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Monday, April 24, 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.”
  • Atomic: Poison pill for cities; luv for the Guv; Delph a-Twitter
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. An 11th hour poison pill for Indiana municipalities: Your Monday power lunch talking points: You never know what’s going to crawl out of the sine die woodwork. Six decades ago you could see scenes like lawmakers with toy lawnmowers chasing Aloha-themed dresses on babes in the House Chambers (yes, documented in Justin Walsh’s “The Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly, 1816-1978”). It was more sedate as Friday turned to Saturday, but the “what the hell” moments were two-fold. First, the biennial budget ended Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton’s annexation efforts. Second, a provision turned up allowing the purchase of lethal injection drugs for the state’s next execution, that would bar revealing who made the ever-scarcer drug. So much for local control and transparency. On the annexation halt, this will send a shiver through the spine of every mayor and city council(wo)man. As Mayor Hamilton told the Bloomington Herald-Times, “To the extent they did this to us here, they could do this to anyone else. They could intervene ... and take over a local issue.”
  • Leaders in both parties give Gov. Holcomb high marks
    By THOMAS CURRY

    INDIANAPOLIS - House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate Pro Tempore David Long summed up the adjourned 2017 Indiana General Assembly that was “historic" and monumental, with billions of dollars of future road funding over the next two decades and millions more for education. Both had high praise for first year Gov. Eric Holcomb. Long said, “I really love the man. He respected the process during the last few weeks and let us do our work.” Bosma added, “The governor handled this session very well and will be a great executive.” All leadership agreed that Governor Holcomb''s first session went better than his predecessors Mike Pence and Mitch Daniels, with Sen. Long calling it very smooth. Leadership was also happy with other legislation passed this session saying “We hit every goal we set out to do.” Long observed, “We hit all five of the main issues of a balanced budget, roads plan, opioid addiction, workforce development and education funding.”
  • Historic road funding, more pre-K funds and a Ricker's rebuke
    By THOMAS CURRY

    INDIANAPOLIS - Working into the late hours of Friday night, the Indiana General Assembly put a lid on the 2017 session, highlighted by passage of bills on the state budget, road funding and cold beer sales. Fueled by a sizable evening pizza delivery, both the House and Senate approved the legislation which now sits on Gov. Eric Holcomb's desk for final approval. The final state biennial budget totals $32.3 billion and is projected to leave a $1.96 billion surplus in fiscal year 2019. Over half of the budget is allocated for either pre-K funding, K-12 education and higher education with a $345 million total increase in those areas. The budget passed 42 to 8 in the Senate and 68 to 30 in the House. In an unexpected late session surprise, Gov Holcomb ended up with more pre-K funding than he anticipated. In the chaos of the last day of session, both the House and Senate passed HB 1004.
  • Atomic: Henry's garbage; historic roads; opioid relief; Dr. Larry
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Henry finds a dog of a bill at the Statehouse: Your final Friday power lunch talking points: Just about every dog, even a fine hound like First Dog Henry Holcomb, will go out in the backyard or the beach and bring back a dead fish, a squirrel carcass, a chicken bone, a half-eaten burrito or even a piece of poop. First Lady Janet Holcomb likely responds by donning a latex glove, taking the  offending flotsam straight out to the garage garbage can, so as not to stink up the kitchen. If Henry Holcomb had been at the Statehouse on Thursday, he might have dug up HB1496, a piece of garbage from back behind Rube Goldberg’s House. While the scent of flora from true victories like the 20-year road bill and the appointed superintendent concurrences wafts above the marble, HB1496 is the bill that has people looking side to side in a sultry room to see who tilted. HB1496 is a pirate Bandaid on the Hoosier embarrassment, which is the state’s 80-year-old three-tier alcohol system. It does things Joe Sixpacks deem stupid, like allowing one to buy cold wine at a Ricker’s Convenient Store, but not cold beer.
  • Gov. Holcomb, GOP leaders hail historic road funding deal
    By THOMAS CURRY

    INDIANAPOLIS –  As the summation of an entire session’s worth of work, the state's top legislators released the final version of the HB1002 road infrastructure plan today in a joint press conference. When passed and signed into law, HB 1002 will provide $900 million in new annual funding for state roads by 2024 and sees a $300 million increase for local roads during that time span. Legislators maintain that by year 20 of the plan, investment for state roads will come out to average $1.2 billion, with $775 million for local roads each year. To pay for the infrastructure investment, the gasoline and diesel tax will both be raised by 10 cents a gallon. Other fees include increased vehicle registration fees, and also a study committee on tolling will be created. Senate President Pro Tempore David Long said that while “it’s not easy for taxcutters to raise revenue, this is going to keep Indiana a strong economic engine for many years to come.”

  • Ricker feels targeted by legislative leaders
    By THOMAS CURRY

    INDIANAPOLIS - Just moments after HB 1496's conference committee report was released to the public, Ricker's CEO Jay Ricker told members of the media that he was “shocked” and felt “signaled out” by the legislation. HB 1496, the cold beer sales bill which took the statehouse by storm just a few weeks ago, now calls for canceling some liquor licenses as early as May 14th of this year. The conference committee report creates a law that states “a restaurant may not sell carryout alcohol unless of at least 60% of its gross retail income is derived from sales of alcoholic beverages consumed on the premises.” A number of exceptions were made to the rule, including exempting breweries and golf courses among other types of establishments. However, the conference committee report added the requirement that entities issued a carry out license between Oct. 31 2016 and May 14 2017 must meet the 60% requirement. Ricker’s was issued licenses for two locations in November and December 2016 which means they aren't exempt from the new law on carry out.
  • HPI Interview: Jay Ricker talks about cold beer and hot politics
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – Occasionally a business leader is thrust into the political spectrum when a compelling issue comes to the fore. In the 2015 it was former Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This year, it is Ricker’s CEO Jay Ricker, who took advantage of Indiana Code to sell cold beer at two of his restaurants inside gas/convenience stores in Columbus and Sheridan. Ricker stands on the precipice of the Hoosier policy absurdity, where his 56 convenience stores can sell cold wine, but not cold beer. Package liquor stores can sell cold beer, but not ice or soda pop. It is a notion that most Hoosiers greet with derision, and where powerful lobbyists and legislative leaders stand on political quicksand, defending a weird status quo out of sync with voters. The widespread notion is that Ricker took advantage of a “loophole” his legal team found. But in an Howey Politics Indiana interview at Shula’s on Tuesday, a little more than an hour after he met with Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long, it turns out it was part of Indiana Code Title 7.1, which has been in place since 1935 when Indiana’s three-tier alcohol distribution and tax system was installed after the end of Prohibition.

  • HPI Analysis: Rep. Rokita makes his case for GOP Senate nod
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita reported $1.5 million cash on hand this week as he prepares for his fourth statewide campaign, this time for the U.S. Senate. It will likely pit him against U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, making for a second consecutive cycle member vs. member Republican Senate primary. During our interview at Starbuck’s on the north side of Indianapolis, HPI asked Rokita why he would leave a safe 4th CD and a potential House Budget Committee chairmanship for a risky Senate run in the first mid-term of President Trump. It was a similar question asked of Messer last month about leaving the House leadership track. Rokita quickly turned the tables on Messer. “Hopefully Luke doesn’t run because that’s exactly right,” Rokita responded. “He has a terrific pathway to help the state of Indiana. He could be majority leader, he could be speaker. That’s not a path I’m on.”
  • General Assembly deals coming together in methodical fashion
    By THOMAS CURRY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS  – Moving methodically toward the last few days of session, state lawmakers made progress on a number of key issues during the first half of the week. On Wednesday, Speaker Brian Bosma told members of the media that a consensus had been reached on the road infrastructure bill, HB1002. Refusing to go in specific detail, Bosma revealed that the road deal was “fantastic” and that Senate and House leadership ironed out the kinks on their differing opinions. A conference committee report on the bill is expected to be released sometime this morning or early afternoon and will include specifics on the agreement reached by the House and Senate. Talks on the road plan had stalled on immediately shifting the revenue from the sales tax on gasoline from the general fund to road funding. The House had initially included that measure and called for raising the cigarette tax by $1 a pack to fill the gap in the general fund.
  • Atomic: Road bill crashing? Pence & fleet apart; Rokita timeline

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Road bill in 11th hour smackdown: Our Republican sources and assorted Statehouse spies are telling me that HB1002 is in full-throttle smackdown mode between Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley. Key point of contention is the House version that wants all gasoline tax funding roads and more money for municipalities. That reflects a man-on-the-street sentiment we’ve heard repeatedly: “I don’t mind paying a little extra gas tax, as long as it goes to roads.” Body language from key players like House Transportation Chairman Ed Soliday was grim at the end of business on Tuesday. House is due back in session at 11, and will then caucus.

  • Mayor McDermott emerges as potential 2020 governor candidate
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. spoke to the 59th Annual Good Government Day in Logansport on Tuesday, and he sounded like a future gubernatorial candidate. He told students, “I wish I could go back to high school again,” because he “gets it” now. Then he told students that by buckling down now, “You could be governor of Indiana.” He was introduced by Logansport Mayor Dave Kitchell, who observed that McDermott was the only diver on the nuclear submarine USS Hyman Rickover during the Gulf War. McDermott later told students, I’ve been 20 years of my life either in the U.S. Navy or running a city.” Asked about a potential 2020 gubernatorial run, McDermott told HPI, “That’s a long way off, but I’m an executive at heart. I’ve done a lot of thinking lately about my future and I’ve come to realize that fact. I’m a boss. Always have been. I’m not sure how happy I would be as a cog in a machine as opposed to being an executive.”
  • HPI Analysis: The vanishing Indiana endangered incumbent
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Jontz, Jill Long, Frank McCloskey, John Brademas, John Hiler, Baron Hill, Mike Sodrel, John Hostettler, Chris Chocola – the list of Hoosier members of Congress who ended their political careers in defeat over the past three decades is extensive. Unless there are extraordinary political waves, the way Indiana’s electoral process is trending, the congressional upset could become a rare event. Earlier this week, the Cook Political Report issued the 2017 version of the Cook Partisan Index and there are only two Indiana districts in the single digit range. U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky’s 1st CD is +8 Democratic, and U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks’ 5th CD is +9 Republican. The previous competitive district, U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski’s 2nd CD, went from a +6 Republican in 2014 to a +11 Republican this year. Remember the Bloody 8th? It’s not so bloody anymore. When Cook came out with its first index in 1998, U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, who had defeated Democrat Frank McCloskey four years prior, sat in a +2.5 Republican district. It was +8 Republican in 2014 and is now a +15 Republican district today.
  • Wild week ahead for the General Assembly
    By THOMAS CURRY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – Much remains up in the air with just one week of work remaining at the Statehouse, and it could be dominated by unforeseen debates. Joint conference committees took over the Statehouse schedule this week on a number of pieces of legislation, including the state budget and infrastructure plan, with the goal of sorting out key differences between House and Senate versions. Wednesday also saw the release of a crucial budget proposal by the State Budget Agency which foresees more gains than it did in December. All this sets up what will likely be a wild week of work for lawmakers. Wednesday’s budget projects a $201.2 million increase in state revenue over the next two years, up roughly $100 million from December’s report. However, lawmakers that pull the purse strings aren’t ready to go on a spending spree. House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown cautioned that “the second year is much more unpredictable” when it comes to budget projections.
  • Atomic: Lugar critiques Trump; bipartisan call; AIM for road cash
    By MARK SCHOEFF JR. in Washington
    and BRIAN A. HOWEY in Indianapolis

    1. Lugar sharpens his critique of President Trump: Last December in his annual foreign policy address to Hoosier high school students at the University of Indianapolis, former Senate foreign relations chairman Richard Lugar gave a bleak assessment of the looming Trump presidency, though he never mentioned Donald Trump by name. But tonight at the Foreign Policy Association in Washington, Lugar will offer a sharp critique. “One of the ironies of this is that a president who campaigned on his ability to achieve grandiose results is offering a vision that is so lacking in ambition and so devoid of American heroism,” Lugar will say, according a transcript provided to Howey Politics Indiana. “Many of the Trump administration’s foreign policy goals are simplistic, prosaic and reactive. These are goals that normally would be associated with a selfish, inward looking nation that is motivated by fear, not a great superpower with the capacity to shape global affairs.”

  • Lugar to offer scathing critique of Trump foreign policy

    By MARK SCHOEFF JR.

    WASHINGTON - Former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar will deliver a sharp critique of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy in a speech Tuesday night. A former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lugar warns that the Trump administration is pursuing objectives - such as building a wall along the Mexican border, pushing allies to contribute more to NATO, seeking trade concessions, removing illegal immigrants and slashing the State Department budget - that will weaken U.S. world leadership.
    “One of the ironies of this is that a president who campaigned on his ability to achieve grandiose results is offering a vision that is so lacking in ambition and so devoid of American heroism,” Lugar said in prepared remarks for a speech Tuesday night at the Foreign Policy Association in Washington.

  • Atomic: Revenue tailwind; Trump (non)Doctrine; Gorsuch sworn in
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. General Assembly gets revenue tailwind: Your power lunch talking points: The revenue report released on Friday show a tailwind for lawmakers as we head into the session homestretch. At the three-quarter post revenues increased $317 million, a gain of 3.1%. Last week Gov. Eric Holcomb told Howey Politics Indiana he expected a good revenue forecast on Wednesday. “I’m confident we’re going to get a good report,” he said. “We want to make sure the hallmark of our state legislature and governor’s office is living within our means. We want to make sure we live up to that.” NWI Times’ Dan Carden reported: “Growth above the December predictions of 2.9% for 2018 and 3.9% for 2019 could possibly make several hundred million more dollars available for lawmakers to spend. That could enable the Republican-controlled House to meet its goal of dedicating all state sales tax revenue from gasoline purchases to road funding, without requiring a $1-per-pack cigarette tax hike to replace those funds in the state's main spending account.”
  • HPI Horse Race: As Trump tanks in polls, 2018 cycle takes shape
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    INDIANAPOLIS – With President Trump circling the drain, with the Obamacare repeal/replace in shambles, with Republicans divided on everything from tax reform to building The Wall, and with a debt ceiling showdown poised for the administration’s 100th day, there are ominous signs for a 2018 election disaster for Republicans. Despite all this, a number of Hoosier Republicans are preparing to ante up for the cycle, including U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita for the U.S. Senate race, which is beginning to produce a chain reaction on who might replace them in the 6th and 4th CDs. On the Democratic side, HPI is hearing that Lynn Coleman is preparing for a rematch with U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski in the 2nd CD, Indiana’s potentially most competitive, and Glen Miller, a Bernie Sanders Democrat, has announced in the 8th CD for the right to take on U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon.
        
  • Atomic: Trump's Xi display; Pence hovers; cold beer rebels
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Some late night television (boom!) for President Xi: Your Friday power lunch talking points: With 59 Tomahawks flying into the Shayrat Air Base (and 23 finding target), speculation is that President Trump was not only sending a lethal warning to the tyrant Bashar al-Assad, but also Russian thug President Putin and Chinese President Xi, who was parked down at Mar-a-Lago preparing for today’s summit. “Senior” Trump administration officials have been warning this week that all options are on the table when it comes to North Korean nukes. So Trump enters his summit with Xi with a mighty emphatic Exhibit A.

  • HPI Interview: Gov. Holcomb sticks to his 5 policy pillars
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
    BLOOMINGTON – As Gov. Eric Holcomb headed toward his first 100-day milepost, as well as the homestretch of his first Indiana General Assembly session, Hoosiers have discovered a governor who is perceived to be off to a good start, acts as if he knows the terrain, is well-staffed and hasn’t shied away from departures from his predecessors. Holcomb presented the General Assembly and public with a “five pillar” policy strategy, much of which is centered on a 20-year road and infrastructure plan that is on course to pass later this month. In a political era where the obsession in Washington and past General Assemblies was a two-year cycle, Holcomb borrowed from Gov. Mitch Daniels’ epic Major Moves plan of 2006, which set in motion a fully-funded 10-year plan. Holcomb is on a course to double that, has pressed for gasoline and diesel tax increases after decades of reticence of even mentioning the phrase.
  • General Assembly heads for the homestretch
    By THOMAS CURRY

    INDIANAPOLIS - State lawmakers crammed a number of key issues into a busy week at the Statehouse, but just how many changes can be expected at the last minute remains unknown. Conference committees looms large over Indiana government as differences on the state budget and road infrastructure bill need hammered out between all sides despite their advancement in the Senate. Adding into the drama this week was the born-again superintendent bill, all with a little alcohol sales language brewed into discussions as well. After Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley released the changes to the budget last week, the bill finally got its second reading on Wednesday. The budget, HB 1001, was altered in some significant ways by the Senate after it was passed out of the House. HB 1001 originally called for increasing the cigarette tax to allow the transferring of the gasoline sales tax revenue to road funding but Senate budget gurus scrapped the idea.
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  • Holcomb issues first veto on public record charge act
    “While I understand the intent behind the bill to offset the considerable time and expense often devoted to fulfilling public records requests, I view this proposed legislation as contrary to my commitment to providing great government service at a great value for Hoosier taxpayers. Providing access to public records is a key part of the work public servants perform and is important from a government transparency standpoint. I do not support policies that create burdensome obstacles to the public gaining access to public documents. I vetoed HEA 1523 for these reasons; however, I support the provision requiring public agencies to provide electronic copies of public records in electronic format (such as emails) if requested.” - Gov. Eric Holcomb, announcing his first veto. HEA 1523 revised charges for citizens seeking public documents.
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  • President Trump a polling bottom feeder
    President Trump is flagging in the polls, with the latest NBC/WSJ Poll putting his job approval at 40% with 56% disapproving. NBC notes that Trump is “still holding on to Republicans and his most committed supporters. In the poll, 82% of Republican respondents, 90% of self-described Trump voters, and 56% of white working-class Americans” but he stands at only 30% with independents and 34% of college educated whites. And here’s how Trump stacks up with modern presidents at this stage of their presidencies: Eisenhower: 73% (April 1953); Kennedy: 78% (April 1961); Nixon: 61% (April 1969); Carter: 63% (April 1977); Reagan: 67% (April 1981); Bush 41: 58% (April 1989); Clinton: 52% (April 1993); Bush 43: 57% (April 2001); Obama: 61% (April 2009); Trump: 40% (April 2017). Why the low standing? Just 27% give him high marks for being knowledgeable and experienced and only 21% give him high marks for having the right temperament. And then there’s that problem with the truth: Just 25% give him high marks for being honest and trustworthy, down from 34%. On top of all this, he faces a yuuuuge week with the debt ceiling showdown, a new tax plan his Treasury Department doesn’t seem to know about, a second stab at TrumpCare, and that arbitrary "first 100-days" measuring post. - Brian A. Howey, Publisher
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