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Sunday, March 29, 2015
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Gov. Pence appeared on ABC's "This Week" in an attempt to control the national damage to Indiana's reputation. In the lower photo, Pence is shown at the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signing ceremony at his Statehouse office on Thursday.
Gov. Pence appeared on ABC's "This Week" in an attempt to control the national damage to Indiana's reputation. In the lower photo, Pence is shown at the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signing ceremony at his Statehouse office on Thursday.
Sunday, March 29, 2015 3:38 PM

By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS - Facing on onslaught of criticism from the business community and an unprecedented national disparagement of the state, Gov. Mike Pence attempted to make a case for the legitimacy of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act Sunday on national TV, but when pressed could not declare that gays and lesbians wouldn’t be the target of sanctioned discrimination.

It comes after an unprecedented array corporate executives, mayors, the NCAA and celebrities castigated the new law that Pence signed on Thursday in a private ceremony. The controversy comes on the eve of the national media descending into Indianapolis for the NCAA Men’s Final Four, with media personalities ranging from local hero Reggie Miller, to ESPN commentator Dick Vitale, to Charles Barkley of CBS denouncing the new law. And it ignited a potential fissure in the Indiana Republican Party, with Howard County Chairman Craig Dunn questioning Pence’s own viability for reelection in 2016 is now in question.

Pence went on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday morning to defend Indiana’s Religious Freedom Information Act, but refused to answer a “yes or no” question from host George Stephanopoulos on whether it allows for discrimination against gays. Asked six times whether the law permits discrimination, the governor repeatedly deflected. Pence said at one point, ”This is not about discrimination, this is about empowering people to confront government overreach.” Pence noted that President Clinton signed the federal law in 1993 and Illinois State Sen. Barack Obama voted for that law in 1998. He called “misinformation” projected by the media as “shameful and reckless” and the controversy is a “red herring.”

"The Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been on the books for more than 20 years,” Pence said. “It does not apply, George, to disputes between individuals unless government action is involved, and in point of fact, in more than two decades, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never been used to undermine anti-discrimination laws in this country."

Howard County GOP Chairman Dunn says that Republicans he’s talked with since the firestorm surfaced and spread “are sick to their stomachs, as I am.”

“It’s an embarrassment and it sets us back,” Dunn told HPI. “All the good things (Gov.) Mitch Daniels accomplished, bringing in all the young people to the party, is now buried by one single bill.” Dunn and other members of the Indiana Republican Central Committee took part in a heated debate on the RFRA and other issues at recent meetings, saying the issues weren’t in the 2012 and 2014 Republican Party platforms. Dunn questioned why legislative leaders gave the RFRA the “Senate Bill 1” designation usually reserved for top priority legislation. Dunn’s remarks come just days before the Indiana Republican Central Committee will vote on Jeff Cardwell, Pence’s designee for Republican chairman.

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  • By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    INDIANAPOLIS – Since the dawn of the television era in Indiana politics in the mid-1950s, a mere nine white males have been U.S. senators out of the approximately 12 million people who called Indiana home during the period. Those holding one seat included Sens. William Jenner (R), Vance Hartke (D), Dick Lugar (R), and now Joe Donnelly (D). On the other, there have been Sens. Homer Capehart (R), Birch Bayh (D), Dan Quayle (R), Dan Coats (R), Evan Bayh (D), and then Coats once more. In more than 60 years, there were three “open seats” at the beginning of the cycle when the incumbent did not run, with Jenner in 1958, Coats in 1998 and Evan Bayh in 2010. In all three open seats, there were overwhelming favorites seeking Senate seats in mid-term elections with Evansville Mayor Hartke riding a Democratic wave in 1958 with 57.5 percent of the vote after Jenner retired to Bedford, popular Gov. Bayh’s ascension in 1998 with 63.7 percent over Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke, and Coats’ return in 2010 with 54.7 percent over U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth. Facing Hoosier voters in a campaign that kicked off Thursday with Eric Holcomb’s entry is an extraordinary event poised for 2016: An open Senate seat in a presidential election year with no clear favorite. 
  • By JACK COLWELL
    SOUTH BEND – Sen. Dan Coats, a nice guy in an increasingly nasty business, will step away from that business on his own terms. He is positioned now to do some important business for the nation before he leaves. The Indiana Republican announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election in 2016. Coats would have faced Tea Party opposition in the Republican primary election and, if he fared better than former Sen. Dick Lugar did against a Tea Party favorite in the 2012 GOP primary, he would have faced a determined Democratic challenge in the fall. That would have meant all-out fundraising and campaigning, and cautious political evaluation of every vote cast and word spoken in the Senate, for the remaining two years of his term. Now, as Coats said, he won’t have to concentrate on campaigning but can “focus all of my time and energy on the major challenges that Hoosiers sent me to Washington to address.” 
  • By LEE HAMILTON
    BLOOMINGTON — Great democracies do not veer from one doomsday moment to the next, nor do they fund government on a week-to-week basis. Yet that is precisely the habit Congress has developed. It’s embarrassing. After Congress came a hair’s breadth from shutting down the Department of Homeland Security a few weeks ago, members of the leadership tried to reassure the American people. “We’re certainly not going to shut down the government or default on the national debt,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Congress, he said, would not lurch from crisis to crisis. I wish I could be so confident. Because if you look at the year ahead, the congressional calendar is littered with opportunities to do just that.
       
     
  • By MICHAEL HICKS
    MUNCIE – Using data from two other states, the results of a proposed prescription-only pseudoephedrine policy are clear. Earlier this month, my colleagues Srikant Devaraj and Karthik Balaji­and I published a study on the benefits and costs of eliminating over-the-counter cold medication (pseudoephedrine) in Indiana. This is a policy issue because these medicines are used to cook meth, a scourge of communities across the country. We are sympathetic to legislative efforts to keep these drugs off the street. Meth destroys many lives, and it has taken hold so quickly that there is a legitimate argument to experiment with any policy that will reduce its use. It is not unlike the early lesson I learned as an infantry lieutenant. If you are caught in a close ambush by the enemy you might as well charge them directly as there’s no time to mull over other options. 
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Gov. Pence defends RFRA on ABC's 'This Week'
Gov. Mike Pence defends the RFRA and vows not to rescind the law on ABC's "This Week."
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  • Scramble begins today to join the Indiana Senate 9
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – Since the dawn of the television era in Indiana politics, a mere nine white males have been U.S. senators out of the approximately 12 million people who called Indiana home during the period. Those holding one seat included Sens. William Jenner (R), Vance Hartke (D), Dick Lugar (R), and now Joe Donnelly (D). On the other, there have been Sens. Homer Capehart (R), Birch Bayh (D), Dan Quayle (R), Dan Coats (R), Evan Bayh (D), and then Coats once more. In more than 60 years, there were three “open seats” at the beginning of the cycle when the incumbent did not run, with Jenner in 1958, Coats in 1998 and Evan Bayh in 2010. In Bayh’s case, Coats returned to the public spectrum to win back the seat he gave up a decade earlier. In only one instance, Lugar in 2012, was a sitting senator defeated in a primary. In three cases, Capehart in 1962 to Birch Bayh, Hartke in 1976 to Lugar, and Birch Bayh in 1980 to Quayle, were incumbents defeated in general elections.
       
     
  • Holcomb first declared GOP Senate candidate
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - Eric Holcomb kicked off the 2016 Indiana U.S. Senatorial campaign Thursday with an announcement rally that seemed like a virtual Daniels administration reunion. The former Indiana Republican chairman and deputy chief of staff under Gov. Mitch Daniels told several hundred cheering that his work for Sen. Dan Coats had exposed him to the Republican “with impeccable integrity.” He said that immediately after Coats made the decision not to seek reelection, “I began to receive encouragement from many quarters, which brings me to the purpose of today’s gathering. The solutions to America’s most daunting challenges cannot be found in the promises to simply printing more money or kicking the can down the road for others to inherit." Holcomb continued, “This campaign will be about what we are for, not simply about what we are against. This campaign will seek to attract people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives and experiences. We will welcome and engage them. This campaign will be about Indiana’s voice and anyone who knows me knows, this campaign is going to have some fun along the way.”
     
  • Rokita, Stutzman work to keep GOP together on budget
    By MARK SCHOEFF JR.
        
    WASHINGTON – In the opening weeks of the new Congress, House conservatives have split their party’s caucus on crucial votes. On March 25, Hoosier Reps. Todd Rokita, R-4th CD, and Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd CD, worked to keep the GOP together to pass a budget blueprint. The House approved a budget resolution, 228-199, that sets spending limits for appropriations bills and provides policy parameters to authorizing committees. The measure doesn’t have the force of law, but it does set a tone for GOP governance on Capitol Hill. Its passage also demonstrates that the party can at least govern itself – no mean feat following a vote last month on a homeland-security funding bill in which Rokita, Stutzman and most House GOP opposed party leadership. “This is a day I expect to be a unifying day and a good day for Republicans,” Rokita prior to the final budget vote. Stutzman, a member of the House budget panel, also was on board. “We have to pass a budget,” Stutzman said.
     
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  • Reggie Miller on Indiana's emerging public relations debacle
    “I’ve never been big into politics but I'm very disappointed in my adopted home state of Indiana and the passing of Senate Bill 101. I've always been about inclusion for all, no matter your skin color, gender or sexual preference. We are all the same people, beautiful creatures." - Former Indiana Pacer star Reggie Miller, on Gov. Mike Pence’s signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, on Twitter. The new law is creating a national firestorm of criticism for Indiana just as the national media is about to descend on Indianapolis for the NCAA Men's Final Four this coming week, creating an unprecedented public relations debacle. 



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