SENATE TAKING DIFFERENT APPROACH ON GOV POWERS: The Indiana Senate is moving forward with a bill to curtail the governor’s executive order privileges that is significantly different from the House version of the legislation (Erdody, IBJ). The Senate Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee on Tuesday night voted 12-0 to approve Senate Bill 407, which would prevent the governor from continuously renewing statewide emergency orders without the approval of the Indiana General Assembly. Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, first issued a public health emergency order for the COVID-19 pandemic in March and has renewed the order every 30 days since then. Republican legislative leaders have praised Holcomb’s handling of the pandemic, but they also say lawmakers should be able to provide input in the decisions when an emergency continues for an extended period of time. Under the bill, the governor would be allowed to issue an initial 30-day emergency order, but then could extend it only for another 15 days, unless the governor called the Legislature back for a special session or the body was already in session. If the governor called lawmakers in for a special session, or they were already in session, then the initial order could be extended for 30 days. The General Assembly could then decide whether to pass legislation allowing the executive order to continue or not. If lawmakers took no action, the order would expire after that 30-day extension. “What we’re trying to do with this bill is broaden the number of people who are involved in the decision-making process,” said state Sen. Susan Glick, R-Howe, who authored the bill. “I think all of us, both minority and majority members, felt left out.”

 

HOUSE PASSES VOUCHER EXPANSION: Controversial legislation that would create Indiana's first educational savings account program and expand the eligibility of state-funded private school vouchers to families with double the state's median income passed out of the House Tuesday (Weddle, Indiana Public Media). The proposal brought strong support in the Republican-led House from lawmakers who framed it as a win for parents to decide how their children are educated. Democrats plead passionately to stop the bill, even at one point calling it “dangerous” and lacking accountability. Last week, three former elected state superintendents of public education urged defeat of the bill because it would divert funds from traditional public schools. In the end, the bill passed 61-36. It now goes to the Senate, for further debate. House Bill 1005 would increase eligibility in the Choice Scholarship Program from low-and-middle-income families to a family of four with an annual income around $145,000. The state’s median family income is nearly $74,000.

 

BIDEN TO INCREASE VACCINE DOSES TO STATES: The Biden administration will increase the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses going to states this week (The Hill). States will receive 13.6 million doses per week starting this week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday. The current shipment is about 11 million doses.  That marks a 57 percent increase over the amount states were getting when Biden first took office, Psaki said.  The increased shipment comes as the U.S. faces a more contagious COVID-19 variant.

 

INDIANA'S POSITIVITY RATE FALLS BELOW 5%: Indiana’s seven-day positivity rate has fallen to 5% — the state’s lowest rate since late September (Wolf, Indiana Public Media). However, the state is averaging nearly 10,000 fewer tests a day than at the start of the year. Since then, the Indiana Department of Health has recorded a steady decrease in the state’s seven-day positivity rate. Indiana has administered nearly 7.6 million tests on more than 3.05 million Hoosiers, which is less than half of the state’s population. On Tuesday, the IDOH reported 889 new positive cases and 40 new deaths, increasing Indiana’s totals to 650,530 cases and 11,805 deaths. The number of reported cases and deaths have also trended downward since the start of the new year. Indiana now reports caseloads and death counts similar to those reported in early October. Coronavirus hospitalizations across the state fell to 1,018. COVID-19 patients occupy 9.3% of Indiana ICU beds, with nearly 41.1% of beds remaining available. Less than 4% of ventilators are in use by COVID-19 patients.

 

BUTTIGIEG'S OVAL OFFICE DEBUT ON A TV CART: Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg’s first Oval Office meeting probably didn’t go as he had imagined it might: Wheeled in on a TV, appearing virtually from quarantine after a member of his security detail had tested positive for Covid-19 (Politico Playbook). “The logistics were peculiar,” Buttigieg told POLITICO about last week's meeting, in a recent interview. “The first time in my life that I've been invited across the threshold in the Oval Office and it's on a TV cart, but that's about as 2021 as it gets. And they made it work without a hitch.” Buttigieg was more interested in talking about the substance of the meeting — and like President Joe Biden, he seems set on making infrastructure a bipartisan process, despite the continued rancor in D.C., and Democrats’ decision not to rely on Republican support for Covid relief. “You often hear me say that we have issue after issue where there's bipartisan consensus among the American people, but it's not reflected on Capitol Hill,” Buttigieg said. “One really encouraging exception to that is the work that that [the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee] did with their unanimous surface transportation bill about a year and a half ago.”

 

ROKITA STILL MOONLIGHTING WITH FORMER FIRM: Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is continuing to work for a private health care benefits company while serving in his elected position, raising questions from a watchdog over the appropriateness of that decision (Erdody, IBJ). Rokita, a Republican, has been working for Indianapolis-based Apex Benefits since February 2019 after choosing not to seek re-election for Indiana’s 4th Congressional District—a seat he had represented since 2010—and instead pursuing an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 2018. Rokita was sworn into office in January, but he continues to serve as strategic policy adviser for Apex Benefits, which helps employers find ways to lower health care costs. He previously worked as the firm’s general counsel and vice president of external affairs. He also has ownership interest in the company. Julia Vaughn, policy director for government-accountability watchdog group Common Cause Indiana, said she thinks the dual roles “are quite concerning.” Rokita is defending his continued private sector employment, which was first reported by the political newsletter Importantville. “Todd Rokita has built up private sector business interests that he will maintain as Indiana Attorney General, which were and will continue to be disclosed as required in publicly available financial disclosure reports and which reflect income from several sources,” Lauren Houck, a spokeswoman for Rokita, said in an email.

 

INDIANA MANUFACTURERS LACK DIGITAL EXPERTISE: On a 20-acre industrial site in Bloomington, Ind., tucked between a beer distributor and the local Social Security office, drugmaker Catalent is putting the finishing touches on automated production lines that will soon begin spitting out vials of two coronavirus vaccines (Washington Post). The core of a $120 million overhaul, the new lines are among the fastest such systems in the world, filling hundreds of vials each minute, twice as many as current models. The high-tech marvels, which automatically inspect, label and package the tiny glass containers, help explain why both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson chose Catalent to produce their coronavirus shots. Catalent’s embrace of top technology makes it something of an outlier in Indiana, by some measures the nation’s top manufacturing state. Productivity in Indiana’s most advanced industries — including agricultural chemicals, medical equipment and adhesives production — has lagged behind the national average for the past 10 years and the gap is widening, according to a new Brookings Institution study. A key reason is that Indiana’s manufacturers and other companies are moving too slowly to adopt a host of digital technologies. “The issues they’re dealing with are typical of U.S. manufacturing,” said Mark Muro, the principal author of the Brookings study. “They have pretty big competitiveness problems.”

 

TRUMP BLASTS McCONNELL: Former president Donald Trump blasted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who he described as a "dour, sullen political hack" while promising to launch MAGA Senate candidates (Howey Politics Indiana). "The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political 'leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm," Trump said. "McConnell’s dedication to business as usual, status quo policies, together with his lack of political insight, wisdom, skill, and personality, has rapidly driven him from Majority Leader to Minority Leader, and it will only get worse. The Democrats and Chuck Schumer play McConnell like a fiddle—they’ve never had it so good—and they want to keep it that way! We know our America First agenda is a winner, not McConnell’s Beltway First agenda or Biden’s America Last." Trump added, "Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again."

 

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Donald Trump says the GOP will never win back the Senate under Mitch McConnell. This, from the man who booted away two Georgia U.S. Senate seats just last month with his bizarre, erratic behavior. In Thursday's weekly HPI, we'll take a final look at the Trump presidency following his second Senate impeachment acquittal and the fork in the road facing American Republicans. Plus, General Assembly coverage. Look for it around 9 a.m. Thursday. - Brian A. Howey

 

Campaigns

 

PHELPS NOT INTERESTED IN SoS JOB: Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps congratulated Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson on her “honorable service” after she announced her resignation on Monday but said he is not seeking to be her successor (East, Columbus Republic). Phelps, who also serves as president of the Indiana Clerks Association, said he worked with Lawson “countless times to get meaningful election reform passed through the Indiana General Assembly” and is looking forward to working with whoever Holcomb selects as Lawson’s replacement. “I am humbled by the number of phone calls and text messages I have received upon Secretary Lawson’s resignation this morning, asking me to place my name into consideration to be Indiana’s next Secretary of State,” Phelps said. “While I appreciate the support and the kind words I have received, I will not be submitting an application to Governor Holcomb for this role. I trust the governor will pick a top-notch Secretary of State, who will raise the bar and continue to put Indiana on the map for election administration and voting security.”

 

KINZINGER REBUKED BY FAMILY: Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who has emerged as one of former President Trump’s most outspoken GOP detractors, opened up about being disowned by members of his family (The Hill). The six-term congressman told The New York Times that 11 members of his family sent him a handwritten two-page note after he called for removing Trump from office over the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. “Oh my, what a disappointment you are to us and to God!” the letter began. Its writer also accused him of working with “the devil’s army,” which includes Democrats and the “fake news media.” “We thought you were ‘smart’ enough to see how the left is brainwashing many ‘so called good people’ including yourself and many other GOP members,” the letter continued. “You have even fallen for their socialism ideals! So, so sad!”

 

Polls

 

61% APPROVE OF BIDEN IN QUINNIPIAC POLL: Two weeks into the presidency of Joe Biden, a majority of Americans say, 61 - 34 percent, that they are generally optimistic about the next four years with Biden as president, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll of 1,075 adults released today. However, there are sharp divisions by party identification. Democrats say 90 - 7 percent and independents say 62 - 35 percent that they are optimistic. Republicans say 65 - 27 percent that they are pessimistic. Despite an overall majority being optimistic, 69 percent of Americans say they are either very dissatisfied (46 percent) or somewhat dissatisfied (23 percent) with the way things are going in the nation today. Twenty-nine percent say they are very satisfied (6 percent) or somewhat satisfied (23 percent) with the way things are going in the nation today. "Amid a palpable uncertainty about the months and even years ahead, there is a sense that President Biden is the man for the moment. And that moment can't come too soon," said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy.

 

MORNING CONSULT PUTS BIDEN APPROVAL AT 62%: A White House memo cites a Morning Consult poll showing a Biden approval rating of 62% with registered voters (Axios). Just 23% of registered voters think the Republican Party is going in the right direction, while 63% say the party is on the wrong track.

 

General Assembly

 

IMPD OVERSIGHT BILL REFERRED TO SUMMER STUDY: A controversial bill that would create state oversight of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has been referred to a summer study committee (DePompei, IndyStar).  Senate Bill 168, authored by Sen. Jack Sandlin, R-Indianapolis, was heard in the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee Tuesday, along with other police-related legislation. The original bill proposed the creation of a five-member board to oversee IMPD, with the governor appointing four members and the mayor of Indianapolis serving as a fifth. Members would "adopt, amend and enforce municipal ordinances, resolutions and rules pertaining to the administration of IMPD" as well as serve as the agency's merit board and appoint the police chief. The bill was later amended to allow for one appointment each from the governor, Senate president, House speaker and the Indianapolis City-County Council president. The mayor would still serve as a fifth member.

 

BILL WOULD DEPRIVE PROSECUTORIAL DISCRETION: At least five Republican members of the Indiana Senate believe county prosecutors — and the citizens who elect them — should have no discretion to decide whether individuals accused of certain crimes are charged and brought to trial (Carden, NWI Times). The Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law voted 5 to 3 Tuesday to advance legislation authorizing Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita to attempt to usurp any county prosecutor who has a policy of “categorically refusing to enforce a criminal law enacted by the General Assembly.” Senate Bill 200 establishes a convoluted process for appointing a special prosecutor if the attorney general, the chief justice of Indiana, and a judge from a county outside the original prosecutor’s home county all agree a special prosecutor is warranted. The sponsor of the measure, state Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, insisted his goal is to avoid the kind of “social justice prosecuting” that he claimed is occurring “on the east coast mainly, but also Chicago, St. Louis, Louisiana I think, maybe somewhere in Florida as well.” Young repeatedly denied his proposal has anything to do with Democratic Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears’ 2019 decision to stop prosecuting first offense marijuana possession of less than 1 ounce in Indiana’s capital city, and instead put his office’s limited resources toward prosecuting more serious crimes. “We have a system in this country, if you don’t like the law you come to the Legislature and get it changed. That’s how you do it,” Young said. “Prosecutors’ responsibilities and duties are to prosecute the law.”

 

LUCAS MARIJUANA BILL HEADS TO SENATE: Indiana is inching its way toward decriminalizing marijuana but not without resistance. Compromises will be crucial to move the idea forward. If you look at the original version of HB1028, you wouldn’t recognize the way it looks now (Sullivan, WANE-TV). “I will remain openminded,” said the bill’s author, Republican State Rep. Jim Lucas, of Seymour. Lucas told us he’s willing to compromise just to continue the conversation about decriminalizing marijuana in Indiana. His bill no longer decriminalizes marijuana possession like he wanted, but it does establish a THC-blood intoxication limit of five nanograms while operating a vehicle. “This is not a perfect science, nor is it anywhere else. We are in uncharted territories, but this is something we must take up,” said Lucas. His bill passed a House committee on Tuesday. There’s a similar bill in the Senate.

 

SENATE BILL WOULD PREVENT COP WARNING SHOTS: Police in Indiana would be barred from firing warning shots under legislation approved by a Senate committee Tuesday (Smith, Indiana Public Media). Sen. Scott Baldwin (R-Noblesville) is a former police officer and author of the bill. He said warning shots by law enforcement should be a “very last resort.” “Any time a round leaves the muzzle of a firearm, everyone around us is in danger,” Baldwin said. But Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) doesn’t like the idea of such a statewide, blanket policy. “You’re taking away their discretion," Taylor said. "And that is not good.” Baldwin’s bill does allow prison guards to fire warning shots, only to prevent a prisoner escape.

 

SENATE BILL WOULD SET PILOT PROGRAM FOR RETIRING COAL PLANTS: Indiana state senators passed a bill on Monday that would create a pilot program to study a financing tool for retiring coal plants early (Thiele, Indiana Public Media). Much like refinancing a home, securitization allows customers to pay off the remaining costs of coal plants over a longer period of time at a lower rate — which is supposed to lower their energy bills and make the transition to renewable energy easier. But some lawmakers worry the Senate bill, as written, won’t accomplish those goals. There’s no language in the bill that guarantees rates will go down for utility customers in the pilot program. Some lawmakers and consumer advocates worry that utility customers with Centerpoint Energy — which has volunteered to participate in the pilot — will be charged twice for the cost of its retiring A.B. Brown coal plant.

 

EVANSVILLE COUNCILMAN TESTIFIES V. HB1541: Evansville City Councilman Alex Burton is taking a standing against Indiana House Bill 1541 (WFIE-TV). Burton released a testimony sent to the House Judiciary Committee expressing concerns about the bill. If passed, he says it would damage the rights of renters in the Hoosier State. According to Burton, the bill wouldn’t require landlords to provide information to renters about their legal rights, preempts housing discrimination ordinances and favors the rights of landlords over tenants. In his testimony, Burton says, “my fear is that this level of negligence will become the standard.”

 

CARBAUGH BILL WOULD INCENTIVIZE WORKING FROM HOME: Instead of attracting new businesses to Indiana, a bill in the Indiana House seeks to attract people who will work from home (Berman, WIBC). When the pandemic hit, the number of people working from home grew eightfold — half of them still are. Fort Wayne Republican Martin Carbaugh says if people can do their job from anywhere, Indiana could benefit by persuading them to do it here, so Indiana receives their income, sales and property tax payments. Carbaugh’s bill would offer remote workers up to $8,500 to get them to move to Indiana. The money could be used for moving costs, as an income tax credit, or to offset the cost of software, hardware and broadband access needed to work remotely. Carbaugh says the incentives could help rural areas in particular, who may otherwise have trouble persuading workers to give them a look as a place to settle.

 

SENATE APPROVES ALCOHOL PERMITS FOR CEDAR LAKE: A second Lake County locality is on track to win state legislative approval for additional alcohol sales permits intended to help fuel a community redevelopment plan (Carden, NWI Times). The Indiana Senate voted 46-0 Tuesday to redefine a municipal riverfront redevelopment project to also include any municipality whose boundaries contain a lake at least 750 acres in size.

 

MELTON COMMENTS ON PD MISCONDUCT DATABASE BILL: On Tuesday, Senate Bill (SB) 110, law enforcement officer misconduct database, passed out of the Senate Corrections and Criminal Code Committee with unanimous support (Howey Politics Indiana). Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Eddie Melton (D-Gary) released the following statement on the passage of this bill: “I’m thankful to my colleagues in committee for unanimously voting to move SB 110 to the Senate floor,” Sen. Melton said. “This is a huge step forward to address issues of accountability and transparency among law enforcement officers in Indiana. SB 110 would require law enforcement departments to disclose disciplinary actions against law enforcement officers, if any exist, when that officer is seeking employment with another department. The goal of this bill is to identify where issues in law enforcement lie so we can do our best to address those issues properly and efficiently."

 

CAMPBELL BILL WOULD CREATE DRIVING CARD: State Rep. Chris Campbell’s (D-West Lafayette) proposal to issue driving cards to undocumented Hoosiers failed to get a hearing in the House Roads and Transportation Committee this week (Howey Politics Indiana). House Bill 1138 would have allowed a person to attain a driver’s license or learner’s permit if they passed their driving test, regardless of lawful status in the U.S. If passed, Indiana would have joined 16 other states and Washington, D.C. with laws similar to Campbell’s proposal. “This is an issue of safety and human rights,” Campbell said. “Driving cards are a necessity for anyone to go to work, drop the kids off at school or drive to the grocery store. No one should have to live with the fear of deportation while performing basic day-to-day activities. This legislation is also proven to benefit our state. Currently, insurance policy holders must cover the $64 million in damage claims due to unlicensed and uninsured immigrant drivers. We could change that with this legislation, saving Hoosiers an average of $25 on their premiums each year. Our state could additionally see its economy grow by as much as $23 million with people no longer fearing their drive to work.

 

FORMER SUPTS OPPOSE VOUCHER EXPANSION: Three former state education chiefs have come out against plans for major expansions in Indiana’s school choice landscape and the larger-than-advertised price tags that come with them (IndyStar). Former superintendents of public instruction Suellen Reed Goddard, Glenda Ritz and Jennifer McCormick issued a letter opposing three proposals — all sponsored by Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly — to expand the state’s private school vouchers and create a new Education Scholarship Account program, allowing parents to receive the state dollars that would be spent on educating their children on a debit card to spend on education expenses like tuition, supplies or uniforms.

 

RACIAL EQUITY PARTNERSHIP PRAISES SENATE PANEL: The Indiana Business and Community Partnership for Racial Equity, a coalition comprised of major Hoosier employers and advocacy organizations, released this statement following today’s hearing in the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee (Howey Politics Indiana): “We thank the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee for conducting an inclusive and productive hearing. We welcome more robust discussion during the summer study committee where we can take a more in-depth look at public safety, police reforms and those interconnected issues that often impact progress in all communities.”

 

PFAFF BILL WOULD CREATE JOBS FOR DISABLED: House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 1313, co-authored by State Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute). The bill aims to improve the employment options available to former students with disabilities (Howey Politics Indiana). "Our goal with this bill is to empower every Hoosier who wants to work to be able to work," Pfaff said. "As we steer the state on the course to recovery, we must make sure that people with disabilities are not left behind. They deserve every opportunity to pursue their full potential in the workforce." Under this guidance, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) will inform former students who received a non-diploma certificate of recognition and certain students with an individualized education program (IEP) who withdrew from school of certain training or education opportunities.

 

MELTON SPEAKS OUT V. SB251: On Tuesday, Senate Bill (SB) 251 was momentarily defeated after failing to receive a constitutional majority to pass second reading. The bill would have required school employees to reauthorize their union dues annually, placing an unfunded mandate on schools and intentionally creating an obstacle to decrease union members (Howey Politics Indiana). Senate Democrats offered compelling arguments on why SB 251 was unnecessary and ill-timed. Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Eddie Melton (D-Gary) released the following response on his opposition to this bill: “SB 251 is a blatant attack on our Hoosier teachers and unions, and I stand firmly in opposition to this legislation” Sen. Melton said. “Just over a year ago, thousands of teachers showed up to this Statehouse to have their voices be heard on teacher pay and all of the other unfunded mandates that we put on them as a legislature.

 

MENTAL HEALTH GROUP HONORS CHARBONNEAU: A Northwest Indiana lawmaker has been named “Legislator of the Year” by the Indiana Council of Community Mental Health Centers (Carden, NWI Times). State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, was recognized for his efforts to expand telehealth services in Indiana through Senate Bill 3, which would increase the availability and reliability of remote appointments and diagnoses for Hoosiers, including mental health services.

 

Congress

 

BRAUN CITES CBO STUDY ON MINIMUM WAGE JOB LOSS: A new cost estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows that Congressional Democrats’ new reconciliation bill will kill jobs and result in billions of dollars of unfunded mandates on employers (Howey Politics Indiana). U.S. Sens. Mike Braun, Richard Burr, and Rob Portman previously asked CBO to estimate the impact that wage mandates will have for the country. CBO’s February 8 analysis of the Raise the Wage Act, which was included in the budget reconciliation bill approved by House Education and Labor Democrats on February 9, contained no analysis of unfunded mandates, nor any mention of unfunded mandates. CBO’s new analysis shows the budget reconciliation bill being pushed by Congressional Democrats contains both intergovernmental and private-sector mandates that are higher than the thresholds set by federal law. In fact, CBO estimates that by 2025—when minimum wage reaches $15 per hour under this bill—the additional annual cost to private-sector employers would be $45 billion.

 

CONGRESSMAN SUES TRUMP OVER CAPITOL SIEGE: The Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security committee accused Donald Trump in a federal lawsuit on Tuesday of inciting the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and of conspiring with his lawyer and extremist groups to try to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the presidential election he lost to Joe Biden (AP). The lawsuit from Mississippi's Rep. Bennie Thompson is part of an expected wave of litigation over the Jan. 6 riot and is believed to be the first filed by a member of Congress. It seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages. The case also names as defendants the Republican former president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and groups including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, extremist organizations that had members charged by the Justice Department with taking part in the siege.

 

State

 

ISDH: TUESDAY COVID STATS - The Indiana Department of Health announced that more than 70 COVID-19 vaccine clinics are closed today due to inclement weather (Howey Politics Indiana). A list of impacted sites can be found here and is posted at OurShot.IN.gov. Individuals who need to reschedule their appointments can click on the link in their last confirmation text message or email or call 211 if they need assistance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says individuals who receive their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within 42 days of the first dose will have full protection from the virus. Also today, the health department announced that 889 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 650,530 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard. A total of 11,805 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 40 from the previous day. Another 426 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record. To date, 3,057,498 unique individuals have been tested in Indiana, up from 3,049,828 on Monday. A total of 7,593,841 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to the state Department of Health since Feb. 26, 2020.

 

IU: BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP WEBSITE LAUNCHED - Indiana University has launched a website for the Office of Business Partnerships with the goal of managing and developing industry-academic partnerships at IU. Through its new website, IU says the OBP team will be able to bring more collaborative opportunities for business partners and IU faculty, staff, researchers and students (Inside Indiana Business). IU Associate Vice President of Business Partnerships Valerie Gill says the website is intended to showcase the impact of IU’s business partnerships. The website will also serve as a resource for internal stakeholders and businesses looking to partner with the university.

 

PURDUE: MILITARY CONTRACT TO ANALYZE LEAD USE -  Purdue University has been named by the U.S. Department of Defense to co-lead a project to reduce the reliance on lead used in electronics by the military (Inside Indiana Business). The university has been awarded $1 million during the first year of the multi-year project to accelerate the transition to lead-free electronics in aerospace, defense and other high-performance electronics. Purdue, the University of Maryland and Auburn University will lead the consortium’s Lead-Free Defense Electronics Project, which has received $40 million to be distributed over a period of five to seven years. The university says consumer and automotive electronics have been transitioning to lead-free technologies since 2006, but the DoD has been slow to address the issue.

 

BSU: PANDEMIC PUTS STATE AT 2017 LEVELS - Ball State University’s economist says the coronavirus pandemic has dropped U.S. economic growth back to where it was in 2017. The annual economic outlook says it will take a decade to get back to where we should be in 2021 (Wiechmann, Indiana Public Media). Ball State’s Michael Hicks says the U.S. economic growth of -4.6 percent in 2020 is the worst since the year 1946, when the country lost wartime manufacturing contracts. “The Indiana economy is about 6.7 percent beneath where we thought it would be right now," Hicks said. "That is a stunning decline from expected levels. I think we’ll catch back up to where we were in 2019 by the end of this year ‘til the spring of 2022. Not where we should be, right, but where we were before COVID.”

 

MEDIA: INDIANA CITIZEN TO LAUNCH NEW PLATFORM - The Indiana Citizen Education Foundation (ICEF) announced today it has launched a new citizen-engagement platform for 2021—a non-election year—which will continue ICEF’s commitment to addressing Indiana’s chronic civic health crisis at www.indianacitizen.org (Howey Politics Indiana). “With this multifaceted new website, ICEF has evolved into the first Hoosier nonprofit solely focused on providing impartial news and information on the civic life of Indiana via The Indiana Citizen,” said Bill Moreau, ICEF’s president and Citizen publisher.

 

BIG TEN: PURDUE DEFEATS MSU - Purdue guard Jaden Ivey’s brilliance comes in bursts for now. He can’t do it all the time, not yet, because he’s a freshman and that’s how freshmen are (IndyStar). But someday he’ll be a junior, like Purdue center Trevion Williams, and he’ll have a game like Williams had against Michigan State on Tuesday night. Williams was brilliant all night, scoring 28 points in 30 minutes in the Boilermakers’ 75-65 victory.

 

Nation

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN TOWN HALL IN WISCONSIN - President Biden arrived in Milwaukee on Tuesday for his first major trip since taking office, kicking off a new phase of his presidency that attempts to move past the impeachment of his predecessor and toward a more aggressive selling of his coronavirus relief plan (Washington Post). Speaking at a CNN town hall, Biden pledged that any American who wants a vaccine will have access to one by the end of July. He said he wanted many elementary and middle schools to be open five days a week by the end of April. And he said that "by next Christmas, I think we'll be in a very different circumstance." Still, the timeline in many ways remains unclear, with Biden hedging on some commitments and openly stating uncertainty about some goals. There can be a gap between when vaccine doses are distributed and when they are administered; restrictions might be in place long after they are available; and the precise meaning of schools being "open" has sometimes been murky. And even as he expressed some optimism, Biden cautioned, "I don't want to overpromise anything here."

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN TO EXTEND MORTGAGE MORATORIUM - The White House on Monday announced a program to extend mortgage relief and a moratorium on home foreclosures through June as thousands of Americans continue to struggle to keep up with payments during the coronavirus pandemic (The Hill). "The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a housing affordability crisis," the White House said in a statement. "Now, homeowners will receive urgently needed relief as we face this unprecedented national emergency. Today’s action builds on steps the President took on Day One to extend foreclosure moratoriums for federally guaranteed mortgages."

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN, HARRIS SCHEDULES - President Biden and VP Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 11:30 a.m. and have lunch together at 12:30 p.m. They’ll meet with labor leaders to talk Covid relief and infrastructure at 3:30 p.m. in the Oval Office. The White House Covid-19 response team and public health officials will brief at 11 a.m. Press secretary Jen Psaki will brief at 12:30 p.m. along with Anne Heuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology.

 

CAPITOL: POLICE EXPRESS NO CONFIDENCE IN LEADERS - Capitol Police officers voiced their displeasure with the department's top leaders with an overwhelming vote of no confidence, after scores of officers were injured, one officer died and two committed suicide following the January 6 assault on the Capitol by crowds of President Trump's supporters (CBS News). The U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, the union that represents thousands of U.S. Capitol Police officers, announced that 92% of Capitol Police officers voted that they had no confidence in Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman, and substantial majorities also voted no confidence in six other top leaders in the department. The previous chief, Steven Sund, resigned under pressure as officials cast blame on him for the massive security failures of January 6 on him.

 

TRUMP45: GIULIANI OUT AS COUNSEL - Former President Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, is "not currently representing President Trump in any legal matters," senior Trump adviser Jason Miller told CNN on Tuesday. The former New York City mayor was the face of Trump's failed bid to overturn the presidential election results, but his legal work with the former President dates back years. Trump had signaled frustration with Giuliani last month after he became the first president in US history to be impeached twice. He told his staff to stop paying Giuliani's legal fees, a person familiar with the matter previously told CNN, though aides were not clear if Trump was serious about his instructions.

 

TRUMP45: DOMINION TO SUE PILLOW GUY - MAGA diehard and pillow magnate Mike Lindell is the next target of a Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit over his wild claims about nonexistent election-fraud conspiracy, with the lead attorney representing Dominion telling The Daily Beast he expects to file the suit “imminently” (Daily Beast). Lindell, a staunch Donald Trump ally and founder of the MyPillow company, became a prominent voice and financial backer in attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and, alongside Trumpist attorneys Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, made a series of false allegations that China and others somehow hacked voting machines and swung the 2020 election to Joe Biden. “He has doubled down and tripled down. He has made himself a higher public profile with his documentary,” Tom Clare, an attorney representing Dominion, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday afternoon.

 

MEDIA: HEDGE FUND ACQUIRES TRIBUNE CO. - Alden Global Capital, an investment fund known for acquiring and slashing the operations of newspapers, said it would take over Tribune Publishing Co. of Chicago, the owner of the Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel and New York Daily News (Washington Post). As part of the deal, Tribune will spin off the Baltimore Sun to a nonprofit organization headed by Stewart W. Bainum Jr., a longtime Maryland business executive and former state legislator. Bainum’s nonprofit Sunlight for All Institute will also acquire the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, the Carroll County Times in Maryland and several other Baltimore-area weeklies and magazines.

 

WEATHER: 20 KILLED IN SEVERE U.S. WEATHER - A winter storm that left millions without power in record-breaking cold weather claimed more lives, including three people found dead after a tornado hit a seaside town in North Carolina and four family members who perished in a Houston-area house fire while using a fireplace to stay warm (AP). The storm that overwhelmed power grids and immobilized the Southern Plains on Tuesday carried heavy snow and freezing rain into New England and the Deep South and left behind painfully low temperatures. Wind-chill warnings extended from Canada into Mexico. In all, at least 20 deaths were reported. Other causes included car crashes and carbon monoxide poisoning. The weather also threatened to affect the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination effort. President Joe Biden’s administration said delays in vaccine shipments and deliveries were likely.

 

TEXAS: MILLIONS WITHOUT POWER IN FREEZING TEMPS - Anger over Texas’ power grid failing in the face of a record winter freeze mounted Tuesday as millions of residents in the energy capital of the U.S. remained shivering with no assurances that their electricity and heat — out for 36 hours or longer in many homes — would return soon or stay on once it finally does (AP). “I know people are angry and frustrated,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who woke up to more than 1 million people still without power in his city. “So am I.” In all, between 2 and 3 million customers in Texas still had no power nearly two full days after historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge in demand for electricity to warm up homes unaccustomed to such extreme lows, buckling the state’s power grid and causing widespread blackouts. More bad weather, including freezing rain, began arriving Tuesday night.

 

ILLINOIS: CHICAGO COVID RESTAURANT RESTRICTIONS EASED - Chicago restaurants and bars will be allowed to serve even more indoor diners at once, under loosened rules announced Tuesday (Chicago Sun-Times). Indoor service will be allowed at either 40% capacity, or 50 people, whichever is lower, beginning immediately, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office announced. The expansion is made possible by the continued decline in new COVID-19 cases per day, which has remained under 400, based on the seven-day rolling average, for each of the last three days.

 

Local

 

JEFFERSONVILLE: MAYOR MOORE REVIEWS 'UNPRECEDENTED YEAR' — Laying out the past year's accomplishments and vowing that Jeffersonville residents will enjoy more progress in 2021, Mayor Mike Moore presented his state of the city address virtually Tuesday (Suddeath, News & Tribune). While the majority of his comments focused on the city's response to the pandemic, improvements made through completed construction projects and the opening of businesses during 2020, Moore did reiterate his disagreement with the decision by the Greater Clark School Board to close two Jeffersonville schools this year. “My administration has worked hard to be a good partner to Greater Clark. We have built roads to schools to alleviate traffic issues, gifted the Nachand Fieldhouse to Franklin Square to use at its gymnasium, created Jeffersonville's Promise to give every Jeff High graduate the opportunity at a free college education, and we're donating a portion of our tax revenues to the school system,” Moore said. “So, it breaks my heart that — despite of all our best efforts to be a good partner — the school board recently decided not only to eliminate certified enrichment programs like art, music and gym in some schools, but they also elected to close two more Jeffersonville schools altogether.”

 

SOUTH BEND: MUELLER RECEIVES HOMELESS GROUP IDEAS - Establishing a homeless coordinator position, creating more permanent supportive housing and exploring whether to launch a new fund for homeless services are among the recommendations that a mayor’s group plans to present Monday to the South Bend Common Council (Parrott, South Bend Tribune). Mayor James Mueller in August appointed the 31-member group to come up with solutions to the area’s homeless problems, two months after a homeless tent encampment formed on an empty city-owned lot downtown on South Michigan Street.

 

KOKOMO: STELLANTIS FURLOUGHS EXTENDED - The furlough of local Stellantis workers who build 9-speed transmissions has been extended another two weeks due to a growing global shortage of microchips (Kokomo Tribune). Matt Jarvis, president of United Auto Workers Local 685, which represents the plants in Kokomo and Tipton, said in a video that although the downtime has been extended for most workers, one shift has been brought back at the Tipton Transmission Plant to build some 9-speeds. One shift also has been brought back at the Kokomo Transmission Plant and Indiana Transmission Plant 1 to support the limited production of the transmission in Tipton. Jarvis said the units are being made for diesel vehicles in the Latin American market. Around 1,800 workers were initially furloughed for the first two weeks of February.

 

GOSHEN: CITY OPTS FOR UNIFORM PAYROLL SYSTEM — Goshen Board of Public Works and Safety members approved the purchase of a modern, uniform payroll system for city employees during their meeting Monday afternoon (Kline, Goshen News). At the meeting, board members approved a request by Goshen Clerk-Treasurer Adam Scharf for permission to enter into a three-year contract with Ohio-based Right Stuff to oversee payroll services for the city across all departments. “There are more than two dozen different methods currently used to record and track city employees’ time. Whether generated as handwritten paper, ribbon-printed punchcard, or other form, each timecard is physically delivered to central payroll in the clerk-treasurer’s office for manual, individual data entry into ADP online,” Scharf said of the need for the new system. “Accurate administration and tracking of pay, accruals, and benefits across all departments and with so many variations based on labor contracts, various classifications, seniority, etc., is a Herculean task.”

 

MICHIGAN CITY: TIFs KEEP CITY TAXES LOW — Tax increment financing districts are a savings to taxpayers, City Council members and Redevelopment Commission members were told recently. The discussion came amid tensions between council members and the RDC (Ross, NWI Times). “Without TIF, our tax rate would go up. The people in Michigan City would pay a higher tax rate,” RDC President Chris Chatfield said. The city’s tax rate would be increased 64 cents without the TIF if all of the projects currently being undertaken were to continue, said Any Mouser, financial adviser to the RDC.

 

ELKHART COUNTY: COMMISSIONERS OPPOSED TO SOLAR/WIND BILL - County officials expressed opposition to a bill they say would rob communities of the ability to set conditions locally for wind and solar projects (Fouts, Elkhart Truth). The Elkhart County Board of Commissioners on Monday passed a resolution urging the state Legislature to vote down HB 1381, which sets minimum standards for wind and solar power installations. It bars communities in Indiana from establishing their own standards that are more stringent.

 

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY: SHERIFF BODY CAMS NOT OPERATIONAL - Three months after 57 body cameras and 54 car cameras were ordered, the AXON equipment arrived in Columbus from Arizona last October for deputies on the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department (Webber, Columbus Republic). It’s now mid-February, and county council member Jorge Morales says the cameras are still sitting unused on a shelf. “We have spent a lot of money buying body cameras,” said Morales in reference to the $800,000 investment that will be paid over a five-year-period. “We are still waiting on (the county’s information technology department) to start putting this stuff together,” Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers said in an interview a few days after the council meeting.