policy,” said David Fagan of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

But while union members declared a small victory. a right to work advocate pointed out that Justice David’s commentary may not matter in the end.

“The Supreme Court issue is not the wisdom of policy that the legislature’s decided,”said Milton Chappell of the National Right to Work Foundation.  “It’s the constitutionality of that choice.”

A Supreme Court decision is weeks away.

Labor Secretary praises job training at Pike High School

September 3rd, 2014 at 3:14 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The Secretary of Labor paid a visit to Pike High School Wednesday to point out that Pike is a national leader in the effort to close the skills gap.

Secretary Thomas Perez came to Pike because it recently received a $7 million Youth Career Connect Grant from the Obama Administration.  Just 24 of them were given out.

The Labor Secretary arrived along with U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly and Congressman André Carson.  They got a first hand look at classrooms where students learn job skills as well as academics.

They also visited with the team that won a statewide competition by building a robot.

“Pike High School is the pipeline for tomorrow’s workforce,” declared Perez, a glowing review it was based in part on interactions with students.

“I like English and science,” said one.  And when Perez asked anotheer, “What do you like best about being here?”

“I like the diversity,” was the answer.  “There’s a lot of different people.”

But there are also statistics that support the Obama Administration decision to make an investment here and Senator Donnelly pointed to leadership from Pike administrators.

“That’s why a graduation rate.. 93 percent with a poverty rate of 65 percent,” he said.

“You’ve got high poverty, you’ve got high performance, you’ve got high aim,” said Perez.  “People who say that you can’t make it happen in America haven’t been to Pike High School.”

The visit concluded with a roundtable discussion that included employers who support Pike programs.  That’s a requirement for schools receiving the Youth Career Connect Grants.

Marian University growth spurt continues

September 2nd, 2014 at 2:30 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Marian University is one of the fastest growing colleges in the country, ranked 16th in a recent report, and there was an announcement made Tuesday that will spur even more growth.

Under an arrangement with the city of Indianapolis Marian University has managed the Velodrome since 2011.  Now there will be new development in the area in a move that adds to a long list of improvements in and around Marian, which now has about 3,000 students, up from just under 1100 in 2001.

St. Vincent Health will build a sports performance facility, a potential $15 million investment, near the Velodrome.  The Indiana Sports Corporation is also a partner.

“We believe this will help us attract more athletes and organizations,” said Alison Melangton of the Sports Corporation, “to move to Indianapolis to live, compete, and work.”

“Knowing Dan as I do,” said Mayor Greg Ballard, in reference to Marian President Dan Elsener, “I knew that revitalizing this park would not be the last big idea for the community around Marian University.”

That’s a community that recently welcomed a new medical school and the new football stadium that became home to a national championship team in 2012.

The goal is to keep growing and the school’s board of trustees will meet this weekend to develop a new strategic plan with that in mind.  But Marian intends to remain a small college.

“So, we won’t grow for growth sakes,” said Elsener.  “If we can make a great contribution to our students and the local economy and society, we’ll grow.  Right now we see a lot of opportunities to do that.”

The St. Vincent facility is scheduled to open in 2017.  A clinic and office space may follow and research facilities are also a possibility.

Those facilities will host camps, clinics, and seminars that will help attract students to Marian University.  Currently plans call for enrollment to grow by a 200 students a year over the next two years.

Eric Turner removed from leadership post

August 29th, 2014 at 4:49 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

There are new questions being raised regarding State Representative Eric Turner’s efforts to kill a nursing home construction moratorium during the 2014 General Assembly.  Those questions have led House Speaker Brian Bosma to remove Turner from a leadership post.

It’s a scandal that surrounds a company called Mainstreet Properties, founded by the son of state Representative Eric Turner.  Turner is an investor in the company.

The Mainstreet website currently tells of the $2 billion deal reached earlier this month to partner with an Ohio firm.

It’s a deal that likely was possible only because state lawmakers killed the proposed moratorium on nursing home construction.  Rep. Eric Turner admitted to lobbying fellow Republicans in private to kill the bill.

Bob Ashley is Turner’s Democratic opponent.  He called a Statehouse news conference to say, “We don’t know whether, um, whether this deal was in place or in negotiation at the time that Eric Turner successfully killed the nursing home moratorium in the Republican caucus.”

In April the House ethics committee investigated and cleared Turner.  He answered written questions and didn’t appear before the committee.

Ashley wants a new investigation.  “They didn’t get to the bottom of anything,” he said.  “This whole is standing out there and it still stinks.”

House Speaker Brian Bosma says the review was thorough but also says it revealed gaps in House ethics rules and he promises to file a new ethics bill in 2015.

But Bosma also criticized Turner for what he called an “irreconcilable conflict” in the debate of the nursing home moratorium.  He says Turner should have recused himself and that, as a result, Turner will no longer serve in the role of Speaker Pro Tem.

Turner released a statement saying that he intends to continue on as a state representative.

A spokesperson for Mainstreet Properties, meantime, says merger talks didn’t start until after the General Assembly ended.

Richard Mourdock leaves state government

August 29th, 2014 at 4:36 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

State Treasurer Richard Mourdock has resigned. He left office Friday more than four months before the end of his second term.

Mourdock, a Republican, submitted his resignation to Governor Mike Pence on Thursday.  It came as a complete surprise to Pence, who chose Daniel Huge of the Indiana Finance Authority to be a short term replacement.

A source says Mourdock cited changes in a state retirement plan that would reduce his benefits if he stayed in office past August 31st.

It’s a move that leaves a sour taste in the mouths of a number of taxpayers who criticized Mourdock on Twitter.

His legacy, however, will be forever tied to his defeat of Richard Lugar in the 2012 GOP Primary for U.S. Senate, a win that led to his own defeat by Democrat Joe Donnelly in November of that year.

That loss was attributed to controversial remarks that Mourdock made regarding rape and abortion.  He sparked controversy again this summer with a Nazi reference in a speech to the state GOP Convention.

The GOP now has three statewide officeholders who were appointed to fill vacancies.


August 29th, 2014 at 2:22 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

All of the regulars are on hand today.  The Indiana Week in Review panel will discuss:

  • Richard Mourdock’s resignation
  • 7th Circuit arguments over gay marriage
  • Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight taken into custody
  • Michael Claytor questions Mike Pence’s ethics
  • Evan Bayh’s upcoming political decision
  • New security gates coming to the governor’s residence

Details of new multi-state lottery game revealed

August 28th, 2014 at 3:25 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The Hoosier Lottery is confirming details of a new multi-state game called the Monopoly Millionaires Club.

It promises to produce more millionaires.

It is based on a weekly drawing that is similar to Powerball and Mega Millions with key differences.

First of all, tickets cost $5 compared to $1 and $2 for the other games.

The top prize is $25 million and a weekly drawing could produce as many as 10 additional million dollar winners.

Ticket sales and drawings will begin in mid-October and then in February there will also be a national game show.  Billy Gardell of “Mike and Molly” fame will host the show in Las Vegas and hand out additional prizes.  20 states are taking part.

The hope is that better odds of winning a million dollar prize will be more attractive than the huge jackpots in other games.

“This is also something that attracts people in focus groups that say we aren’t always for the biggest jackpot and one winner,” said Lottery Director Sarah Taylor.  “We like the idea of a top prize where more than one person can be a millionaire, possibly, and so I think that’s an attractive key point.”

It is part of an overall effort to increase lottery profits.  Lottery revenues topped a billion dollars for the first time in the fiscal year that ended July first.

However, that was still below the goal set by GTECH, the new private operator of the lottery.