DCCC PUTS IN5 INTO 2022 PLAY LIST: The DCCC announced House Democrats' initial Districts In Play for the 2022 election cycle, which includes Indiana 5th CD and U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz (Howey Politics Indiana). Spartz defeated Democrat Christina Hale 50-46% with Libertarian Ken Tucker at 4%. "These 22 competitive districts across the country will be critical battlegrounds as we work to protect our Democratic House Majority," the DCCC said in a Tweet on Tuesday. No one knows what the 5th CD will look like once reapportionment takes place late this summer or early fall. That process has been delayed after the Trump administration sought to make changes in Census data which should have been available this past winter, but now won't be in the hands of the General Assembly until mid- to late-summer. Former Hamilton County Democratic chairman Joe Weingarten, 76, said in February he is considering a candidacy. “I’m still undecided,” he told the IndyStar, "it depends on a couple things." Hale told HPI on Tuesday that she is awaiting new maps before deciding to seek a rematch with Rep. Spartz.

 

BILL WOULD SHIELD CHURCHES FROM HEALTH ORDERS: Religious organizations would be shielded from many health orders in future public emergencies under legislation approved by the House Tuesday. Gov. Eric Holcomb barred in-person worship services early in the pandemic. And other religious activities – a church-run day care or food pantry, for instance – were restricted more than other “essential services” (Smith, Indiana Public Media). Rep. Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne) supports legislation, SB 263, that would make sure that doesn’t happen again. “It bothers me the path that we’ve gone over the past year that people could not worship and were threatened with arrest in gathering during this pandemic,” Morris said. The bill bars the government from restricting worship services at all during a public emergency. And other religious activities couldn't be restricted any more than essential services.

 

BRAY BLOCKS HANDGUN PERMIT FEE REPEAL: The Republican-dominated Indiana Senate is blocking a bill that would repeal the state’s permit requirement for carrying a handgun in public (AP). Republicans easily pushed the proposal through the Indiana House, but Senate leaders have decided against taking up the bill in the final weeks of this year’s legislative session even though it was co-sponsored by 21 GOP members of the 50-person Senate. Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray pointed to opposition from the Indiana State Police superintendent, the state police chiefs association and the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police. “These groups have said that, due to a variety of reasons including the current state of technology and federal laws governing the use of and access to information, creation of such a database is not possible at this time,” Bray said. “Law enforcement believes being able to access this information in the middle of the night during a traffic stop is important and thus, so do I.” Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Liz Brown told The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette that the panel wouldn’t consider the bill before Thursday’s deadline for action. Instead, the Senate will support eliminating the $75 fee for a lifetime permit after the Legislature eliminated the state’s five-year permit fee in a 2019 bill.

 

LILLY OPPOSES INDIANA ELECTION REFORMS:  One of Indiana’s most prominent corporations is criticizing an Indiana proposal that opponents maintain will make mail-in voting more difficult by requiring voters to submit identification numbers with their ballot applications (Davies, AP). The bill’s Republican sponsors say it is aimed at preventing voter fraud by having similar voter ID requirements for mail voting as the state has for in-person voting at polling sites. Stephen Fry, Eli Lilly and Co.’s senior vice president for human resources and diversity, told a legislative committee Tuesday that the company believed the bill wasn’t needed and that state officials acted correctly to allow no-excuse mail-in voting for the spring 2020 primary because of COVID-19 concerns. The Indiana bill is among a wave of GOP-backed election proposals that were introduced in states around the country after former President Donald Trump stoked false claims that fraud led to his 2020 election defeat. “It serves only to confer acceptance of the widespread falsehood that there is something to be questioned about the outcome of last year’s election,” Fry said. “This effort and others like it, albeit using different language, only serve to perpetuate the narrative that the 2020 election outcome was flawed or compromised in some way.”

 

INDIANA GETS $60M IN CDC FUNDS FOR MINORITY VACCINE: Indiana is getting $60.8 million in federal funding to support efforts to get minority populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic vaccinated against COVID-19 (AP). The funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help programs such as door-to-door outreach to raise awareness about vaccinations or help people sign up to get vaccinated. The money comes from pandemic relief funding approved by Congress. Indiana’s funding is part of $3 billion the CDC is distributing among 64 jurisdictions to encourage vaccination and access to vaccines for communities that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted. “Millions of Americans are getting vaccinated every day, but we need to ensure that we are reaching those in the communities hit hardest by this pandemic,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, said in the news release.

 

DR. CAINE SAYS MARION COUNTY LAGGING IN VACCINE: Marion County is lagging in its race to reach herd immunity from COVID-19 as more transmissible variants close in (Muñiz, IBJ). Just more than 16% of county residents were fully vaccinated as of Saturday, said Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine at a news conference Tuesday. That falls far short of the 80% of residents that Caine said need to be vaccinated for the county to reach herd immunity and halt person-to-person spread of the virus. “Especially in light of the variant, resistant strains … 80% [is] my target for herd immunity,” Caine said. “We’re in a race right now: reaching that herd immunity before we see a widespread rate of those new mutated strains." Caine said “a handful” of people who attended the tourney in late March were contacted regarding potential exposure to COVID-19. “Yes, I expect now to see a surge,” Caine said, although she was hopeful the health department would see a “milder and a lower surge” compared to the one seen in December, based on how gradual the recent increase in cases has been.

 

YOUNGER HOOSIERS DRIVING COVID UPTICK: The number of Indiana COVID-19 cases is on an upward swing. Younger, largely unvaccinated age groups appear to be driving the rise. The seven-day moving average of positive cases is back over 1,000 a day, according to the Indiana State Department of Health—with the state’s mask mandate set to end Tuesday (IBJ). Cases among those 20-39 years old increased 40% in the last two weeks, according to Micah Pollak, associate professor of economics at Indiana University Northwest. Cases among Indiana’s oldest are flat or falling — potential proof that vaccinations are helping stop the spread of the coronavirus, experts say. Nearly 80% of Hoosiers above 70 years old are partially or fully vaccinated. COVID-19 diagnoses in that age group have stayed down, despite a recent upward trend in the state’s case rate.

 

HOWARD PROSECUTOR WARNS OF VIGILANTE JUSTICE: Vigilante groups on social media are on the rise in Indiana, according to Howard County Prosecutor Mark McCann (Harris, WRTV). In a release by the prosecuting attorney's office, McCann states that such vigilante groups are taking it upon themselves to investigate and "go after" online predators, without the support of law enforcement. Such groups are being formally asked to stop their independent investigations. "While these groups may have the best intentions in mind, operating outside the scope of law enforcement can be extremely dangerous for both themselves and others," McCann stated.

 

NCAA PONDERS FUTURE SINGLE SITE TOURNEYS: The NCAA used the single-site concept for its marquee championship out of necessity. Now it could become part of the tournament’s future (Marot, AP). A day after crowning a national champion for the first time since 2019, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt told reporters that the successful men’s college basketball tournament held primarily in Indianapolis and exclusively in Indiana could create a late-round model for future tourneys. “If it’s the desire of the committee and the membership to consider something along these lines for the future, I think we would give it significant consideration,” he said Tuesday on a video call. “I would hesitate to say, though, I don’t think a 68-team single site, short of another pandemic, would be something we would have great interest in. However, once you get down to a fewer amount of teams, say the Sweet 16 and on, having teams in the same location may provide some opportunities the membership, coaches and all would want to consider for the future.”

 

SNOOP DOG, CHARLES KOCH FORM MARIJUANA ALLIANCE: What do you get when weed-loving rapper Snoop Dogg, right-wing billionaire Charles Koch and criminal justice reform advocate Weldon Angelos walk into a Zoom room? The Cannabis Freedom Alliance, a new coalition launching Tuesday that could change the dynamics of the marijuana legalization debate, as first reported by POLITICO. The organization includes Americans for Prosperity, the political advocacy group founded by the Koch brothers; the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank; marijuana trade organization the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce; and The Weldon Project, a nonprofit that advocates for the release of individuals incarcerated for marijuana offenses. The movement for marijuana legalization has long been dominated by left-leaning organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. And despite a handful of congressional Republicans supporting the issue, most legalization proponents in Congress are Democrats. “We can’t cut with one scissor blade. We need Republicans in order to pass [a legalization bill],” said Angelos, founder of the Weldon Project. Angelos served 13 years of a 55-year sentence for marijuana trafficking charges, and got a full pardon from former President Donald Trump last December.

 

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: In Thursday’s weekly edition of Howey Politics Indiana, we’ll be monitoring legislation emerging from the General Assembly, and we’ll look at how we fared as the Center of the Basketball Universe, along with columns from Mark Souder, Lee Hamilton and Craig Dunn. Look for it around 9 a.m. Thursday. - Brian A. Howey

 

Polls

 

COVID FEARS FADING IN GALLUP POLL: At the same time Americans' satisfaction with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has surged, their concerns about getting the virus and about the availability of coronavirus tests and hospital services/treatment have fallen to record lows. Thirty-five percent of U.S. adults now say they are very or somewhat worried about contracting COVID-19, the lowest point in Gallup's trend since April 2020. Twenty-two percent of Americans are very or moderately worried about access to hospital services/treatment, and 14% are just as worried about access to COVID-19 tests.

 

BORDER WOES DENT BIDEN APPROVAL:  More Americans disapprove than approve of how President Joe Biden is handling the sharply increasing number of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, and approval of his efforts on larger immigration policy falls short of other top issues — suggesting it could be a weak point for the new administration. A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also shows that solving the problem of young people at the border is among Americans' highest immigration priorities: 59% say providing safe treatment of unaccompanied children when they are apprehended should be a high priority, and 65% say the same about reuniting families separated at the border.

 

General Assembly

 

PREGNANCY ACCOMMODATIONS BILL PASSES SENATE: Indiana legislators gave final approval to a bill that won’t require businesses to make accommodations for pregnant workers, despite an appeal from Gov. Eric Holcomb for a law requiring more protections (AP). The proposal allows a pregnant employee to request accommodations and requires the employer to respond in a reasonable time frame, but it does not mandate managers to grant any of the requests. The latest measure passed the House in February by a 95-2 votes as even lawmakers wanting tougher regulations supported it as a way of getting some protections for women into state law. Senators voted 31-19 on the bill Tuesday, sending the measure Holcomb.

 

SENATE PASSES ABORTION REVERSAL BILL: Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature on Tuesday voted to advance a bill that tightens state abortion laws despite objections that it would force doctors to provide dubious information to their patients (AP). The measure requires Indiana doctors to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions about a disputed treatment that could stop the abortion process, and bans chemical abortions ordered via telemedicine. The bill also includes a requirement for notarization of a parent’s signature allowing abortion for women younger than 18 years old. The Indiana Senate, which has a strong anti-abortion majority that has supported numerous restrictions in recent years, voted Tuesday to advance the proposal. The bill now heads back to the House for final approval.

 

RTL COMMENTS ON HB1577 PASSAGE: Indiana Right to Life applauds the Indiana Senate for today’s passage of "critical pro-life legislation that includes multiple provisions, including the requirement that women considering abortion must be informed about the abortion pill reversal process proven to have saved over 2,000 babies lives nationwide" (Howey Politics Indiana). House Bill 1577, authored by Rep. Peggy Mayfield and sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Liz Brown, passed the Senate today by an overwhelming 36-14 margin. After concurrence, the bill will move on to Governor Eric Holcomb's desk. Three Republicans voted no on HB 1577, including Sen. Ron Alting, Sen. Vaneta Becker, and Sen. Phil Boots.

 

REP. FLEMING SPEAKS OUT V. SB5:  State Rep. Rita Fleming (D-Jeffersonville) spoke out on the House floor against Senate Bill 5 — a piece of legislation restricting local health department action. It would require a county commissioner or a city council to approve any local health restriction that goes further than a state’s during a public health emergency (Howey Politics Indiana). Fleming warned of the path that this bill starts to take: “When there are minor viral illnesses, such as low-grade fevers or a faint rash, it is not seen by the public as a huge threat,” Fleming said. “The 1963 Rubella pandemic was just that. Most kids weren’t very sick, and yet more than 10,000 unborn babies died of prenatal exposure to the virus, and at least 20,000 were injured or born blind, deaf, with cardiac effects or liver damage. The infection would be passed on to the developing baby during a woman’s first trimester, when most women don’t know that they’re pregnant. Today, a mild viral illness might not cause alarm, but public health officials would understand the critical nature of the effect on unborn babies. By the time the appeal process for the city or county councils to make a determination, significant adverse health effects may occur. When we take this power away from health department officials — which I think is more important to babies than bar owners — I think this is very dangerous." The House passed Senate Bill 5, 65-28.

 

SENATE COMMITTEE WALKS BACK HB1166 CHANGES: A Senate committee walked back the impact of a property tax bill Tuesday, a day after IndyStar reported how it would benefit a state GOP party leader. As introduced, House Bill 1166 would have prohibited local assessors from increasing someone’s property taxes after a property owner wins a tax appeal for the following four years, unless there are significant changes that impact the property (Lange, IndyStar). While Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said the original bill will help people across the state, he only listed one concrete example of rates being increased after an appeal: property in Porter County owned by Chuck Williams, the state treasurer of the Republican party.  Had similar language already been enacted, Williams' property rate would have been frozen, saving him money. Lawmakers amended the bill in a way that no longer directly addresses Williams' issue.

 

SENATE PASSES BILL TARGETING ISTA: Members of the Republican-controlled General Assembly really want Indiana teachers to know they don’t have to belong to a union (Carden, NWI Times). On Tuesday, lawmakers gave final approval to Senate Enrolled Act 251 mandating teachers annually re-enroll in their union, making it more difficult for union dues to be deducted from teacher paychecks, and requiring schools provide teachers notice during the year — in bold, 14-point type — that teachers can resign from their union at any time. According to state Rep. Chuck Goodrich, R-Noblesville, the legislation is “pro-teacher” and “pro-freedom” because it promotes “transparency” by making teachers more aware of their constitutional right not to join a union and “allowing them to be informed and in charge of how they spend their paycheck.”

 

HOUSE VOTES TO PRIORITIZE MONUMENT DEFENSE: House lawmakers voted Tuesday to prioritize protecting monuments and statues across the state, even cutting off some funding from local governments that don’t (Burks, Indiana Public Media). The legislation, SB 187, requires Indiana State Police to prioritize investigation of anyone who damages or just vandalizes a monument, memorial, statue or other “commemorative” property, both public and private. Rep. Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) is troubled by that. “This bill is saying, ‘We would rather catch a vandal for defacing a statue over a predator who has molested a child,’” Shackleford said.

 

CITIES, ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS SEEK WETLANDS COMPROMISE: More than 60 organizations, including local governments, environmental and conservation groups and water management agencies, sent a letter to Indiana state legislators, asking them to consider policy changes instead of supporting a bill seeking to remove all state protections for Indiana wetlands (Saenz, Bloomington Herald-Times). The letter, signed by the cities of Bloomington, Angola and Carmel, as well as the Merrillville Stormwater Utility, the Indiana Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts and many conservation and environmental groups, speaks out against Senate Bill 389, a bill that seeks a full repeal of the state’s wetland protections and permitting authority for activities in wetlands.

 

REP CAMPBELL AMENDS SB322: State Rep. Chris Campbell (D-West Lafayette) successfully amended public notice legislation last week to ensure Hoosiers are adequately and punctually informed (Howey Politics Indiana). With the adoption of Campbell's Amendment #2 and Amendment #3, Senate Bill 332 would require entities to publish notices in newspapers first, and then allow for subsequent posts to be published on a government website. Both amendments were adopted into the legislation, and Senate Bill 332 passed the Indiana House of Representatives 93-0. "Last week's amendments attempted to ensure that no Hoosier gets left behind as this critical information moves online," Campbell said. "While utilizing existing technology is important for public notices, this legislative body needs to consider folks that could get left behind due to lack of access or technology education.

 

Congress

 

VANCE PRAISES BANKS: J.D. Vance, author of "Hillbilly Elegy" praised Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Banks’ memorandum on permanently establishing the Republican Party as the party of the working class (Howey Politics Indiana). Said JD Vance: “Congressman Banks has done our party a great service. He provided a blueprint for a winning political agenda, and, more importantly, for a policy agenda that deserves to win. We are no longer the party of big multinational firms. We are the party of working people. Our voters understand this, our enemies understand this, and thanks to his memo, our leaders might finally start getting it, too.” 

 

SLAIN CAPITOL OFFICER TO LIE IN STATE AT ROTUNDA: A ceremonial arrival will take place on Tuesday, April 13, at 10:30 a.m. on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol, followed by a congressional tribute ceremony at 11 a.m., Schumer and Pelosi said. Members of the U.S. Capitol Police will have a viewing at noon, and members of Congress will be invited to attend from 12 p.m. through 6 p.m. A ceremonial departure will occur at 6:30 p.m. Attendance will be limited to invited guests due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

REP. GAETZ SOUGHT BLANKET PARDON FROM TRUMP: U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, was one of President Donald J. Trump’s most vocal allies during his term, publicly pledging loyalty and even signing a letter nominating the president for the Nobel Peace Prize (New York Times). In the final weeks of Mr. Trump’s term, Mr. Gaetz sought something in return. He privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed, according to two people told of the discussions. Around that time, Mr. Gaetz was also publicly calling for broad pardons from Mr. Trump to thwart what he termed the “bloodlust” of their political opponents. But Justice Department investigators had begun questioning Mr. Gaetz’s associates about his conduct, including whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old that violated sex trafficking laws, in an inquiry that grew out of the case of an indicted associate in Florida.

 

THE HOUSE and THE SENATE are not in session.

 

State

 

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB OPENS VAX SITE AT GARY - Gov. Holcomb and State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box were in Gary on Tuesday to open a new COVID mass vaccination site (Darling, WIBC). The clinic was opened in a collaboration with FEMA as part of an effort to get more Hoosiers vaccinated in the coming weeks. Box said the facility will be able to vaccinate about 2,000 Hoosiers a day, which is a rate she says they need to keep up as she expects COVID numbers to start ticking back up slightly. “We will expect the number that may go up after spring break, after the NCAA, after Easter and we’ve all been together,” she said. “We are seeing our increased cases in our younger population, and that’s why we are trying to get our message out that we want our 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds to get out and get vaccinated.” The clinic opened on the same day Holcomb’s statewide mask mandate was lifted, leaving the authority on mandating masks up to individual counties and cities from here on out. Holcomb is standing by his decision. “We have the ability to care for those who are in need and we have the ability to vaccinate those who want to be,” said Holcomb. ” Some may never get vaccinated. And that’s on them too.”

 

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB SAYS COVID DECISIONS AREN'T POLITICAL - Gov. Eric Holcomb said in Gary on Tuesday that all of his decision-making throughout the pandemic has been entirely free of political influence (WIBC). “I’m in a bubble that devours data and that’s how we make our decisions,” he continued. “I am liberated from any political motivation.”

 

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB LOWERS FLAGS FOR REP. HASTINGS - Gov. Eric J. Holcomb is directing flags in the State of Indiana to be flown at half-staff in honor of Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida. Per the President’s order, flags should be flown at half-staff from now until sunset on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Gov. Holcomb also asks businesses and residents in Indiana to lower their flags to half-staff on Tuesday.

 

ISDH: TUESDAY COVID STATS - The Indiana Department of Health announced Tuesday that 669 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 692,240 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard. To date, 12,679 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 11 from the previous day. Another 405 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record. A total of 3,281,732 unique individuals have been tested in Indiana, up from 3,279,662 on Monday. A total of 9,053,119 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to the state Department of Health since Feb. 26, 2020.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL: INDIANA RTL LAUDS ROKITA SUIT - Indiana Right to Life issued the following statement regarding the State of Indiana’s appeal to the Supreme Court in the case of Kristina Box, Commissioner, Indiana State Department of Health, et al. v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc. (Howey Politics Indiana). IRTL’s President Mike Fichter said: “We applaud Attorney General Rokita for appealing this case to the Supreme Court for its review and thank him for his steadfast defense of Indiana’s pro-life laws in the courts. We’re cautiously optimistic that the Supreme Court will resolve the split circuit as a result of its ruling in June Medical Services LLC vs. Russo, and in doing so, will uphold Indiana’s parental notification law.” This case arose out of Senate Enrolled Act 404, a 2017 Indiana law, which required that parents be notified when a minor seeks judicial bypass to have an abortion. The law was enjoined at the district court, and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction against it. When the Supreme Court issued its ruling in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo last summer, it vacated the 7th Circuit ruling and ordered that court to revisit the suit. The 7th Circuit upheld the injunction earlier in March, and as a result, Indiana is now appealing to the Court to hear the case since there are now split circuits on the legality of parental notification.

 

UTILITIES: DUKE TO BUILD $180M SOLAR FARM - Duke Energy Renewables Solar LLC is planning to build a $180 million solar farm in southern Vigo County and northern Sullivan County (Greninger, Terre Haute Tribune-Star). The company Tuesday went before the Vigo County Council seeking a 10-year tax abatement on property and 10-year tax abatement on personal property of $100 million, as about 60 percent of the project is in Vigo County. “It is a proposed project built in two counties, both Vigo and Sullivan counties,” which is being called Hoosier Jack Solar, said Tyler Coon, business development manager for Duke Energy Renewables Solar. The company proposes a 175 megawatt, ground-mounted solar generation facility, would provide enough electricity to power 35,000 homes. Of the $100 million in Vigo County, about $95 million is for new solar equipment, with $5 million for site preparation, Coon said.

 

PURDUE: AG BAROMETER CONTINUES TO RISE - There appears to be growing optimism on America’s farms stemming from strong commodity prices and improved financial conditions. The latest Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer rose 12 points in March to a reading of 177 (Mills, Inside Indiana Business). Purdue’s Center for Commercial Agriculture says the reading marks the highest level since October. The barometer, which is comprised of two indices, showed optimism in both future expectations and current conditions.

 

NBA: BULLS TOP SHORT-HANDED PACERS - Nikola Vucevic looks as if he’s finding his fit in Chicago (AP). On Tuesday, he took advantage of Indiana’s missing big men by posting 32 points and 17 rebounds to help the Chicago Bulls overwhelm the short-handed Pacers 113-97. Chicago has won two straight since snapping a six-game losing streak and moved within one game of the Pacers for the No. 9 spot in the Eastern Conference. Vucevic also had five assists while going 14 of 29 from the field.

 

NCAA: 17M VIEWED TITLE GAME - Even an NCAA championship matchup between two opponents widely acknowledged as the best men’s college basketball teams in the country wasn’t enough to set the television world afire (AP). An estimated 16.92 million people tuned into CBS to watch Baylor University win the national championship title by routing previously unbeaten Gonzaga University on Monday, the Nielsen company said. That’s down nearly 14% from the 2019 title game between Virginia and Texas Tech. Last year’s NCAA basketball tourney was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Nation

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN BUMPS UP VAX SCHEDULE FOR 2 WEEKS -  President Joe Biden said he’s bumping up his deadline by two weeks for states to make all adults in the U.S. eligible for coronavirus vaccines. But even as he expressed optimism about the pace of vaccinations, he warned Americans that the nation is not yet out of the woods when it comes to the pandemic (AP). “Let me be deadly earnest with you: We aren’t at the finish line. We still have a lot of work to do. We’re still in a life and death race against this virus,” Biden said Tuesday in remarks at the White House. The president warned that “ new variants of the virus are spreading and they’re moving quickly. Cases are going back up, hospitalizations are no longer declining.”

 

WHITE HOUSE: VACCINE PASSPORTS WON'T BE REQUIRED - The White House said Tuesday that the Biden administration will not support a system requiring Americans to carry so-called COVID-19 "vaccine passports," press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday (Fox News). The announcement comes amid privacy concerns, as some argue that mandating vaccine passports could speed the reopening of international travel and the economy. But the proposition has raised questions about how much governments, employers and venues have a right to know about a person's virus status. "Let me be very clear on this. I know there's been lots of questions," Psaki said during the press briefing Tuesday. "The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential."

 

WHITE HOUSE: PUTIN TO ATTEND BIDEN CLIMATE SUMMIT - The Kremlin is working on Putin’s address to the virtual summit [April 22-23], though there’s been no final decision on his participation … Putin’s involvement would be his first public engagement with Biden as U.S. president amid deep strains in relations (Bloomberg).

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN, HARRIS SCHEDULE - President Biden and VP Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. Biden will deliver remarks about the American Jobs Plan at 1:45 p.m., with Harris attending. The White House Covid-19 response team and public health officials will brief at 10:30 a.m. Press secretary Jen Psaki will brief at 12:15 p.m. with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

 

PENTAGON: NAVY MEDIC SHOOTS 2 AT BASE - A U.S. Navy medic shot and critically injured two people at a business park in Frederick, Maryland, on Tuesday, authorities said. The suspected gunman, 38-year-old Fantahun Girma Woldesenbet, was later shot and killed at the U.S. Army base Fort Detrick (CBS News). The shooter went into a business at Riverside Tech Park, causing people inside to run to safety, Police Chief Jason Lando told reporters Tuesday. After that shooting, he said, the suspect drove about 10 minutes to Fort Detrick, where he was killed by military personnel. "The public is no longer at risk," Lando said. "There's no further cause for alarm in the Frederick community."

 

COVID: 81% OF TEACHERS VACCINATED - A new survey of educators by the nation's second-largest teachers union shows as of April 1 at least 81% of educators had been vaccinated for COVID-19 or were scheduled to get their shots, according to data shared with CBS News by the union (CBS News). This latest metric is a measure of progress made toward President Biden's call in early March to prioritize vaccinations for teachers by April 1, but also indicates a portion of educators are still waiting for their vaccinations.

 

COVID: HALF OF NEW INFECTIONS COME IN 5 STATES - Nearly half of new coronavirus infections nationwide are in just five states — a situation that is putting pressure on the federal government to consider changing how it distributes vaccines by sending more doses to hot spots (Nexstar). New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey together reported 44% of the nation’s new COVID-19 infections, or nearly 197,500 new cases, in the latest available seven-day period, according to state health agency data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Total U.S. infections during the same week numbered more than 452,000.

 

AUTOS: GM TO MAKE ELECTRIC SILVERADO - General Motors Co. plans to roll out an electric version of its Chevy Silverado pickup truck, the latest in its efforts to convert its global lineup to electric vehicles (Wall Street Journal). The nation’s largest auto maker by sales has set a target date of 2035 for phasing out gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles from its showrooms globally. GM plans to deliver more than one million electric vehicles across the world by 2025, the company has said. The full-size Chevy Silverado pickup will be designed “from the ground up” as an electric vehicle, the company said Tuesday. GM said it would be built at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant, where the company also intends to make the GMC Hummer EV sport-utility vehicle and an autonomous vehicle for its Cruise driverless-car division.

 

KENTUCKY: 15,000 FANS FOR DERBY - As we head toward the home stretch for the 2021 Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs has announced plans to sell a limited number of infield-only general admission tickets, which could mean roughly 15,000 fans spread over the 22-acre infield on Derby Day, according to a spokesperson with Churchill Downs (Louisville Courier-Journal). The limited number of tickets for the April 30 Longines Kentucky Oaks and May 1 Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve will go on sale at 12 p.m. on Wednesday at kentuckyderby.com/tickets/2021-derby-week-tickets.

 

MLB: BREWERS BLANK CUBS 4-0 - In between the third and fourth innings Tuesday at Wrigley Field, the Cubs played video of Alec Mills’ 2020 Milwaukee no-hitter on the big board perched above the left-field bleachers (Chicago Sun-Times). It wasn’t much of a taunt, though, for at least a few reasons. One, the Brewers led 3-0 at the time on the way to an easy 4-0 victory that evened a three-game series heading into Wednesday’s finale.

 

MLN: ABREU SLAM PROPELS SOX OVER SEATTLE - Jose Abreu, Zack Collins Luis Robert homered, and Lucas Giolito struck out 10 over 5 1⁄3 innings to power the White Sox to a 10-4 victory over the Mariners Tuesday night in Seattle (Chicago Sun-Times). Abreu’s homer, his second grand slam of the season, was the 200th of his career. It came in the eighth inning, extending the Sox lead from three runs to seven. Abreu also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly as the Sox (3-3) won for the second night in a row in Seattle and beat a left-handed starting pitcher for the 17th time in a row, one shy of the record. Abreu trails Frank Thomas (448), Paul Konerko (432), Harold Baines (221) and Carlton Fisk (214) on the Sox all-time home run list.

 

Local

 

INDIANAPOLIS: ST. ELMO REOPENS; CUSTOMERS NOT AT RISK - St. Elmo Steak House reopened Monday night with limited capacity after working with the Marion County Public Health Department on an investigation and contact-tracing related to a COVID-19 outbreak among employees (IBJ). Health officials said earlier Monday that its investigation has not identified any potential risk of exposure to the restaurant’s patrons. The operator of the iconic steak house announced late Saturday night that the restaurant would be closed for a deep cleaning after it learned that nine of its employees had tested positive for the virus.

 

HUNTINGTON; CITY RAISES CAPACITY LIMITS, KEEPS MASK MANDATE – The city of Huntington is lifting all capacity limits at restaurants, bars and gyms, but will keep the mask order in place for about eight more weeks (WPTA-TV). Mayor Richard Strick signed an amended executive order Tuesday morning. The revised order removes all venue capacity restrictions within city limits when Huntington County’s advisory level on the state metrics map is blue, yellow or orange. The change allows local businesses and other entities to immediately resume full operations without delay. “We’ll continue to do this the way we’ve done it all along here in Huntington,” Mayor Strick said. “We’re all in this together, and we’re going to continue to carry each other across the finish line.”

 

MICHIGAN CITY: AGING DRAW BRIDGE POSES DILEMMA — The iconic Franklin Street drawbridge is historic but costly to maintain, posing a dilemma for LaPorte County officials (Ross, NWI Times). The bridge cost $500,000 to repair over the winter, Commissioner Rich Mrozinski, R-Rolling Prairie, said. “There’s always something that’s getting worn out, whether electrical or mechanical or structural,” Mrozinski said. Because of the age of the bridge, some of the parts can take six or seven months to make, he said. Mrozinski and Councilman Mark Yagelski, D-Michigan City, are working together to explore options for the bridge. “We really can’t modify the bridge,” Yagelski said, because it’s a historic bridge. “If the gears were built in 1920, they really want the same type of gear built in the 1920s.” “We’re very lucky we’ve got the people there at Marquiss Electric” in Michigan City because they know the bridge well, Mrozinski said. Over the years, ideas for replacing the bridge included a new drawbridge or even a tunnel under the river, Yagelski said. Because of its placement, a fixed span bridge isn’t an option. The bridge has to allow tall ships to pass on their way to and from Lake Michigan, and the approaches to a fixed bridge would be too long to be feasible for that site.

 

NEW ALBANY: MARK SEABROOK DIES - Former New Albany councilman Mark Seabrook died at age 69. He ran for mayor in 2019 and was a former Floyd County commissioner (News & Tribune). He was called a "servant at heart."

 

NASHVILLE: NEW OWNER FOR LIL OPRY SITE - The former Little Nashville Opry site on State Road 46 has a new owner. The previous owner, Scott Wayman, bought the property in 2012 after the Little Opry burned down in 2009, and had planned to rebuild the venue. Scott passed away May 2019 (Indiana Public Media). Andrew Tilton is the managing member of William Jacob Capital LLC, the three-member group that bought the property from Gail and Darlene Wayman. Tilton says he and his partners aren’t sure how they will develop the property yet, but it likely won’t be another music venue now that the Brown County Music Center is open. “We’re probably not going to be opening another music venue unless it’s tied around some other concept like food or maybe like a brewery or something like that. But we’re pretty open for what goes there. We’re just trying to figure out what the best fit for the property is as this point.”

 

NOBLESVILLE: JENSEN BREAKS GROUND ON $50M NEXUS PROJECT – The City of Noblesville and Cityscape Residential broke ground today on Nexus, a public-private residential investment to the downtown area on the west side of the White River (Howey Politics Indiana). The development, which is along River Road and State Road 32, plans to transform the site of a former Marsh building and parking lot into a multifamily living complex. “Nexus will drive economic development to our western anchor of the downtown area and bring energy back to a currently idle location,” Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen said. “In partnership with Cityscape, we are able to turn around an underutilized space close to the heart of our downtown by enhancing the quality of life and sense of place in this area.” Nexus is a public-private partnership that is projected to be a $50+ million investment. The public investment does not displace tax funding for core services and comes solely from the new revenues generated from this project. This development is projected to ultimately add $37M in post-redevelopment assessed value, which helps keep existing residents’ taxes low.

 

HAMMOND: STUDENTS RETURN TO CLASS — Hammond students returned to classrooms for the first time in more than a year Tuesday (Freda, NWI Times). Greeted by administrators, principals and teachers, students also were met with a new learning environment created for a pandemic world — one where face masks are required, hand sanitation stations line the hallways, classrooms are arranged to meet social distancing guidelines and shields surround desks.

 

CEDAR LAKE: FD CHIEF SUSPENDED FOR WEEK — After serving a week-long suspension, Cedar Lake Fire Chief Todd Wilkening told town officials and residents he is ready to "move on and move forward."  Wilkening issued the statement during a Tuesday Cedar Lake Town Council meeting, during which he clarified the specifics of his suspension after a Times report detailed an interaction Wilkening had at a local police agency after a firefighter was arrested on drunken driving charges (Freda, NWI Times). "The suspension was not clearly identified in the media, and for the record I was suspended for failure to notify the Public Safety Board of an incident involving a volunteer, as well as not disciplining the volunteer," Wilkening said Tuesday.

 

DeKALB COUNTY: MASK MANDATE DROPPED - DeKalb County will not require people to wear masks in public places, now that Indiana counties can make their own COVID-19 rules (Kurtz, KPC News). “DeKalb County will not impose a mask mandate unless conditions change or new science indicates a necessity,” county Health Officer Dr. Mark Souder said Tuesday. As personal advice for people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19, “Mask-wearing can be considered optional until there’s evidence that there’s a variant that’s causing disease,” Souder added.

 

STEUBEN COUNTY: VACCINE CLINIC TO CLOSE MAY 20 - The Steuben County vaccination center run jointly by Cameron Memorial Community Hospital and the Steuben County Health Department is tentatively scheduled to cease operations at the Steuben County Event Center on May 20 (Marturello, KPC News). “We think we will be able to leave the Event Center May 20, 21st,” said Alicia Walsh, administrator of the Health Department.

 

POSEY COUNTY: SHIFTS TO MASK ADVISORY - Officials with the Posey County Health Department took to Facebook to address the community as Indiana officially moved to a mask advisory (WFIE-TV). They say they don’t plan on forcing restrictions beyond what is required by the Indiana State Department of Health. However, officials say they continue to recommend wearing a mask in public.