HOLCOMB SIGNS CONTROVERSIAL WETLANDS BILL: A bill removing some protections from Indiana’s already diminished wetlands was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb Thursday despite widespread criticism that it could damage waterways, wildlife and vegetation (Smith, AP). The wetlands measure passed out of the Legislature April 14 and has sparked bipartisan opposition within the Republican-dominated Legislature. Retroactive as of Jan. 1, it eliminates a 2003 law that requires the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to issue permits for construction and development in state-regulated wetlands and end enforcement proceedings against landowners accused of violating current law. Holcomb’s signature followed his own reservations earlier in the Legislative session, when he said that the wetlands repeal was a cause for “concern.” He further allowed staff at the natural resources and environmental management departments to oppose the bill in hearings in January, where state regulatory officials argued that the wetlands must be protected because they purify water, provide habitat for wildlife and reduce flood risks. Holcomb said he “appreciated” those changes to the bill and cited the continued protections as “critical” to his decision to sign the bill Thursday. “Even still, I felt compelled to carefully and deliberately weigh the bill’s intent to protect property rights against its new limitations on land protections,” Holcomb said in a statement Thursday. “Under this new regulatory scheme, I believe Hoosier farmers and landowners will continue to be careful stewards of the land.”


ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS, CHAMBER 'DISAPPOINTED': Statewide environmental and conservation groups, faith-based organizations, local government officials and others had urged Holcomb to veto the wetlands bill. On Thursday, those groups expressed their unhappiness over the governor’s decision (Orr, IBJ). “I am extremely disappointed,” said Jeff Stant, executive director of the Indiana Forest Alliance. “We, essentially overnight, have thrown out all legal protection for 550,000 to 600,000 of the 800,000 acres of wetlands that were remaining in the state. That’s a shocking level of reduction.” Wetlands are important, Stant said, because they act as “huge sponges” that help prevent flooding by absorbing rainfall and snow melt. The wetlands also provide vital habitat for wildlife and help filter the groundwater that supplies drinking water for many Hoosiers, he added. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce had also spoken out against the bill. “It’s surprising and very disappointing that the Governor signed a bill that is likely to have negative impacts on Indiana’s water quality, flood control and quality of place factors that the state needs to attract and retain a skilled workforce,” Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar said in a statement.


GOVERNOR SIGNS 'ABORTION REVERSAL' BILL: Doctors in Indiana would be required to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions about a disputed treatment for potentially stopping the abortion process under a measure that’s been signed into law (AP). Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the bill Thursday, two weeks after the GOP-dominated Legislature gave it final approval. Republican lawmakers pushed the bill, despite objections that it would force doctors to provide dubious information to their patients. Supporters say the requirement would ensure that a woman can halt a medication-induced abortion if she changes her mind after taking the first of the two drugs used in the procedure and takes another drug instead. The law is scheduled to take effect in July but could be challenged in federal court before then. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which has successfully sued to block several Indiana anti-abortion laws over the past decade, has said the requirement “runs afoul of the Constitution.”


U.S. ECONOMY GROWS AT TORRID 6.4% RATE: A burst of growth put the U.S. economy just a shave below its pre-pandemic size in the first quarter, extending what is shaping up to be a rapid, consumer-driven recovery this year (Wall Street Journal). Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services made in the U.S., grew at a 6.4% seasonally adjusted annual rate in January through March, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That left the world’s largest economy within 1% of its peak, reached in late 2019, just before the coronavirus pandemic reached the U.S. Households, many of them vaccinated and armed with hundreds of billions of dollars in federal stimulus money, drove the first-quarter surge in output by shelling out more for cars, bicycles, furniture and other big-ticket goods. The federal government also stepped up spending—on vaccines and aid to businesses. “If you had asked me a year ago where we would be today I certainly would not have said we would have recouped the pre-pandemic levels of economic activity,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. “Everything about this crisis has been unique. The speed and the magnitude of the contraction in economic activity was unprecedented. The amount of policy support put in place was extremely rapid.”


$2B IN FED RELIEF FUNDS FLOW TO INDIANA SCHOOLS: Indiana schools are set to receive an influx of nearly $2 billion – and this time it’s not the new money coming from the state (Herron, IndyStar). On top of the historic investment the state of Indiana will make in K-12 schools through the just-passed state budget – an increase of $1.9 billion over the next two years – they’re also poised to receive roughly $1.8 billion in federal cash to address learning loss, boost summer school and cover costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s one small catch – in order to receive the money, schools must release a public plan for how they’ll return to in-person instruction.


U.S. JOBS CLAIMS FALL TO LOWEST LEVEL SINCE PANDEMIC: The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped by 13,000 last week, to 553,000, the lowest level since the pandemic hit last March and another sign the economy is recovering from the coronavirus recession (IBJ). The Labor Department reported Thursday that jobless claims were down from 566,000 a week earlier. They have fallen sharply over the past year, but remain well above the 230,000 weekly figure typical before the pandemic struck the economy in March 2020. The four-week moving average, which smooths out weekly gyrations, fell 44,000, to 611,750. In Indiana, 14,334 people filed initial unemployment claims in the week ended April 24, up from an adjusted number of 14,026 the previous week. Prior to the pandemic, the state was typically seeing fewer than 3,000 claims per week.


CNN POLL REVEALS 25% WON'T VAX: With a majority of adult Americans now at least partially vaccinated against coronavirus, roughly a quarter of adults say they will not try to get the shot, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS. That vaccine-hesitant 26% is much more willing to return to regular activity, far less confident in the government health officials overseeing vaccine rollouts, and opposed to vaccine requirements for everyday activities. Overall, the poll seems to point to a country on the road to normalcy, with about 7 in 10 having gotten a vaccine or planning to do so and two-thirds comfortable returning to their regular routines. But there are sharp divisions by vaccine willingness over the role vaccines might play in a return to pre-pandemic life. In the poll, 55% of adults say they have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 45% have not -- which matches with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's statistics on vaccine distribution.


BOX SAYS 30% JUST PUTTING VACCINE OFF: About half of all Hoosiers are either vaccinated against COVID-19 or in the process of doing it (Berman, WIBC). The state health department is trying to reach the other half. State health Commissioner Kristina Box says about 20% of Hoosiers don’t trust or don’t want the vaccine. But she says another 20-or-30% have simply put it off, either because side effects would have interfered with final exams or other commitments or because it wasn’t convenient. Health officials are trying to reach both groups, but Box says the true vaccine skeptics are best reached by those close to them. She says the health department is working to eliminate convenience barriers for that second group.


REP. PENCE LAUDS 'LUMP OF ****' RELIEF LAW HE OPPOSED: Rep. Greg Pence, R-Indiana, assured small business owners in a tweet that “help is on the way,” urging them to apply for COVID-19 relief funds, but failed to mention that he voted against the bill providing the funding for the “help” (East, Columbus Republic). When his office was contacted Thursday seeking clarification, Pence communications director Hannah Osantowski provided the following emailed statement: “Congressman Pence is always looking for a silver lining hiding in a big lump of (expletive) if it helps out his constituents.” On Wednesday, Pence took to Twitter to tout the Restaurant Revitalization Fund established in the American Rescue Plan Act and included links directing people to more information about the program and how to apply. The $28.6 billion fund offers grants to help restaurants and other eligible businesses offset pandemic-related revenue losses and stay afloat, according to the Small Business Administration.


ISO TO RESUME IN-PERSON PERFORMANCES: After more than a year of not playing for live audiences, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra will perform a spring series for in-person audiences at Hilbert Circle Theatre (IndyStar). The four-week "Spring Inspirations," which begins May 13, will comprise pops and classical repertoire in performances that will also be livestreamed. Masks will be required except while eating and drinking. Social distancing and limited capacity also will be built into the symphony's procedures. Some rows will be blocked off, and concerts will run between 80 and 90 minutes with no intermission.


HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Gov. Holcomb has just one more bill decision, SEA5 which would restrict public health officials from making mandates without approval from elected county officials. - Brian A. Howey




PENCE MAKES FIRST SPEECH SINCE LEAVING OFFICE: In his first public address since the end of the Trump administration, former Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday put down a marker for a potential return to elected office, telling an audience in early-voting South Carolina that he will use the coming months “pushing back on the liberal agenda” he says is wrong for the country (AP). “We’ve got to guard our values … by offering a positive agenda to the American people, grounded in our highest ideals,” Pence told an audience of several hundred at a Columbia dinner sponsored by a conservative Christian not-for-profit that lobbies for what it considers to be “biblical values,” such as heterosexual marriage. “Now, over the coming months, I’ll have more to say about all of that.”


PENCE PRAISES SEN. SCOTT'S RESPONSE: Former vice president Mike Pence lauded U.S. Sen. Tim Scott's response to President Biden's address Wednesday night (Howey Politics Indiana): "Congratulations and Thank You to @SenatorTimScott  for a strong, honest, and truly inspiring GOP Response last night! He took the case for our Conservative philosophy straight to the American people and did an Outstanding Job!"


PENCE TWEETS ON BIDEN: Mike Pence tweets (Howey Politics Indiana): The most disturbing development of the last 100 days has been the Biden administration’s whole-hearted embrace of the radical left’s all-encompassing, rapidly-escalating war on American traditional values ... They abolished the 1776 commission aimed at promoting patriotism in American education, they authorized teaching Critical Race Theory in federal agencies and public schools, and they restored Title 10 funding to Planned Parenthood. Had enough? I have."


ST. JOE DEM CHAIRMAN RESIGNS; MOVING TO AZ: St. Joseph County Democratic Party chair Stan Wruble has resigned and plans to move to Phoenix, he confirmed Thursday (Parrott, South Bend Tribune). The move comes less than two months after party leaders re-elected Wruble over Dave Nufer in a bitter campaign in which Nufer won endorsements from Mayor James Mueller and some other high-profile officials, displaying a rare public rift over the party’s leadership. Wruble, a 47-year-old attorney and former South Bend school board member, has led the party since October 2019, when he was elected in a caucus vote following Joe Canarecci’s resignation. Mark Torma, a 46-year-old attorney who runs the Volunteer Lawyer Network, part of Pro Bono Indiana Inc., confirmed his interest in succeeding Wruble. He said Wruble approached him, said he was moving, and asked him to consider running in a party caucus to take over the chair position.


INDEMS BLAST HOLCOMB FOR WETLANDS LAW: The Indiana Democratic Party issued the following statement (Howey Politics Indiana): “By signing Senate Enrolled Act 389 - the wetlands bill - Governor Eric Holcomb once again proved that he would rather buckle to the demands of special interests and extreme partisanship than do what’s necessary to protect the future of our state. This is what the Indiana Republican Party has become, though - a Party that views shallow, political agendas as priority above improving the lives of Hoosiers and Indiana's communities.” - Drew Anderson, Indiana Democratic Party spokesman




YOUNG CALLS FOR BIPARTISANSHIP: Bipartisanship needs to be happening in Washington in order to truly get things done, says Sen. Todd Young (WIBC). After many calls for unity again by President Biden in his speech to a joint session of Congress this week, Young is calling on the president to make good on those calls himself as many Republicans, including he, are accusing the president of not practicing what he is preaching. Young said a way to help break the tension between Republicans and Democrats in Washington is for both sides to pass his Endless Frontier Act. “On this issue in particular we need to show unity, because the Chinese Communist Party is sending a message right now that the U.S. is divided on so many fronts,” Young told CNN.


DELEGATION RESPONDS TO BIDEN ADDRESS: President Joe Biden lauded his administration’s pandemic efforts and laid out his agenda for job creation, gun violence prevention and the economy in his first joint address to Congress on Wednesday. Here's how the Indiana delegation responded:


Sen. Todd Young: "President Biden’s first 100 days in office has been marked by a take-it-or-leave-it approach on massive, sweeping initiatives that have long been wish list items for the left."


Rep. Jackie Walorski: “President Biden has made a habit of calling for bipartisanship and unity but doing just the opposite. Over the last 100 days, he and Speaker Pelosi have partnered to add trillions in government spending without Republican input while plotting massive tax hikes to pay for their progressive wish list. These actions have further divided the country, deepened our fiscal crisis, and put our economic recovery in jeopardy. Small businesses are struggling to hire workers because of enhanced unemployment benefits. Workers are bracing for job-killing taxes and regulations. Families are seeing rising prices at the gas pump and the grocery store. It’s time for the president to set aside partisan rhetoric and radical policies and begin working with Republicans to solve our nation’s many challenges.”


Rep. Jim Banks: "Biden’s spending plan will cost taxpayers over a million dollars for every job it 'creates. If we really want to help working class families, we should reopen the economy now and let Americans work, get kids back to school, stop the Chinese from undermining our economy and end the border crisis."


Rep. Victoria Spartz: "It was an honor to attend @POTUS Biden’s joint address with my fellow members. Unfortunately, his vision is to further centralize & expand federal powers. History repeatedly shows us that centralized governments lead to socialism, less freedoms, more violence & equality in misery."


Rep. André Carson: "@POTUS' address tonight provided a hopeful vision for our country's future, and a bold plan to help us get there. It was wonderful to see a compassionate, level headed President address Congress and the nation, flanked by @VP and @SpeakerPelosi -- two extraordinary public servants and trailblazers. Good policy is back. Decency is back. America is back!"


Rep. Larry Bucshon: "Synopsis of the President’s speech. 1. Cradle to grave socialist federal programs. 2. Tough rhetoric on China and Russia without the policy positions to back it up. 3. Delusional view of the crisis on the southern border. 4. Blatantly partisan rhetoric on everything else."


HILLARY, CONDI WARN ABOUT AFGHAN PULLOUT: Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice told House members they're worried about President Biden's plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, with Rice suggesting the U.S. may need to go back (Axios). The position puts two former secretaries of State — from the Obama and Bush administrations — at odds with one of Biden's most significant foreign policy moves to date. What they're saying: "We had Secretaries Clinton and Condi Rice Zoom today with the committee," one member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee told Axios. "Condi Rice is like, 'You know, we’re probably gonna have to go back,'" amid a potential surge in terrorism, the member said.


CHENEY DEFENDS BIDEN FIST BUMP: Rep. @Liz_Cheney (R-Wyo.): “I disagree strongly w/@JoeBiden policies, but when the President reaches out to greet me in the chamber of the US House of Representatives, I will always respond in a civil, respectful & dignified way. We’re different political parties. We’re not sworn enemies. We’re Americans.”


REP. GAETZ, GREENE TO TOUR TOGETHER: Matt Gaetz is going on tour. With Marjorie Taylor Greene. Rocked by a steady stream of leaks about a federal investigation into alleged sex crimes, the Florida congressman is planning to take his case on the road by holding rallies across the nation with Greene, another lightning rod member of Congress (Politico). Their targets? So-called RINOs and “the radical left.“ Together, they plan to attack Democrats and call out Republicans they deem as insufficiently loyal to former President Donald Trump, such as the 10 GOP House members who voted for his second impeachment after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.




GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB SIGNS 84 BILLS – Gov. Holcomb signed 84 bill Thursday. You can view more details at the 2021 Bill Watch webpage by clicking here.


GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB SIGNS NURSING HOME TRANSPARENCY BILL - A plan to increase transparency at Indiana nursing homes has passed the state legislature and was signed Thursday by Gov. Eric Holcomb (WRTV). Senate Bill 292 will require long-term care facilities to report COVID-19 case and death data to the Indiana State Department of Health. The state would then be required to publish the information on the Indiana State Department of Health website. In the early months of the pandemic, WRTV Investigates brought you stories from families who said they could not find out where COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths were occurring. Amid pressure, the state agreed to create a dashboard on July 1, months after WRTV Investigates and state lawmakers began fighting for the release of nursing home data broken down by facility.


GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB EXTENDS PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY THROUGH MAY 31 - Gov. Eric Holcomb is extending his declaration of a statewide public health emergency due to COVID-19 through at least the end of May (Carden, NWI Times). The Republican issued an executive order Thursday that found, despite the state's strong mitigation and vaccination efforts, the coronavirus "remains a threat to the health, safety and welfare of all Indiana residents," and further action is needed "to continue to address, control and reduce the threat posed by COVID-19." This is the 14th renewal of Indiana's COVID-19 emergency since Holcomb signed his initial declaration March 6, 2020, after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the Hoosier State.


GOVERNOR: HOFFMEYER LEAVING FOR SofS - Gov. Eric Holcomb's press secretary Rachel Hoffmeyer is leaving that position and joining Secretary of State Holli Sullivan as communication director (Howey Politics Indiana). "It has been the privilege of a lifetime to work for Gov. Holcomb, and it’s bittersweet to share with you that tomorrow will be my last day with the Office of the Governor," Hoffmeyer said. "However, I’m happy to tell you I won’t be going far. I have accepted the role of Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director with Secretary of State Holli Sullivan. I’m excited for this next step and the opportunities it brings with it. Especially during the pandemic, sharing reliable, fact-based information with the public has been vital and I appreciate all the work you do to keep Hoosiers well informed."


ISDH: VACCINE CLINICS TO ACCEPT WALK-INS - The Indiana Department of Health is asking state vaccine providers to accept walk-in appointments for COVID-19 vaccines. That’s as demand has dropped off (Chapman, Indiana Public Media). Officials said appointments are still preferred and some vaccine providers are booked through May. Dr. Lindsey Weaver, Indiana Department of Health chief medical officer, said the expansion to walk-ins is partially because demand for vaccines has dropped off and partially to help lower the barrier for Hoosiers to get vaccinated. "But almost everyone that we’ve asked said absolutely and are taking walk-ins. And that really means a lot to people who have had difficulty trying to plan ahead and schedule," Weaver said.


ISDH: THURSDAY COVID STATS -  The Indiana Department of Health announced Thursday that 1,406 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 718,948 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard. To date, 12,913 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 11 from the previous day. Another 411 probable deaths have been reported to date based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record. A total of 3,376,666 unique individuals have been tested in Indiana, up from 3,371,140 on Wednesday. A total of 9,749,814 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to the state Department of Health since Feb. 26, 2020.


ISP: FAMILY FILES SUIT V. TROOPER - The family of a Black man fatally shot by an Indiana State Police trooper last April during a traffic stop in Jeffersonville has filed a federal lawsuit, exactly a year after the shooting (Rickert, News & Tribune). Malcolm Williams, 27, died April 29, 2020, from gunshot wounds after Indiana State Police Trooper Clay Boley said he returned fire during the stop of a car in which Williams was a passenger. A lawsuit filed Thursday against Boley and "as-yet unidentified officers from the Indiana State Police" lists eight claims, including excessive force and failure of the other officers to intervene the day Williams was shot. "At the time he was shot, Malcolm was not acting violently, had done nothing to provoke or justify defendant Boley's brutal and deadly assault and posed no risk of substantial bodily harm to any person," one part of the 11-page lawsuit reads.


INDOT: I-70 BRIDGES TO BE REPLACED - The Indiana Department of Transportation is closing two bridges over I-70 in Marion County for full bridge replacements. The closures will occur at Cumberland Road and German Church Road. Bridge Closures: Cumberland Rd. Bridge over I-70 Mid-April to end of May;

German Church Rd. Bridge over I-70, May 3 to end of September. In addition, there may be some intermittent lane closures on I-70 EB & WB during bridge construction. Construction work is scheduled to be complete at the end of November.


INDOT: SR49 AT I-94 CLOSURES THIS WEEKEND -  Road closures are planned over the coming weekend in the area of Ind. 49, Interstate 94 and U.S. 12, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation. The northbound lanes of the Ind. 49 bridge over I-94 will be closed Saturday, INDOT said. The ramps from northbound Ind. 49 to westbound I-94, eastbound I-94 to northbound Ind. 49, and southbound Ind. 49 to eastbound I-94 will also be closed during this time, INDOT said. "These closures will be in place for 24 hours starting at 12 a.m. on Saturday," according to INDOT.


STEEL: U.S. PRODUCTION UP 43% - Steel production in the United States had fallen to about half capacity around this time a year ago, near the onset of the coronavirus pandemic when auto factories across the country were being shut down in response to viral outbreaks (Pete, NWI Times). It was a level of underutilization possibly not seen at local steel mills since the Great Depression. Now with vaccines being rolled out widely and infection and death rates down, steel production is up more than 43% year over year. Great Lakes steel production rose by 8,000 tons last week, while U.S. steel mills remained close to 80% of capacity, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.


CHAMBER: OPTIMISM GROWING AMONG BUSINESS LEADERS - A new survey commissioned by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce shows Indiana employers are optimistic about the business climate in the post-COVID environment (Mills, Inside Indiana Business). The chamber says 74% of respondents, which are chamber members, think the state has a strong business climate and 63% believe the economy will be better a year from now. Nearly 900 business leaders from across the state, representing a variety of industries part in the survey in late March. In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, chamber President Kevin Brinegar explained the value of surveys like this. “Because we want to know how they're doing coming out of the pandemic and be able to respond and share that information more frequently and keep it more up to date with policymakers,” said Brinegar.


MEDIA: WISH-TV TO BEGIN SPANISH PODCAST - A new Spanish-language podcast hosted by WISH-TV's new bilingual journalist Camila Fernandez will feature stories about Central Indiana's fast-growing Latino communities (IndyStar). The podcast, dubbed "La Voz Latina en Indiana," is expected to be released next month. The project Fernandez is spearheading is part of WISH-TV Latinx, an extension of news content in Spanish on WishTV.com for Latino communities in Indianapolis. A WISH-TV Latinx Facebook page was also introduced earlier this year.


NBA: NETS TORCH DEPLETED PACERS - Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash realizes that sometimes there’s no need to overthink situations, especially when working with great players such as Kevin Durant (AP). Nash let Durant do his thing on Thursday night, and the superstar responded with a season-high 42 points as the Nets glided to a 130-113 victory over the depleted Indiana Pacers.




WHITE HOUSE: KEY PART OF BIDEN PLAN EXPIRES AFTER 2025 - President Joe Biden couldn’t get everything he wanted into his own $1.8 trillion families plan (AP). His proposed child tax credit is set to expire after 2025. It would provide parents with $300 a month for each child under 6 and $250 a month for older children. Democratic lawmakers are pushing hard to make the credit a permanent policy, but the administration told them that the annual costs of roughly $100 billion were too high. Biden is embracing a dramatic shift from four decades of politics in which presidents from both parties focused more on containing government than expanding it. But the resistance to making the child tax credit permanent is a sign that even in a White House that embraces big government, there are some limits. “This is a very expensive policy, probably another $500 billion-plus to extend this for the rest of the decade,” said Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “According to the principles they’ve laid out, they would want to show they’re paying for it, and the current ‘pay-fors’ would be insufficient even on a 15-year basis.”


WHITE HOUSE: TV VIEWERSHIP FALLS FOR BIDEN ADDRESS - An estimated 26.9 million people watched the president’s address across 16 broadcast and cable networks, according to Nielsen figures released this afternoon (Politico Playbook). That’s a steep drop from the 47.7 million who watched Donald Trump’s first speech to a joint session on February 28, 2017. Nielsen reported that the bulk of Biden’s audience — 18.5 million — were 55 and older.


WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN DIDN'T KNOW OF GIULIANI RAID - President Biden said he did not know about the FBI plans to raid the home of former President Trump's personal attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani before it happened, and that he learned of the operation "when the rest of the world learned about it" (Fox News). "I give you my word I was not," Biden replied. "I made a pledge. I would not interfere in any way or try to stop any investigation the Justice Department had underway. I learned about that last night when the rest of the world learned about it. My word — I had no idea this was underway."


WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN, HARRIS SCHEDULES - President Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. First lady Jill Biden will participate in an Arbor Day tree planting ceremony at 10:30 a.m. on the North Grounds. They’ll depart the White House for Joint Base Andrews en route to Philadelphia at 12:25 p.m. Biden will deliver remarks at an event for Amtrak’s 50th anniversary at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station at 2:30 p.m. They’ll depart Philadelphia en route to Wilmington, Del., at 3:40 p.m.  Harris will depart D.C. en route to Cincinnati at 10 a.m. She’ll participate in a roundtable discussion on the administration’s investments in public transit at 12:20 p.m. She will depart to return to D.C. at 3:50 p.m. The White House Covid-19 response team and public health officials will brief at 11 a.m. Press secretary Jen Psaki will gaggle on Air Force One on the way to Philadelphia.


FDA: MENTHOL CIG BAN REVIVED - U.S. health regulators pledged again Thursday to try to ban menthol cigarettes, this time under pressure from African American groups to remove the mint flavor popular among Black smokers (AP). The Food and Drug Administration has attempted several times to get rid of menthol but faced pushback from Big Tobacco, members of Congress and competing political interests in both the Obama and Trump administrations. Any menthol ban will take years to implement and will likely face legal challenges from tobacco companies. Thursday’s announcement is the result of a lawsuit filed by anti-smoking and medical groups last summer to force the FDA to finally make a decision on menthol, alleging that regulators had “unreasonably delayed” responding to a 2013 petition seeking to ban the flavor.


JUSTICE: GIULIANI DENIES REPPING FOR UKRAINE - Rudy Giuliani on Thursday denied any allegations that he represented a Ukrainian national, a day after the FBI seized materials from Giuliani as part of an investigation that seems to focus on his work with Ukrainian officials and operatives (Politico). “I never, ever represented a foreign national,” Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor and New York City mayor, told Fox News host Tucker Carlson. “In fact, I have in my contracts, a refusal to do it because from the time I got out of being mayor, I did not want to lobby.”


AUTOS: FORD TURNS $3.26B PROFIT IN 1Q - Ford turned a $3.26 billion profit in the first quarter, the highest since 2011, despite semiconductor shortages that disrupted production at its auto factories in the Calumet Region and across North America (Pete, NWI Times). Ford made 1.7 million cars, pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles in the United States in 2020, or 188,000 more than any other automaker, accounting for about one in five vehicles manufactured in the U.S., according to IHS Markit's 2020 light vehicle production and sales data. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker, which operates the Chicago Assembly Plant and the Chicago Stamping Plant in the Calumet Region, brought in $36.2 billion in revenue and a record Earnings Before Interest and Taxes of $4.8 billion. Ford’s first-quarter revenue in North America grew by 5% to $23 billion largely as a result of strong sales of the Mustang Mach-E, the all-new 2021 F-150 and Bronco Sport.


MEDIA: SUNDAY TALK - ABC “This Week”: Adm. Mike Mullen, Jeffrey Gettleman, Ashish Jha. Panel: Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel, Rachel Scott and Audie Cornish. CBS “Face the Nation”: White House chief of staff Ron Klain, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Scott Gottlieb. CNN “State of the Union”: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “Fox News Sunday”: Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). Panel: Dana Perino, Kristen Soltis Anderson and Harold Ford Jr. Power Player: Chloe Mitchell. MSNBC “The Sunday Show”: Deval Patrick, Melanie Campbell, Alphonso David, Mara Keisling, Sophia Nelson, Margaret Sullivan. NBC “Meet the Press”: Panel: Yamiche Alcindor, Lanhee Chen, Kasie Hunt and Claire McCaskill.


NFL: BEARS PULL STUNNING TRADE TO LAND QB FIELDS - Four years after trading up for Mitchell Trubisky, an experiment that eventually fizzled out, the Chicago Bears once again pulled off a stunning move Thursday night in the NFL draft when they traded up nine spots with the New York Giants to take Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick (ESPN). The Giants received Chicago's first-round (No. 20) and fifth-round picks this year, and the Bears' first- and fourth-rounders next year. "We had multiple plans tonight, and the way the board was falling, we got excited when the quarterbacks came off that way and Justin continued to fall," Bears general manager Ryan Pace said. "For us, it was just executing our plan at the right spot in the draft and being patient with that, which sometimes can be difficult.


NFL: COLTS DRAFT KWITY PAYE - Kwity Paye got off the phone with the Colts, so excited in the moment that he’d later be unable to remember exactly who called to let him know Indianapolis had taken him off the board with the No. 21 pick, and he turned to look at his family (IndyStar). His mother, Agnes, the remarkably strong woman who’d fled the Liberian civil war with Paye in her womb, given birth to him in a refugee camp in Guinea and brought him to America, worked hard to give him and his older brother a chance at making it in their new country.


MLB: SOX SWEEP DOUBLEHEADER FROM DETROIT - Carlos Rodón struck out a career-high 12 in six innings and the Chicago White Sox beat Detroit 3-1 Thursday in a doubleheader opener, the Tigers' 11th loss in 13 games (ESPN). Rodón (4-0) made his first home start since pitching a no-hitter against Cleveland on April 14. He allowed two hits and walked one, and his ERA rose from 0.48 to 0.72. In the nightcap, Dylan Cease struck out a season-best nine in his first career shutout, Yoán Moncada and Yermín Mercedes homered, and the Chicago White Sox completed a doubleheader sweep of the slumping Detroit Tigers with an 11-0 win Thursday night. José Abreu and Leury García each drove in two to help doom the AL-worst Tigers to their 12th loss in 14 games. Chicago has won six of seven.


MLB: CUB HITTERS COME ALIVE IN 9-3 WIN OVER ATLANTA - A breakout game by the Chicago Cubs' hitters provided the perfect setting for Adbert Alzolay's longest start of his young career (ESPN). Jason Heyward drove in two runs with two hits and the Cubs emerged from their hitting slump to beat the Atlanta Braves 9-3 on Thursday night, ending their five-game losing streak. The Cubs had 16 hits, topping their combined total of 13 in the first three games of the series. Jake Marisnick hit a homer in the seventh and every Chicago starter had at least one hit.




SOUTH BEND: ONLY 75 SHOW UP FOR THOUSAND VACCINE - Another example of vaccine hesitancy in the area. Only 75 people showed up to get the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot at a clinic at the Century Center yesterday. HealthLinc had 1,000 doses to give out (WSBT-TV). The CEO says hesitancy after a pause in Johnson & Johnson distribution could have kept some people away. Vaccine supply is higher than demand. More option are also available with many pharmacies offering walk-up service.


INDIANAPOLIS: FEDEX VICTIMS TO BE HONORED AT STADIUM — The eight people killed in a mass shooting at a FedEx warehouse will be remembered Saturday during a public ceremony hosted at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis (AP). The event, expected to draw thousands, comes two weeks after a former FedEx employee fatally shot the eight people, including four members of Indianapolis’ Sikh community. While the Sikh community is hosting the event, the hope is that people from across the state will join to support the affected families “as Indianapolis begins the journey of healing together and helping each other during this excruciatingly difficult time,” said Rajanpreet Kaur, a spokesperson for the Sikh Coalition.


BLOOMINGTON: KILROYS TO REOPEN - Bloomington bar Kilroy’s On Kirkwood announced it would reopen this weekend, after closing last year due to the pandemic (Indiana Public Media). The announcement posted to their Instagram account Tuesday says that all patrons must book a table ahead of time on LineLeap to avoid crowding and lines at the entrance. Masks will also be required when patrons are not seated. No bar service will be available, and patrons must remain in the group they made reservations with.


DYER: NEW TOWN MANAGER HIRED — The town is looking to shake up its leadership in the coming months. During a special meeting Thursday, the Dyer Town Council extended an employment offer to current Dyer Police Chief David Hein to fill the role of town manager (NWI Times). If Hein accepts the conditional offer, he would begin as town manager July 5. "I'm excited about the changes, and humbled by the support for the next transition. (It's) something I've been working on for a long time," Hein told The Times. "I was a fireman when I was 18. I was a dispatcher when I was 21. I was a cop when I (was) 23, and this is all in the town of Dyer. So it's a great way for me to continue my service to the town and the residents."


HANCOCK COUNTY: SHERIFF USING PLATE SCANNER — Newly-installed technology is helping police track down criminals in central Indiana (WTHR-TV). It's a type of traffic camera Hancock County started using on the roads this month. Deputies there now have a new picture-taking partner, scanning cars to solve crimes. "We get alerts if a stolen car comes across one of those cameras," Hancock County Sheriff Brad Burkhart explained, "or if a wanted person crosses over into our county."