Jim Shella’s Political Blog

Gay marriage become routine in Indiana

October 10th, 2014 at 4:30 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

It’s been just 4 days since a Supreme Court decision made gay marriage legal in Indiana and it’s no longer the novelty it was when a court ruling made gay marriage legal for 3 days in June.

For example, Cronley Hurt and Joe Cottrell showed up to get a marriage license Friday.  They wanted to get married in June and missed the opportunity.  “We’ve waited 14 years,” said Hurt, “and we thought that was enough time to wait.”

And yet they couldn’t get to the Clerk’s office until four days after gay marriage became legal again.

“We’re here and now there isn’t a rush,” said Kyle Megrath, who heads up the group known as Hoosiers Unite for Marriage, an organization that is still conducting marriage equality seminars.

But it will soon disband because it’s mission has been accomplished.

And that means there is no need for same sex couples to speed up marriage plans.  “They can plan their wedding,” said Megrath.  “They can do it the way they really wanna do it and this is just a great opportunity.”

Consider this:  In three days in June more than 500 same sex couples lined up to get a marriage license in Marion County.  About 450 wedding ceremonies were conducted in the City County Building.

This week, fewer than 50 same sex couples have requested marriage licenses here and there is no waiting.

“When the decision came down on Monday we had more members of the press here than we actually had couples,” Clerk Beth White, “because they finally could say, ok, let’s get married and do it the way we wanted to do it and not  the way the courts or others have said we have to do it.”

“It does.  It feels normal,” said Megrath.  “Marriage is just marriage now.”

And already the first divorce filings for same sex couples are beginning to arrive at the Clerk’s office.  There was one filed in August and 2 or 3 this week.

That’s going to be part of the routine, too.


October 10th, 2014 at 11:53 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

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

  • The captivity of Abdul-Rahman Kassig
  • Gay marriage is legal in Indiana
  • Selection process for Marion County judges found unconstitutional
  • Mike Pence’s trade mission to Canada
  • First statewide political ads on TV
  • The peace dove

Co-payments are the snag in HIP 2.0 talks

October 9th, 2014 at 5:30 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The governor made it clear Thursday that winning federal approval for his plan to expand the Healthy Indiana Plan will be difficult.

It’s clear that Mike Pence is unwilling to back off elements of his HIP 2.0 plan that include co-payments and health savings accounts.

It’s also clear that his alternative to expanding medicaid is unacceptable to leaders in the Obama Administration.

Pence made his case to Barack Obama in a face-to-face meeting when the President came to Evansville last week.

Earlier this week he traveled to Washington to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, and Thursday he pointed to patient contributions as a snag in the negotiations.

“That’s fundamentally different than traditional medicaid,” he said, “so I recognize that we’re asking a lot of federal officials to allow us to use traiditional medicaid dollars to create a program like the Healthy Indiana Plan on a much broader basis.”

He went on to say, “We’re having a very substantive dialogue but differences remain.”

The governor stands by his belief that traditional medicaid is a flawed system.

He says that if it is to be expanded here it must be done the Indiana way.

Governor Pence ready to move on after marriage ruling

October 9th, 2014 at 5:21 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Mike Pence spoke out in person for the first time Thursday since the Supreme Court rejected the Indiana marriage case making gay marriage legal in this state.

The governor campaigned against gay marriage and spoke out in favor of a constitutional ban on it during the General Assembly.

He supported the court battle over gay marriage that ended this week, and now says that he’s ready to move on.

“I believe that the courts have spoken,” he said, “and Hoosiers who know me well know I will always believe in the importance of traditional marriage but I will always uphold the rule of law.”

He went on to say that “the Supreme Court’s decision against considering Indiana’s appeal effectively changes the law in our state.”

The governor said that people are free to disagree with court decisions but they are not free to disobey them.

Governor Pence conducts Canadian trade mission

October 8th, 2014 at 5:27 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Mike Pence went on his fourth foreign trade mission as governor Wednesday, a 1-day visit to Canada.

Gov. Pence led a delegation to Toronto for a series of meetings with investors, a high government official, and plans to host a reception for companies looking to do business in Indiana.  It will take place at the home opener for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The biggest accomplishment of the trip is the announcement by Skjodt Barrett Foods that it will expand a plant in Lebanon with the help of state tax credits and training grants.

The specialty foods manufacturer already employs 325 in Lebanon and will add almost a hundred more to go along with a $44 million investment.

The governor explained his role in the deal in a phone call from Toronto.

“I don’t think it was necessary to be here to seal the deal,” said Pence, “but I think it was important to be here to seal the deal.”

He said, “The ability to travel to all points on the map to tell Indiana’s story is something that I consider not only a privilege but I consider it really an important aspect of my job as governor.”

The Pence visit to Canada follows trade missions to England and Germany earlier this year.  He went to Japan last year.

The governor said he’s working on plans to visit both Europe and Southeast Asia in the future but wouldn’t say where he’s headed next.

Statewide political ads arrive late in the season

October 8th, 2014 at 5:22 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The first statewide political ads of the 2014 election hit the airwaves this week.  They arrive with less than four weeks remaining in the campaign.

It’s just one example of a lack of interest in this year’s race.

“Sometimes shorter is better,” says  Democrat Beth White in an ad in the race for Secretary of State that broke the ice.  Before it hit the air, the only political ads of the season were targeted to smaller audiences on cable channels.

We found Porter Anderson voting at the City County Building.  “I know everybody need to get out and vote,” he said.  “Every vote counts.”
He’s keyed in to the election but there are not many like him.

In the first day of early voting there 112 voters compared to 164 in 2010, the last off year election.  It means voting is off by almost a third.

“I haven’t seen a lot of yard signs.  I haven’t seen a lot of interest,” said another voter, Rick Freeman.

In the May primary only 13% of voters went to the polls statewide.  Here in Marion County just 8% showed up.

Even though it’s an off year election, that’s still a big contrast to what happened in 2008 when there were long lines for both early voting and on Election Day in both the primary and the general elections.

But, in case you care, more ads are coming.  Suzanne Crouch, the Republican running for State Auditor is now on the air with an ad that features her red glasses.

“So when you see the red glasses,” the narrator says, “remember Suzanne Crouch is looking out for you.”

The lack of interest comes in part because there is no race for U.S. Senate this year.  But, also, campaigns are spending more of their money behind the scenes in voter identification and get out the vote efforts that aren’t visible to the public.

Nevertheless, for political junkies this, at least so far, is the worst election in memory.


October 3rd, 2014 at 11:49 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Tim Berry is the Republican today as the Indiana Week in Review panel tackles these topics:

  • President Obama in Gibson County
  • President Obama flying in and out of Gary
  • New first offender program for Indiana prison inmates
  • No word from the Supreme Court on Indiana’s gay marriage case
  • The potential for lifting the TV blackout of the Indy 500
  • Performance artist promotes freedom of speech at the Vonnegut Library

New program aims to reform first offenders

October 2nd, 2014 at 2:58 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

20,000 inmates are released from Indiana prisons every year and more than a third of them return to prison within 3 years.

Starting Friday a new effort to change those statistics will keep first-time offenders who are a low-to-medium security risk out of the general population in Indiana prisons.

Instead they will get special treatment designed to turn them into productive members of society that is being called a first-of-it’s-kind program.

An old prison in Plainfield will be renamed the Heritage Trails Correctional facility and will be home to first time offenders.

“I want Indiiana to be the worst place in America to commit a serious crime,” said Governor Mike Pence (R-Indiana,) “but I want Indiana to be the best place in America once you’ve done your time to get a second chance.”

So, going forward, to get into Heritage Trails, a prisoner must be deemed a low or medium security risk who is serving a term of 3 years or less.

“If you’re going to be doing a lengthy sentence… might be your first time incarcerated, but you would not be eligible for this program,” said Correction Commissioner Bruce Lemmon.

And for those eligible, there will be character and faith-based programs combined mentoring and job training as well as treatment for addiction.

“First time offenders,” said Pence, “ought to be dealt with in a way that is focused on reformation.”

Eventually close 900 first time offenders will be housed at Heritage Trails and, according to state officials, it will all be done within the existing budget for the Department of Correction.

Much of the mentoring and job training will be done by volunteers, some of whom are former inmates.


September 26th, 2014 at 2:45 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Dan Parker is the Democrat and Brandon Smith is in for Jon Schwantes today.  The Indiana Week in Review panel will tackle the following issues:

  • Democrat Bob Ashley’s call for Rep. Eric Turner to drop his name from the ballot
  • The Pence Administration decision to release more domestic violence funding
  • The Pre-K pilot launch
  • Advocates express support for HIP 2.0
  • Congressman Larry Bucshon targeted on the Daily Show
  • Carmel woman starts cuddling business

Zoeller wants a crackdown on public corruption

September 26th, 2014 at 2:17 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Indiana has a public corruption problem and Attorney General Greg Zoeller is taking steps to address it.

When a government official is caught stealing there is usually a big splash with an arrest, criminal charges, and the like.  What you don’t often hear about is the civil court proceedings that follow in the effort to recover the stolen money.

The numbers are sometimes large, hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen in the biggest cases.  And when you look at what’s recovered it is often a fraction of that amount and frequently zero.

Zoeller has pursued 250 cases in the last five years.  “These 250,” he said, “it’s not that they couldn’t find the receipts, it’s that we found that the money went to somebody’s pocket.”

Along with a new Public Integrity Coalition Zoeller wants a crackdown.  He’s calling for whistleblower protection, new requirements for bonds or insurance policies that would cover losses, and new ways to fill vacancies that could lead to private citizens serving on an interim basis.

The people who represent local officials are supportive.

“I know that our members feel betrayed when one of their counterparts in another county steal money,” said David Bottorf of the Indiana Association of Counties, “and I can’t imagine how the taxpayers in that county feel.”

“If the attention is on things that are going badly,” said Matt Greller of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, “we can’t focus on the good stuff that we’re supposed to be doing.”

Because when you add up the numbers from those 250 cases you get $8 million that was misappropriated and that’s not all.

“There’s money out there that has been gone missing,” said State Examiner Paul Joyce, “that we didn’t get.”