By BRIAN A. HOWEY in Indianapolis

1. 60 year olds eligible for vaccine

Some 432,000 Hoosiers age 60-65 are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as appointments quickly filled up. The Indiana Department of Health announced that age group is eligible around 9 a.m. and by noon 63,000 people had signed up. Due to limited vaccine supplies nationally, Indiana has prioritized healthcare workers, first responders and those who are most vulnerable in its vaccine rollout. Individuals age 60 and older account for more than 22% of the state’s population but 64% of the COVID-19 hospitalizations and 93.3% of the deaths.

On Monday, Johnson & Johnson announced it will provide 20 million single-shot doses by the end of March. It is expected to get emergency approval from the FDA by this weekend.

President Biden paid tribute to the 500,000 Americans (and more than 11,000 Hoosiers) who have died of COVID. "I know that when you stare at that empty chair around the kitchen table, it brings it all back — no matter how long ago it happened — as if it just happened that moment you looked at that empty chair. And the everyday things — the small things, the tiny things — that you miss the most. That scent when you open the closet. That park you go by that you used to stroll in. That movie theater where you met. The morning coffee you shared together. The bend in his smile. The perfect pitch to her laugh."

2. Legislature asserting election control 

After moving the May 2020 primary to June and opening up the vote by mail process due to the COVID pandemic, Gov. Eric Holcomb was reluctant to make further election changes, saying that was the duty of the General Assembly. Senate Bill 353 passed the Senate, stipulating that it is, indeed, the General Assembly which sets election rules, including election dates. SB353 would require those seeking an absentee ballot to include a drivers license number of last four Social Security digits.

3. House GOP budget passes

By a 65-30 vote, the House passed a $36.3 billion biennial budget, with Republican Reps. Curt Nisly and John Jenkins joining the Democrats in opposition. The bill includes $150 million for learning loss grants, $50 million for health grants, $250 million for broadband expansion and $70 million for upgrades to the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. But the House budget will arrive in the Senate without any recommendations from Gov. Holcomb's Teacher Pay Commission. The House budget raises the cigarette tax from $1 to $1.50, much less than what anti-tobacco advocates had requested.

4. House moves to eliminate gun permits

The House passed by a 65-31 party line vote legislation that would eliminate the need for gun permits. The bill is opposed by the Indiana FOP and Indiana State Police Supt. Doug Carter, who see the gun permit process as an anti-crime screening mechanism. 

5. CPAC to miss Pence

American Conservative Union Director Dan Schneider appealed to Mike Pence to show up at the CPAC convention even though Donald Trump will speak next Sunday. "We're disappointed the former vice president isn't joining us," Schneider told MSNBC's Joshua Johnson Sunday. "He can still come. He is a real champion for conservatism. He spoke at CPAC 13, 14 times over the years, and I know if he were to come to CPAC, he would be treated very warmly with great respect, and frankly, I really hope that he reconsiders, and if he wants to come, we'll make room for him." Pence was the target of Jan. 6 insurrectionists at the U.S. Capitol who chanted "Hang Mike Pence" after Trump goaded his supporters to pressure the veep to "overturn" the election.

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