HOLCOMB SIGNS HISTORIC POLICE REFORMS: Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed into law a police reform and training bill lauded by Indiana Democrats and Republicans as "historic." Holcomb signed House Bill 1006 on Thursday. In addition to de-escalation training requirements, the bill allots $70 million to repair and update the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy's training facility (DePompei, IndyStar). The bill establishes a procedure allowing the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board to decertify an officer who commits misconduct. It also prohibits chokeholds under certain circumstances and criminalizes an officer turning off a body worn camera to conceal criminal behavior. The bill, authored by Rep. Gregory Steuerwald, R-Danville, also requires police agencies request a prospective officer's employment record from previous employers during the hiring process.

 

VOTE ON GOVERNOR EMERGENCY POWERS SET FOR MONDAY: Legislators expect a final vote on Monday on a bill letting them call themselves into session to review emergency declarations (Berman, WIBC). Gov. Holcomb has warned for weeks he believes the bill to be unconstitutional, and said Wednesday he’ll veto it if it passes as expected. House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) says the veto threat was expected — holding the vote Monday leaves time for an override vote before legislators adjourn. Several Senate Republicans accused the administration in a stormy committee hearing last month of not communicating with legislators last summer about its pandemic response. Many lawmakers felt sidelined during the pandemic, watching the governor make so many decisions without, they say, legislative input. Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) said, to change that, legislators landed on a bill that allows them – and not just the governor – to call a special session (Indiana Public Media). “The legislature should have a larger role in this process and so, I think that’s very important," Bray said. "Our caucus thinks so and I think most Hoosiers feel the same.” House Speaker Todd Huston said he and Bray simply don’t agree with the governor. “I want to be clear – we have a great working relationship, the administration and the two bodies," Huston said. "Again, it’s just a disagreement. We’ll let the courts decide and we’ll have an answer moving forward.”

 

SENATE BUDGET EXCLUDES CIG TAX HIKE: Senate Republicans won’t include an increase in the state’s cigarette tax in their budget proposal (Smith, Indiana Public Media). Advocacy groups – everyone from the Indiana Hospital Association and State Medical Association to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce – have argued for years that the state needs to reduce the number of Hoosiers who smoke. And study after study shows that raising the cigarette tax by at least $1 per pack can do that. The House Republican budget included a 50 cent hike. But Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) said his caucus isn’t prepared to do even that. “Obviously it’s a very regressive tax and so we want to be cognizant of that,” Bray said.

 

1.1 MILLION HOOSIERS FULLY VACCINATED: As Indiana enters the next phase of its coronavirus vaccine rollout plan, state leaders are celebrating a steady climb in the state’s vaccination rate (IndyStar). As of Wednesday, the day Indiana began offering vaccines to anyone 16 and older, a total of 1,133,956 Hoosiers have been fully vaccinated. Indiana has administered 2,793,014 doses of vaccine, including more than 53,000 in the past 24 hours. The total number of fully vaccinated Hoosiers represents about 16.8% of the state population. That is a hair over the national vaccination rate of about 16.4% of the total population, according to the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When compared to our neighboring states, Indiana trails Michigan, Kentucky and Illinois, which report vaccination rates of about 19.6%, 17.4% and 17% respectively. The latest figures from Ohio show that about 16.66% of Buckeyes are now fully vaccinated.

 

McCONNELL URGES REPUBLICANS TO VACCINATE: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his fellow Republicans to be vaccinated against COVID-19 during a visit to a western Kentucky hospital Thursday (ABC News). “As a Republican man, I wasn’t reluctant to get it when I was eligible and I would encourage everybody to do that,” he said. "The sooner we can get to 75%, to herd immunity, and get our economy up and open, the better." While the supply of vaccines has increased significantly since the end of last year, some public health experts have expressed concern that some Americans may be less likely to sign up for a shot because of their political beliefs. A March poll from The Associated Press -NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 42% of Republicans say they probably or definitely will not get the shot, compared with 17% of Democrats.

 

BIDEN PLANS TO SPEND $100B ON WI-FI EXPANSION: A year after the pandemic turned the nation’s digital divide into an education emergency, President Biden, inheriting the problem, is making affordable broadband a top priority, comparing it to the effort to spread electricity across the country. His $2 trillion infrastructure plan, announced on Wednesday, includes $100 billion to extend fast internet access to every home (New York Times). The money is meant to improve the economy by enabling all Americans to work, get medical care and take classes from wherever they live. In many rural areas, internet service isn’t available at all because of the high costs of installation. “We’ll make sure every single American has access to high-quality, affordable, high speed internet,” Mr. Biden said in a speech on Wednesday. “And when I say affordable, I mean it. Americans pay too much for internet. We will drive down the price for families who have service now. We will make it easier for families who don’t have affordable service to be able to get it now.”

 

INDEMS PUSH BACK AT BANKS' PARTY OF WORKERS: The Indiana Democratic Party was left “dumbfounded” Thursday about why U.S. Rep. Jim Banks believes the Republican Party is the party of working-class (Howey Politics Indiana). "Congressman Jim Banks's votes and the Indiana Republican Party's record do not help working-class Hoosiers," said party Executive Director Laura Ganapini. "Just last month, Banks and the INGOP voted against increasing the minimum wage for 30-percent of the state's workforce, they voted against the American Rescue Plan which will help us get through COVID-19 and get our economy back on track, and they never supported affordable healthcare for Hoosiers. Banks is proving to be a typical Republican politician who talks a big game but is unwilling to do the work."

 

55 FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES PAID NO TAXES: Just as the Biden administration is pushing to raise taxes on corporations, a new study finds that at least 55 of America’s largest paid no taxes last year on billions of dollars in profits (New York Times). The sweeping tax bill passed in 2017 by a Republican Congress and signed into law by President Donald J. Trump reduced the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent. But dozens of Fortune 500 companies were able to further shrink their tax bill — sometimes to zero — thanks to a range of legal deductions and exemptions that have become staples of the tax code, according to the analysis. Salesforce, Archer-Daniels-Midland and Consolidated Edison were among those named in the report, which was done by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a left-leaning research group in Washington. Twenty-six of the companies listed, including FedEx, Duke Energy and Nike, were able to avoid paying any federal income tax for the last three years even though they reported a combined income of $77 billion. Many also received millions of dollars in tax rebates.

 

U.S. MANUFACTURING SURGES IN MARCH: U.S. manufacturing expanded in March at the fastest pace since 1983, catapulted by the firmest orders and production readings in 17 years. The data add to evidence of an economy poised to accelerate (Bloomberg News). A gauge of factory activity jumped to 64.7 from 60.8 a month earlier, according to Institute for Supply Management data released Thursday. Index levels above 50 indicate expansion and the March figure topped all but one estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Stronger growth in new orders and output highlight accelerating household and business demand as increased vaccinations, fewer pandemic-related restrictions and fiscal relief provide a clearer path for the economic recovery. Stocks extended gains after the report. “The manufacturing economy continued its recovery in March,” Timothy Fiore, chair of ISM’s Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, said in a statement.

 

DILLINGER, HOLLEY FAMILIES TO WATCH STOLEN SHERIFF CAR RETURN: Relatives of John Dillinger and Lake County Sheriff Lillian Holley will be on hand Saturday after the 1933 Ford V8 police car the infamous bank robber stole returns home to Crown Point for the first time in 87 years (Pete, NWI Times). Thousands are expected to attend when Holley's historic car returns to Old Sheriff's House and Jail at 226 S. Main St. in Crown Point after departing in a motorcade of Lake County Sheriff's Department police vehicles, including a helicopter, from the Lake County Government Center just up the road at 11 a.m. Saturday. The Discovery Channel will film the festivities and reenact bank robberies while shooting scenes around Crown Point over the weekend and Monday for a show about Dillinger hosted by television star Josh Gates. Travis Thompson, Dillinger's great-nephew who recently tried to exhume his body from Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, said he plans to attend all the festivities with his father Mike Thompson, Dillinger's nephew and closest living relative. "For us, for me, it feels good the property that was taken is being returned to its rightful home," said Travis Thompson, who's been a police officer for 19 years, serving as a deputy sheriff, chief of police and federal officer. "It's a historic day for the car to be returned to its rightful place. It makes me proud that the property John used is coming back. It's so cool."

 

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: The cigarette tax hike has been left out of the Senate budget, which is perplexing since all four caucus leaders appeared to be on board at the Chamber's legislative preview conference last November. Back then the question appeared to be how the new funding would be committed to public health in the wake of the pandemic. - Brian A. Howey

 

Campaigns

 

PENCE'S TRUMP LEGACY BOXES HIM IN: Former Vice President Mike Pence's fame has its benefits should he choose to pursue any presidential ambitions. But it also comes with downsides (Newsweek). According to YouGov Ratings, he is the fourth most famous Republican, per data collected between October and December last year. "Fame is usually an asset rather than a liability, as well-known candidates benefit from name recognition and typically garner more media coverage," Julie Norman, lecturer in politics and international relations at University College London and deputy director of its Center on U.S. Politics, told Newsweek. While Pence will need to shape the narrative, David Brockington, lecturer in politics and social science methods at the University of Plymouth, told Newsweek that views of the former vice president are likely set among Republicans. "Perceptions of Pence will be crystallized within the Republican Party's primary electorate," Brockington said. "To the conspiracy theorists among them, that buy into Trump's Big Lie, Pence is a traitor and will never have their support, so he's lost anywhere from a third to half of the primary vote right there. But, to the declining, more sensible wing of the party, Pence's image is tarnished as being part of the Trump administration, and a loyal lieutenant until the final week or two. He's boxed in."

 

PANDEMIC SHIFTED LATINOS TO TRUMP: A new analysis of U.S. voters suggests that the pandemic may have helped drive former President Donald Trump's surprising increase in support from Latinos last November (Axios). By shifting Trump's rhetoric from immigration to fears around the economic impact of shutdowns, the virus gave conservative and low-information Latino voters space to back Trump even if they shunned him in 2016, according to preliminary findings by research firm Equis. Some feared economic damage from school and business closures more than getting sick. Between the lines: Trump's biggest gains were, surprisingly, among Hispanic women — a group that still overwhelmingly rejected the former president but softened on him in 2020. Trump's "baseline shift" improvement among Latino voters was bigger and broader than shifts among African Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

 

YOUNG AT MARSHALL COUNTY LINCOLN DINNER APRIL 16: U.S. Sen. Todd Young is traveling to Marshall County on Friday, April 16 (Plymouth Pilot News). Chairman David R. Holmes of the Marshall County Republican Party recently secured the appearance of Indiana’s Senior Senator to keynote their annual Lincoln Day dinner at Christos Banquet Center. The event will begin with social hour at 5:30 p.m. and dinner served at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are $40.00 per person with an additional opportunity to meet and speak with the Senator for $200.00 per person (which includes dinner).

 

Polls

 

AP POLL PUTS BIDEN APPROVAL AT 61%: Americans are broadly supportive of President Joe Biden’s early handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a new poll finds, and approval of his stewardship of the economy has ticked up following passage of a sprawling $1.9 trillion relief bill. But Americans are more critical of Biden’s early approach to some of the hot-button issues that are moving to the forefront, including guns and immigration, according to the survey from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Overall, Biden’s job approval sits at a healthy 61% as he enters his third month in office, according to the AP-NORC survey. That’s well above the approval ratings for his predecessor, Donald Trump, at this same point in his presidency. Trump’s overall approval rating never topped 50% in an AP-NORC survey. Americans are split over Biden’s handling of the deficit, with 48% saying they approve and 50% saying they disapprove. The majority of Democrats — 77% — approve, while the majority of Republicans — 83% — disapprove. Biden faces a similar partisan divide on gun policy and immigration, two issues that have quickly disrupted Biden’s carefully laid plans for his opening months in office. On gun policy, 45% say they back Biden’s approach, while 52% disapprove.

 

44% BACK VACCINE PASSPORT: The Biden administration is reportedly working to develop a COVID-19 “vaccine passport,” but fewer than half of voters think it's a good idea to require proof of vaccination against the coronavirus. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 44% of Likely U.S. Voters say requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to return to pre-pandemic activities is a good idea. Forty-one percent (41%) say it’s a bad idea, and 15% are not sure.

 

General Assembly

 

HB1005 AMENDED INTO BUDGET BILL: More than 170 public school districts, including Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., have adopted resolutions opposing bills in the Indiana General Assembly that propose private school voucher programs, as well as new education scholarship accounts (ESAs) with public funds for non-public schools (Webber, Columbus Republic). But with the Indiana General Assembly winding down quickly, it’s unclear how many state lawmakers will hear the objections from the school districts. House Bill 1005, co-authored by State Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, passed the House 61-38 in mid-February and was assigned to the Senate’s Education and Career Development Committee, according to the Indiana General Assembly website. Committee chairman Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond, told reporters there’s no need for his committee to hear the bill since the ideas have already received a public hearing. But Raatz also revealed that items from HB 1005 have been amended into the House Budget Bill (HB 1001). “Instead of providing items for public testimony, they were rolled into the budget bill itself,” BCSC superintendent Jim Roberts said.  “That makes it much harder to address those items in a public way.”

 

HUSTON HAD CONVERSATION WITH REP. LUCAS: House Speaker Todd Huston declined to say Thursday whether he has reprimanded Rep. Jim Lucas for comments he made during a social media exchange that one expert called racially divisive (Lange, IndyStar). "I've had private conversations with Rep. Lucas," the Fishers Republican said Thursday. "I'm not getting distracted by people who want to spend time on social media and make a distraction of this body and the important work that we're doing." He declined to elaborate further when IndyStar asked if he thought Lucas did anything wrong. "I'm going to leave it at that," Huston said. "I'm not focused on things that he, people are obsessed with social media."

 

KOCH BILL WOULD SHIELD CHURCHES FROM FUTURE EMERGENCY ORDERS: Neither the governor nor local officials could ever restrict worship services during a public emergency under a bill approved by a House panel Wednesday (Smith, Indiana Public Media). Sen. Eric Koch’s (R-Bedford) legislation – SB263 – separates out religious organizations and their worship services when it comes to public emergency orders. “Essentially says that may not be regulated by government," Koch said. "I think that’s consistent with our state’s constitution.” Gov. Eric Holcomb required churches to stop in-person worship services under his “Stay-At-Home” order in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) worries about the consequences of Koch’s bill. “You either have super spreader events or just propagation of the disease through these religious organizations because they’re allowed to operate when many other organizations might not be able to,” Pierce said. The bill is headed to the full House.

 

GARTEN BILL WOULD RESTRICT HEALTH OFFICIALS: Local health officials could no longer impose restrictions that go further than the state’s during a public health emergency under legislation approved by a House committee Wednesday (Smith, Indiana Public Media). Right now, a local health officer can, for instance, impose a mask mandate in their county - even after the governor repeals the statewide mandate. But Sen. Chris Garten’s (R-Charlestown) legislation, SB 5, says the local legislative body – county commissioners or a city council – would have to approve any health action that goes further than the state’s orders.

 

DRASTIC CHANGES IN RENEWABLE ENERGY BILL: The Indiana Senate is drastically changing a controversial renewable energy bill (Sullivan, CBS4). The House version of HB 1381 set state standards for wind and solar projects, leaving local government with less say. State Sen. Mark Messmer’s amendment takes a much different approach. “This is about as big of a 180 as I’ve seen on a bill,” said State Sen. Chip Perfect before he voted “yes” on a the amended bill. He said he would have been a “no” if not for Messmer’s changes. “We’re truly keeping everything in this process at the local control level,” said Messmer. Originally, the bill established state standards for wind and solar, giving locals some say in how it’s approved but not complete authority. Now, it gives counties the option to adopt a renewable energy district. “It would allow a county that already has a more restrictive ordinance to adopt and work with the renewable companies to make sure the function of a renewable energy district was functional,” said Messmer.

 

SALES TAX REFORM BILL PASSED: Individuals seeking to game the tax sale process in Lake County, and across Indiana, no longer are welcome to bid in the hope of acquiring tax-delinquent properties (Carden, NWI Times). That’s the message from the Indiana General Assembly after lawmakers gave final approval to Senate Enrolled Act 28 Thursday, voting to send it to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb to be signed into law. The measure explicitly prohibits individuals who owe tax debts from bidding on properties at county tax sales. It also bars ineligible bidders from hiding behind a business or corporate entity to acquire tax sale properties. To enforce that provision every tax sale bidder will be required to acknowledge, under penalty of perjury, they are aware of the bidding eligibility standards and agree to abide by them. In addition, the legislation provides that ineligible bidders who nevertheless make purchases at a tax sale may have their acquisitions forfeited and lose some or all of the money they paid for them.

 

BILL AIMED AT NURSING HOME PANDEMIC VISITATION: Many family members are hoping that the legislature will help ensure they have access to family members during public emergencies. Senate Bill 202, passed out of the House Public Health Committee on Wednesday, would require facilities to participate intwo existing programs that allow family and caregivers into facilities (Hopkins, IndyStar). Many, including AARP and the nursing home industry, are backing the bill. But critics say it does the bare minimum to protect residents and their families, and comes with yet another set of liability protections for nursing homes. "The facility they can just continue to restrict and restrict and build upon restriction with no harm to them. They have no cause for fear from the state because it's unclear in the statute what's going to happen when they break this law," said Brian Lee, executive director for Families for Better Care, who has been watching bills like this across the country. "To me this is like a statute that's really just a paper tiger."

 

COMPROMISE OFFERED IN WIND FARM BILL: Lawmakers may have reached a compromise in a controversial bill regarding where renewable energy projects can be built in Indiana (Carden, NWI Times). A new amendment in House Bill 1381 allows counties that have restrictive wind farm ordinances to keep them, but also encourages them to allow wind farms in special districts (Thiele, Indiana Public Media). In these renewable energy districts, the county couldn’t have stricter wind farm rules than the state, but people living in them could get incentives. Counties could charge wind companies a one-time construction fee of up to $3,000 per megawatt of the wind farm's installed capacity. The county could then give that money to residents and businesses near wind turbines. Counties could also give neighbors a larger cut of the tax revenue. Ryan Hoff is with the Association of Indiana Counties, which was originally opposed to the bill. “The concept of incentivizing local participation rather than removal of local control is one that we can certainly get behind," he said.

 

PREGNANT WORKER BILL HEADS TO SENATE FLOOR: Legislation is inching forward that tells employers they must respond to pregnant workers when they submit written requests for accommodations, but doesn’t require them to grant them (Hicks, Indiana Public Media). Advocates for pregnant women actively oppose HB 1309 that is headed to the Senate floor following a 6-4 vote in the committee.

 

RAPE BY IMPERSONATION BILL STEMS FROM TIPPECANOE COUNTY: A bill working through the Indiana Statehouse would make rape by impersonation a crime, and it stems from a criminal case in Tippecanoe County. As News 18 previously reported, Donald Ward, of West Lafayette, was acquitted in 2018 on rape charges. Prosecutors say he admitted to sliding into bed with a woman who thought she was having sex with her boyfriend. His case has since been expunged, but critics say he walked free due to Indiana's deficient definition of rape. "I was mortified after hearing about this case and hearing that ... the law did not protect that victim," says State Rep. Sharon Negele (R-District 13), the bill's author. House Bill 1176 expands the definition of rape to include rape by impersonation and sexual conduct without consent. Negele says the current law doesn't protect victims of rape in these specific situations. "Before everything was based on force and there's just too many situations where that's just not applicable ... We thought the language needed to be very clear that if someone poses as the victim's normal consensual partner, they are removing the victim's right to even consent," Negele says.

 

MELTON'S TAX AMNESTY BILL PASSES HOUSE: SB)275 was approved out of the House of Representatives with a vote 88-1. The legislation would create a tax amnesty program for participating counties, waiving the penalty and interest fees on delinquent taxes. Author of SB 275, Assistant Democratic Leader Eddie Melton (D-Gary), released the following statement upon the passage of his bill (Howey Politics Indiana). “Getting SB 275 out of the legislature was a top priority for me this session, especially with the additional economic strain COVID-19 has caused so many,” Sen. Melton said. “When people are looking to pay off taxes they owe, the presence of extra penalties and interest fees can make the task of paying off that debt daunting and discouraging. By creating a tax amnesty program that waives those additional, burdomesome fees, we’re providing Hoosier property owners with an incentive to begin making some headway on paying back the delinquent taxes they owe.

 

ANDRADE'S FIRST RESPONDER COVID BILL PASSES: The Indiana House unanimously passed Senate Bill 232 Thursday, co-sponsored by State Rep. Mike Andrade (D-Munster). The bill allows emergency first responders and public safety officers to receive disability and survivor benefits if they contract COVID-19 in the line of duty (Howey Politics Indiana). “Our emergency responders are essential workers, and so while we hunkered down, they were, and continue to be, out on the front lines serving our community,” Andrade said. “This piece of legislation not only recognizes the increased risk and responsibility they are bearing, but takes tangible action to benefit their hard work.” SB 232 adds any variant of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), such as COVID-19, to the list of exposure risk diseases, which currently include anthrax, hepatitis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), meningococcal meningitis and tuberculosis. It also repeals the requirement for employees to receive a vaccine in order to be eligible for the benefits. “The pandemic caused a lot of unprecedented issues, so as legislators, we need to continuously update our definitions and laws so they can best serve Hoosiers,” Andrade said.

 

BUSINESS EQUITY GROUP PRAISES SIGNING OF HB1006: The Indiana Business and Community Partnership for Racial Equity, a coalition comprised of major Hoosier employers and advocacy organizations, released this statement following Gov. Eric Holcomb’s signing of HB 1006 (Howey Politics Indiana): “We appreciate Representative Greg Steuerwald and Indiana Black Legislative Caucus Chair Representative Robin Shackleford for bringing together diverse voices from law enforcement, advocacy communities and business to pass historic legislation that will undoubtedly strengthen our neighborhoods, our cities and towns, and our entire state. Both lawmakers made a steadfast commitment to forging bipartisan solutions. The result is an important piece of legislation that will increase law enforcement transparency and build trust within and among communities. We thank Governor Eric Holcomb for signing this legislation, but we know that the work is far from over. Our coalition continues to monitor bills in the House that never should have passed the Senate to ensure that no more damage is done so we can move forward together toward progress in our state.”

 

Congress

 

WALORSKI OPPOSES VACCINE PASSPORT: U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), says no to the idea of a vaccine passport (WIBC). She spoke about that, and her ideas about federal mandates to get the vaccine, at a stop in Mishawaka, Wednesday. “The vaccine issue is a really personal decision,” she told reporters. “I think it’s a great conversation to be having. But, I would not support a federal mandate. Me personally, I’m not gonna support some kind of a federal app where you check the box that says ‘you have this’. I think it’s completely un-American. I think it totally erodes our individual rights in this country of who we are and what we espouse.”

 

YOUNG CALLS BIDEN INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN 'INFLATED': America should be spending money on defeating China’s plans, and maybe not so much on the proposed infrastructure plan, says Sen. Todd Young (Davis, WIBC). “I actually am glad the president is taking the threat of China, its military adventurism, its economic predation against the United States, our partners and our allies and many of its neighbors seriously,” said Young, on Fox News Thursday morning. But, he said what America needs is to fund what he calls a “national security-related counterpunch”. “We don’t need to pass a massive $2 trillion infrastructure bill, 25 percent, by some accounts, actually contains infrastructure,” he said.

 

YOUNG TOURS AMATROL: Indiana Sen. Todd Young toured the internationally-renowned technological training company Amatrol, Inc. Wednesday in Jeffersonville, which he called “a place where people can adapt to the economy of the future” (News & Tribune). The company, founded in 1978, focuses on the design, development and manufacture of technical training systems and interactive online learning programs used across the globe. Its products and services help train employees in fields including manufacturing, oil and gas and packaging. Young said the company is a good piece in place to help support the U.S. lead in technology, which is outlined in the Endless Frontier Act, bipartisan legislation unveiled in 2020 by Young, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and U.S. Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin and Ro Khanna, D-California.

 

YOUNG TOURS HIGH TECH FIRM: One of Columbus’ high-tech companies received a visit Thursday afternoon from Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana. Indiana’s senior senator spoke with some of the 40 employees at Precise Tooling Solutions, a specialty manufacturer that builds and repairs injection tooling (Webber, Columbus Republic). Young, who resides in Center Grove, told the workers at the Scott Drive facility that they are “on the front lines of a manufacturing revolution in this country.” He also emphasized it is important that the United States continue to lead the world in manufacturing. When Precise Tooling Solutions CEO Don Dumoulin opened the floor for questions, Young heard a number questions that seem to reflect what is on the minds of many Americans. “Do you see a time coming when the government will work together in a bipartisan and civil way going forward?” employee Ron Kraft asked. Young replied that he has “incredibly principled disagreements” with both Democrats and Republicans, but different opinions should not obscure common ground that both major parties have or will discover.

 

GAETZ INVESTIGATION INCLUDES SEX PAYMENTS: A Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments, according to people close to the investigation and text messages and payment receipts reviewed by the New York Times. Investigators believe Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, initially met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances, according to three people with knowledge of the encounters. Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them, the people said.

 

State

 

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB SIGNS SCHOOL FUNDING BILL - Indiana’s Republican governor signed into law a bill that redefines what constitutes a “virtual student” and ensures schools receive full funding for all students, regardless of whether they are receiving instruction virtually or in the classroom due to the coronavirus pandemic (AP). A twice-yearly count of students attending schools is used to determine how much money the state allots to each facility. Through the end of the spring 2021 semester, students will not be counted as “virtual” in the most recent fall and spring counts, even if most or all of their learning takes place online. Without that change, an estimated $160 million would be on the line for schools using hybrid formats or offering instruction online only as a means to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. Current state law caps per-pupil funding for students who take at least half their classes virtually at 85% of full in-person student funding.

 

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB SIGNS DELIVERY ROBOT BILL - Your latest online purchase could show up on your doorstep in a robot if House Bill 1072 becomes law (May, IndyStar). The bill written by Rep. Holli Sullivan, R-Evansville, opens the door to autonomous delivery robots if companies meet certain requirements. The technology, referred to in the bill as a "personal delivery device," has already become a staple on campus at Purdue University, and representatives from both FedEx and Amazon spoke in favor of the bill. Sullivan says the bill, which advanced Tuesday morning, is about making it clear that Indiana is open to this emerging technology. She wants companies and higher education institutions "to know that Indiana is open to this kind of innovative delivery system" while also giving local governments the chance to place restrictions.

 

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB SIGNS 19 BILLS - Gov. Eric Holcomb signed 19 bills Thursday. You can view more details at the 2021 Bill Watch webpage by clicking here.

 

ISDH: OFFICIALS WATCHING FOR COVID VARIANTS - As of Wednesday, about 4-in-5 Hoosiers are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine and state health officials are continuing to urge all people in Indiana to get their shot (Garbacz, KPC News). Indiana is in “a race between the vaccine and the variants,” Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said, which is why everyone should be aiming to get inoculated as soon as possible. As it has for the last three months, vaccine discussion dominated most of Wednesday’s statewide press conference with Gov. Eric Holcomb and his medical staff, coming on the day when Indiana has opened COVID-19 vaccines to everyone age 16 and older. That means approximately 5.4 million — 80% of all Hoosiers — are able to register for a vaccine.

 

ISDH: SPANISH, BURMESE LANGUAGE OPTIONS ADDED TO 211 - Indiana has added Spanish options to its 211 and its vaccine registration websites to assist Hoosiers who may not speak English as their primary language. The state is also working on a Burmese option due to the high number of residents from that ethnic background, including in Fort Wayne and central Indiana (KPC News). Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box announced Wednesday that a Spanish language option has been added to the 211 phone assistance line, which can help connect callers with a fluent Spanish aide to help them get signed up for vaccines. The state has also added a Spanish version to its ourshot.in.gov registration portal.

 

ISDH: THURSDAY COVID STATS -  The Indiana Department of Health announced Thursday that 1,240 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 687,713 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard. To date, 12,642 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of nine from the previous day. Another 406 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record.   A total of 3,262,518 unique individuals have been tested in Indiana, up from 3,257,245 on Wednesday. A total of 8,938,557 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to the state Department of Health since Feb. 26, 2020.

 

INDOT: LANE SHIFT AT NORTH SPLIT PROJECT - A major lane shift will begin Thursday night on Interstate 70 east of the North Split for the next phase of the $350 million reconstruction project on Indiana's second-busiest interchange (WRTV). The two inside lanes of I-70 eastbound will crossover onto what is currently I-70 westbound for approximately one mile, according to the Indiana State Department of Transportation. The configuration will last until July. INDOT expects the North Split will close for 18 months beginning May 22. Around 8 p.m. Thursday, crews will shift the far left lanes of I-70 eastbound to temporary pavement that has been placed on the median shoulders of I-70 eastbound and westbound. Temporary concrete barriers will be in place to separate I-70 eastbound and westbound traffic. Motorists driving eastbound on I-70 will travel on what is currently the I-70 westbound median shoulder and inside travel lane.

 

AGRICULTURE: MORE SOYBEANS, LESS CORN PLANTING - Indiana farmers intend to plant less corn and more soybeans compared to last year, according to Nathanial Warenski, State Statistician, USDA NASS, Indiana Field Office (Hoosier Ag Today). Acres intended for corn in Indiana are 5.20 million acres, down 4 percent from last year. Indiana producers intended to plant 5.80 million acres of soybeans, up 2 percent from last year. The 2020 winter wheat acreage seeded last fall for harvest in 2021 is estimated at 380,000 acres, up 27 percent from the crop seeded in 2019. Hay acres intended for dry hay harvest, at 520,000 acres, is 4 percent above the 500,000 acres harvested the previous year. Nationally, corn planted area for all purposes in 2021 is estimated at 91.1 million acres, up less than 1 percent or an increase of 325,000 acres from last year. Compared with last year, planted acreage is expected to be up or unchanged in 24 of the 48 estimating States.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL: HILL BROKE PUBLIC RECORDS LAW - A Marion County judge has ruled that the personal email addresses of public officials count as public records, bringing an end to a lawsuit by IndyStar that successfully argued Indiana's former attorney general Curtis Hill broke the state's public records law. IndyStar investigative journalist Ryan Martin requested records on employee turnover from the attorney general's office in July 2018. One of the records that fit the request was a PowerPoint presentation on the office's budget that was sent to the personal email addresses of Hill and then-Chief Deputy Aaron Negangard. Before sending the record to Martin, Hill's office redacted the personal email addresses it contained. His office acknowledged to Martin that the addresses weren't exempt from public records law, saying that "we would provide the information to you if you request it."

 

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: ESAMAN RETIRING FROM DUKE ENERGY - Doug Esamann, senior vice president and chief executive officer, Duke Energy Florida and Midwest, is retiring after a distinguished 42-year career with Duke Energy and its predecessor companies Public Service Indiana, PSI Energy and Cinergy. His retirement is effective August 1 (Howey Politics Indiana). Esamann, a Plainfield, IN native, is an Indiana University graduate. He started his career in the company’s tax department in 1979. Prior to his current role he served in a number of leadership roles with the company, including president of Duke Energy Indiana. Alex Glenn will become senior vice president and chief executive officer, Duke Energy Florida and Midwest, following Esamann’s retirement.

 

IU: NEW CONTRACT FOR COACH MOREN - Teri Moren will have a new contract in place after IU athletics announced Thursday morning that the two sides have agreed to an extension as well as a raise (IndyStar). Moren’s new contract runs through the 2026-27 season and includes average annual compensation of $862,500 — among the highest in the Big Ten. That gives her about a $200,000 raise. Her old contract was slated to end following the 2022-23 season.

 

Nation

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN TABS BUTTIGIEG, 4 OTHERS TO SPEARHEAD INFRASTRUCTURE -  In his first Cabinet meeting on Thursday, President Biden announced that he had tapped five Cabinet secretaries to spearhead his efforts to get his massive $2 trillion infrastructure proposal approved by Congress (CBS News). The meeting comes after the president unveiled the American Jobs Plan on Wednesday, promising that it would be a "once in a generation investment in America." "While most of the Cabinet will have a role in helping shape and press the Jobs Plan, today I'm announcing that I'm asking five Cabinet members to take special responsibility to explain the plan to the American public," Mr. Biden said in remarks to the press during the meeting at the White House. He announced that his emissaries on the American Jobs Plan will be Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN PLAN MAY REVIVE AMTRAK IN INDIANA - President Joe Biden pitched a $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan Wednesday afternoon. By Wednesday evening, one potential part of it was on a nonstop journey through Twitter (May, IndyStar). The plan includes $80 billion for rail, and Amtrak released a proposal for up to 30 new routes over the next 15 years. New services through Indianapolis listed in the proposal included routes to Chicago, Cincinnati and Louisville. Chicago would serve as a hub, offering access to much of the Midwest, including Milwaukee, St. Louis and Grand Rapids. The Hoosier State train, which connected Indianapolis to Chicago, made its last run on June 30, 2019, after the General Assembly voted to not approve its annual budget.

 

WHITE HOUSE: KLAIN ON INFRASTRUCTURE PROSPECTS - On attracting Republican votes for the infrastructure bill, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain’s rhetoric sounded similar to how the administration discussed the Covid relief bill (Politico Playbook): “Let’s work together and see if there’s a way for us to deliver this. In the end, let me be clear, the president was elected to do a job. And part of that job is to get this country ready to win the future. That’s what he’s going to do. We know it has bipartisan support in the country. And so we’re going to try our best to get bipartisan support here in Washington. What we want to do is get this passed. And I think that starts with a conversation with a broad array of members in both parties to see where the support is, how this looks as we move it through the process. That’s our first goal. And I’m not going to get into legislative tactics today.”

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN/HARRIS SCHEDULE - President Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will deliver remarks on the March jobs report at 11 a.m. in the State Dining Room. At noon, the president will depart the White House en route to Camp David. VP Harris and second gentleman Emhoff are in Los Angeles for the weekend. The White House Covid-19 response team and public health officials will brief at 11 a.m. Press secretary Jen Psaki and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will brief at 12:30 p.m.

 

MEDIA: SUNDAY TALK - ABC “This Week”: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg … Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Panel: Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel, Sarah Isgur and Yvette Simpson. “Fox News Sunday”: NEC Director Brian Deese, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) … Michael Osterholm. Panel: Doug Heye, Kristin Soltis Anderson and Juan Williams. Power Player: Barry Black. MSNBC “The Sunday Show”: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Benjamin Crump, Martin Luther King III, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), Maya MacGuineas, Andrea Jenkins, David Henderson. CBS “Face the Nation”: CEA Chair Cecilia Rouse, Seth Berkley, Norma Pimentel, Ken Chenault, Kenneth Frazier. CNN “Inside Politics”: Ken Frazier, Ken Chenault, Kizzmekia Corbett. NBC “Meet The Press”: Panel: Yamiche Alcindor, María Teresa Kumar, Rich Lowry and Amy Walter.

 

MEDIA: FOX SIGNS BAIER TO BIG CONTRACT - Fox News Signs Bret Baier to Long-Term Contract Extension: The Hollywood Reporter: The 6 p.m. Special Report anchor has signed a five-year contract extension with the cable news channel. He will also continue to serve as the channel's chief political anchor, leading election nights and other political coverage.”

 

ALASKA: PALIN HAS COVID, URGES MASK WEARING - Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin says she tested positive for COVID-19 and is urging people to take steps to guard against the coronavirus, such as wearing masks in public (Nexstar). “Through it all, I view wearing that cumbersome mask indoors in a crowd as not only allowing the newfound luxury of being incognito, but trust it’s better than doing nothing to slow the spread,” Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, told People magazine.

 

MLB: ANGELS NIP SOX 4-3 - Mike Trout delivered the tying single and Shohei Ohtani scored the go-ahead run on Albert Pujols' groundout in the eighth inning, leading the Los Angeles Angels' rally to a 4-3 victory over the White Sox on Thursday night (AP). Max Stassi homered and Justin Upton had an RBI single in the Angels' first opening day at home since 2016. The Halos' late surge for two unearned runs spoiled the second debut of White Sox manager Tony La Russa. Adam Eaton hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in his first game back with the White Sox.

 

MLB: CUBS FALL TO PIRATES - Ke’Bryan Hayes hit a two-run homer and Pittsburgh’s relievers dominated in a two-hitter, helping the Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs 5-3 Thursday on a chilly opening day (AP). The gametime temperature at Wrigley Field was 36 degrees, and the flags at the iconic ballpark rippled in the breeze for much of the sunny afternoon. A crowd of 10,343 dressed in winter jackets, hooded sweatshirts and hats for the return of fans to Wrigley after they were kept out last summer because of the pandemic.

 

World

 

BUTINA VISITS NAVALNY IN GULAG:  Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, on a hunger strike after being denied medical care, has been hoping for a visit from a doctor. Instead he got a less welcome visitor Thursday: Maria Butina, the Russian agent convicted and jailed for conspiring to infiltrate political organizations in the United States without registering with authorities (Washington Post). According to a post by Navalny’s team on his Twitter account, Butina was reporting for the Kremlin-funded RT television network, formerly Russia Today. Navalny is in Penal Colony No. 2, near Vladimir, 112 miles east of Moscow, where he says guards wake him up eight times a night and have punished him for numerous infractions. Among them: getting up 10 minutes early, wearing a T-shirt to meet his lawyer, declining to watch a video lecture and refusing to do morning exercises.

 

Local

 

INDIANAPOLIS: NORTH KEYSTONE LANE RESTRICTIONS BEGIN TODAY - The Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) expects to start work today, on the second phase of work to rehabilitate North Keystone Avenue. Traffic will see temporary lane closures in place between 65th Street and River Road from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday (Howey Politics Indiana). One lane of traffic will be maintained in each direction during construction. Work may also occur on Saturdays with similar traffic patterns. Keystone Avenue is expected to fully reopen in late October, weather permitting.

 

EVANSVILLE: I-69 BRIDGE CITING HEARING - A public commenting period is open for the I-69 Ohio River Crossing (Williams, WFIE-TV). Leaders of the project held a virtual meeting on Thursday evening for the public to learn more about the planned project. With the path of the interstate established, Thursday’s meeting was about going in depth to explain to the public how and why the new route was selected. Leaders of the Ohio River Crossing Project last met with the public in 2019. Since that meeting, it’s been decided that a central alternative for the I-69 connection would be used. Leaders say the path and its construction will be divided into two parts. Section one will connect I-69 between Kentucky 425 and U.S. 60.

 

EVANSVILLE: REGIONAL ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP FORMS - The Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana, Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville, and Southwest Indiana Chamber – and their respective Boards – announce the official merge of the three organizations now operating in unison as the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership (Howey Politics Indiana). “Now is the right time for this new public-private partnership to seize the opportunities that build on the regional cohesion that our three organizations have cultivated,” said Jim Ryan, the initial chair of the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership. “We are coming together to build an organization that is greater than the sum of its parts; an accomplishment which we can all be proud.” Located at Innovation Pointe in downtown Evansville, the new partnership will operate within the Evansville MSA including Gibson, Posey, Vanderburgh, and Warrick Counties. Among our partners are the Southwest Indiana Small Business Development Center, area Chambers, local economic development organizations, WorkOne Southwest and other entities that strengthen the region’s opportunity to prosper.

 

PRINCETON: TOYOTA TO INVEST $1M IN YMCA - Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana says it will invest $1 million towards the construction of a new YMCA in Princeton, a first for the community of 8,600 people (Mills, Inside Indiana Business). The announcement comes as the automaker unveiled its new hybrid minivan, the 2021 Sienna, which is produced in Princeton. The announcement took place at the former Lowell Elementary School where the YMCA will be built. “It just gives you goosebumps.  I grew up in Gibson County and we really needed this,” said Leah Curry, president of Toyota Indiana. “The new Toyota Indiana YMCA will provide access to all, helping Gibson county residents with the resources they need to live better lives. And a resilient community benefits us all.”

 

NEWBURGH: ALCOA SEELS ROLLING MILL TO KAISER - Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Corp. (NYSE: AA) has completed the sale of its rolling mill business in Newburgh. The deal with Kaiser Aluminum Corp. (Nasdaq: KALU) in California is valued at $670 million (Brown, Inside Indiana Business). Plans for the sale were first announced in December. Officials said when the deal was completed, the plant's 1,170 would become employees of Kaiser. As part of the agreement, Alcoa will retain ownership of the smelter and electric generating units at the site, which employ about 660 people. Alcoa will also continue to serve as owner of the property and has entered into a long-term ground lease agreement with Kaiser.

 

MISHAWAKA: MAYOR WOOD CRITICIZES COVID MASK EXTENSION - In an email to government and health officials Wednesday night, Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood sharply criticized St. Joseph County’s health officer for renewing the county’s mask order, suggesting the move blindsided local leaders who expected the order to be downgraded to an advisory (Sheckler, South Bend Tribune). Wood has not publicly spoken about Dr. Robert Einterz’s decision Monday to renew the order through May and has declined Tribune requests for comment. “I am very disappointed in how this was handled by the leadership of the health department,” Wood wrote. “Once again, the St. Joseph County Department of Health has made a unilateral decision, one that contradicts what was agreed upon in good faith by the elected executives of the county as well as the health department leadership at the time.”

 

SOUTH BEND: THEATER FINED $10K - SOUTH BEND — Citing extensive water damage and a lack of communication with the city’s code enforcement department, a hearing officer Thursday issued $10,000 in fines to the owner of the historic State Theater in downtown South Bend (Marzurek, South Bend Tribune). At a code enforcement hearing, city inspectors detailed code violations, including crumbling bricks on the outside of the theater and water damage to the building’s roof, walls and interior. Inspectors said a pedestrian walking in the alley between the theater and the old Club Fever building was almost hit by a falling chunk of brick. “Anyone walking past it can see the danger; the owner has to see the danger,” said hearing officer Michelle Engel before granting the city’s request for two $5,000 civil penalties.

 

GARY: SCHOOL DEFICIT DECLINES TO $2M - The Gary Community School Corp. says its budget deficit has dropped to less than $2 million, marking continued improvement from a high of $22 million in 2018. In its second quarterly progress report, the district added average daily enrollment has seen its largest increase in 10 years (Brown, Inside Indiana Business). The district says the deficit reduction is due to "expanded oversight and controls on expenditures and maximizing revenue sources." Those efforts included agreements with area charter and district schools to allow their students to use the Gary Area Career Center.

 

LAFAYETTE: NEW BASEBALL STADIUM OPENS - People gathered on Wednesday to celebrate the grand opening of the newly renovated Loeb Stadium. This $20 million dollar project first began in the Fall of 2019. The Lafayette Aviators team played their last game at the old stadium in August of 2019 (WLFI-TV). Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said all the setbacks have been worth it. "This has been a multi-year process to get to this point today but we are just thrilled with the way it's turned out," he said. "It's going to be an important part of our economic development plan."

 

GOSHEN: 3% PAY RAISES FOR PD OFFICERS - The Goshen City Council has approved a 3% pay increase for members of the police department. The mayor and city council members hope this will attract and retain police officers (WSBT-TV). Goshen was one of the lowest paid police departments in Elkhart County. The city had four police officers resign within a two-week span, and the city council members say that low pay was a contributing factor. The four officers that resigned from the Goshen Police Department left for private sector jobs with higher pay.

 

PERU: HVAC COMPANY BRINGING REGIONAL HQ — A company that services HVAC systems and offers industrial cleaning in every state is moving its Midwest headquarters to the Grissom Aeroplex and looking to hire up to 50 technicians in the next year (Gerber, CNHI). Plyer’s At Your Service, a family owned company based in Pennsylvania, has purchased buildings at 1870 and 1890 Hoosier Blvd. The facilities should be fully operational in the next couple of months. Michele Yale, Plyer’s director of communications, said the company has been leasing warehouse space in Wabash for about a year, but wanted larger facilities to offer more services. “It’s going to be a big hub for us,” she said.

 

ELKHART COUNTY: MARCH LOWEST FOR COVID DEATHS, BUT TRENDLINES BAD - March had the lowest number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Elkhart County since last April (Jorgensen, Elkhart Truth). Eight county residents died from the disease in March, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. The only months during the pandemic to have fewer COVID-19 deaths were last April, when seven people lost their lives to the virus, and last March, when two people died. The county's first COVID-19 death occurred on March 29, 2020. Despite the decreasing number of deaths, local officials are troubled that multiple other indicators are trending in the wrong direction. The number of daily COVID-19 infections in Elkhart County doubled in March, and the number of COVID-19 inpatients at local hospitals grew from five to 30 in the same period.

 

ALLEN COUNTY: HEALTH OFFICER URGES MASKS - Fort Wayne and Allen County officials asked residents today to continue wearing masks, washing their hands, social distancing and getting vaccinated (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Officials called a news conference to talk about where the county is headed in stopping the spread of COVID-19. "Better than we were, but not completely done," Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter said. Sutter said he won't institute a mask mandate when the state's mask mandate is lifted Tuesday. But he would consider doing so if the county sees a huge increase in COVID-19 cases.

 

LaPORTE COUNTY: MASK MANDATE EXTENDED - LaPorte County Health Officer Dr. Sandra Deausy has extended the county's mask mandate through April (WSBT-TV). According to a release, it will be reviewed again at the end of the month. The St. Joseph County Health Department also recently extended its mask mandate through May.

 

WHITLEY COUNTY: WON'T ENFORCE MASK MANDATE — For the past few weeks, Whitley County has bounced between blue and yellow on the COVID infection map. Officials say it’s time to take the steps to get back to normalcy (WANE-TV). Whitley County Commissioners announced Thursday they will not enforce a mask mandate in the county starting April 6. This means county employees and visitors will not be required to wear masks inside county buildings. This includes the Whitley County Courthouse and the county government building. Though the county will no longer enforce a mask mandate, a business within the county can still require masks to be worn inside their buildings. Those who wish to continue to wear a mask are still able to wear a mask. “What I’ve witnessed is that our small businesses have done a really really good job of keeping their businesses going even under the restrictions that have happened,” said Whitley County Commissioner Theresa Green. “Of course everyone is ready for them to be over. But at this point, I wouldn’t say it’s going to be a huge change because I think we’ve navigated it really, really successfully here in Whitley County.”

 

DuBOIS COUNTY: VACCINE CLINIC SET FOR APRIL 17 - The Dubois County Health Department is planning to hold a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Saturday, April 17 (WFIE-TV). The clinic plans to administer the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in this one-day event. Health officials say this is a great opportunity for people ages 18 and older to schedule an appointment. The clinic will be held at Jasper Middle School between 8 a.m and 2 p.m.

 

HOWARD COUNTY: TOPS IN JOBLESS RATE - Howard County topped the state’s unemployment rankings in February, recently released unemployment figures show (Kokomo Tribune). The county had a non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 8.5% in February, according to numbers released Monday by the Indiana Department of Workforce and Development (DWD). That’s more than a whole percentage above Lake County, which had the second highest unemployment rate in February with 7.4% Miami and Tipton counties’ February unemployment rate were 6.5% (4th highest) and 4.7% (43rd highest), respectively.

 

WAYNE COUNTY: MASK MANDATE TO REMAIN - The Wayne County Health Board doesn't agree with Gov. Eric Holcomb when it comes to easing COVID-19 restrictions (Emergy, Richmond Palladium-Item). Now is not the time to stop wearing masks, to discontinue social distancing or to halt limitations on gatherings, according to the local board. Holcomb has announced Indiana will reduce restrictions April 6, including making the mask mandate into an advisory; however, he left room for local government to continue stricter measures. That's exactly what the health board recommends to county, city and town governments. "I wouldn't in any way go along with what the governor says. Stay with it," said board member Jon Igelman, who made the motion that the board recommend following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.