Jim Shella’s Political Blog

Judge clears the way for trial on BMV overcharges

June 15th, 2015 at 3:49 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The Pence Administration was handed another setback Monday in its efforts to avoid a lawsuit for overcharging Indiana drivers at the BMV.

It came in a court ruling from Marion County Judge John Hanley.

Judge Hanley’s order is short and to the point. In it he rejected a state motion to dismiss the lawsuit that alleges overcharges going back more than a decade.

They are overcharges that total as much as $60 million.

The ruling is a potential victory for Indiana drivers and for the lawyers who first filed a lawsuit in 2012 following an I-team investigation.

“We’re very pleased by this ruling because the BMV has been throwing up obstacles and roadblocks to this case all along,” said attorney Richard Shevitz, “and today’s ruling clears away those obstacles and sets the way for us to go to trial in December.”

Shevitz is on a legal team led by Irwin Levin, who was in court fighting the BMV request to dismiss the case not quite a month ago.

“The problem is is that they’re not going to pay all the money that’s overcharged,” said Levin at the time. “They’re gonna pick and choose just like they’ve done thus far.”

At the time, an attorney for the BMV expressed optimism.

“We made some what we consider to be compelling legal arguments,” said Carl Hayes, “and we’re anxious for the court to rule.”

Yet back in February Governor Mike Pence admitted problems saying “There’s just been a misapplication of the law.”

And now a court will decide who gets paid and how much.

“But if the BMV interested in settling this case,” said Shevitz, “obviously we’re happy to talk about that and that’s what the next step will be.”

That’s because Judge Hanley ordered the two sides to enter mediation within the next 30 days.

The trouble is, they already went through mediation once and couldn’t agree on a settlement.

Joe Hogsett attends show featuring drag queens

June 12th, 2015 at 5:35 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Joe Hogsett is reaching out to gay voters.

The Democratic candidate for mayor attended a drag show at a gay bar Thursday night.

It may be a first for an Indiana politician who is in the middle of a campaign.

For the record, his campaign says that Joe Hogsett wasn’t politicking, that he was engaged in social activity.

A photo was posted on facebook shows Hogsett in the audience at a performance by the Bag Ladies, a group of cross dressing performers who call themselves drag queens.

Nick Murphy posted it. “A lot of people saw us posting that,” he said, “and so it will show that he’s out there and willing to speak with us personally and be on our level as well, so it’s certainly something that is attractive to a lot of people.”

“You know, no one’s ever sought our vote before,” said Phil Denton, the owner of Greg’s Indy, the gay bar where the performance took place.

He says that the crowd roared when Hogsett was introduced and that the candidate even went backstage before the show.

“And he did have a good time,” said Denton, “you know, had a couple of drinks and he was here for about 3 hours and had a great time. He was even up tipping the drag queens in the show.”

He also posed for pictures.

Denton is a friend of Hogsett’s wife, Stephanie, who called to let him know the candidate was coming.

No political messages were delivered but Murphy says that just by being there he was campaigning.

“Well, yes,” he said, “I mean obviously it makes a statement.”

And the statement is now being passed around on facebook, an effective political tool.

Politicians often show up at the Pride parade and several of them will Saturday. That includes Hogsett, his opponent Chuck Brewer, and incumbent Mayor Greg Ballard.

But an appearance at a gay bar by a high profile candidate is a good example of how times are changing.


June 12th, 2015 at 5:23 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

John Hammond is in the Republican seat today as the Indiana Week in Review panel tackles these subjects:

  • Glenda Ritz criticized by key Democrat, praised by Emily’s List
  • Indiana battles with Connecticut over jobs, RFRA
  • HIP 2.0 ads
  • The First Church of Cannabis
  • Wal Mart fight

Watch for quotes from Cheech and Chong and Hunter S. Thompson.

Brewer joins Connecticut debate

June 12th, 2015 at 12:21 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

GOP candidate for mayor Chuck Brewer is grabbing Mike Pence’s coattails in a new video that is directed at employers in Connecticut. It will also be used online in Indianapolis to sell a low tax message.  He doesn’t address the Connecticut governor’s charges that Pence is a bigot.

Here’s the link:


Connecticut governor fights back

June 12th, 2015 at 11:23 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy is fighting back against Mike Pence because of the Indiana ad attempting to lure jobs from his state.  This is from a newspaper interview:

“Listen, I think the governor is trying to cover his tracks,” Malloy said. “I think what he should be saying is, ‘If you want your employees to be forced to live in a state with a bigoted governor, come to Indiana.’ ”

Indiana, Connecticut battle over jobs, RFRA

June 11th, 2015 at 3:48 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Connecticut is an economic development target for the state of Indiana.

It’s the latest episode in a growing battle between the two states that has its roots in taxes and RFRA.

A full page ad in the Wall Street Journal paid for by the state of Indiana names three Connecticut companies because, it says, “friends don’t let friends pay higher taxes.”

The companies, Aetna, GE, and Travelers, all publicly opposed recent tax hikes.

“They’re experiencing significant economic harm,” said Chris Cotterill of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, “and why not direct our attention to them specifically.”

Connecticut politicians are on the defensive.

“They have wonderful, good employees in the state of Connecticut,” said Governor Dannell Malloy of GE.

“We want those jobs to stay in Connecticut,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal.

Worth noting is the fact that Connecticut banned state travel to Indiana during the RFRA controversy and Governor Malloy said this about Mike Pence:

“When you see a bigot you have to call him on it. When it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

And RFRA is the reason why Indiana Democrats are attacking the Wall Street Journal ad.

“The governor continues to spend money to fix a reputation and an economic panic,” said state Democratic Chairman John Zody, “that he caused for Hoosiers.”

But the Pence Administration says this is part of an ongoing strategy and nothing new.

“The response has just been fantastic,” said Cotterill. “People are talking even more about Indiana’s low cost of doing business, low regulation and it’s gotten the response that we wanted.”

And Mike Pence has written letters to chief executives of all three companies asking them to consider doing business in Indiana.

The Wall Street Journal ad was paid for with money from the marketing budget for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. It is not a part of the $2 million being spent to repair Indiana’s reputation as a result of RFRA.

RFRA leads to Church of Cannabis

June 10th, 2015 at 4:10 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The First Church of Cannabis opened its doors today.

Its on the south side in a church building that was vacant until it was purchased by the church whose members plan to worship love by using marijuana.

It’s part of the fallout from the RFRA law.

The founder of the First Church of Cannabis believes the new law protects him and his desire to smoke marijuana legally.

Bill Levin was in the pulpit today preaching about cannabis.

“It’s not marijuana,” he said, “it’s not pot, it’s not weed, it’s cannabis. Ok? Those slang terms are derogatory.”

Outside a sign went up advertising weekly services at the First Church of Cannabis, ironically, across the street from where the Natural High tree service was at work.

But then Levin considers marijuana natural.

“It’s a health supplement,” said. “We’re hard wired. Our bodies are hard wired to receive the sacrament of cannabis.”

His attorney believes its use in a religious ceremony is protected by RFRA.

“I don’t see them stopping every Roman Catholic service on Sunday morning,” said Jonathan Sturgill, “where kids under the age of 21 are drinking alchohol. Doesn’t happen.”

The church already has 700 members who pay monthly dues of $2.40. The first service here will be on July first, the same day the RFRA law takes effect.

Members are thanking Mike Pence.

“And those that use cannabis as sacrament to get closer to themselves, each other and God should have the right to do so,” said Richard Suarez.

But a next door neighbor has a different view.

“From what I understand Mike Pence is rewording the law wrong,” said Sarah Taylor. “Can we take this building and set it in his neighborhood, cause we don’t want it here. We do not want it here.”

Because marijuana is illegal in Indiana, isn’t it?

“No, RFRA got us clear,” said Levin. “We celebrate life with it.”

He says it’s the fastest growing religion in the world.

The church will not buy, sell, or trade marijuana according to Levin.

We asked the prosecutor’s office what people there think about this idea and we didn’t get a response.

Key Democrat criticizes Ritz, Washington PAC praises her

June 9th, 2015 at 3:29 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Governor Mike Pence was put on notice Tuesday by Emily’s List.

Emily’s List is a Washington-based political action committee that supports Democrat women and it may be making donations to Glenda Ritz.

That’s the good news for Ritz. The bad news is that a well-known Democratic county chairman is calling her campaign divisive.

Regardless, the Ritz campaign is just five days old and it already has a national profile.

“We are very excited about Glenda Ritz,” said Marcy Stech of Emily’s List.

The Emily’s list website names Mike Pence as a prime target in 2016. It could mean nationwide support for Ritz.

“Right now we’ve had some initial discussions with her and her team,” said Stech.

But the message from Washington, Indiana is a different one.

“I don’t think she’s the best candidate,” said Daviess County Chairman Dave Crooks, who doesn’t think Ritz can win.

He believes her campaign will hurt the party.

“I’m not worried about that at all,” said Ritz last week when asked if she might divide the Democratic Party. “In fact, a primary’s good to get all the issues out there.”

But Crooks says Democrats should unite behind a single candidate and thinks it should be John Gregg.

“Any Democrat that’s gonna be the next governor has gotta find a way to carry southern Indiana again,” he said, “and I don’t think that Glenda Ritz is gonna be the person that’s gonna put us in the victory column.”

Crooks and Emily’s List do share a common goal.

“We really want to make sure we have a candidate who can draw that clear contrast with Governor Pence,” said Stech. “He has just a destructive record when it comes to the economy with supporting the religious freedom bill.”

But in pursuit of that goal things may get messy.

Democratic Party Chairman John Zody, meantime, is in no mood to referee. Through a spokesman, he said that Democrats will unite behind a nominee after the May primary.

Zionsville winning turf war

June 8th, 2015 at 4:33 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Zionsville and Whitestown are battling over rural portions of Boone County as the two growing communities seek to expand.

It’s a turf war that Zionsville is winning because it is taking advantage of a relatively new state law that allows those rural areas to maintain lower taxes.

As a result of that strategy Zionsville also has its first mayor.

Zionsville is known for its small town feel, the brick lined main street.

But parts of Zionsville are very different now.

Rural Perry Township voted to become a part of Zionsville last year.

“Because I don’t like Whitestown,” said Jack Belcher who is a former Perry township trustee who holds an opinion that is easy to find there.

“We think Whitestown is just gong to continue to just grab, grab, grab,” he said.

“Perry Township approached us and wanted to be our partners and that’s what we did,” said Jeff Papa, who is the first mayor of Zionsville as a result of that partnership.

He was sworn in last week when the state appeals court rejected a challenge from the town of Whitestown.

“We really think we need a mayor,” said Papa. “We’re 26,000 people now and before we were 56 square miles, now 71 square miles, over 100 full-time employees.”

In Whitestown community leaders aren’t giving up.

The town council will meet Tuesday night to consider an appeal the state Supreme Court.

Meantime, in Perry Township Jack Belcher likes the fact that the new arrangement means the Sheriff will continue to patrol the roads and the county highway department will continue to maintain them.

“And we’ll still have Perry Township fire department,” he said.

“we’ll be classified as a rural area and our taxes will not be like Zionsville’s.”

And that’s why its called a reorganization, not an annexation. It’s just the fourth reorganization in state history.

Eric Miller, the President of the Whitestown town council, has already issued a statement calling on Zionsville to wait for the Supreme Court to rule before it takes any further action on reorganization.

He accused Zionsville attempting to surround Whitestown.

Gay marriage crusader appears in Indianapolis

June 5th, 2015 at 5:10 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Jim Obergefell is a Cincinnati real estate agent who is a celebrity among gay rights advocates.

He came to Indianapolis even though gay marriage is legal here.

“To say, you know, marriage equality could be the law of the 50 states at the end of the month,” he said, “but there’s a lot more that we still have to do and our fight is not over.”

If it’s the law of the land it will be because Obergefell wins a case that was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in April.

It was filed when the state of Ohio refused to recognize his marriage to his husband John, when John died of ALS.

They were married in Maryland.

“It will mean John and I matter,”  he said on the day of the argument. “It will mean we have the same rights and responsibilities as other Americans.”

And that brought him here to take part in a Statehouse news conference in support of statewide equal rights protections.

“I fight for an end to discrimination, nothing more and nothing less,” he said during the news conference. “And here in Indianapolis I fight for an America that lives up to its promise of liberty and justice for all.”

“I truly believe that history is going to show that this is the biggest civil rights issue of this century,” said civil rights attorney Karen Celestino-Horseman.

And what if the Supreme Court rules against Obergefell? He says he doesn’t think about it.

“It’s too painful to even consider what it would feel like,” he said, “to be told by the highest court in the land that I truly am a second class citizen.”

Obergefell’s case was combined with cases from Michigan and Tennessee but he is the only named plaintiff.

Look for a ruling in the final week of June.