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Friday, August 18, 2017
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Thursday, October 15, 2015 9:20 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    
INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mike Pence kicked off the infrastructure debate with a $1 billion proposal to repair state highways, interstates and bridges. Local government officials want the governor and General Assembly to take it several steps further, and provide what the Indiana Association of Cities & Towns calls a “sustainable” funding source. IACT President Matthew Greller told Howey Politics Indiana on Wednesday that the Pence plan is a good start. “The big thing is it’s good the administration is addressing infrastructure in a very serious way with a very serious proposal and a lot of money. But it includes no money for city and town streets and county roads. I’m disappointed because the vast majority of road miles in Indiana are maintained by local governments.”
  • HPI Analysis: Trump impacts on U.S. Senate race
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    MORRISTOWN – Some 800 people gathered on a bucolic, peaceful Indiana farm near here Saturday afternoon as U.S. Rep. Luke Messer officially kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign. Some 600 miles away, the scene couldn’t have been more different. Charlottesville, Va., was the scene of an alt right rally that lurched into violence with counter protesters, with a white supremacist from Ohio driving his car into a crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. By late that afternoon, President Trump landed squarely into the controversy, blaming people “from both sides” for the violence.
     As Trump thrust himself into Hoosier politics in 2016, ultimately aligning with Gov. Mike Pence and their emphatic Election Day wave pulling Eric Holcomb and Todd Young into office, to think that a similar impact isn’t in store for the 2018 Senate race is to embrace naiviety. Trump’s Saturday statement was in contrast to four tweets by Messer and U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, who are now engaged in the second member v. member Republican Senate primary in the past two cycles. “We cannot allow hate and bitterness to prevail. #Charlottesville,” Messer said. “On a day where we enjoyed the love and friendship of so many in Morristown, it is hard to fathom the scene in #Charlottesville.”
        
  • Horse Race: Hall explores 2nd CD as Arnold won't run
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - With the decision of State Sen. Jim Arnold (D-LaPorte) not to seek the 2nd CD, reliable sources tell HPI say that another potentially contender has emerged who is “seriously considering” a run against Rep. Jackie Walorski,  former South Bend businessman Mel Hall. Hall is best known for having grown a small, upstart South Bend firm – Press Ganey – that surveyed patient and employee satisfaction at hospitals, into a national powerhouse that ultimately claimed half the 5,000 hospitals in the country as clients. In 2014, Hall (pictured)moved to Nashville Tennessee to serve as CEO of Specialty Care, a provider of various clinical services, with over 1,800 employees under his supervision.  The prospect of a Democratic expert on health care issues matching up against an ardent supporter of ACA repeal will likely excite Democrats who are hungry for a credible candidate to face Walorski.
  • Indiana meth lab busts decline 58% after new law

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - A little over a year after SEA80 took effect, Indiana methamphetamine lab busts have declined 58% compared to the same time period a year ago. Indiana State Police reports 254 meth lab busts occurred from January through June, representing a 58 percent drop from the 605 incidents during the same period in 2016. In addition, the number of children removed from meth lab environments went down nearly 68 percent from 108 to 35 cases. During the last six months of 2016, meth labs declined by 38%, going from 1,452 in 2015 and 943 in 2016.
    “Because of the hard work of law enforcement and pharmacy staff in combination with statewide meth reforms, Indiana has seen a significant drop in meth lab busts,” State Rep. Ben Smaltz said. “Since taking office, one of my top priorities has been to curb meth production in Indiana while working to reduce the number of Hoosier children exposed to meth labs to zero. As these numbers continue to go down year after year, I’m confident that we are on our way toward achieving those goals.”

  • Atomic: Senate race silence; Young speaks out; Donnelly & GOP
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Charlottesville & McConnell absent in Senate race: Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: The Republican U.S. Senate race is fully underway here in Indiana, but two issues that have been percolating nationally are, to this point, absent. None of the campaigns has reacted to Charlottesville tragedy and President Trump’s “many sides” statement on Saturday, though on Monday he issued a stronger statement. At least five Senate Republicans, including Sens. Cory Gardner, Orin Hatch and Ted Cruz, did weigh in critically on Trump’s statement. Then there’s the  Trump feud with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Again, silence from the camps of Reps. Todd Rokita, Luke Messer, Terry Henderson, Mike Braun and Andrew Takami. They do face a balancing act, trying not to alienate Trump supporters. But potential candidate, Attorney General Curtis Hill, did issue a stern denunciation of the Charlottesville attack, tweeting, “Hoosiers and all Americans should reject hatred and attacks based on race.” 

  • HPI Interview: Rep. Braun plans to run competitive Senate race
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Mike Braun became the fifth Republican to enter the U.S. Senate race on Tuesday. The Wabash College graduate first joined the Indiana House in 2014 and served on the powerful Ways and Means and Roads and Transportation committees. The Jasper Republican stresses his business and entrepreneural background and his ability to translate it into government action. “I’ve built a small company and made it into a big company. I clearly come out of the private sector, know my way around politics with my experience in the Statehouse and I think that’s going to benefit me in the long run as people sort out a large field,” he said. “There is going to be a clear contrast between my background and the two frontrunners. If everybody else is coming from the outside, I don’t think anybody is going to be able to articulate infrastructure and health care and tax code issues as well as I can. That’s what’s going to be the essence of what I’m going to talk about.”

  • Family decision propels Messer into Senate race
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    MORRISTOWN - The second Member versus Member Republican U.S. Senate primary in consecutive cycles became reality Saturday afternoon as U.S. Rep. Luke Messer officially kicked off his campaign five days after U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita launched his bid. Messer introduced his family at a rally attended by close to a thousand supporters at his annual barbecue, and spent the crux of his speech aiming at U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly. “Hoosiers deserve a senator who will look out for them, not just talk like a Hoosier back home, then vote with the liberals in Washington,” Messer said. “We’re proud of Todd Young, the Marine we sent to the Senate, but too often, on the most important issues, Joe Donnelly votes the other way and cancels him out. Hoosiers need two senators who will vote yes for Hoosier families.” In 2016, Young defeated U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman in an intense, sometimes bitter primary battle, then we on to defeat former senator Evan Bayh last November. Rokita and Messer have already engaged in a bitter rivalry, with the latter accusing the former of targeting his wife, Jennifer, for the amount of money she makes as an attorney for the city of Fishers.

  • Atomic: Pence returns; opioid emergency; nuke double down
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Pence returns to Indiana: Here are your Friday power lunch talking points: Vice President Mike Pence returns to Indianapolis today to address the Ten Point Coalition at noon and will then join Gov. Eric Holcomb for Pence’s official gubernatorial portrait unveiling at the Statehouse at 2 p.m. He returns after a tumultuous eight months a heartbeat away, playing the loyal second fiddle to an unpredictable President Trump, dodging and weaving the contradictory rhetoric, West Wing chaos and the evolving scandal. As governor, Pence had some success with two balanced biennial budgets, workforce development, advances in right-to-life issues as the number of abortions continue to fall, and HIP2.0, the Obamacare component that added health coverage for 400,000 Hoosiers. As vice president, Pence worked unsuccessfully at repeal/replace, which had he succeeded would have financially gutted HIP 2.0, to the point that Gov. Holcomb and General Assembly fiscal leaders slipped a provision in HEA1002 that allows them to divert road and infrastructure funding into programs like HIP 2.0. We’ve also watched Holcomb reverse Pence policies on pardons, the I-69 public/private partnership fiasco that was featured by the Wall Street Journal this week, while stepping up the state profile on the East Chicago lead crisis. Pence lacked mojo with rank and file legislators, who didn’t have the kind of respect/fear that Gov. Mitch Daniels did. Now we’ve watched Pence struggle in Congress, getting repeal/replace passed in the House by one vote, and losing in the Senate by a vote despite GOP majorities.

  • Horse Race: Rokita, Braun in Senate race; Hill says 'stay tuned'
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – The Republican U.S. Senate race took definition Wednesday morning with U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita’s entry that came with a full-throated endorsement of State Sen. Mike Delph, who considered a candidacy himself. Rokita’s official entry will be bookended by the emergence of State Rep. Mike Braun into the race on Tuesday, and U.S. Rep. Luke Messer’s official kickoff at his annual barbecue in Morristown on Saturday. Unless Attorney General Curtis Hill decides to get in, and his office did not return an inquiry on that from Howey Politics Indiana, the field looks to be set at six with Terry Henderson of Atlanta, Mark Hurt of Kokomo and Andrew Takami of New Albany already declared. Messer announced his candidacy on Facebook last week, and is expected to tout his resume and make his case to voters on Saturday. The presumption is that Messer and Rokita will be the brawling frontrunners, but Braun believes many Republicans have soured on the pair’s negative attacks against each other. “During county fairs, I was talking to county officials as well and basically got the same reading,” Braun said in a HPI Interview on Tuesday. “There was a presumption that one of the two would end up being the Republican nominee, and that wasn’t resonating well.”
        
  • Atomic: Lucas and medicinal pot; Carson listens; Trump poll woes
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Rep. Lucas and medicinal marijuana: Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points. Conservative State Rep. Jim Lucas announced plans to file medicinal marijuana legislation next year. In the past, it has been liberal Democrats like State Sen. Karen Tallian who have pushed marijuana reform. Lucas told WRTV, "People telling me their personal stories, how they've been helped by this product, how far behind Indiana is on this issue. That right there, we have a responsibility to at least investigate it and determine the facts, and if there is something positive out there, we have to pursue that." Lucas said his research of medical marijuana was sparked after learning the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission reportedly raided a store for selling CBD oil – a substance people have been using to cure pain. "It's woke people up that we have to do something. It's forcing us to consider things that might have been taboo or off-limits just a few months or even a year ago.”   The voting public is way ahead of lawmakers. Some 27 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana. Eight states and DC have recreational marijuana, and 19 have medicinal marijuana. Worth noting is this: Nearly three quarters of respondents in the WTHR/HPI Indiana Poll in October 2016 support the concept, with 73% supporting medical marijuana with 25% opposed.
  • Atomic: Pence denies NYT story; Arnold eyes 2ndCD; TPP fallout
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Pence denies 2020 shadow campaign: Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: Vice President Pence countered the New York Times report suggested he was preparing a “shadow” campaign for the 2020 presidential nomination by calling it “disgraceful and offensive to me, my family, and our entire team. The allegations in this article are categorically false and represent just the latest attempt by the media to divide this administration,” he wrote in a statement Sunday. “Whatever fake news may come our way, my entire team will continue to focus all our efforts to advance the president’s agenda and see him reelected in 2020. Any suggestion otherwise is both laughable and absurd.” But according to Politico Playbook, “Pence's aides have been less restrained in private, according to two people briefed on the conversations. In a June meeting with Al Hubbard, an Indiana Republican who was a top economic official in Mr. Bush's White House, an aide to the vice president, Marty Obst, said that they wanted to be prepared to run in case there was an opening in 2020 and that Mr. Pence would need Mr. Hubbard's help, according to a Republican briefed on the meeting.
  • Atomic: Teacher shortage; Trump's checks; Mueller grand jury
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Indiana’s glaring teaching deficiency: Here are your final week power lunch talking points. As the cascading Baby Boom retirement rolls on, a number of job sectors are going to have to replenish, particularly the various building and professional trades. But the spotlight glares on Indiana’s teaching pool, with WTHR-TV’s Bob Segall returning to the the CORE’s teaching exams. Segall reports that two/thirds of the incoming English and math teachers have failed their tests, and other CORE assessment exams have pass rates as low as 18%. There was supposed to be an investigation, but the State Board of Education has dropped the ball with delays, miscommunication and a lack of information. “It's a difficult situation, so I'm not going to sugar-coat it or try to pretend it's something it's not,” Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick told WTHR. “This continues to a problem.”

  • HPI Interview: Secretary Lawson on guarding Indiana elections
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – Secretary of State Connie Lawson flatly asserted that she believes the 2016 elections in Indiana were not tampered with by the Russians and has full confidence in the results. Her comments came during an exclusive HPI Interview last Friday at a time when she is serving on the President’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a group selected by President Trump after he alleged that there was massive voter fraud in 2016. She confirmed to HPI, “The election results are absolutely unaltered and no votes have been changed.” She believes that the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee, but does not know if it was the Russian government. “Now do I know whether it was the Russian government? No, I don’t,” she said.
        
  • Horse Race: Open seat 6th CD field begins to emerge
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS –  There will almost certainly be two open Congressional seats in the 2018 cycle, the 6th CD held by U.S. Rep. Luke Messer and the 4th CD by U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, both opting for the U.S. Senate race. Rokita told the LaPorte Herald-Argus on Tuesday that his entry is “imminent.” Messer signaled his intent to run on Facebook last week, and that has kicked off the first flurry of activity with State Sen. Mike Crider and Muncie businessman Jonathan Lamb already declaring. Also pondering runs are Greg Pence, State Sen. Jean Leising, Henry County Councilman Nate LaMar and Don Bates Jr., sources tell HPI. Pence told HPI on Wednesday that he is concentrating on his role as Messer’s campaign finance director through the Aug. 12 annual barbecue, where Messer is expected to officially kick off his campaign. “Until Luke’s formal kickoff, I’m just concentrating on that,” Pence said. “I’ve got a lot of encouragement to run. I promised Luke we’d get him to a certain spot. I’m going to finish that and then we’ll take a look at it. As Luke’s statewide finance chairman, I wish folks get to concentrate on Luke’s campaign.” Crider, a two-term Greenfield Republican, was the first to declare. “As soon as information of Luke running for the Senate came out, folks started calling me, saying they thought I’d be a good fit,” Crider told HPI on Monday.
  • Atomic: Opioid crisis; 4 counties lack ACA; 6th CD field builds

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. An opioid emergency: A Tuesday power lunch? Here are your talking points: President Trump’s drug commission is urging him to declare a national opioid emergency. The report is "meant to give the president some immediate steps that he can take to try to make sure that we stop the death that is happening across the country," said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who heads the commission. "Your declaration would empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the executive branch even further to deal with this loss of life," the commission said. "It would also awaken every American to this simple fact: If this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will."  Here in Indiana, the Bloomington Herald-Times reports the Monroe County Jail is consistently over capacity due to opioid inmates. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reports Allen County is on track to surpass the 804 drug overdoses in 2016. There have been 587 so far this year. And in Mishawaka, Dr. Todd Graham was murdered by a man enraged that he wouldn’t fill an opioid prescription for his wife. He later committed suicide. "He did what we ask our doctors to do," St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter said of Dr. Graham. "Don't over-prescribe opioids."

  • Atomic: Kelly & chaos; eyes on Pence; Trump Senate nod rebuff
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Fremont, Ind.

    1. After Trump’s disastrous week, all eyes on Pence: Here are your Monday power lunch talking points. President Trump had a disastrous week, but seemed to end it on an uplifting note when he dispatched Chief of Staff Reince Priebus with Homeland Security Sec. John Kelly, who has loyally served Republicans like Robert Gates, Bush43 and Democrats like Leon Panetta. But Trump quickly returned to form, telling New York cops they should “rough up” arrestees. Can Kelly bring order to the White House? Or will Anthony Scaramucci and the clan do end runs around him? The answer to that will ultimately determine whether Kelly can establish durable protocols.

  • Horse Race: 9th CD drawing in activist Democratic challengers
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – Activist Democratic candidates are lining up for the opportunity to challenge freshman U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth. The latest is Bloomington attorney Liz Watson, self-described as a national advocate for working families. She joins New Albany civil rights attorney Dan Canon, Bedford businessman Tod Curtis, and Indiana University associate instructor Tom Pappas. These candidacies are forming as President Trump and Capitol Hill Republicans are trying to reform health care laws, with the Congressional Budget Office saying the House-passed plan would end health coverage for 22 million Americans and the Senate plan, 33 million. The so called “skinny” plan would leave 16 million uninsured. There have also been steep proposed cuts to Medicaid to the tune of $880 billion over the next 10 years.
        
  • Atomic: Senate insanity; WH insanity; Ruck's warning; Milo rising
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Insanity in the Senate: Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week. We’ve written often of how the White House and congressional Republicans kept doing the same things to obtain a different outcome. With the stunning vote of U.S. Sen. John McCain early this morning, the “skinny” Obamacare repeal, a bill so odious that no senator really wanted it, a bill Sen. Lindsey Graham called a “fraud,” blew up in the faces of President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The historic dysfunction of the Trump White House has metastasized in Congress. Here’s what McCain said: “We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation's governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people." Ya think? The riveting scene on the Senate floor was of Vice President Pence trying to cajole McCain into backing a mongrel dog of a bill. It was a long way from that fateful April 1, 2007 when the pair toured a Baghdad market in flak jackets with gunships hovering overhead, with Pence comparing it to a Bargersville flea market in an Indiana summer, only to have a bomb kill dozens there next day. Pence hovered at McCain’s desk early this morning, talking with him for 20 minutes and keeping the tally board open for an hour. Instead McCain spoke to a gleeful Chuck Schumer, then giving the thumbs down as McConnell stood stone-faced and motionless.
  • HPI Analysis: A procedural Pence victory
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – Give Vice President Mike Pence credit for his tenacious pursuit of an Obamacare repeal and replace. When he intoned on Tuesday afternoon, “There are 50 yeas and 50 nays. The Senate being equally divided and the Vice president votes in the affirmative,” Pence breathed new life in the health reforms that many believed were dead last week. Just hours after the talks collapsed, Pence was back on Capitol Hill seeking support for a procedural motion. Some of us saw it as the classic definition of insanity (i.e. trying the same thing over and over seeking to get a different result). But now we’re hearing talk of a “skinny” Obamacare repeal and replace and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to accept amendments from all 100 senators, including the evil Democrats. Pence’s victory on the procedural vote could be akin to the proverbial dog catching the car, or even the billionaire mogul capturing the presidency. Once it’s captured, then what? A dog can’t drive, and President Trump seems to be trying to prove on a daily basis that he doesn’t know how to govern.
  • Sen. Crider announces for open 6th CD seat

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - State Sen. Mike Crider will seek the open 6th CD seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Luke Messer. “Friends, yesterday my good friend and Indiana's 6th District Congressman Luke Messer announced his intention to seek the position of US Senator in the upcoming election. That decision will create a vacancy in Congress which will need to be filled. After much prayer and deliberation I have decided that I will compete to fill that vacancy," the Greenfield Republican told HPI on Thursday. "This decision comes at a time when our country is deeply divided so I have no illusions that competing for the position or serving in it will be anything other than incredibly difficult. I believe that the skill sets I developed during my law enforcement career and my legislative career thus far will serve me well as I navigate the issues we face on a broader scale. Please keep Sherri and I in your thoughts and prayers as we embark on this life changing journey. I greatly appreciate the many calls and messages I've received as we contemplated whether this position was a fit for us or not. That support has been humbling as it is an incredible honor to serve the citizens of Indiana. In the coming days we will complete the paperwork and finalize the components necessary for a viable campaign.” Crider was first elected to the Indiana Senate in 2012.

  • Vice President Pence breaks tie; McCain returns and lectures
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie in the U.S. Senate on a procedural motion to take up the health care reforms shortly after 3 p.m. Tuesday.  “There 50 yeas and 50 nays. The Senate being equally divided and the Vice president votes in the affirmative,” Pence intoned. The Republicans lost U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. U.S. Sen. Todd Young said, “Nearly everyone agrees that doing nothing is not an option. Insurers have fled the individual market and premiums continue to rise without any indication the law’s death spiral will stop. Ultimately, it is imperative that we fundamentally reform our healthcare system and my vote to proceed to debate allows us to begin that process. I will continue to work with my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to come up with a solution that provides long-term stability to our healthcare system and gives each and every Hoosier the opportunity to access quality and affordable insurance.”

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  • Sen. Corker says Trump lacks 'stability and competence'; U.S. faces 'great peril'
    “We’re at a point where there needs to be radical changes take place at the White House itself. It has to happen. I think the president needs to take stock of the role that he plays in our nation and move beyond himself - move way beyond himself - and move to a place where daily he’s waking up thinking about what is best for the nation. The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful. And we need for him to be successful. He also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation. He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great. Without the things that I just mentioned happening, our nation is going to go through great peril.” - U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN, to Tennessee news media about President Trump. The comments come as Vice President Mike Pence is cutting short his trip to South American, returning to the U.S. tonight. But Pence said in Panama Thursday, “In President Donald Trump, I think the United States once again has a president whose vision, energy and can-do spirit is reminiscent of President Teddy Roosevelt.”

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  • Presidents Bush 41, 43 denounce racism
    Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush released a joint statement on Wednesday, denouncing racism, anti-Semitism and hatred after the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms. As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.” The statement came a day after President Trump backtracked on a Monday statement where he denounced alt right groups, saying the there were “fine people” in the KKK, neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups. The Bush statement did not mention President Trump. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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