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Sunday, December 21, 2014
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Thursday, December 18, 2014 10:27 AM

By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS – In the Hoosier State, Obamacare is a policy orphan and a potential political liability. The Republicans still vow to kill it and openly loathe it. Congressional offices normally dedicated to constituent service have largely taken a pass on Obamacare. Democrats have not defended the Affordable Care Act in any conspicuous way as the party sinks into irrelevance. Gov. Mike Pence is attempting to bend it into the market forces the GOP could have opted for when they controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress between 2001 and 2007.
    
In May 2011, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels surveyed Obamacare and made no effort to hide his contempt. “No. 1, I believe it will be disastrous as far as health care policy,” Daniels said. “No. 2, it will make the deficit far, far worse and now everybody understands. No. 3, it represents another government takeover of the private sector.”
    
Beyond the propaganda, the policy picket lines and all the whistling past the death panels and graveyards, how is Obamacare doing, both nationally and here in Indiana? It’s a mixed picture. Over the years, Republicans repeatedly told us that Obamacare was a job killer while it would send the federal budget deficit skyrocketing. In 2014, the first full year of Obamacare, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped from 6.7% in January to 5.8% in November. In Indiana, the jobless rate declined from 6.8% in December 2013 to 5.7% in October.
More Hoosiers are now insured. Carla Anderson of the healthinsurance.org website, reported that during 2014 open enrollment, 132,423 Hoosiers signed up for qualified health plans.

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  • By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    INDIANAPOLIS –  There was one election metric that jumped out when pouring over the past three cycles. In the national bellwether Vigo County, Democrats had a 50-48 percent straight ballot advantage last November. In 2006, Democrats had a 17,631 to 2,619 straight ballot advantage. What a shift! Since November, I’ve written about how Indiana has become a Republican-dominated state, controlling the governor’s office for what will be 12 consecutive years, holding five of the six constitutional Statehouse offices, super majorities of 40-10 in the Indiana Senate and 71-29 in the Indiana House, and eight of the 11 Congressional seats. Democrats control no Congressional seats south of I-70, only one state Senate seat (in Bloomington) and just three Indiana House seats. But mine down at the local level and the shift becomes even more emphatic. David Bottorff, Association of Indiana Counties president, said that about 80 percent of county officials - commissioners, councilmen, sheriffs, prosecutors, recorders, clerks, auditors, assessors - are Republican.  Indiana Republican Chairman Tim Berry said that in 76 of the 92 counties, Republicans now control the county board of commissioners with at least a 2 to 1 majority. “In 2002, when I ran for treasurer, I won 80 counties and lost 12,” Berry said. “Many of those were in southern counties which had been traditionally Democrat. They would vote for a Republican down ballot statewide, but they would vote Democratic at the county level.” 
  • By SHAW FRIEDMAN
    LaPORTE – Remember how the character George Bailey in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” was given the gift of being able to see how events would have unfolded in his hometown of Bedford Falls if he’d never been born? Well, we’re now given the “gift” of wondering what if the U.S. attorney or the Marion County prosecutor had taken up the issue of former Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Bennett’s allegedly criminal behavior in a grand jury in 2014?  Several of us, including Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott, practically pleaded in November 2013 for a grand jury to be convened, only for those pleas to fall on deaf ears including many in our own party.  How different would the political landscape look in Indiana today? It’s a question worth pondering as that timeless movie favorite starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed plays again for appreciative audiences.  Would the Legislature look a little bit more like Bedford Falls than Pottersville next year?  Would we have a few more Democrats who might have survived close races in the house of representatives and state senate? I suggest that’s the case. 
  • By LEE HAMILTON
    BLOOMINGTON – Divided government does not have to be dysfunctional. Given all the words and images devoted to the midterm elections over the past few weeks, you’d think the results had told us something vital about the future of the country. In reality, they were just a curtain-raiser. It’s the next few weeks and months that really matter. The big question, as the old Congress reconvenes and prepares to make way for next year’s version, is whether the two parties will work more closely together to move the country forward or instead lapse back into confrontation and deadlock. I suspect the answer will be a mix: Modest progress on a few issues, but no major reforms. 
  • By MORTON J. MARCUS
    INDIANAPOLIS – Many Americans complain their incomes are not rising fast enough to offset inflation. The press and politicians echo this view and have declared it a major problem.  In addition, some workers are distressed that compensation (wages and salaries plus benefits and bonuses) are not keeping up with the gains in labor productivity. But is it true? To find the answer we have to go to the data. This is like wrestlers going to the mat. It’s a sweaty business of getting knocked around until you are dizzy, exhausted, banged up and unsure what happened. Fortunately, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is there to answer our questions. Their latest data lets us compare the third quarter of 2014 with the same quarter a year earlier. We’ll look at non-farm business, that portion of the economy responsible for about 74 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  
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Colbert Report's star-studded wrap up
"The Colbert Report" had a star-studded final show Thursday night. Stephen Colbert replaces Indiana's David Letterman on CBS in 2015.
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  • What if Stutzman had held out?
    By MARK SCHOEFF JR.
        
    WASHINGTON – Congress wrapped up a lackluster session Tuesday night that could have been even more volatile had U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman stuck to his guns. Last week, Stutzman, R-3rd CD, cast the deciding vote that allowed the House to proceed to a $1.1 trillion spending bill that ultimately was narrowly approved, 219-206. Stutzman opposed the final bill. He could have killed it altogether had he also voted against the rule that enabled floor debate on the measure. Like many other conservatives, Stutzman was upset that the so-called cromnibus legislation did not directly confront the Obama administration over its executive orders on immigration.
     
  • Donnelly seeks to revive Indiana Democrats by example
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – If leading by example is the route for a revival of the beleaguered Indiana Democratic Party, then U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly is the man to follow. “In my official capacity, I have visited all 92 counties,” Donnelly told Howey Politics Indiana in a phone interview from Washington on Tuesday. “In my spare time, I have visited all 92 counties in an effort to help rebuild the party. We’ll be more successful when we have more people involved with local campaigns. It begins with the city and township level.” In the Dec. 4 edition of Howey Politics Indiana, our analysis laid out a comprehensive look at the losses Indiana Democrats have sustained in its Congressional delegation, both legislative chambers of the General Assembly, its control of only one constitutional office at the Statehouse, and the loss of county courthouses and city halls, particularly in Southern Indiana in counties and cities that were considered Democratic strongholds less than a decade ago.
     
  • HPI Interview: Pence talks Jeb, education & National Guard
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS  – Gov. Mike Pence sat down with Howey Politics Indiana on Tuesday afternoon for a year-end interview and discussed the biennial budget, education needs and the pending decision from the Obama administration on Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0. He expects the coming 2015 Indiana General Assembly session to focus on teachers and wants an “honestly balanced budget” but could rule in broader tax relief if the forecast numbers are rosier than expected. He said he is open to legislative proposals to fully fund education grants for Indiana National Guard members. For the second consecutive year, those higher education grants for the spring semester were rescinded due to budget considerations. Here is our conversation that took place in the governor’s Statehouse office: HPI: What’s your take on Jeb Bush’s exploratory committee for 2016? Does he qualify as one of the Republican governors who would look good in the White House? Does that change the dynamic politically? Pence: I haven’t really thought about it very much. I have a lot of respect for Jeb Bush and for his record as governor. I spoke to him about a year ago when we were crafting Indiana’s pre-K program. As governor of Florida, he had launched the voluntary pre-K. We talked about some of his experience with that. I haven’t spoken to him in the last year.
     
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  • Kenley emphasizes education, Pence caution after revenue forecast
    “I think the focus on school funding reflects the right priority. I think that a lot of the suggestions about overall funding are pretty ambitious so far. They are going to have to be prioritized within a smaller number of dollars than they appear to be asking for.” - Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, after the December revenue forecast predicted $840 million in new money over the coming biennium. Kenley doesn’t predict any major cuts. Gov. Mike Pence said his administration will “exercise caution,” though the Governor told HPI he envisions an “education session.” 



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Supt

Should Indiana's superintendent of public instruction be elected, or appointed by the governor?


 

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