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Saturday, June 23, 2018
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  • EVANSVILLE  – As 1,500 delegates and their friends descend on Evansville for this year’s Indiana Republican Convention, it will mark only the second time in modern history that the GOP convention will take place outside of Indianapolis. Here’s what you need to know about the state’s third largest city. Just as Indianapolis emerged in the 1980s from its negative reputation as “India-no-place” or “Naptown,” Evansville is now undergoing its own resurgence. The downtown alone has over $500 million in renovations simultaneously occurring, an unprecedented amount of investment. Simply put, Evansville’s downtown is poised for booming growth with renovations and new construction happening nearly everywhere you look. Some of this progress will present an unattractive annoyance – construction barrels, cleared lots and closed streets are common sights – but it all points to a promising renaissance. Tropicana Evansville, the state’s first land-based casino, opened 75,000 square feet of gaming fun in renovated space. Two new downtown hotels under construction will soon join the recently completed DoubleTree convention hotel, which rests next to the new Stone Family Center for Health Sciences, a collaboration for medical education by the University of Evansville, University of Southern Indiana and Indiana University.
  • EVANSVILLE – The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) debate revolves in part around a Constitutional question: Does the president unilaterally set immigration policy, or do such laws require congressional authorization? When President Obama lacked the votes to get DACA through Congress, he simply implemented it via executive order. In truth, DACA was headed toward a legal challenge that likely would have overturned the rule as unconstitutional. Congress needed to take it up one way or the other anyway. But this administration’s motives to end DACA, or at least sow confusion among those benefiting from it, most certainly find their roots in more than just constitutional concerns. The #MAGA crowd feels their American identity and financial well-being stretched and insecure. Immigrants make an easy culprit. We’ve witnessed similar tension at other points in our country’s history – the Civil War, waves of immigration at the turn of the 20th century, and the cultural revolution of the 1960s – but throughout those conflicts the question was whether white Christians would make more room for other groups at a table they still dominated. In those older conflicts new groups gained acceptance in exchange for cultural assimilation.
  • EVANSVILLE – As GOP attempts at federal healthcare reform continue to flounder, John Boehner added fuel to the fire last month with remarkably prescient prophecy about the chances of his former Republican colleagues successfully passing some sort of repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. “Now, they’re never – they’re not going to repeal and replace Obamacare. . . in the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, Republicans never, ever one time agreed on what a healthcare proposal should look like. Not once,” he said. Plenty of evidence backs Boehner up. Other than vague, occasional references to the free market, Republicans lack a comprehensive ideological approach to healthcare policy. That’s a sad reality for an industry representing one-sixth of the national economy. It’s time for Congress to embrace a new prescription for our national healthcare headache: Unleash the states. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb wants more flexibility at the state level and “greater control of federal health care dollars being spent in Indiana.” Holcomb often defends Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 and avoids offering too many specifics, but many believe he favors more free market reforms like reconnecting healthcare buyers with sellers and reducing perverse incentives.
  • EVANSVILLE – Each year the Indiana legislature prides itself on reducing the size and scope of government, yet each session, including this one, that same legislature grabs more power from the hands of local municipalities. The message from Indianapolis is clear: The Statehouse knows best and mayors and town councils can’t be trusted to do what’s in their communities’ best interests. It is time we fundamentally change our approach. Indiana’s Home Rule Act first passed in 1980 and generally grants municipalities the power to govern themselves as they see fit. The idea, modeled off the national principle of federalism, gives more choice, options, flexibility, and freedom to local leaders. Now those ideals are under greater attack than at any time since Hoosier home rule began. In recent years the Indiana legislature handcuffed municipalities from setting a local minimum wage or from regulating housing, agricultural operations, worker schedules, or plastic bags. A move to preempt local rules for services like Airbnb failed to get out of the Indiana House, but it was a rare setback for the never-ending march to scale back home rule. This year legislators successfully banned local zoning rules for certain utility poles and undermined so-called “good neighbor ordinances.”
        
  • EVANSVILLE – I remember the moment when Mike Pence’s challenge crystallized for me. In 2012, as he campaigned to succeed Mitch Daniels as governor, Pence traveled the state setting up listening sessions with small business owners, and his campaign team asked me to set one up in Evansville. He opened the discussion with an admission that Daniels already addressed most of the low-hanging fruit to improve Indiana’s business environment, but he asked what he could do to further improve state government. As folks around the table offered comments, everyone had plenty of constructive (and harsh) criticism for the national government, but they each struggled to identify concerns with Indiana. In short, thanks to the preceding eight years of Mitch Daniels’ leadership, Indiana was working well – really well, in fact – and Pence would have to work hard to get out from beneath his shadow. Pence’s place in history as governor, literally and figuratively, will forever be viewed next to Mitch Daniels.
  • EVANSVILLE – We have reached a great fork in the road in the history of the Republican Party. The party’s bombastic leader and president has a passionate grip on many voters, giving them control of all branches of government. The coattails of success extend beyond Washington and in Indiana helped keep Republican control of every office and body of state government as well as an overwhelming majority of the state’s municipalities. Faced with such success, many of our Republican friends decided to strike a deal with the devil and urge loyalty and unity with Trump. In their minds, a little immaturity on Twitter is a fair price to pay to finally rein in Democratic policies and get things done. Besides, they say, Donald Trump the candidate or Donald Trump the showman is different from the sane man who will actually govern. Nearly two weeks into the Trump presidency, we now know they are wrong. The unprecedented beginning for the administration included purposefully picked battles with the intelligence community, immigrants, and foreign allies; illegal executive orders; elevation of political advisers over military and foreign policy experts; gaslighting and lies; and a general chaotic and bumbling approach to executive organization. This presidency is everything we feared and it will only get much worse.
  • EVANSVILLE – The 2016 election was a resounding success for Indiana Republicans. Outgoing governor Mike Pence is the new vice president, Eric Holcomb will be the next governor, and Republicans won all other statewide races, including state education  superintendent. Like the federal government, the Indiana Statehouse is firmly controlled by Republicans. For the party brass and thousands of Republican political and policy advisors, the incentive will be to celebrate the victories, congratulate themselves on strategy, and rest on the laurels of a fresh victory. Undoubtedly, the Trump/Pence wave carried the day and is driving the Republican Party. So why should they ever again listen to Never Trump Republicans they might view as losers? That line of thinking would be a strategic blunder. Trump’s victory appears to be based more on a rejection of Clintonism and liberalism than an embrace of Trump’s ideology. Mitt Romney got 60.9 million votes and lost, while early returns show Donald Trump has 59.1 million votes and is winning. Trump also received less than McCain’s popular vote total in 2008 and came up short of Obama’s winning 2012 vote totals in all of the battleground critical swing states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio. Indiana Republicans didn’t ride a wave of Trump support. Instead, they rode a wave of anti-Clintonism thanks to Democrats staying at home.
  • EVANSVILLE – Most Hoosiers know little or nothing of Republican lieutenant governor candidate Suzanne Crouch. She hasn’t spent decades on the talk radio circuit like Mike Pence, she doesn’t have a family pedigree like Evan Bayh, and she hasn’t spent a lifetime building a statewide political network like Eric Holcomb. But she is good at one thing in particular: Governing. Policy wonks have long admired Crouch. She served for many years as vice chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, quietly toiling away at the nittygritty work of budgets and appropriations. As a state representative Crouch also advocated for legislation creating a new Transparency Portal which offers data and links for anyone to review state spending, revenues, salaries, contracts, and performance and accountability measures. In 2013, after the resignation of Dwayne Sawyer, Crouch was appointed state auditor and immediately set to work improving the transparency portal. Its success exploded and a number of government watchdog groups ranked Indiana’s portal as one of the best in the nation.
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  • Holcomb responds to SCOTUS ruling on Internet sales tax
    “A lot about our world and economy has changed in the 26 years since our nation’s highest court last ruled on this issue,” Holcomb said Thursday. “With the incredible evolution of technologies and the growth of internet sales, this Supreme Court ruling will help level the playing field between our Hoosier-based companies that operate retail stores and out-of-state companies that sell products and services online in our state. We’re taking a careful look at the ruling to better understand its implications for Indiana.” - Gov. Eric Holcomb, reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing states to collect sales tax from on-line retailers. Indiana passed a law in 2017 anticipating the rule, with the state expecting $77 million to come in from e-commerce annually.
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  • The First Lady's message
    American First Ladies almost always assume a role and much of it is messaging. For Nancy Reagan, it was “Just say no” to drugs. Betty Ford gave us a compassionate path to those savaged by addiction. Laura Bush was all about literacy. Lady Bird Johnson urged littered and dumpy America to clean up its act.

    And Melania Trump? She remains a mystery to most of us with her Sphinx-like mannerisms. But she is also a messenger, though often we don’t know what to make of her signals. Who can forget Donald Trump’s debate with Hillary Clinton right after we learned from the Access Hollywood audio that women will let rich tycoons do what he wants (“you can grab ‘em by the pussy”)? Mrs. Trump showed up wearing a pink Gucci pussy bow, creating even more of a stir when she shook hands with President Bubba. Perhaps she was trying to tell us it’s really OK to grab ‘em … or maybe it was a rebuke to his cheatin’ heart. We simply don’t know.

    After torrents of President Trump’s snide and vicious tweets, First Lady Trump decided to make bullying her prime issue, saying, “Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough. We must treat each other with respect and kindness.” Ya think?

    Then came McAllen, Tex., just hours after President Trump ended immigrant child separation with the stroke of a pen (after weeks saying only Democrats could). The former fashion model showed up wearing a cheap jacket on a muggy day reading “I really don’t care, do U?” as 2,300 kids were incarcerated by the U.S. government nearby and who knows where else.

    The First Lady’s flak told us “there was no hidden message,” but President Trump contradicted, saying his wife was flipping off the news media, saying she “has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!” Show up at the scene of U.S. policy that has truly disturbed folks across the spectrum, and tell us all you really don’t care, even as we learn the U.S. government has lost track of many of this tormented kids. Got it. Classy. -
    Brian A. Howey, publisher
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