POLL SHOWS 87% WANT MUELLER REPORT RELEASED: Nearly nine in 10 Americans say Robert Mueller's investigators should produce a full, public report on their findings, a sentiment that crosses party lines, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. And nearly half of Americans think Donald Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government to help get Trump elected (48%), while 42% say there was no collusion. Overall, 87% say investigators should release a public report, 9% that they should not. Support for a public release stands at 80% among Republicans and those who approve of the way the President is handling his job, and at 92% among Democrats and those who disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job. Among independents, 88% say a report should be released.

BOSMA STILL BACKS REDISTRICTING COMMISSION: House Speaker Brian Bosma still believes Indiana should opt for a redistricting commission but said the Senate will block any such effort (Curry, Howey Politics Indiana). "No, my opinion has not changed. I have authored or co-authored the bill twice, we’ve passed it through the House twice over the last 10 years," Bosma said Thursday. "It’s not going to get satisfactory attention in the Senate, so it probably doesn’t warrant going through the knock-down-drag-out here over it. Many of the newer folks have not experienced the discussions in the past so it would take quite awhile to get through it without much result. I doubt Rep. Wesco will be moving the bill but that’s entirely up to him." Q: Back to redistricting I know there’s a Senate proposal that appears similar to another senate bill last year that didn’t get a hearing in the House, just laying out requirements for drawing the lines. Is that going to get a hearing this year? "You’ll have to ask the Chairman that, I don’t schedule the hearings or decide which bills will get heard as I keep reminding y’all," Bosma said. "I don’t know, that one last year came late in the process. I do a little bit of local redistricting and the elements that were in the Walker bill didn’t actually match what I consider to be the right case law. We’ll have a little bit more time to look at it this year, so we have those requirements there for counties and cities and towns, I’m not opposed to that approach at all. They just need to be the right requirements under case law and not adding or subtracting something that existing case law supports."

BIAS CRIME BILL STALLS IN SENATE:  Despite Senate President Pro Tempore Rod Bray saying he was hopeful, or perhaps even expecting, that the Senate would be moving a bias crime bill to committee this week, no such movement materialized (Curry, Howey Politics Indiana). None of the bills submitted for consideration have moved out of Rules and Legislative Procedure yet. Bray had no updates for reporters on the subject, but Speaker of the House Brian Bosma says legislators have been working on the issue. He says there are about three or four different options available, including coming out of session with no bill at all, which the speaker admitted is not his preferred outcome. “But we’re actively discussing the issue with the governor, with Senator Bray, and it’s my hope that we pass a bill that’s satisfactory to a strong majority in both the House and Senate” Bosma said Thursday afternoon.

GAMING BILL ADVANCES IN SENATE: Senate lawmakers began Wednesday what one person called the first act of a three-act drama – debate on major changes to Indiana’s gambling industry (Smith, Indiana Public Media). The bill does three big things: it allows a Gary casino to move inland, away from the waterfront. It allows a casino to open in Terre Haute. And it legalizes sports wagering, including online. The sports wagering portion drew wide support among those who testified. But the other provisions generate sharp divisions. In support were people from the cities of Terre Haute and Gary. Gary Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson says allowing the casino to move to a better location would be a game-changer. “The ability to create jobs, the ability to increase our tax revenue,” Freeman-Wilson says. Perhaps not surprisingly, the state’s other casinos don’t like the bill, even though it includes provisions that help compensate communities that lose money because of shifting gaming revenues. But John Hammond, who lobbies for Ameristar Casino in East Chicago – near Gary – says that doesn’t help the casinos themselves. “That would not necessarily stave off the job loss and therefore there’d be a revenue loss on our end,” Hammond says. The Senate Public Policy Committee unanimously advanced the bill.

PRESSURE MOUNTS FOR U.S./CHINA TRADE DEAL: As a deadline approaches for a high-stakes trade deal between the U.S. and China, some top American business figures who fear the economic and market consequences of a failure are pushing both sides to compromise (Wall Street Journal). White House negotiators are preparing to meet with their counterparts in Beijing next week in an effort to strike a comprehensive accord that President Trump insists include deep structural changes to China’s economy. But, after several months of talks, the two sides are still far apart on major issues, as new multibillion-dollar U.S. trade penalties are set to start next month if no accord is achieved. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who are heading the talks next week, lack the usual essentials for a comprehensive deal. The two sides don’t have a draft agreement that specifies where they agree and disagree. And Mr. Trump said he was unlikely to agree to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping before the March 1 deadline to hammer out final compromises. “Normally at this stage of negotiations, you’d be exchanging drafts of a joint text,” said Christopher Adams, a former Trump Treasury Department official and trade negotiator who is now at the Covington & Burling law firm.

LAWMAKERS INCH TOWARD SHUTDOWN DEAL; TRUMP LAYS OUT DEMANDS: Congressional negotiators are nearing a deal on border security to avoid a government shutdown — if the president will accept it (Politico). Democrats and Republicans have been trading offers all week; any deal is likely to provide funding for technology and fencing on the southern border, according to senators and aides. Republicans were preparing a counteroffer to the latest Democratic proposal on Wednesday night, according to one senator familiar with negotiations, though Democrats said they were still waiting for it on Thursday afternoon. Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) went to the White House on Thursday to brief President Donald Trump on the negotiations and efforts to steer clear of a shutdown at the end of next week. He seemed buoyed after the sit-down with Vice President Mike Pence and Trump, who told Shelby it was time for negotiators to "wrap it up, get a legislative solution." “This is the most positive I’ve been or I’ve seen in the talks since, oh gosh, maybe ever … since last fall," Shelby said. "If we can work within some of the parameters that we talked about today, that we’ll keep to ourselves right now, I think he would sign it." Shelby added that by Monday, "We hope we’ve got a deal. If we haven’t got a deal we probably won’t get a deal."

PENCE SAYS 2ND SHUTDOWN COULD HAPPEN: President Trump called for unity during the State of the Union, but another government shutdown looms in 10 days if negotiators can't agree on a border security bill Mr. Trump would sign. In an interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor, Vice President Mike Pence called the situation at the border a "humanitarian crisis," and echoed the president's call for a wall. "I think what people heard last night was the president made it very clear we -- we -- he'll build a wall one way or another," Pence said. "He's calling on the Congress to do their job. And I hope that  as the American people looked on that Congress will heed that call." Pence added: "we agreed to reopen the government for three weeks because after talking to Democrat rank-and-file members of the Senate and of the House we were told that they were willing to work with us. They were willing to fund a barrier at our Southern border and to address the other priorities that the president laid out in that common sense approach. We've taken them at their word, but the American people saw this president as absolutely determined to keep his word to secure our border and -- and end the crisis of illegal immigration."

ROBERTS SWING VOTE ON LA ABORTION LAW - Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined with the Supreme Court’s liberals Thursday night to block a Louisiana law that opponents say would close most of the state’s abortion clinics and leave it with only one doctor eligible to perform the procedure (Washington Post). The justices may yet consider whether the 2014 law — requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals — unduly burdens women’s access to abortion. The Louisiana law has never been enforced, and the Supreme Court in 2016 found a nearly identical Texas law to be unconstitutional. “The Supreme Court has stepped in under the wire to protect the rights of Louisiana women,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented the law’s challengers.

TRUMP VOWS TO PROTECT LIFE AT PRAYER BREAKFAST: President Trump, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Thursday, assured his audience that his administration will protect religious liberties (CBS News). "I will never let you down," the president told his audience — which included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "I can say that. Never."  The president has relied on religious conservatives, particularly evangelical Christians, for much of his base. His speech came after he devoted some of his State of the Union address to the issue of late-term abortion, a key issue for many conservative Christians — especially after bills in New York and Virginia aiming to ease late-term abortion restrictions. The president reiterated his commitment to the pro-life movement Thursday.  "All children born and unborn are made in the holy image of God," Mr. Trump told the prayer breakfast. Mr. Trump also brought up religious persecution abroad, human trafficking and other issues he says his administration is committed to addressing.

CARSON TO HEAD COUNTER TERRORISM PANEL: Democratic U.S. Rep. Andre Carson of Indianapolis has been named the chairman of the subcommittee on counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and counterproliferation on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (AP). The subcommittee oversees the intelligence community’s ability to provide timely information on terrorists, proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, and hard targets. Carson served as the ranking member of the subcommittee on emerging threats in the 115th Congress. He has served on the House Intelligence Committee since 2015. The subcommittee chairmanship is Carson’s first since being elected to Congress in 2008.

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: The American people deserve to read and understand the report on the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Period. - Brian A. Howey


CROWN POINT CLERK ENTERS MAYORAL RACE: Crown Point Clerk-treasurer Kristie Dressel is throwing her hat in the ring to be the city’s next mayor (Kirkman, NWI Times). Two days after announcing plans to withdraw her re-election bid for clerk-treasurer on the Republican ticket, Dressel told The Times Thursday she plans on running against incumbent Mayor David Uran, a Democrat. “I have sat for three years as treasurer and watched uncontrollable spending,” Dressel said, claiming the city has experienced drastic changes in attorney fees, credit rating and high debt levels. “We have over 14 bonds outstanding for millions of dollars. Taxpayers will be responsible to pay those over the next 10 years.” In response to Dressel's claims, Uran said, "As a city we have to invest in ourselves," adding the net worth of the community has continued to increase during his three terms as mayor.

LEBANON MAYOR GENTRY TO SEEK REELECTION: Lebanon Mayor Matt Gentry, officially filed to run for re-election in the May 7th Primary for the Republican nomination for Lebanon mayor (Howey Politics Indiana). Gentry was accompanied by his wife Abby Gentry early Friday morning at the Boone County Clerks Office. Gentry was first elected in 2015 and is currently the youngest serving Republican mayor in Indiana at age 29. Gentry enters an already crowded field of 3 candidates which includes long-time politician and current Boone County Republican Party Chair Debbie Ottinger. “I am excited that voters will have a clear choice in regard to the vision for our community's future. Some want to look backwards towards how it's always been done. In contrast, I believe we must embrace our past while continuing to look forward and prepare for Lebanon's bright future,” Gentry said.

WINNECKE STILL UNOPPOSED: Almost anyone may run for mayor of Evansville without approval from anyone — but the filing deadline is noon Friday, and no challenger for Mayor Lloyd Winnecke has emerged (Langhorne, Evansville Courier & Press). For a minute, it might have been Mike Talarzyk. Talarzyk, a 39-year-old bus driver for Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, said he seriously considered filing for mayor as a Democrat but ultimately abandoned the idea. Instead, Talarzyk filed for one of three at-large seats on the City Council. "I saw it was uncontested, and last year when I went to the polls to vote, I was disappointed," he said. "There was no one running for anything. It was more like a waste of time because I was eventually voting for the people who were already on the ticket, you know? "I'd been hearing, 'No one's running, no one's running, no one's running,' and so I considered throwing my hat in the ring just so there was a contested (race.)" But Talarzyk, who hasn't been politically active, ultimately thought better of it. Republican Winnecke has at least $614,000 cash on hand, an army of volunteers, a professional campaign organization and the support of many prominent Democrats. The mountain was a little too high to climb.

SCHULTZ TELLS PURDUE TRUMP SHOULDN'T BE REELECTED: Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz hasn't said for sure whether he'll run for president. But, in a speech Thursday afternoon at Purdue University, he gave the reasons he is considering a run in 2020. One of the main reasons is Donald Trump (Davis, WIBC). "Trump's first two years in office have resulted in significant damage here at home and abroad," said Schultz, speaking inside Fowler Hall. "He has embroiled U.S. industry in a damaging and unnecessary trade war, resulting in a tax on consumer goods and services and for farmers across the country have lost access to valuable markets that are not going to come back for many years." Schultz is contemplating running as an independent. “I think the people in Indiana are going to go through a period of time where they’re going to realize that Donald Trump did not fulfill the promises he made to the people in Indiana, and for that matter the rest of the country,” Schultz said (Indiana Public Media).

BIDEN SEEKS TO LOCKDOWN SUPPORT: Joe Biden is working one of his most important constituencies as he closes in on a decision about running for president: Capitol Hill Democrats (Politico). In recent weeks, the former vice president and longtime Democratic senator has spoken with former congressional colleagues about how he sees his chances in 2020, his timing for entering the race, and what it would take for him to compete in a crowded Democratic primary. Biden has an established fan base among Democratic lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, where he served for 36 years. The outreach indicates that Biden is looking to lock down establishment support on the front end of a campaign to give him an edge in a splintered field.

DEMOCRATS FLIRT WITH SOCIALISM: Democrats are flirting with socialism in ways they carefully and clearly ran away from in the past, handing President Trump a new way to unify Republicans — and to club his opponents. It started with Democrats sitting silently as he railed against socialism in his State of the Union speech. It intensified with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's release of a Green New Deal, a vague policy manifesto loaded with big-government policies (Axios). The surge is unlikely to abate: Young, Twitter- and social-savvy Democrats favor socialism over capitalism. And no Democrat in politics today plays the social media game with more savvy than AOC.  The White House, the Trump campaign — and the outside political advisers in Trump’s orbit — seem to be universally excited by the Green New Deal and many Democrats' embrace of socialism. Andy Surabian, Republican strategist and former White House official, told Axios' Alayna Treene: "I think you’re gonna see Republicans start pointing out that the people who will be affected by this plan won’t be billionaires or rich people. It’s the middle, lower classes and poverty stricken areas of America. The only people who can afford to be environmentalists are billionaires."

OBST SIGNALS PENCE WILL ENGAGE: Marty Obst, senior political adviser to Vice President Pence, told Alayna: "While the President and Vice President support the Venezuelan people's struggle for freedom, the Democratic Party continues its lurch toward socialism" (Axios). "I would envision that the campaign will highlight the stark differences between the two parties on this policy among many others." Be smart: Obst's quote is a signal that Pence and the political operation that surrounds him — which will play an important role in the Trump re-elect — plan to make Democratic socialism one of their main lines of attack.

General Assembly

ELECTION CODE CHANGES MADE: The General Assembly moved forward on a few changes to Indiana’s election code this week (Curry, Howey Politics Indiana). In the House, the Committee on Elections and Apportionment passed two bills, HB1311 and HB1597. HB1311, authored by Rep. Thomas Saunders, proposes that the deadline for receiving most absentee ballot applications be moved up four days, which would put it at twelve days before the election. Rep. Peggy Mayfield’s HB1597 updates the state’s campaign finance reporting system, requiring candidates for legislative offices to file reports electronically. The Senate passed Sen. Bohacek’s SB194, removing a clause in Indiana law which allowed voters to be challenged for party affiliation during primary elections and forced them to sign a pledge saying they would vote for the party’s general candidate in November.

PANEL VOTES TO RAISE SMOKING AGE: The legal age to buy tobacco and vaping liquids in Indiana would be raised to 21 and the state would start taxing those e-cigarette materials under bills advancing in the General Assembly (AP). The Indiana Senate Health Committee voted 8-2 Wednesday to advance a bill raising from 18 the minimum age to buy cigarettes, other tobacco products or e-liquids. It also would prohibit anyone younger than 18 from buying or possessing vaping liquids even if they didn't contain nicotine. Supporters say raising the age could improve the state's health as fewer people start smoking. The House Ways and Means Committee endorsed a 4 cents per-milliliter vaping liquid tax. Vaping business officials argue the tax could hurt the industry, but the bill sponsor says it aims to tax the liquids similarly as cigarettes.

EFFORT TO UPDATE STATE HIV LAW: A bill to modernize Indiana laws related to HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, was heard by lawmakers Wednesday. The proposal would update laws to reflect current science and medicine (Sheridan, Indiana Public Media). Indiana laws related to the transmission of HIV were written in the '90s. Rep. Ed Clere (R-New Albany), who authored the bill, says a lot has changed since then. "When I was in high school HIV was a death sentence and it’s not today, thankfully," says Clere. "Today it’s a chronic condition." IUPUI associate professor Dr. Carrie Foote leads Indiana’s HIV Modernization movement. She has lived with the virus for 20 years. "Thanks to the advances in modern medicine, I am here with a very successful career and my husband and teenage son do not have HIV," says Foote. The bill removes stigmatized legal language, changes penalties and updates duty to warn laws. Dr. Bree Weaver, HIV expert at Indiana University's School of Medicine, says people don’t get tested for fear of prosecution. "Outdated and stigmatizing laws are negatively affecting our ability to bring people with HIV into care and thereby bring the HIV epidemic to an end," says Weaver.

BILL WOULD EASE WINERY, DISTILLERY RESTRICTIONS: Wineries and distilleries could have more freedom to sell and promote their products under a bill being considered in the Indiana Legislature (Erdody, IBJ). House Bill 1422, which is authored by New Albany Republican Ed Clere, would change some distribution restrictions to better align with what breweries are already allowed to do. For example, one barrier for wineries and distilleries that include restaurants is that they are not allowed to take alcohol produced on their properties directly to their restaurants. Instead, they have to sell it to a distributor, the distributor has to take it to a warehouse and then return it and sell it back to the winery or distillery. Then the product can be sold in the restaurant. “It’s just unnecessary,” Clere said. Breweries are already allowed to have what’s known as a continuous flow, meaning beer can travel directly from the production facility to the restaurant either through a tap or in bottles. “We’ve created some privileges for breweries that wineries and distilleries don’t have, and we’re trying to help them catch up,” Clere said. The bill would also addresses the rules for wineries and distilleries at farmers markets. Wineries, which are already allowed to sell by the bottle at farmers markets, would now have permission to give samples without needing to obtain a special permit.

TIF BILL ADVANCES AFTER CONTENTIOUS TESTIMONY: After nearly two hours of intense – and at times contentious – testimony and follow-up questions, an Indiana House committee voted 8-3 Wednesday afternoon to advance an amended version of H.B. 1596 (Goforth, CNHI). Now that it has cleared the House’s government and regulation committee, the bill will move on to the House floor as early as Monday, said Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, who authored H.B. 1596, which tightens existing language around the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) dollars. Several government, education and business leaders from Jeffersonville, New Albany and Clarksville traveled to the statehouse to testify for and against the bill Wednesday. At the heart of the heated dialogue was Jeffersonville’s Promise, the city’s new program that offers free tuition to Ivy Tech to qualified Jeffersonville High School students starting with the class of 2019. The City of Jeffersonville, through its redevelopment commission, has pledged to commit a total of $750,000 of TIF dollars over the next five years to fund the program.

DOULA SERVICES BILL ADVANCES: On Thursday, State Senator Jean Breaux’s (D-Indianapolis) proposal on Medicaid covered doula services, Senate Bill (SB) 416, passed out of the Senate Appropriations committee unanimously (Howey Politics Indiana). Infant and maternal mortality in Indiana are devastatingly high and disproportionally affect the African-American community. Doulas are professionals who are trained in childbirth and provide emotional and physical support to a mother who is expecting, in labor or has recently given birth. These individuals are instrumental in helping expectant mothers book necessary appointments throughout pregnancy and advocate for the mom during childbirth. Sen. Breaux had the following comments on the progression of SB 416: “For women of color, which is why this bill is so important to me, the impacts would be astonishing. Doulas would ensure that healthcare practitioners are listening to the concerns of the mom, her questions are being answered and that her preferences are being followed through every step of the birthing process. “The impacts of this bill wouldn’t stop at child birth; this would increase the amount of healthy babies that are born in Indiana. Doulas instruct mothers on safe sleeping practices and watch for signs of post-partum depression after the mother has given birth.

ALCOHOL LAW CHANGES PONDERED: This lawmaking session could see changes in alcohol rules at Indiana restaurants and grocery stores (Smith, Indiana Public Media). A House committee this week heard more than an hour of testimony from stakeholders on a bill that makes dozens of changes to Indiana’s alcohol laws. Some provisions affect grocery stores: clerks would have to be at least 21 years old and go through training to ring up alcohol. And the stores would have to keep all their alcohol confined to one area. Grant Monahan lobbies for grocery stores, which oppose that provision. “No one knows better how to merchandise a retail store other than retailers," Monahan says. "And retailers do a very good job of that, always with the customer in mind.” The bill also allows restaurants to let their customers bring in outside bottles of wine, for a fee set by the restaurants. But restaurant owner Kelly Ford doesn’t like that idea. She says she’ll feel forced into doing so by her competitors. “This hurts my profits,” Ford says. The House committee will consider amendments and vote on the bill next week.

MOBILE DRIVERS LICENSE BILL ADVANCES: The Senate Appropriations Committee announced that they "unanimously" approved a proposal that would allow Indiana drivers to keep their licenses on their mobile phones, on Thursday (WRTV). Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, introduced the bill on Wednesday, January 16, that sought to permit Hoosiers the option of carrying their plastic driver's license, or having it on their phone through an app. “Mobile driver's licenses are not only more convenient for Hoosiers; but as we move into a forever growing digital age, we must utilize all the tools that are available to us,” Sen. Melton said. “We have also taken into consideration all of the important safety measures needed for this kind of technology.” The proposed bill now moves to Senate for further consideration.


YOUNG'S FFA CHARTER AMENDMENT ACT PASSES: U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) today announced that the Senate has unanimously passed his legislation, the National FFA Organization's Federal Charter Amendments Act. This bill will update and modernize the charter for the Future Farmers of America (FFA) to better reflect agriculture education in the 21st Century. The legislation now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law (Howey Politics Indiana). “The entire Senate agreed - it’s time to update agriculture education so our students are better prepared for careers in this vital industry,” said Senator Young. “Our bipartisan bill is now inches away from becoming law and helping our young leaders succeed in the booming agriculture sector.” The National FFA Organization's Federal Charter Amendments Act updates the FFA’s charter to allow for regional diversity among student officer vice presidents. Additionally, the legislation provides governing flexibility for national officers in order to reduce operational delays caused by vacant seats. The bill passed the House on January 22, 2019 and passed the Senate on February 5, 2019.

YOUNG, SHAHEEN RAISE YEMEN CONCERNS: U.S. Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today in advance of the upcoming Yemen certification deadline on February 9, 2019. After voicing significant concerns with the certification issued in September 2018, the letter sent to Secretary Pompeo today calls for a certification that better reflects the facts on the ground in Yemen (Howey Politics Indiana). “We remain concerned that the previous Yemen certification submitted to Congress did not accurately reflect known facts on the ground. As such, any follow-on certification should take all evidence into account and succinctly demonstrate to the Saudi-led coalition that the American people and their representatives in Congress will not stand for the continued disregard of the security and humanitarian interests of the U.S.,” the Senators wrote.

WALORSKI CALLS FOR INFANTICIDE VOTE: U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today spoke on the House floor in support of the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (H.R. 962), legislation that would prohibit infanticide and ensure babies born alive after abortion attempts receive the same medical care and legal protections as babies born any other way (Howey Politics Indiana). “Unfortunately, H.R. 962 is needed more than ever with the passage of a radical law in New York state that essentially legalizes infanticide,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “That law allows abortions up to and even after birth and ends safeguards that protect babies born alive after failed abortions. Similar bills are being debated in states like Virginia, where the governor spoke of making newborns comfortable while doctors and patients decide if they should be left to die. We must stand up against this radical legislation and protect the rights of all infants. This is not a partisan issue. It is simply what’s right.” Walorski is an original co-sponsor of the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

LUGAR CENTER RATES HIGH: The Lugar Center has been ranked in the top 5% of U.S. think tanks by the Lauder Institute's Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania for the third year in a row (Howey Politics Indiana). According to the 2018 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report, The Lugar Center ranked 76th among 1,872 think tanks in the United States, placing it within the top 5% nationally. Read the 2018 report here. In 2016, The Lugar Center ranked 73rd, and in 2017, The Lugar Center ranked 74th, placing it in the top 5% of think tanks in the United States. The Lugar Center also was recognized as a "Best New Think Tank" in both the 2014 and 2015 editions of the Global Go Think Tank Index Report.

BARR CONFIRMATION PASSES JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday along party lines to advance William P. Barr’s nomination to become attorney general, a procedural step that sets the stage for his confirmation vote next week before the entire Senate (Washington Post). Because Republicans control the Senate, Barr is likely to be confirmed easily — though potentially without any Democratic support. At the Judiciary Committee’s hearing Thursday, all 10 panel Democrats voted against moving the nomination forward, while all 12 Republicans voted to advance it.

HOUSE PANEL SEEKS TRUMP'S TAX RETURNS: A House panel is set to hold a much-anticipated hearing on Thursday that will put Democrats’ desire to get President Trump’s tax returns in the spotlight (The Hill). The House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee is holding a hearing about legislative proposals and tax law concerning presidential tax returns. “The Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee is holding this important hearing so that Members and the public will learn about existing law, precedents and tradition, and legislative proposals to improve the integrity of our democracy,” subcommittee Chairman John Lewis (D-Ga.) said in a statement.

DEMOCRATS SEEK 'GREEN NEW DEAL': Liberal Democrats put flesh on their “Green New Deal” slogan on Thursday with a sweeping resolution intended to redefine the national debate on climate change by calling for the United States to eliminate additional emissions of carbon by 2030 (New York Times). The measure, drafted by freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, is intended to answer the demand, by the party’s restive base, for a grand strategy that combats climate change, creates jobs and offers an affirmative response to the challenge to core party values posed by President Trump. The resolution has more breadth than detail and is so ambitious that Republicans greeted it with derision. Its legislative prospects are bleak in the foreseeable future; Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has no plan to bring it to the floor for a vote, according to a Democratic leadership aide with direct knowledge of her plans.

FORMER REP. DINGELL DIES: Former U.S. Rep. John David Dingell Jr., who was one of the U.S. House’s most powerful chairmen and helped write and pass some of the most consequential legislation in the nation's history," died yesterday at 92, the Detroit Free Press's Todd Spangler writes. Dingell, of Dearborn, served nearly 60 years in the House, making him the longest-serving member in Congress' history." His wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, who now holds his seat, confirmed his death. "He was my love," she said, beginning to cry.

SPOTTED AT THE PARTY: Spotted at House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's birthday party held Thursday night at Pearl Street Warehouse: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Shahira Knight, Brad Rateike and Reps. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Ron Estes (R-Kan.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.), Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), Mark Green (R-Tenn.), Will Hurd (R-Texas), John Joyce (R-Pa.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Dan Meuser (R-Pa.), Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) and Don Young (R-Alaska).


GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB MAKES LAKE JUDGE APPOINTMENT - Gov. Eric J. Holcomb today announced Aleksandra Dimitrijevic as his appointment to the Lake County Superior Court. She will succeed Judge Jesse Villalpando (Howey Politics Indiana). Dimitrijevic has served in a variety of positions at the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office for more than 15 years, including currently as a violent crimes prosecuting attorney. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Boston University and her law degree from Indiana University McKinney School of Law. Dimitrijevic will be sworn in as Judge of the Lake County Superior Court on a date to be determined.

GOVERNOR: DRUG COMMISSION TO MEET TODAY - Indiana’s Commission to Combat Drug Abuse will meet at 10 a.m. today at the Indiana State Library (Howey Politics Indiana). At the meeting, Executive Director for Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement Jim McClelland and other commission members will discuss the continued response to Indiana’s drug crisis and receive updates regarding behavioral health workforce.

GOVERNOR: CROUCH SCHEDULE - Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch's public schedule for Feb. 8, 2019. Crouch visits Dusty Barn Distillery, 2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m., CT, 6861 Carson School Rd., Mt. Vernon, IN.

ISP: MOTORISTS WARNED OF I-69 POTHOLES - Indiana State Police is warning drivers of potholes on I-69 (WIBC). Sgt. John Bowling with ISP Pendleton says tires are bursting on I-69 between the 220 mile marker in Anderson and the 234 mile marker in Daleville. He says most of the flat tires are happening in the passing lanes in both northbound and southbound directions. Sgt. Bowling recommends a max speed of 45 miles per hour and says drivers should watch for INDOT crews and tow trucks.

EPA: WHITING FIRM TARGETED - The Environmental Protection Agency and owners of Whiting Metals again are at odds after the federal agency pinned their facility to recently discovered elevated air emissions of a toxic metal other than lead (Cross, NWI Times). New air monitoring data released Thursday by EPA show elevated levels of another heavy metal — cadmium — coming from the facility, the agency said. EPA’s analysis of currently available data indicates cadmium levels were above the federal safe screening levels for acute inhalation of 30 nanograms per cubic meter on eight days between Aug. 3 and Dec. 17, EPA said. “As with the lead data, EPA used wind direction and hours of operation to establish that Whiting Metals is the source of the cadmium. EPA will continue to evaluate the concentrations of other metals, but, at this time, just cadmium is elevated,” the EPA said. Jeff Condon, a managing partner with Whiting Metals, said Thursday that is “a complete lie.” “It wasn’t us. First of all, cadmium is not involved in our process at all. There’s zero cadmium in our scrap, and we’ve shown the data to EPA to prove it,” Condon said.

STEEL: IMPORTS FALL 27% - Steel imports fell by 27.2 percent month-over-month in November, the most recent month for which data was available (Pete, NWI Times). The American Iron and Steel Institute reported the United States imported 2.3 million tons of steel that month, including 1.9 million tons of finished steel products that would require no further processing in the United States, down 4.1 percent as compared to October. With the Section 232 tariffs of 25 percent on foreign-made steel in place, steel imports totaled 31.8 million tons through the first 11 months of last year, down 10.8 percent as compared to the same period the previous year. Imports of finished steel products fell 13.2 percent year-over-year to 24 million tons during the first 11 months of 2018. Finished steel products grabbed 23 percent of the market share over that period, including 21 percent in November 2018, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. South Korea, Japan, Germany, Turkey and Taiwan were the biggest offshore suppliers of steel to the United States through the first 11 months of last year, according to the AISI.

MEDIA: DALY SUING WISH-TV FOR DEFAMATION - Former race car driver and freelance race analyst Derek Daly, is suing WISH TV in Indianapolis, claiming defamation (WIBC). Daly said in the lawsuit that the TV station inaccurately reported on his use of a racial slur that led to the retirement of Colts play-by-play announcer Bob Lamey, and refused to retract the story, reported the Indy Star. Daly is suing for $25 million, plus punitive damages. WISH TV said in a statement in August, shortly after the report, that they stand by their reporting, and that it was accurate. Daly claims the station incorrectly reported Daly used the "n-word" in an interview with Lamey, in the early 1980s. Daily said he admitted to the use of the term in another interview with another person.


WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP/XI SUMMIT AFTER MARCH 1 DEADLINE - President Donald Trump said Thursday he is unlikely to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a March 1 deadline for the two countries to reach a trade deal (Politico). "No," he told reporters at a White House event when asked if he still expected to meet with Xi this month. "Unlikely," he said. Trump did not rule out a meeting at a later date but said nothing had been set.

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP BLASTS DEMOCRATS OVER PROBES - President Trump took fresh aim Thursday at House Democrats, claiming they are going “nuts” with unprecedented investigations into his administration and businesses that are starting to unfold on Capitol Hill (Washington Post). Trump’s assessment — in morning tweets — drew a sharp rebuke from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who accused Trump of “projecting his own unruliness” and vowed that Democrats would “not surrender our constitutional responsibility for oversight.”

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP TO SIGN EXEC ORDER ON CHINESE FIRM - President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order, banning Chinese telecom equipment from U.S. wireless networks before a major industry conference at the end of February, three sources told POLITICO. The administration plans to release the directive, part of its broader effort to protect the U.S. from cyber threats, before MWC Barcelona, formerly known as Mobile World Congress, which takes place Feb. 25 to Feb. 28. The current plan is for Trump to sign the long-delayed executive order next week, according to a source close to the administration, who requested anonymity to candidly discuss internal deliberations. “There’s a big push to get it out before MWC,” said an industry source familiar with the matter, who also requested anonymity to speak candidly.

WHITE HOUSE: ANOTHER RUSSIAN/U.S. NUKE TREATY ENDANGERED - Another U.S.-Russian nuclear pact is in danger following the U.S. move to withdraw from a Cold War-era arms control treaty, a senior Russian diplomat said Thursday (AP). Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov charged that the U.S. refusal to negotiate an extension to the New Start treaty signals Washington's intention to let it expire in 2021. He warned that time is running out to save the pact, which was signed in 2010 by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Ryabkov said that the U.S. has shown "no readiness or desire" to engage in substantive talks on extending the pact, which limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. U.S. Undersecretary of State Andrea Thompson argued in Wednesday's phone call with reporters that there is enough time to discuss the treaty's extension. "We have until 2021," Thompson said. "It is a relatively simple treaty to extend, so we have time with that."

WHITE HOUSE: PENCE PROMISES MARS, MOON EXPLORATION - Vice President Mike Pence is honoring the nation's fallen astronauts during a NASA day of remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery (Journal Times). Memorials at the cemetery honor those who perished when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on Jan. 28, 1986, and when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere on Feb. 1, 2003. Pence recalled both events, saying that when the Columbia broke up, so did the hearts of the American people. Pence tells NASA staff and family members of fallen astronauts that President Donald Trump's administration is committed to the United States leading in space exploration. Pence says the president has made it clear "we are going back to the moon, and once we're back on the moon, the United States is going to Mars."

WHITE HOUSE: CONWAY ASSAULTED IN RESTAURANT - Kellyanne Conway says that she was grabbed and shaken by a woman while out with her teenage daughter in a Maryland restaurant late last year. In an interview with CNN, the White House counselor to President Donald Trump talked about the alleged assault for the first time publicly. She recounted how the woman, who was later identified by authorities as a 63-year-old Maryland resident, approached her "screaming her head off" at Uncle Julio's, a Mexican restaurant in the DC suburb of Bethesda, as Conway's middle school-aged daughter looked on. "Somebody was grabbing me from behind, grabbing my arms, and was shaking me to the point where I felt maybe somebody was hugging me," Conway said in the interview for an upcoming story for CNN's series, "Badass Women of Washington."

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP SCHEDULE - President Trump will receive his annual physical exam at Walter Reed this afternoon. He will leave the White House around noon, and will arrive back around 4:40 p.m.

JUSTICE: JUSTICE: WHITAKER TO TESTIFY TODAY - After a heated back-and-forth, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, bowed to the wishes of the acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, that he not issue a subpoena while Mr. Whitaker testifies before the committee as scheduled on Friday (New York Times). Earlier in the day, the Justice Department sent the committee a letter demanding a commitment in writing that any subpoena not be used during the hearing, a promise that Mr. Nadler, Democrat of New York, initially would not give. But after negotiations that began early in the evening, the committee agreed verbally and in writing not to issue a subpoena on or before Feb. 8, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec. “In light of that commitment, Acting Attorney General Whitaker looks forward to voluntarily appearing at tomorrow’s hearing and discussing the great work of the Department of Justice,” Ms. Kupec said.

PENTAGON: SYRIAN PULLOUT IN APRIL - The U.S. military is preparing to pull all American forces out of Syria by the end of April, even though the Trump administration has yet to come up with a plan to protect its Kurdish partners from attack when they leave, current and former U.S. officials said (Wall Street Journal). With U.S.-backed fighters poised to seize the final Syrian sanctuaries held by Islamic State in the coming days, the U.S. military is turning its attention toward a withdrawal of American forces in the coming weeks, these officials said on Thursday. Unless the Trump administration alters course, the military plans to pull a significant portion of its forces out by mid-March, with a full withdrawal coming by the end of April, they said.

VA: SPATE OF PARKING LOT SUICIDES - There have been 19 suicides that occurred on VA campuses from October 2017 to November 2018, seven of them in parking lots, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (Washington Post). While studies show that every suicide is highly complex — influenced by genetics, financial uncertainty, relationship loss and other factors — mental-health experts worry that veterans taking their lives on VA property has become a desperate form of protest against a system that some veterans feel hasn’t helped them. The most recent parking lot suicide occurred weeks before Christmas in St. Petersburg, Fla. Marine Col. Jim Turner, 55, dressed in his uniform blues and medals, sat on top of his military and VA records and killed himself with a rifle outside the Bay Pines Department of Veterans Affairs.

MEDIA: BEZOS ACCUSES NATIONAL ENQUIRER OF BLACKMAIL - Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos said Thursday that he was the target of an extortion and blackmail effort by the National Enquirer, which he accused of threatening to publish intimate pictures of him unless he backed off an investigation of the tabloid (Washington Post). In an extraordinary post to the online publishing platform Medium, Bezos said the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc., made the threat after he began investigating how the tabloid obtained text messages that revealed his relationship with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez. Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, wrote that the Enquirer wanted him to make a false public statement that he and his security consultant, Gavin de Becker, “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” Bezos declined to do so. Instead, he published what he said were emails from Enquirer executives to a lawyer representing de Becker. In one, top Enquirer editor Dylan Howard appears to suggest that the tabloid would publish a series of photos of Bezos and of Sanchez, some of them salacious, if AMI’s terms weren’t met.

MEDIA: MBS SOUGHT HELP FROM VICE MEDIA - One sunny afternoon in August on a yacht off the Red Sea coast, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Vice Media Executive Chairman Shane Smith discussed an unlikely collaboration (Wall Street Journal). A Saudi government-controlled company had already hired Vice to produce documentaries on social reforms in the ultraconservative kingdom. The new proposal would elevate relations to a joint venture, similar to Saudi pairings with other Western media outlets, according to people briefed on the meeting. Prince Mohammed was advancing a Saudi strategy evident in the earlier joint ventures: Build an international media empire to combat the kingdom’s rivals and remake its image in the West, according to bankers, consultants and people with knowledge of the Saudi effort. Shane Smith, one of the co-founders of Vice Media, appears at a New Delhi business summit in 2017. Discussions of a joint venture with Saudi Arabia are unlikely to move forward, according to people familiar with the matter.  “In their view, the problem is that they haven’t been telling their own story up to now, and they’d like to start,” said Elana DeLozier, a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Saudi Arabia’s government press office and royal court didn’t comment in response to questions about Saudi media ventures. Amazon Inc. founder Jeff Bezos on Thursday pointed to additional efforts on the part of Saudi Arabia to polish its image in the Western media. In a blog post, Mr. Bezos alleged National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc. had tried to blackmail him and potentially colluded with Saudi Arabia to damage his reputation.

MEDIA: DIGITAL FIRST TAKES AIM AT GANNETT BOARD - Digital First Media, the hedge-fund-backed newspaper chain whose takeover bid for Gannett Co. was rejected, has launched a proxy fight in an attempt to remake Gannett’s board of directors, according to people familiar with the matter (Wall Street Journal). Digital First is one of Gannett’s largest shareholders with about 7.5% of its stock. It nominated a slate of six candidates Thursday, the people said, and will solicit shareholder votes for them to replace a majority of the board members at the company’s annual meeting this spring. Gannett, the publisher of USA Today and other daily newspapers, earlier this week rejected the $1.4 billion takeover bid from Digital First, which is officially known as MNG Enterprises Inc., and questioned the bid’s credibility.

ECONOMY SEAR SURVIVES BANKRUPTCY - Sears lives. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Drain approved the sale of most of the retailer's assets to a hedge fund controlled by Eddie Lampert, the company's chairman, for $5.2 billion (CNN). The decision will keep 425 stores open and save the jobs of about 45,000 employees. In his decision Thursday afternoon, Drain rejected arguments from a committee of creditors, including landlords and major vendors, who had urged the court to shut the company down and liquidate the assets. The creditors, who are owed more than $3 billion by Sears, argued that closing the company was the best way to return the most money. Those creditors will now have to wait to find out how much they get of the money they are owed, but it is likely to be pennies on the dollar in many cases.

TECHNOLOGY: WELLS FARGO SYSTEMS CRASH - Wells Fargo WFC -2.32% & Co. said it experienced systems failures Thursday that left customers unable to access online banking and mobile applications (Wall Street Journal). The intermittent outages stemmed from a shutdown at one of its facilities where smoke was noticed during routine maintenance. The bank said it was working quickly to restore services. Bank branches, ATMs and some other services were resolved late Thursday though not all systems. “We want our customers to know that this is a contained issue affecting one of our facilities, and not due to any cybersecurity event or attack,” the bank said in a statement.

ILLINOIS: FORD TO EXPAND 2 CHICAGO PLANTS - Ford Motor Co. announced Thursday it will invest $1 billion to upgrade its two Chicago-area plants and hire 500 workers here (Chicago Sun-Times). Ford plans to expand capacity to produce an all-new Ford Explorer, Police Interceptor Utility and Lincoln Aviator. The automaker operates an assembly plant on the city’s Southeast Side and a stamping plant in south suburban Chicago Heights. “When it’s all finished, Chicago Assembly will have an all new state-of-the-art body shop, an all-new paint shop and new tooling to build this new lineup,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations, said during a news conference at McCormick Place ahead of the Chicago Auto Show.

VIRGINIA: ACCUSER DETAILS FAIRFAX ALLEGATIONS - As Virginia continues to grapple with a multiple scandals rocking the top politicians in the state's government, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax is vehemently denying details of a sexual assault allegation (CBS News). His accuser, Dr. Vanessa Tyson, alleges that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. She revealed her recollection of the encounter Wednesday, on the same day that the state's attorney general, Mark Herring, admitted to wearing blackface as a college student. This was Tyson's first public statement about the incident, but according to a source close to Tyson's legal team, the professor had alerted Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott about the alleged assault over a year ago. An aide to Congressman Scott confirmed to CBS News that Tyson first approached him about the alleged encounter while the Washington Post was investigating her claims last year.


MBS THREATENED A 'BULLET' FOR KHASHOGGI - Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia told a top aide in a conversation in 2017 that he would use “a bullet” on Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist killed in October, if Mr. Khashoggi did not return to the kingdom and end his criticism of the Saudi government, according to current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of intelligence reports (New York Times). The conversation, intercepted by American intelligence agencies, is the most detailed evidence to date that the crown prince considered killing Mr. Khashoggi long before a team of Saudi operatives strangled him inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and dismembered his body using a bone saw. Mr. Khashoggi’s murder prompted weeks of outrage around the world and among both parties in Washington, where senior lawmakers called for an investigation into who was responsible. The Saudi government has denied that the young crown prince played any role in the killing, and President Trump has publicly shown little interest in trying to get the facts about who was responsible.


CITIES: MAYOR SNYDER TRIAL IN 14TH DAY - Dealing with towing companies wasn't one of his priorities when Troy Williams became Portage's police chief in 2012, Williams told jurors Thursday morning (Russell, NWI Times). Williams said he had other priorities, and dealing with companies was "no big deal," so he left it to others in his administration. Williams took the stand Thursday morning in Portage Mayor James Snyder's public corruption trial. Snyder is facing two bribery counts and one tax obstruction charge. The trial is in its 14th day. Williams said he believed for the first four years of his tenure that Waffco Towing had a storage yard in the city on Old Porter Road. It wasn't until January 2016, when a fellow city employee was arrested for drunken driving and Snyder and former Director of Administration Joe Calhoun went to retrieve that employee's car, that he learned Waffco had closed that lot. During a sometimes contentious cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson questioned Williams about why he gave Ambassador Towing four to five chances to correct issues before removing them from the city's tow list, while not even calling Waffco to advise them of the issue. Benson also questioned Williams about the city's tow agreement not requiring a storage lot within city limits. Snyder has been charged with accepting a $12,000 bribe from John Cortina for placing Cortina and his towing partner, Samson Towing, on the city's list. Samson was placed on the list less than a month after Waffco was removed. Cortina had partnered with Ambassador prior to Samson.

CITIES: AMAZON EYES SOUTH BEND SITE - Could online retail giant Amazon be coming to South Bend? A document filed recently with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, and others filed with the South Bend Building Department, suggest an Amazon Delivery Center may indeed end up near the airport, on the city’s northwest side (Bauer, South Bend Tribune). The state document says the Amazon Delivery Center would be located in a warehouse at Adams and Mayflower roads, as part of a Great Lakes Capital business park. The Amazon facility would fill 84,200 square feet of the building and employ 103 people. Documents filed with the city also suggest Amazon has plans for South Bend. The city’s building commissioner, Chuck Bulot, said in an email that “although we were not given confirmation that this renovation (build-out) is for Amazon, the submitted plans indicate the project is indeed for Amazon.”

CITIES: DRAG QUEEN COSTS LIBRARY TRUSTEE - The Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library trustee who lost her seat Wednesday amid the controversy over the Drag Queen Story Hour said she's been "lied to, bullied, intimidated and threatened" by District 2 County Councilman Tom Shetler Jr., over the Feb. 23 event (Evansville Courier & Press). Barbara Coyle Williams was not reappointed Wednesday as the Vanderburgh County Council's appointee to the EVPL board.  She said she felt bullied and intimidated by Shetler's constant calls over the issue.  "It went from concerned citizen to 'this is not going to happen in this community.' He said, 'If you don't do something, you're probably not going to be reappointed to the library board.'" Shetler said he didn't intimidate Williams but rather called out of "courtesy." He said he nominated Williams to join the EVPL board four years ago.

CITIES: PENDLETON COUNCIL POSTPONES PD CHIEF HEARING - A hearing scheduled for Saturday at which embattled Pendleton Police Chief Marc Farrer was expected to appeal the Town Council's vote to fire him two weeks ago has been postponed, Council President Jessica Smith announced Wednesday (Hirsch, Anderson Herald-Bulletin). Instead, at its regular meeting on Thursday, Feb. 14, the council intends to amend the notice of charges that were filed against Farrer last month. "We're going to amend the notice of charges to address all the disciplinary issues that have come to light in the last couple of weeks that wasn't available at the executive session on Jan. 24," she said. Because of legal constraints, Smith said she was not at liberty to discuss specifics of the new allegations, but said more information would be made available to the public after the notice of charges is amended. "This is amazing to me," said council member Chet Babb when contacted by a reporter about the change Wednesday evening. "Nobody from the Town Council has called me. ... I don't know nothing about the hearing being postponed."

CITIES: STATE SAYS SOUTH BEND NOT PREPARED FOR SCHOOL PLAN - South Bend schools officials who arrived at the Indiana Board of Education meeting in Indianapolis on Wednesday said they were ready to talk about a vision to fix a failing middle school here (Martin, South Bend Tribune). But they never had the chance. The item about Navarre Middle School was removed from the state board’s meeting agenda. David Freitas, the state board member who represents an area that includes South Bend, said he and others have been working with the district for some time on a draft plan. “We thought the draft plan would be formalized by this morning, and we would review it and make a decision,” Freitas said. But by Tuesday night, he said, there were still a few issues that needed to be resolved. “Rather than presenting a report that was not fully fleshed out yet, I felt it was better to take it off the agenda and have them come back at our March meeting.”

CITIES: HOGSETT ANNOUNCES 2,000 HOMES SUCCESS - Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett has announced the city surpassed its goal of renovating 2,000 abandoned homes as part of the “2,000 Homes in Two Years” initiative, which launched in 2017 (Inside Indiana Business). The initiative aims to revamp abandoned properties to create affordable housing while simultaneously demolishing homes that are beyond repair and often facilitate crime. The city is working with many departments for the “2,000 Homes” initiative, including the Departments of Metropolitan Development and Business and Neighborhood Services to coordinate demolition, rehabilitation, repair, sale, or new construction.

CITIES: HOGSETT HONORS RIVERSIDE NEIGHBORHOOD - Mayor Joe Hogsett announced this week that Riverside will be the city’s ‘Neighborhood of the Month’ for February 2019. The ‘Neighborhood of the Month’ program highlights Indianapolis neighborhood initiatives, works to engage community groups, and promotes projects by City departments. “The Riverside community is a hidden gem in our city, but it is the neighbors and partnerships built over the years that truly make it special,” Mayor Hogsett said. “Residents have rallied together for years to improve this community for all who call it home, and I am honored to recognize Riverside as Neighborhood of the Month for February.”

CITIES: NEW MICHIGAN CITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR - A Michigan City native who spent more than a decade in Washington and Chicago has returned home and hopes to be a factor in helping her hometown grow (Michigan City News-Dispatch). The Economic Development Corporation Michigan City has announce Jenilee Haynes Peterson will be its new Economic Development Manager, a position which focuses on the Business Retention and Expansion program, building community partnerships, and Workforce Development initiatives. “I am really excited about coming home and looking forward to playing a role in the improvement and development of my hometown," said Peterson, who was born and raised in Michigan City and returned because it's where she wanted to raise her new family.

COUNTIES: LAKE SHERIFF OUTSOURCING FOOD SERVICE - Costs have been trimmed significantly, thanks to outsourcing food services at the Lake County jail and a long-overdue personnel reorganization, Sheriff Oscar Martinez said Thursday (Racke, NWI Times). Speaking at a workshop ahead of next week’s County Council meeting, Martinez said the sheriff’s department was poised to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in food service expenses because a private vendor is now running food operations at the jail. The vendor contract with Summit Food Services was bid at $1.2 million — about 37 percent less than the $1.9 million the county had been spending when it ran the jail’s food program. Assuming the jail population holds steady, the sheriff’s department could save as much as $700,000 this fiscal year from the food service outsourcing alone, according to Martinez. The savings could free up money for other priorities within the department such as raises for police and corrections officers, Martinez said.

COUNTIES: BROWN SCHOOLS FIRE TEACHER FOR BLACKFACE- Brown County Schools has terminated a substitute teacher and coach who posted a photo of himself in blackface online (FOX59). The school district says it offered a plan to Richard Gist for him to return to his position as a substitute teacher and assistant football coach for the 2019-2020 school year, but he declined the offer.