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Saturday, January 24, 2015
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House Speaker Brian Bosma (left) and Senate President Pro Tem David Long are taking a serious approach to an independent, bipartisan redistricting commission. (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)
House Speaker Brian Bosma (left) and Senate President Pro Tem David Long are taking a serious approach to an independent, bipartisan redistricting commission. (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)
Friday, January 23, 2015 10:19 AM
By MAUREEN HAYDEN
CNHI Statehouse Bureau


INDIANAPOLIS – The last time lawmakers raised the issue of changing the state Constitution, they set off a volatile debate about whether same-sex couples had the right to marry. The emotionally charged conversation overshadowed much of last year's work. This year, lawmakers are again talking about changing the Constitution. But on a public interest level, it may be a snoozer - despite its potential impact. The proposal alters the Constitution to remove the General Assembly's power to decide how state and federal legislative districts are drawn every 10 years. Instead it clears the way for an independent commission to draw those maps.

Similar efforts are underway elsewhere in varied forms, but the impetus is the same - take the partisanship out of a process that favors incumbents and the party in power. The idea has long been championed by the public watchdog group Common Cause Indiana and its tenacious policy director, Julia Vaughn. She reasons that the current system, which uses sophisticated computerized mapping to track the leanings of voters, amounts to politicians choosing voters instead of the other way around. “It’s the ultimate conflict of interest for politicians to draw their own districts,” she says.

Her allies in the cause may seem surprising. They’re the Republican leaders with super-majorities in both chambers - House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long. Long has started the process to change the part of the Constitution that mandates the Legislature “fix by law the number of Senators and Representatives and apportion them among districts according to the number of inhabitants in each district, as revealed by that federal decennial census.”
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  • By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    INDIANAPOLIS – What if U.S. Sen. Dan Coats doesn’t seek reelection in 2016? In asking that question, the first qualifier is if we had to place a money bet on the question, it would come down firmly on the belief that Coats will seek one more term in the Senate. Last Friday, he told Howey Politics Indiana’s Matthew Butler, “I’m working through this and I think by spring, early spring, I’ll make a decision. I’m weighing all kinds of things in the decision making process on this. I know I need to make a decision and I haven’t made a decision yet. I know if I do run again, we have things in place where we can flip the switch, we’re ready to go. We would be ready financially and organizationally.” If Coats was having second thoughts about running in what would be his fourth Senate race, many observers on Capitol Hill and here in Indiana believe that his move to Senate Finance and his chairing of the Joint Economic Committee will be irresistible sweeteners for a public servant who doesn’t really like some aspects of campaigning. 
  • By MICHAEL HICKS
    MUNCIE - Though it may create jobs locally, this plan likely would increase tax costs and decrease jobs statewide. A decade ago, I was part of a Department of Energy team that studied the feasibility and economic impact of an electric power plant. This plant was designed to process coal into synthetic natural gas while capturing and storing much of the carbon emissions into the closed mines that littered West Virginia.In the years since, large-scale natural gas discoveries in North America now guarantee low natural gas prices for a generation. Today you can purchase natural gas futures at less than half the 2005 prices for delivery more than a decade from now. This is an important development because the revenues to the Rockport plant depend upon selling electricity. Lower natural gas prices means that the profitability of a coal gasification plant will be less feasible than it was in 2005. Sadly, Rockport was not a privately feasible operation in 2005, so the state offered a number of energy purchase agreements to support its construction. There isn’t space to go through the unpleasant details of the Rockport power plant. Suffice it to say that what was a marginally bad idea in 2005 is a profoundly bad idea in 2015. A recent and very fine study by Indiana University explains why in detail. 
  • By LEE HAMILTON
    BLOOMINGTON – The leadership of the new Congress is under pressure to show Americans that they can be successful. Let’s hope they consider “success” to include avoiding the bad habits of the past. With the 114th Congress just underway, the political world is focused intently on the road ahead. Taxes, trade, immigration, climate change, job creation, the Affordable Care Act: There’s a long list of issues and one burning question, whether a Republican Congress and a Democratic President can find common ground. Yet before we get worked up about what’s to come, we need to take a hard look at the Congress that just ended and ask a different question: Why was it such an abject failure? Let’s start with a basic number. According to the Library of Congress, 296 bills were passed by the 113th Congress and signed by the President. Just for comparison’s sake, the “do-nothing Congress” of 1947-48 got 906 bills through. The Financial Times called this most recent version “the least productive Congress in modern U.S. history.” The only silver lining was that the cost of running Congress was down 11 percent. 
  • By RICH JAMES
    MERRILLVILLE – There was a time when Lake County Democratic mayoral primaries were as good as it gets when it comes to spectator sports.There were vicious battles across the county. The intensity largely was because the victor had an easy road ahead in the fall. And, of course, there was something special about having the word mayor in front of one’s name. Few can forget the campaigns pitting East Chicago Mayor Robert Pastrick and challenger Stephen Stiglich. Stiglich once served as Pastrick’s police chief and later won two full terms as sheriff after filling a vacancy. So competitive were the Pastrick/Stiglich mayoral primaries, that political consultant Chris Sautter filmed a documentary on the 1999 primary. The film, which won several awards, was named “The King of Steel Town.” Pastrick is retired and Stiglich died during heart surgery several years ago. 
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President Obama's State of the Union
President Obama gave his sixth State of the Union address Tuesday night. Watch the full speech.
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  • Maureen Hayden: Prevailing wage issue returns to Statehouse
    By MAUREEN HAYDEN
    CNHI State Reporter

        
    INDIANAPOLIS – It may be “round two” for the Indiana labor movement if legislation to roll back the prevailing wage for workers on public projects gains traction. On the heels of a court decision upholding the state’s contentious right-to-work law, some Republican lawmakers are ready to take another step to dismantle labor union protections: They want to repeal the decades-old law requiring contractors to pay union-scale wages for building schools, roads, and other government infrastructure. Critics say the law artificially inflates wages on publicly funded projects by raising them to the highest union level, increasing costs and reducing money for road repairs and other services state and local government can provide. But supporters argue the law boosts the economy by guaranteeing good-paying jobs in local communities and a skilled workforce that produces quality work that saves taxpayers in the long run.
     
  • Horse Race: Unknown Brewer faces different scenario than Ballard
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis Republicans would appear, on the surface, to be taking a page from the 2007 campaign playbook: Nominate a war veteran and businessman. On Monday, Iraq War veteran and businessman Chuck Brewer emerged as the party source, though he will face Olgen Williams, Terry Michael and Jocelyn-Tandy Adande in the primary. A similar script happened in 2007 when Republicans nominated Greg Ballard, an unknown former Marine lieutenant colonel, who would go on to forge one of the most stunning upsets in modern Hoosier political history, defeating Mayor Bart Peterson by 5,000 votes. Peterson had a 10-to-1 money advantage. The difference between 2007 and 2015 is that Mayor Peterson found himself in a tax revolt.
     
  • Horse Race: Pence will likely have $5M money head start
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    NASHVILLE, Ind.  – The Mike Pence for Indiana Campaign announced Friday over $3.3 million raised for 2014, including nearly $2.1 million for the second half of the year. It comes as polling by Americans For Prosperity shows his approval rating stands at 66%. The Pence finance report comes as Democrats John Gregg and Baron Hill told Howey Politics Indiana that they are still deciding whether to challenge Pence and that decisions won’t likely come until spring. By that point, Pence is likely to have more than a $5 million money advantage. Mike Pence for Indiana also reported raising over $5.2 million for the first two years of the election cycle. These totals represent a fundraising record for Indiana gubernatorial campaigns during the same time frame. The Mike Pence for Indiana Campaign ended 2014 with over $3.5 million cash on hand. “Our fundraising success will enable our campaign to continue to promote Gov. Pence’s agenda for improving educational opportunities, creating jobs and growing the Indiana economy,” said Marty Obst, executive director of Mike Pence for Indiana. Hoosiers were 85.3% of the contributors in 2014.
     
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  • Reps. Brooks, Walorski blocked initial abortion bill
    “We have a responsibility as the elected body representing our constituents, to protect the most vulnerable among us and ensure that women facing unwanted pregnancies do not face judgment or condemnation but have positive support structures and access to health care to help them through their pregnancies.” - U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, after she and U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks helped block a scheduled vote on abortion after an internal rift within the House GOP caucus. The bill that did pass would make permanent a ban on the use of federal money to pay for abortion. 



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Jeb Bush

Will Jeb Bush's looming 2016 presidential candidacy preclude a run by Gov. Mike Pence?


 

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