TRUMP STALKS OUT OF MEETING WITH DEMS: Talks between President Trump and congressional Democrats aimed at ending a partial government shutdown collapsed in acrimony and disarray Wednesday, with the president walking out of a White House meeting and calling it “a total waste of time” after Democrats rejected his demand for border wall funding (Washington Post). Furious Democrats accused Trump of slamming his hand on the table before he exited, and they said he ignored their pleas to reopen the federal government as they continue to negotiate over his border wall demands. With the shutdown nearing the three-week mark, some 800,000 workers are about to lose their first paycheck. “He thinks maybe they could just ask their father for more money. But they can’t,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), an implicit dig at Trump’s wealthy upbringing. “Well unfortunately, the president just got up and walked out,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).” “He asked Speaker Pelosi, “Will you agree to my wall?” She said no. And he just got up and said, ‘Then we have nothing to discuss’ and he just walked out.” Trump himself tweeted: “Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time. I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!” “The president walked into the room and passed out candy,” said Vice President Mike Pence. “I don’t recall him ever raising his voice or slamming his hand.”

TRUMP SAYS WALL IS 'MEDIEVAL SOLUTION' THAT WORKS: President Donald Trump dug in Wednesday on his demand for border wall funding, stressing the need for southern border wall to stem the flow of illegal immigration and arguing it would be politically "foolish" for him to agree to reopen the government unless his demands are met (CNN). "They say it's a medieval solution, a wall. It's true, because it worked then and it works even better now," Trump said during a bill signing event in the Oval Office. Beyond his views on the effectiveness of a border wall, Trump also made clear that he is sticking by that demand because he could face a political backlash from some Republicans if he backs down. "Right now, if I did something that was foolish like gave up on border security, the first ones that would hit me are my senators. They'd be angry at me," Trump said, expressing publicly what he's told lawmakers and allies over the past several weeks. "The second ones would be the House and the third ones would be, frankly, my base and a lot of Republicans out there and a lot of Democrats that want to see border security."

REP. HURD CALLS FOR 21ST CENTURY BORDER SOLUTIONS: On MSNBC's Morning Joe  as well as CNN  Tuesday night, Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd, whose district includes hundreds of miles of border, came off as a guy everyone ought to be listening to (Howey Politics Indiana). “Building a 30-foot high concrete structure from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” said Hurd, a former CIA agent who added that if this was a true crisis, "the people dealing with it should get paid."  Hurd is a proponent of funding a "smart wall" that would combine technologies such as drones and other surveillance tools, as well as more funds and assets for the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He notes that most illegal drugs come via "ports of entry," and not via immigrants.

BROOKS EMPATHIZES WITH UNPAID FED WORKERS: The government shutdown needs to end soon, and Democrat and Republican leaders should be talking and negotiating constantly until they find a solution, said Rep. Susan Brooks (Davis, WIBC)). Brooks, on Tony Katz and the Morning News on WIBC, said she agrees with the president that border security is the number one priority for lawmakers, and that the situation at the border is a crisis. She said she visited the border and a holding facility near there. "We were holding over 1,300 boys...from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, about ages eight to 15," she said. Brooks said much of the crisis is about unaccompanied minors that end up here, with no provision to get them back to their countries and families. "The cartels in Mexico and Central America are controlling this whole migration of people. It's the cartels that control the smuggling and the human trafficking that's taking place." Brooks said the negotiations between Republican and Democrat leaders have to continue until they find a solution and end the partial government shutdown. She said there are bills being considered to pay federal workers who are working during the shutdown, who are only getting what amounts to an IOU. "I've been a federal employee. I'm having my pay withheld. But, in the past when I was U.S. attorney, I led an office of federal employees. It's incredibly distressing to federal employees who don't know when their next paycheck is going to hit their bank accounts," said Brooks.

COAST GUARD EMPLOYEES ADVISED TO HOLD GARAGE SALES: Employees of the U.S. Coast Guard who are facing a long U.S. government shutdown just received a suggestion: To get by without pay, consider holding a garage sale, babysitting, dog-walking or serving as a "mystery shopper. Washington Post). The suggestions were part of a five-page tip sheet published by the Coast Guard Support Program, an employee-assistance arm of the service often known as CG SUPRT. It is designated to offer Coast Guard members help with mental-health issues or other concerns about their lives, including financial wellness. 'Bankruptcy is a last option,' the document said."

TRUMP SUGGESTS WALL FUNDING OUTSIDE OF CONGRESS: Democrats remained firmly opposed to funding President Trump’s border wall ahead of planned meetings with the president later in the day, while Mr. Trump said he was prepared to bypass Congress to build the wall if necessary (Wall Street Journal). In a bill-signing ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the White House, Mr. Trump said that if Congress couldn’t fund his border demands, “we’ll go about it in a different manner.” “I think we might work a deal, and if we don’t we might go that route,” he said, referring to his declaring a national emergency. He said he had the “absolute right” to declare one, and added that his “threshold” for doing so is if he and Congress can’t work out a deal. “I really believe the Democrats and the Republicans are working together,” he said.

WHITE HOUSE TRIES TO HOLD JITTERY GOP IN LINE: The White House is trying to hold jittery congressional Republicans in line on the 19th day of the partial government shutdown, with no end in sight to the impasse over President Donald Trump's demand for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border (AP). There's growing concern about the toll the shutdown is taking on everyday Americans, including disruptions in payments to farmers and trouble for home buyers who are seeking government-backed mortgage loans — "serious stuff," according to Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, urged colleagues to approve spending bills that would reopen various agencies, "so that whether it's the Department of the Interior or it is the IRS, those folks can get back to work. I'd like to see that." Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called the standoff "completely unnecessary and contrived. People expect their government to work. ... This obviously is not working." Trump was to get a personal sense of the concern —and perhaps questions about his strategy — from those in his own party at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. But there was no sign that he was backing down from his demand for $5.7 billion for the border wall in exchange for ending the shutdown. Late in the day, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders were to return to the White House to meet with him and renew negotiations that have shown no apparent progress in the past week.

SBA RELEASES SCATHING REPORT ON VETERANS COMMISSION: A brigadier general says hundreds of his fellow veterans missed out on valuable services because of mistakes made by the state (WRTV). A scathing audit just released by the State Board of Accounts said the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs and its oversight panel, the Indiana Veterans’ Affairs Commission, failed to adopt rules and written procedures for several funds.The audit said IDVA was supposed to create rules for Grants for Veterans’ Services including addressing application procedures, eligibility criteria, selection procedures, and verification of use of funds. Brigadier general James Bauerle said his group, The Military Veterans Coalition of Indiana, fought in 2017 to get $2 million to help veterans affected by PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and homelessness. However, Bauerle said because no rules were in place, hundreds of veterans lost out on services that could have helped them feel better and get off the street. “It’s very, very disheartening and it makes me angry,” said Bauerle. “I and others worked so hard at the General Assembly to help those veterans in need. To see our key agencies not doing their job and not helping and abusing the trust of the veterans and the population, I think that's absolutely unforgivable.” Bauerle said in 2017 the legislature allocated money for veterans with PTSD and TBIs to undergo hyperbaric oxygen therapy at five different hospitals. “It was supposed to be a pilot program and the evidence produced would be assembled and brought back to the Governor and General Assembly to prove hyperbaric oxygen therapy does in fact improve significantly veterans who suffer from TBI and PTSD,” said Bauerle. “Now I find out in this audit report that we don’t even have the rules to issue that money to people.”

USS INDIANAPOLIS SURVIVORS MEET NEW SUB CREW: Survivors of USS Indianapolis (CA 35) met with the crew of the Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Indianapolis (LCS 17) to screen a documentary, “USS Indianapolis: The Final Chapter”, at Naval Station Mayport on Monday (Howey Politics Indiana). The Vulcan’s Productions documentary shares the discovery of the once-lost, Portland-class heavy cruiser Indianapolis, or “Indy”, by Research Vessel Petrel, owned by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen. “This film is important for tying the crew to the Indianapolis because it gives them a sense of history,” said Commander Colin Kane, commanding officer of Indianapolis (LCS 17). “I really hope that it drives this home because it will bring to the forefront the sacrifices that these Sailors made back in World War II.” Before viewing the documentary, survivors of the Indianapolis shared their experiences surrounding the events of the attack, in 1945. “He was all messed up,” said Harold Bray, a veteran recounting his efforts to help a fellow crew member during the attack. “His lip’s all blistered, he was floating around. I grabbed him and pulled him in. I tried to tie him to the raft, but I guess I didn’t get a good knot on him. He just disappeared.” Marines and Sailors were adrift at sea for nearly five days without food or potable water. Many were injured, covered in thick oil from the damaged ship, or taken by sharks. “I never thought about dying out there,” said Bray. “I was 18 years old. Who dies at 18?” The documentary chronicled Indianapolis’ victories, mission, attack and the life of a few of her crew members after the war. “This shows their fate and that they had not been forgotten,” said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Cesar A. Torres, assigned to Indianapolis (LCS 17). “It inspires me to be a better Sailor.”

ANGRY PARENTS CAUSING SHORTAGE IN OFFICIALS, IHSAA SAYS: Verbal abuse by parents is the main reason why there is a shortage of game and event officials at the Indiana High School Athletic Association (Darling, WIBC). That's according to IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox in an open letter to all parents of student-athletes at Indiana's high schools. In an interview with WISH-TV, Cox said parents need to either "cool it" or not come to their child's athletic event. "Right now there is a critical shortage of officials," Cox said. "We have more officials that are 60 years of age or higher than we do 30 years of age or lower. If you do the math we are eventually going to run out of officials." With out officials there are no athletic events at all, says Cox, which keeps them from being able to teach the lessons they are trying to teach through high school athletics. "There are a lot of lessons you learn in athletics," Cox continued. "You learn to win and win with grace and dignity, but you also learn how to lose. Losing is bad, it's not fatal. We need to make sure we teach young people both these lessons." One example Cox points to as an example of why parents need to calm down at high school sporting events is last month's double forfeit at a girls' basketball game between Gary 21st Century and Hammond. Cox added, if you would like to be a part of the solution to the shortage of high school officials, you can sign up to become a licensed official at HighSchoolOfficials.com.

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: The very people we depend on for our nation's security - Homeland Security, intelligence, Department of Defense, Justice, Agriculture, border security, customs agents, TSA workers, consumer protection - are getting screwed by the very government they are charged to serve. Think about that, folks. Many of these folks live paycheck to paycheck and they won't get one on Friday. This is an unmitigated outrage. Profiles in courage? I see nothing but cowardice and malfeasance from the White House to Capitol Hill. - Brian A. Howey



Campaigns

MERRITT EXPECTED TO DECLARE FOR INDY MAYOR: State Sen. Jim Merritt has called a noon press conference today in what is expected to launch a Republican Indianapolis mayoral campaign (Howey Politics Indiana). "We will talk about that tomorrow but I am excited about the future of Indianapolis but we have a lot of patchwork going on the last three years. We need long term bold solutions and we will be talking about that tomorrow at noon," Merritt said (WTHR-TV). Mayor Joe Hogsett announced his bid for re-election in December. Businessman John Schmitz and truck driver Christopher Moore are also running.

COUNCILMAN CRAWFORD FILES FOR FORT WAYNE MAYOR: Fort Wayne City Councilman John Crawford officially filed paperwork today declaring his intent to seek the Republican nomination for Fort Wayne mayor (Gong, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Speaking to reporters at Allen County Republican Headquarters, Crawford said his platform will focus on fiscal conservatism, public safety and crime, the opioid crisis and public health, economic development and collaborative leadership. Crawford, R-at large, is expected to run against fellow Republican Tim Smith in the May 7 Republican primary. If successful, Crawford will face Mayor Tom Henry in November. Crawford, an oncologist, was first elected to City Council in 1995. “We will have a positive message to tell people the ways we plan to make citizens' lives better. We will spend our time giving citizens reasons to vote for us rather than tear down our opponents," Crawford said in a statement. “Republicans need to stay positive, avoiding negative attacks on each other so we will have the best chance to unify the party after the primary and retake the Mayor's office,” Crawford said. “If I am fortunate enough to win the Republican primary, I will do everything possible to unite our party so we can win as a team.”

JENSEN KICKS OFF NOBLESVILLE MAYORAL CAMPAIGN: Surrounded by family, Chris Jensen officially filed to be on the Republican ballot for Mayor of Noblesville in the May 2019 primary (Howey Politics Indiana). “I have been overwhelmed and humbled by the support we have received since announcing this candidacy in June,” Jensen said. “Residents of Noblesville are excited about a fresh new vision for our city’s next chapter and I am ready to continue working to earn your vote. With your support, we can continue to build a Noblesville that invests in infrastructure, develops a strong workforce, protects and enhances our historic downtown, and transforms how we approach public safety.” Jensen is a lifelong Noblesville resident and serves as a member and past President of the Noblesville Common Council. He serves on the board of the Noblesville High School Alumni Association and Nickel Plate Arts. Jensen and his wife, Julie, are volunteers and members at Grace Church in Noblesville. They are both Butler University graduates and are parents to CJ, Vivian and Hank.

ROBERSON TO DECLARE FOR ELKHART MAYOR: Rod Roberson, a former sports star and city councilman, announced Wednesday he is running for mayor of Elkhart, making him the first candidate to publicly begin his campaign since incumbent Mayor Tim Neese ended his bid for a second term (South Bend Tribune). Roberson, a Democrat, served on the Elkhart Common Council from 2000 through 2015, when he decided not to seek a fifth term. A city native, Roberson was an all-state basketball and football player at Elkhart Central High School and later played both sports at Northwestern University, where he graduated with an economics degree. After a career in the private sector, Roberson served as executive director of Church Community Services, an Elkhart nonprofit focused on poverty, and has most recently been director of co-curricular programming for Elkhart Community Schools. He has served on the boards of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart General Hospital, Heart City Health Center, and the local United Way and YMCA. Roberson will hold a campaign announcement event at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the downtown Elkhart Civic Plaza. Neese, a Republican, announced in December he would not seek-re-election this year. No Republicans have yet formally announced their candidacy.

MOORE ANNOUNCES FOR KOKOMO MAYOR: Howard County Commissioner Tyler Moore formally announced today that he is seeking the Republican nomination for Kokomo Mayor during an event at the Gingerbread House Bakery. Moore has served as County Commissioner for the past 10 years (Howey Politics Indiana). Moore grew up in Kokomo and graduated from Kokomo High School in 1989 before attending and graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1993. After five years of working in the South Bend/Elkhart area, he returned to Kokomo to work with his parents as Escrow Manager at Moore Title & Escrow. “My family’s roots in this area go back generations,” said Moore, referencing his great(x4) grandfather Miami Indian Chief Jean Baptiste Richardville, after whom this area was originally named Richardville County. “I love this city and I want to see it continue to grow and thrive for my family and for yours. As Mayor, you can expect more from me. You can expect better roads, a greater emphasis on public safety, and the sound and transparent management of taxpayer money.”

HOWARD DEMS REACT TO MOORE CANDIDACY: Howard County Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy Skiles reacted to Commissioner Tyler Moore's candidacy on a site redeveloped by Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight (Howey Politics Indiana). "It is flattering that Tyler Moore chose one of Greg Goodnight’s largest accomplishments as the location to announce his campaign for another political office," Skiles said. "The Depot District is a shining example of what strong and proactive leadership with the right ideas can do for a City. Greg’s vision turned that neighborhood around. Just 10 years ago, that area was nearly vacant and dilapidated. Greg got to work and revitalized these areas along with the rest of Kokomo. Commissioner Moore showcasing this area merely highlights Greg’s record of accomplishments. It is also flattering that Commissioner Moore chose to quote Greg’s 2018 State of the City address about the importance of investing in neighborhoods. If Commissioner Moore talks like Greg Goodnight and supports Greg Goodnight's vision, then what is his real reason for running for Mayor?"

KOKOMO MAYORAL CANDIDATE INTERFERED WITH SON'S JAILING: An internal Kokomo Police Department memo shows that former Capt. Kevin Summers interrupted a 2016 traffic stop in an attempt to halt his son’s arrest and avoid the embarrassment that could result from a booking at the Howard County Jail (Myers, Kokomo Tribune). The memo, obtained by the Tribune through a public records request, describes an incident that took place while Summers was running for countywide office and involved him telling an Indiana State Police trooper that his son was “innocent” before acknowledging he didn’t want the 24-year-old’s “name in the paper.” Undated, the internal document was written by KPD Maj. Tony Arnett and sent to Police Chief Rob Baker and recounts intimate details of conversations that took place on the side of Dixon Road between Summers and the trooper.

CRUSE TO CHALLENGE RICHMOND'S MAYOR SNOW: Jack Cruse first to officially jump into the race for Richmond mayor. That would set him up to face his former boss, Dave Snow, in the Democratic primary (Richmond Palladium-Item).

FORT WAYNE CLERK SEEKS REELECTION: Fort Wayne City Clerk Lana Keesling today formally announced plans to run for a second term in 2019 (Gong, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). "I have been honored to serve as Fort Wayne City Clerk for the last three years. I am mindful of the trust the citizens have placed in me and continue to work to keep that trust," Keesling said in a statement. "As I strive to achieve the goals we set at the start of my term, I am excited with the progress and energized to continue the momentum." Keesling, a Republican, began her first term as city clerk in January 2016, replacing retired City Clerk Sandy Kennedy.

ZODY BLASTS HOLCOMB OVER WORKFORCE: Gov. Eric Holcomb has said workforce development is the ‘defining’ issue of the decade and that we can’t waste a day. But Indiana Democrats say he’s wasted a few. A recent study suggests that, even under the first-term governor, Indiana’s approach is still too focused on yesterday’s jobs and still too reliant on past methods that just don’t work (Howey Politics Indiana). From the Muncie Star Press Michael Hicks: Brookings study paints grim picture of Indiana's workforce investment focus “To say it plainly, Indiana is decades behind places like West Virginia and Tennessee when it comes to analyzing workforce training and education needs. Chairman John Zody believed Hoosiers shouldn’t have to accept coming in behind places like West Virginia and Tennessee. Holcomb's first step, Zody believed, should be to support a holistic approach to education, starting with full-throated support for greater expansion of Pre-K and making sure our post-secondary institutions have the tools they need to meet workforce needs. “When West Virginia and Tennessee are beating you to the basket on workforce development, it’s time to do some soul-searching,” said Zody. “Indiana has world-class universities but workforce policies more befitting of the horse and buggy era. Maybe it’s time for the governor to focus on tried-and-true tactics like expanding preschool and funding our schools.”

SCATHING REPORT ON JOHNSON COUNTY ELECTIONS: A preliminary report investigating computer problems at voting centers across Johnson and other counties resulted from poor preparation and resulted in Indiana election laws being violated (Fox59). The report was prepared for the Indiana Secretary of State by Ball State’s Voting System Technical Oversight Program, or VSTOP. The 20-page report examines, in great detail, all the things that went wrong on election day, resulting in thousands of Johnson County voters waiting in line for hours on November 6.

DEMOCRATS OFFERING CANDIDATE TRAINING: The Indiana Democratic Party, in partnership with the National Democratic Training Committee, will hold a one-day candidate training boot camp in Indianapolis on Saturday (Howey Politics Indiana). The candidate training will be the Party’s largest to date, with nearly 300 Hoosier Democrats scheduled to attend and will feature State Rep. Chris Chyung as keynote speaker. Chyung, a millennial and previously a first-time candidate, attended a similar training last year before winning his election to the General Assembly last November. It takes place at 9:30 a.m. at the Ivy Tech Center.

STEYER WON'T RUN FOR PRESIDENT: Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmental activist, will announce that he will not run for president and instead focus on his effort to remove Donald Trump from the White House (Politico). Steyer is set to detail his plans in downtown Des Moines later Wednesday, one of several states where he's launching a new round of ads as part of his multi-million-dollar TV and digital campaign calling for Trump's impeachment, a source with knowledge told POLITICO.



General Assembly

TOUGH FIRST VETTING ON TEACHER PAY BILL: The Republican plan to raise Indiana teacher pay and stem the tide of those leaving the field — for other professions or other places — got a tough first vetting Wednesday, while clearing an initial hurdle (Herron, IndyStar). House Bill 1003 passed the House Education Committee, 9-3, despite criticism from Democrats, education officials and some school groups to the GOP's call for schools to raise teacher pay by spending differently, rather than by giving them more money. Two additional bills to fund new programs to bolster the profession passed unanimously, moving forward the slate of legislation aimed at fulfilling one of Statehouse leadership's top priorities.  Critics are questioning whether it will really have the intended impact, though. "There is no real correlation between this bill and teacher pay," said Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis. Even though Republicans reached across the aisle as they drafted the proposals, and worked with the state’s largest teachers union, their plan was criticized by those who still want to see a guarantee to raise pay for all of Indiana’s teachers. Instead, the bill suggests that schools spend at least 85 percent of the money given to them for education expenses in the classroom.

TEACHER PAY BILL COULD SHAME SCHOOLS' SPENDING: The House Education Committee voted 9-3 Wednesday to approve a bill that would publicly shame school districts that transfer more than 15 percent of state funding to operations rather than classroom expenditures (Kelly, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). It is an attempt by Republicans to increase teacher pay without adding new state dollars. Instead, legislators want local schools to use more existing dollars on salaries. One opponent likened it to putting districts on a “naughty list” while supporters said it's about transparency. “This bill will not penalize schools in any way,” said Rep. Dale DeVon, R-Granger.” It will give us more data and information to work with.” House Bill 1003 now moves to the full House. Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, repeatedly asked those testifying how much money schools need and what is the right salary amount for teachers. “The money is there. It's just being spent horribly inefficiently,” he said. Terry Spradlin, executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association, said school corporations have done a lot to reduce non-instructional expenses. And he stressed how property tax caps have squeezed school budgets.

BOHACEK FILES REVENGE PORN BILL: After failing to pass legislation for the past several years to criminalize revenge porn, lawmakers are now considering a bill that would allow victims to sue for damages when someone displays or distributes their intimate image without consent (IndyStar). Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, filed Senate Bill 192, which would allow victims to sue for $10,000 or actual damages, whichever is more. He said the legislation, which is being considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee, enjoys broad support. "(Revenge porn is) something that’s part of the changing of times," he told the committee Wednesday morning, "and the fact technology is entering realms it probably shouldn’t have." As it stands now, victims have little recourse under Indiana law, and recent attempts to make revenge porn a crime haven't gotten very far.

GENDER IDENTITY KEY TO HATE CRIME BILL: Hate crime legislation has long been contentious in Indiana. As one of only five states without a hate crime law, many bills have been proposed over the years, but none have made it through Indiana's General Assembly (Hwang, IndyStar). LGBT protections have proven to be a significant barrier, particularly the issue of gender identity. In the current legislative session, Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indiana business leaders have rallied behind passing a detailed and inclusive hate crime law. Speaker of the House Brian Bosma has said a hate crime bill that includes gender identity will not be successful.  The 45 states with a hate crime law vary in terms of what specific groups are included. Only about a third of those explicitly include protections for transgender individuals. What is gender identity? According to the Human Rights Campaign, gender identity is a person's concept of themselves as a man, a woman, neither or both. This may or may not align with a person's assigned sex at birth. For example, a transgender person may have a different gender identity than the sex they were assigned at birth. 

70% FAVOR CIG TAX HIKE: Most Hoosiers support an increase in the cigarette tax to pay for tobacco prevention programs, according to a new survey released Wednesday morning (WRTV). According to the survey, 70 percent of respondents favor a cigarette tax increase of $2 per pack with a portion of the revenue going to tobacco prevention programs. Of the respondents, 51 percent strongly favor it, and 29 percent oppose it. “The message is pretty clear,” Bryan Hannon, chair of Tobacco Free Indiana and Raise it for Health, said. “What’s the deal? Let’s get this done in 2019. The time is right. Hoosiers support it.”

KRUSE FILES CIVICS BILL: A key lawmaker in the state Senate is proposing a new high school graduation requirement for Hoosiers (Smith, Indiana Public Media). Former Senate Education and Career Development Committee Chair Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) is backing a bill to require high schoolers pass a civics exam before they can graduate. The test would be based on material from the U.S. citizenship test. Kruse says it’s not enough for educators to say they teach the material. “The teachers that teach government and civics classes in Indiana, they claim they cover these things and these kids know it,” he says. “But when you give them the test a lot of them get 10 out of 100 correct.” Kruse says retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor inspired him to push for better civics learning. O’Connor has advocated for better civics education and launched a program called iCivics that offers free civics curriculum to schools.

PRINCIPALS OPPOSE KRUSE CIVICS BILL: Immigrants have to pass a civics test to become U-S citizens. A state senator wants Indiana teenagers to pass it to graduate high school (Berman, WIBC). This is the third time in five years Auburn Republican Dennis Kruse has proposed the civics requirement. The Senate voted it down in 2015. A watered-down version passed the Senate two years ago but didn't get a hearing in the House. Veterans' groups and religious conservatives support the bill, saying it's testing knowledge essential to America's foundations. But teachers' groups and the Indiana Department of Education argue the state has been working, with legislators' encouragement, to reduce the time spent on testing instead of learning. Tim McRoberts with the Indiana Association of School Principals says the civics requirement would be a step in the wrong direction.

SOLIDAY FILES BILL TO IMPROVE PORTER ELECTIONS: State Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) recently filed legislation that would improve efficiency and accountability in Porter County elections (Howey Politics Indiana). If passed, the number of officials on the Porter County Election Board would increase from three to five, all absentee and early voting ballots would have to be counted at a central location, and all employees would be subject to the rules in the county employee policy manual. “The voters of Porter County deserve a transparent and efficient election process,” Soliday said. “After reviewing the issues that emerged during the 2018 Porter County election and discussing these issues with local officials from both parties and the Secretary of State’s office, we’ve drafted this legislation in an effort to improve the Porter County election process.”

PORTER COUNTY OFFICIALS OPEN TO VOTE CHANGES: Porter County Clerk Jessica Bailey said she's "cautiously optimistic" about legislation being proposed that could take control of elections here out of her office's hands (Carden & Russell, NWI Times). Bailey said Wednesday she's open to "candid conversations" about what went wrong during last November's election and what is the best solution for Porter County and its voters. Her office would no longer directly oversee elections under legislation filed this week in the Indiana House by state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, and state Rep. Mike Aylesworth, R-Hebron. House Bill 1217 instead vests management and oversight of the county's elections in a five-member board of elections and registration, led by a director who would perform all the clerk's statutory duties relating to elections.

NISLY FILES ABORTION BAN BILL: For the third year in a row, state Rep. Curt Nisly has filed legislation that would ban abortions in Indiana  (IndyStar). During the past two years, the Goshen Republican's "Protection at Conception" bill received an icy reception, even from leaders within his own party, and it died without getting a hearing. But this year the national climate is a little different: Across the country, anti-abortion activists have been emboldened by the appointment of two conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices. In Ohio, for example, lawmakers appear poised to pass legislation in 2019 outlawing abortions once a heartbeat is detected. It likely won't be enough to get Nisly's controversial bill across the finish line in Indiana, but it is enough to give Nisly some hope, and maybe win over some other Republicans' support. "What has happened here since the first time I filed is we're seeing a lot of interest in this here in Indiana, but also around the country," Nisly said. "...This idea is definitively going mainstream here."

REP. PORTER MAKES BUDGET SUGGESTIONS:  If Gov. Eric Holcomb and his majorities in the Indiana House and Senate are having trouble trying to figure out how to fund their priorities in the next biennial state budget, State Rep. Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis) is more than willing to help (Howey Politics Indiana). In advance of Thursday’s revelation of the governor’s budget proposal, Porter -- ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee -- issued the following statement: “As we all know, the highest fiscal priority for the Republicans is to preserve as large a state surplus as possible. While they make it sound like it’s impossible to do exactly that and provide the funding needed to increase teacher pay and protect at-risk children protected by the state Department of Child Services (DCS), I am here to tell them that it can be done. Our state isn’t on the verge of going broke, and we do have the resources to fund our pressing needs and preserve a healthy surplus. Here’s how … Remember that by counting only forecasted revenue – which is what’s done when the state presents its revenue forecast in December – we are providing only a ‘cup half-full’ approach. We are counting only some of the new money we are expected to receive the next two years. For example, the revenue forecast does not take into account money that the state general fund receives from federal leveraging programs for Medicaid nursing homes and that hospitals receive from the HIP 2.0 program. It also doesn’t take into account the millions of ‘new’ dollars that the vendor for the Hoosier Lottery is contractually committed to provide to the state each year.

RALLY FOR MEDICAL POT: Supporters of medical marijuana legalization gathered at the Statehouse – including a few new voices (Indiana Public Media). Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) has introduced cannabis legislation for the past nine years. She says every year the rally for supporters gets larger.  "And every year the number of people in the legislature who are willing to stand up for this issue also gets larger," says Tallian. About 100 people showed up for the event. Tallian says she has already filed three cannabis bills, including one to legalize recreationally. Sen. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) is one new senator who says he’ll support medical marijuana. "I have patients all across the district who desperately need this medicine," says Ford.

Congress

HOUSE VOTES TO REOPEN GOVERNMENT: The House voted to reopen the IRS and other key portions of the federal government, part of a Democratic plan to ratchet up pressure on Republicans to end the 19-day shutdown (Politico). But few GOP lawmakers backed the bill after the White House unleashed a last-minute lobbying campaign to limit defections, and it's unlikely to be taken up in the Senate. Eight House Republicans voted with Democrats.

SEN. YOUNG LAUDS TRUMP SPEECH: U.S. Sen. Todd Young reacted to President Trump's national address, tweeting Wednesday, "Last night @POTUS made it clear why border security is so important. I agree we can’t stand by while a humanitarian crisis is taking place at our southern border."

REP. BANKS CALLS FOR DEAL: U.S. Rep. Jim Banks tweeted Wednesday, "It’s simple: Let’s stop the games and put something on the President’s desk that secures our border, funds the government, and will actually be signed into law."

GRAHAM SAYS BARR WON'T FIRE MUELLER: The president's nominee for attorney general, William Barr, said Wednesday that he doesn't think special counsel Robert Mueller is on a "witch hunt," doesn't think he should be fired and is committed to making sure that Mueller finishes his investigation, according to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (ABC News). Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke after meeting with Barr, who was making the rounds with senators ahead of his confirmation hearing scheduled for next week. He said it took about "three seconds" for him to get the answer he was looking for concerning what Barr thinks of Mueller. "I can assure you, based on what I heard, he has a high opinion of Mr. Mueller, believes that Mr. Mueller is doing a professional job - will do a professional job and will be fair to the President and the country as a whole and has no reason for Mr. Mueller to stop doing is job and is committed to letting Mr. Mueller finish," Graham said.



State

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB TO RELEASE BUDGET PROPOSAL - Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration is releasing its recommendations for the new state budget, including how much more money could go toward public schools (AP). Holcomb administration officials are scheduled to make their presentation Thursday to the State Budget Committee. State fiscal analysts project tax revenues will grow by about 2.5 percent each year for the new two-year budget starting in July. But much of that money is expected to go toward allowing the state’s troubled Department of Child Services to keep hundreds of new caseworkers added over the last few years and an expected jump in state costs for the Medicaid program for low-income families. Holcomb and fellow Republicans want to protect the state’s $1.8 billion budget surplus , which Democrats suggest should be tapped to boost teacher pay.

GOVERNOR: CROUCH, OCRA RECOGNIZE 70 RURAL COMMUNITIES -  Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs recognized more than 70 rural Indiana communities who collaboratively shaped and executed their vision for their communities in 2018 (Howey Politics Indiana). "By working together, these communities provided unique and impressive changes to their local parks, walkways, main streets and economic developments," Crouch said. "In partnership with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, local leaders were able to utilize state funding to incorporate the plans to further their community development." Crouch said more than $41 million was provided by local communities and was combined with $22 million from OCRA. These funds were used to complete quality of place improvements like water system enhancements, new public facilities, revitalizing main streets, restoring historic buildings and enhancing downtowns. "Today is a great day to celebrate all the successes, collaborative efforts and planning our Hoosier communities have achieved this past year," said Jodi Golden, OCRA executive director. "Our office was fortunate to help make our rural cities, towns and counties better places to live, work and play. I'm excited to see how the communities will continue to grow this funding."

STATEHOUSE: CHIEF JUSTICE RUSH STATE OF JUDICIARY JAN. 16 - Indiana Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush will address the Governor and a joint session of the Indiana General Assembly for the annual State of the Judiciary. The formal update on the work of the judicial branch will be held Wednesday, January 16, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. EST in the chamber of the Indiana House of Representatives (Howey Politics Indiana). The Chief Justice is required to provide lawmakers with an update on the “condition of the courts” according to Article 7, Section 3, of the Indiana Constitution. The 2019 address will focus on how the judicial branch works to meet the evolving needs of its court customers.

STATEHOUSE: McCORMICK ANNOUNCES CYBERSECURITY COURSE GRANT - The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) announced today the 50 recipients of the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Cybersecurity Course Grant. The award will be used towards implementation of the PLTW Cybersecurity course in schools and to continue statewide cybersecurity efforts (Howey Politics Indiana). “Cybersecurity is a critical component in today’s technology-centered learning environments,” said Dr. Jennifer McCormick, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “As a State, it is important we recognize the importance of cyber education and provide our students and educators the necessary knowledge and skills to be successful and responsive. I commend the awarded schools for their dedication and commitment to this opportunity for students. I also appreciate the commitment from districts in educating school personnel.” As part of IDOE’s STEM initiatives, the PLTW Cybersecurity Course Grant awarded 50 schools up to $8,000 per school to assist in offsetting costs associated with implementation of the PLTW Cybersecurity course during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. Awards may be used to cover PLTW Computer Science program participation fees, PLTW Cybersecurity professional development expenses, Cybersecurity Network Security Lab fees, and required course equipment and supplies.

BUSINESS: UMBAUGH PURCHASED IN 3-WAY DEAL - Indianapolis-based municipal advisory and accounting firm H.J. Umbaugh & Associates LLP has agreed to be acquired by Chicago-based accounting and consulting firm Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP, the companies announced Thursday morning (Orr, IBJ). Baker Tilly also is acquiring St. Paul, Minnesota-based public finance and human resources firm Springsted Inc. in the deal, which the parties describe as a “three-way combination” to build one of the nation's largest municipal finance advisory firms. Umbaugh Executive Partner Todd Samuelson declined to provide financial details of the transaction, which is expected to close in March. “There are dollars flowing in different directions," Samuelson told IBJ. "At the end of the day, the surviving entity is Baker Tilly." The headquarters for the combined company will be in Chicago. Umbaugh and Springsted will retain their names for a transition period of about a year, after which they will begin doing business under the Baker Tilly name. Umbaugh has 120 employees and four office locations. Its Indianapolis office is the largest, with 87 employees and 26 full-time certified public accountants. The company also has offices in Mishawaka, Indiana; Lansing, Michigan; and Columbus, Ohio.

EDUCATION: PURDUE VIGIL FOR TYLER TRENT - Purdue wrapped its arms around Tyler Trent’s family in a vigil on campus Wednesday night (WTHR-TV). It took place outside of Hovde Hall on the West Lafayette campus. The campus that Tyler embraced as the Boilermaker’s Biggest Fan. Trent passed on New Year's Day after a battle with bone cancer. "The death of any bright young life always hits us harder," Purdue President Mitch Daniels told the cold crowd huddled outside Hovde Hall. "We think of the lost potential, all that might’ve been and just how Darned unfair it seems," he said as his voice cracked with emotion. Daniels called the 20-year-old "grit personified." Tyler battled his bone cancer as he fought for a cure for others, all while cheering on his fighting Boilers. "If you don’t think he had something to do with 49-20, ask one of our players," said Daniels. "He was our team captain. He was the glue that held our team together, and he gave us something to fight for," said Purdue Co-Captain Elijah Sindelar.

EDUCATION: SBOE ELECTS LEADERSHIP - The Indiana State Board of Education (Board) met today in the first business meeting of the calendar year. The Board approved new leadership, electing BJ Watts as chair, Katie Mote as vice chair, and Gordon Hendry as secretary (Howey Politics Indiana). “Our responsibility as a Board is to do what is best for Indiana’s students, and that is a charge I take seriously,” said newly elected Board chair BJ Watts, who is executive director of Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation’s OptIN program. “I am honored to have the confidence of my colleagues and look forward to the challenges ahead.” The Board also welcomed newly appointed member Greg Gastineau to his first meeting. Gastineau will complete the term begun by Dr. Vince Bertram, who resigned at the end of 2018. Board members approved a resolution honoring Dr. Vince Bertram for his service to the Board and lifelong dedication to Indiana’s students.

EDUCATION: MEARNS TALKS OF BSU STRATEGIC PLAN - The president of Ball State University says a recently-released strategic plan aims to guide the university through its next century. Ball State is celebrating its centennial in 2019 and Geoffrey Mearns says the plan, Destination 2040: Our Flight Path, has been a year in the making. The strategic plan outlines five long-term goals to be completed by 2040, with several "imperatives" the university wants to execute by 2024 (Inside Indiana Business). In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Mearns said the plan was an important opportunity to celebrate the university's past, but he doesn't want to rest on those achievements. "We want to continue to build on the legacy of 100 years of impact on the lives of other people and so it's important for us to plan how to fulfill the great potential that we believe we have at our university," said Mearns. "This plan provides that strategic framework to ensure that we will have a bright future in our second century." The five long-term goals include: Undergraduate Excellence and Innovation; Graduate Education and Lifetime Learning; Community Engagement and Impact Scholarship and Societal Impact; Institutional and Inclusive Excellence.

ISP: TROOPER IN SHOOTING OFF ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE - The Indiana State Police trooper who shot and killed a Linden man nearly two weeks ago near Crawfordsville has been taken off administrative leave and put back to work (WIBC). Trooper Daniel Organ, who had been a patrol officer, has been put on desk duty at the Lafayette post, state police said Wednesday. He will remain on desk duty until an investigation into the fatal shooting in completed. On Jan. 2, state police said Organ was on administrative leave. The agency also noted Organ had no previous disciplinary record before the Crawwfordsville shooting. The shooting happened around 6:30 p.m. Dec. 28 on U.S. 231 near Montgomery County Road 550 North. That's near North Montgomery High School. 

DNR: RESOURCE COMMISSION TO MEET AT FORT HARRISON SP - The Indiana Natural Resources Commission will conduct its next bimonthly meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15, at Fort Harrison State Park.  The meeting begins at 10 a.m. (ET) at the park’s Garrison Ballroom, 6002 North Post Road, Indianapolis. The agenda and downloadable related materials are posted at nrc.IN.gov/2354.htm.

Nation

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP DECLARES 'ABSOLUTE RIGHT' TO DECLARE EMERGENCY - President Donald Trump claimed on Wednesday that he has the "absolute right" to declare a national emergency to force the construction of a border wall, but said he would still prefer to reach a wall funding deal with lawmakers instead (Politico). Speaking with reporters at the White House during a signing for anti-human trafficking legislation, Trump said he would take a more extreme action if he and Democrats fail to work out an agreement that involves over $5 billion for physical barriers on the border with Mexico. "My threshold [for declaring a national emergency] will be if I can't make a deal with people that are unreasonable," Trump said.

WHITE HOUSE: 35M WATCHED TRUMP ADDRESS - An estimated 35.3 million people saw President Trump's Oval Office address and the Democratic response, AP reports: "That's about 10 million fewer viewers than Trump had for his 2018 State of the Union address. The Nielsen company said ... it was similar to President Barack Obama's 2014 presidential address on fighting the Islamic state, which was seen by 34 million people." "Fox News Channel with 8.044 million viewers and CBS with 8.043 million were in a virtual dead heat as the top destination. NBC was third with 7 million, followed by ABC, MSNBC, CNN and Fox broadcasting." The response by Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer had slightly larger preliminary numbers than the president's address (Politico Playbook).

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP THREATENS CAL WILDFIRE FUNDING - In the midst of a government shutdown, President Trump has threatened to cut off federal emergency aid to California for forest fires (Washington Post). Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that “billions of dollars” are sent to California to help with its wildfire recovery efforts and claimed, without evidence, that the state would not need the funds if forests were properly managed. “Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money,” Trump stated. “It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!” It is unclear, based on the tweet’s wording, if Trump already directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to withhold funds or if he would be doing so.

WHITE HOUSE: LEGAL TEAM WANTS TO KEEP CONVERSATIONS CONFIDENTIAL - A beefed-up White House legal team is gearing up to prevent President Trump’s confidential discussions with top advisers from being disclosed to House Democratic investigators and revealed in the special counsel’s long-awaited report, setting the stage for a potential clash between the branches of government (Washington Post). The strategy to strongly assert the president’s executive privilege on both fronts is being developed under newly arrived White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who has hired 17 lawyers in recent weeks to help in the effort. He is coordinating with White House lawyer Emmet Flood, who is leading the response to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on his now-20-month-long investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Flood is based in White House Counsel’s Office but reports directly to Trump.

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP, PENCE SCHEDULE - President Trump is heading to McAllen, Texas, this morning. He is scheduled to leave the White House at 9:15 a.m. While at the U.S. Border Patrol McAllen Station, Trump will participate in a roundtable on immigration and border security. He will also travel to the Rio Grande and get a border security briefing. Vice President Pence will be in meetings on Capitol Hill.

STATE: POMPEO MAKES SURPRISE STOP IN IRAQ - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Iraq on Wednesday to meet the country’s top leadership, as he tours the Middle East to reassure U.S. allies over concerns that Washington is withdrawing from the region (Wall Street Journal). The Iraq stop adds a ninth country to Mr. Pompeo’s eight-day tour, his first to the Middle East after President Trump last month abruptly announced plans to withdraw troops from Syria. The visit appears aimed at persuading regional partners the administration remains committed to the turbulent region despite the announcement. Mr. Pompeo met with Jordan’s King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on Tuesday, and is scheduled to visit Egypt next.

ECONOMY: DONOHUE WARNS CHAMBER - Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is using his annual "State of American Business" today for an implicit rebuke of the Trump administration's inward-looking posture (Axios): "[A]uthoritarian regimes are on the rise across the globe." "The U.S. and our allies spent the last 70 years working to expand democracy and freedom." "Today, we face the task of rebuilding domestic consensus for supporting democracy abroad." "We must ... reaffirm and modernize multilateral and regional organizations and cooperative arrangements — such as the WTO, NATO, the EU, and others." "Let’s not lose sight of the extraordinary prosperity and peace they’ve provided for three quarters of a century."

ECONOMY: AI TO REPLACE 40% OF JOBS - 40% of the world’s jobs could be done by machines as soon as 15 years from now, one of the world’s foremost experts on artificial intelligence, venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee, tells Scott Pelley on the coming edition of "60 Minutes": "AI will increasingly replace repetitive jobs, not just for blue collar work, but a lot of white collar work. Chauffeurs, truck drivers — anyone who does driving for a living — their jobs will be disrupted ... in the 15-25 year time frame. Many jobs that seem a little bit complex — chef, waiter, a lot of things — will [also] become automated," Lee continues. I believe [AI] is going to change the world more than anything in the history of mankind. More than electricity."

KENTUCKY: BIPARTISAN EFFORT FOR MEDICINAL MARIJUANA - A bipartisan group of Kentucky lawmakers have introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana, including a Republican state senator who said he "smoked a joint" when he was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago (AP). Republican state Sen. Dan Seum said he was given a bottle of OxyContin seven years ago when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He said he threw the bottle away when he got home and smoked marijuana. He said the effects helped him not to miss a day of the legislative session that year. House bill 136 would allow for doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients for medical purposes under heavy regulation from the state and medical licensing board. The bill would also let low-income people grow marijuana at home. Local law enforcement would be notified.

ILLINOIS: EX-REP CHARGED WITH POSTING NUDE PHOTOS OF FORMER GIRLFRIEND - Former State Rep. Nick Sauer has been indicted on felony charges for allegedly sharing nude photos of an ex-girlfriend online (Chicago Sun-Times). A Lake County grand jury returned the indictment Wednesday morning, charging Sauer with 12 felony counts of non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images, according to a statement from the Lake County state’s attorney’s office. Sauer resigned in August after his ex-girlfriend contacted authorities to report that he’d created a fake Instagram account using her identification and posted sexually explicit photos to the account. Sauer allegedly used the account to share nude photos of her and lure other men into graphic discussions, according to allegations first uncovered by Politico.

Local

CITIES: CHEROKEES SAY I-69 BRIDGE WOULD DISTURB GRAVES - The oldest Native American entity in Kentucky is standing their ground as the plans for the new I-69 Ohio River crossing bridge roll on (WFIE-TV). The Chief of the Southern Cherokee Nation of Kentucky met with an archaeologist from the crossing team after expressing concerns during a public meeting that Native American burial grounds may be disturbed in the building process. Their roots run deep in western Kentucky. “My family has been in this county for 8,000 years except for the time when we were removed by Andrew Jackson,” Chief Michael Manfox-Buley recalled. A tribe known for farming, who depended heavily on the river as a resource, Chief Manfox says hundreds, possibly even thousands of his ancient ancestors are buried in the area. “Just because we don’t have headstones there, doesn’t mean our people aren’t buried there,” Chief Manfox stated.

CITIES: 1ST SCOOTER DUI IN INDY - An Indianapolis man arrested Tuesday evening was likely the first person to be charged with driving while intoxicated while operating a motorized scooter (WRTV). According to the police report, the 21-year-old man was driving a Lime Scooter when he failed to stop at a red light in front of an on-duty Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer and almost caused the officer to crash. The incident happened near the intersection of E. Washington Street and N. Pennsylvania Street. The man was taken into custody and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated. IMPD PIO Michael Hewitt says they believe Tuesday's arrest was the first of its kind in the city since the motorized scooters began taking over the downtown area in mid-2018.

CITIES: HAMMOND DATA CENTER SECURES FUNDING - The developers of the $40 million Digital Crossroads Lake Michigan Data Center campus in Hammond have secured final funding for the project at the former State Line Generating Plant. Digital Crossroads says it is partnering with New York-based Star America Infrastructure Partners, which is providing equity for the first 105,000-square-foot phase of the project (Inside Indiana Business). Peter Feldman, chief executive officer of Digital Crossroads, says the goal is now within reach, thanks to the collaborative efforts of Governor Eric Holcomb's office, the Indiana Economic Development Corp., local elected officials and financial partners. Last March, the IEDC approved $9 million in funding for the project.  "The Digital Crossroads Lake Michigan Data Center is transformative," said Christophe Petit, president and managing partner of Star America. "The Chicagoland area is one of the largest growth markets for data centers. We are thrilled to be a part of the Digital Crossroads team to provide a stable base of capital to ensure delivery of the Project and to expand our work in Indiana."

COUNTIES: TOURISM BRINGS $928M TO LAKE - Tourists spent more than $928 million in Lake County in 2017 and had an estimated economic impact of $663 million, according to a new study (NWI Times). The Indiana Office of Tourism Development and Tourism hired Rockport Analytics to study the impact of tourism to Lake County destinations such as the casinos, craft breweries, the Shrine of Christ's Passion, Whihala Beach, the WhoaZone floating water park, Deep River Water Park, Pierogi Fest and the New Year's Eve Pierogi Drop that was aired on ABC 7 and widely discussed on social media across Chicagoland. The study found visitors to Lake County spent $325.4 million on entertainment and recreation, $201.7 million on transportation, $158.3 million on food and beverage, $147.5 million on shopping and $95.3 million on lodging in 2017, the most recent year for which data were available. “The South Shore's hospitality industry continues to grow, benefit the economy with millions of dollars of visitor spending, offer savings on taxes to residents and employ thousands of employees throughout the Region," South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Speros Batistatos said.

COUNTIES: VIGO COMMISSIONERS LOOK OUTSIDE CITY FOR JAIL SITE - Vigo County Commissioners are now looking at locations outside the Terre Haute city limits to build a new jail (Indiana Public Media). The Terre Haute City Council voted against rezoning land on Prairieton Road last month to make way for a new county jail. Mayor Duke Bennett says commissioners are looking at sites outside the city to avoid zoning issues. “A little disappointed with that, I think it needs to be centrally located as possible," Bennett says. "I’m sure West Terre Haute Police, ISU Police, everybody else would agree with us that we need to be able to get to the jail with those arrested as quick as we can and get back on the streets.”

COUNTIES: HANCOCK FORMS MOUNT COMFORT CORRIDOR GROUP - A group of leaders from Hancock County has tapped a Washington D.C.-based firm to assess potential economic development opportunities along the Mt. Comfort Corridor (Inside Indiana Business). The Urban Land Institute will form an advisory panel that will present its initial findings to county leaders later this month. The advisory panel will include experts in business development, mixed-use development, and land-use policy. "It is inevitable that development in the Mt. Comfort Corridor will take place, so our challenge is to ensure that development is thoughtful and plans for the future," said Tom Miller, chief executive officer of workforce and economic development firm Thomas P. Miller & Associates. "A robust economy, local development pressures, and land speculation all make this a good time to influence the direction of the Corridor’s development." The group that contracted the ULI for the effort includes Hancock County Commissioners, the towns of McCordsville, Cumberland and New Palestine, NineStar Connect, Hancock Health Greenfield Banking Co., Hancock County Redevelopment Commission, Mt Vernon Community School Corp., Hancock County Economic Development Corp., Hancock County Community Foundation, Indy Partnership, BAGI Hancock County Builder's Council, and Aqua Indiana.