LEGISLATURE MULLS EXTENDING VOTING HOURS: Indiana is the first state to close its polls on Election Day. Legislators could vote to change that. Indiana's polls close at six p-m local time. The only other state to close that early is Kentucky. House Elections Chairman Tim Wesco (R-Osceola) has introduced a bill to extend that to eight o'clock. That would match 22 other states (Berman, WIBC). Wesco's committee heard testimony on the proposal, but Wesco says he hasn't decided whether to call the bill for a vote. He says even people who can't make the current 12-hour voting window now have the option of early voting. One estimate predicts half of Indiana voters will vote early this year. And Wesco says a 14-hour voting day, plus the time needed to get the polls ready in the morning and close things up at night, could make it even harder to recruit pollworkers. Wesco says one possible approach would be to follow Kansas and New Hampshire's example, and give counties the option of keeping the polls open later. The bill would also make it easier for counties to abolish traditional precincts in favor of a smaller number of "vote centers," allowing you to vote at any polling place. 39 counties, including Marion County, use vote centers now. Current law requires county election boards to vote unanimously to establish vote centers -- Wesco's bill would allow a 2-1 majority to override a single member's objection.

REPUBLICANS HOLD FIRM AGAINST TEACHER PAY:  Indiana Republicans are remaining firm against Democratic proposals for using an unexpected jump in state revenue to increase school funding this year (AP). The Indiana House voted along party lines Thursday in rejecting amendments from Democrats to a spending bill being fast-tracked by Republicans that directs $291 million to paying cash rather than borrowing money for several planned college campus construction projects. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and GOP legislators maintain that approach will save the state at least $130 million in long-term interest payments and that more can be done about the state’s lagging teacher pay in 2021 when a new two-year budget is written. Democratic Rep. Greg Porter of Indianapolis proposed giving the nearly $300 million to schools in a step he said would correct “amnesia” among Republicans about an education funding cut ordered by then-Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2010 after tax revenue fell during the Great Recession. He said that funding was never restored and the state could do better with growing revenue and $2 billion in cash reserves. “Why not give it to people that need it?” Porter said.

CELLPHONE DRIVING BAN GETS LUKEWARM RESPONSE FROM LEGISLATORS: A ban on using your phone while driving is getting a lukewarm response from House and Senate leaders (WIBC). Gov. Holcomb announced last month he'd make it a priority to join about 20 states which allow only hands-free phone use behind the wheel. He argues Indiana's existing ban on texting while driving is essentially unenforceable, because it's difficult for the officer who pulls you over to prove what you were doing with your phone. House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray agree there's little doubt a ban would make the roads safer. But Bosma says some House members have already told him they'll oppose a phone ban as an infringement on personal freedom. He describes himself as a swing vote. The speaker says he's already warned Holcomb he'll need to lobby legislators directly. Bray says the proposal is serious legislation and will get serious consideration, but says right now, senators are still thinking through the implications of the idea.

BUTTIGIEG LEADS NH MONMOUTH POLL: Iowa isn’t the only early-nominating state where the top of the Democratic presidential field is crowded and muddled with just weeks to go: According to a new poll of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, the top four candidates are effectively neck-and-neck (Politico). The Monmouth University poll — the first survey in New Hampshire conducted entirely after the new year — shows Pete Buttigieg atop the field with 20 percent, followed closely by Joe Biden at 19 percent. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are just a tick below, at 18 percent and 15 percent, respectively. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is a distant fifth, at 6 percent. Buttigieg has doubled his support since Monmouth’s last poll in September, while Sanders has jumped 6 points. Warren’s fall has been sharpest: She is down 12 points from September, while Biden has also slipped by 6 points.

U.S. SAYS IRANIAN MISSILE DOWNED AIRLINER: The U.S. believes that a Ukrainian commercial aircraft that crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran on Wednesday was downed by two Russian-made surface-to-air missiles fired by Iran, a U.S. official said (Wall Street Journal). “We have a high level of confidence that this was shot down by Iran,” the U.S. official said, adding that the plane was being followed by Iranian radar used to aim missiles just before two were fired. A second U.S. official said the U.S. believes Iran may have shot down the aircraft by mistake. One factor contributing to the U.S. assessment that the plane had been shot down was the large field of debris at the crash site, the second official said. Planes that crash as a result of mechanical failure have narrower debris fields, that official said. President Trump on Thursday said “I have my suspicions” about the crash, voicing doubt in remarks at the White House that the cause may have been mechanical problems. The crash came hours after Iran launched missile attacks on U.S. troops at two Iraqi bases in retaliation for the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The timing of those attacks raised questions about whether the Ukrainian airliner was downed by a projectile.

PENCE WAS IN SITUATION ROOM; KUSHNER ABSENT: When senior administration officials gathered in the Situation Room on Tuesday for a meeting to discuss the repercussions of the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Vice President Mike Pence had a seat at the table. So did Robert O'Brien, the national security adviser, and Mark T. Esper, the defense secretary (New York Times). But the White House aide whose portfolio is the Middle East was notably absent from the meeting. Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, was sitting for a photo shoot for a planned Time magazine cover story. He was also absent from the Situation Room later in the day when it was clear Iran was launching an attack on American forces and the same officials rush backed, joined by Mr. Trump and West Wing aides like Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, and Stephanie Grisham, the press secretary.

PELOSI WON'T SEND ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT TO SENATE: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said Thursday she would continue to hold on to the articles of impeachment, arguing the Senate still needs to show “what the terms of engagement will be” in President Trump’s trial (Wall Street Journal). Mrs. Pelosi said she was undeterred by calls from Republicans and some Democrats to transmit the articles and reiterated she was waiting for more information from the Senate before naming impeachment managers and sending over the articles. “As I’ve said right from the start: we need to see the arena in which we are sending our managers. Is that too much to ask?” she told reporters. Democrats have sought guarantees of new witnesses and evidence, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) has rejected their demands, saying the trial should begin before any new testimony is introduced.

TRUMP CALLS FOR SENATE TRIAL TESTIMONY: President Donald Trump on Thursday renewed his push for political rivals including former Vice President Joe Biden and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff to testify at his looming Senate impeachment trial — breaking with Republicans in the chamber who have been reluctant to support calling witnesses ahead of the highly anticipated proceedings (Politico). “I’m going to leave it to the Senate, but I’d like to hear the whistleblower, I’d like to hear ‘shifty’ Schiff, I’d like to hear Hunter Biden and Joe Biden,” Trump told reporters at a White House event. The president’s remarks come after Trump huddled privately Wednesday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the White House, a source familiar with the conversation confirmed, in a meeting first reported by CNN. McConnell on Tuesday secured sufficient backing from his GOP caucus to approve a framework of rules governing a trial without Democratic support.

INDY FBI FOCUSED ON ELECTION SECURITY: The presidential and gubernatorial election might still be 11 months away, but FBI agents in Indianapolis have one major focus: election security. “The major difference [between the 2016 and 2020 elections] is we’ve been talking about it for the last three-and-a-half years,” Special Agent in Charge Grant Mendenhall, based in Indianapolis, said. “There’s more awareness of [interference] as a possibility” (Downard, CNHI) In the 2016 election, eight states were compromised out of the 21 targeted by hackers, and the FBI established the Foreign Influence Task Force to establish communication between relevant agencies. The task force eases the process of notifying other agencies about identified threats. Special Agent Mike Alford, who focuses on cyberthreats, said the introduction of social media changed how misinformation spreads in the United States. “Previous to the information age, everything had to be done manually,” Alford said. “Whereas now, somebody can be sitting back home, in their home country, on their computer and if they can type the English language they have the same ability to get information out there.”

RUSSIAN HACKING BECOMES MORE SOPHISTICATED: The National Security Agency and its British counterpart issued an unusual warning in October: The Russians were back and growing stealthier (New York Times). Groups linked to Russia’s intelligence agencies, they noted, had recently been uncovered boring into the network of an elite Iranian hacking unit and attacking governments and private companies in the Middle East and Britain — hoping Tehran would be blamed for the havoc. For federal and state officials charged with readying defenses for the 2020 election, it was a clear message that the next cyberwar was not going to be like the last. The landscape is evolving, and the piggybacking on Iranian networks was an example of what America’s election-security officials and experts face as the United States enters what is shaping up to be an ugly campaign season marred by hacking and disinformation. American defenses have vastly improved in the four years since Russian hackers and trolls mounted a broad campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election. Facebook is looking for threats it barely knew existed in 2016, such as fake ads paid for in rubles and self-proclaimed Texas secessionists logging in from St. Petersburg. Voting officials are learning about bots, ransomware and other vectors of digital mischief.

ANOTHER PURDUE ASTRONAUT COMING: A Purdue University alumna is one of 11 NASA candidates who will graduate during ceremonies Friday morning at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Following the ceremony, O’Hara will be eligible for missions to the space station and spaceflight to the moon and Mars (McLaughlin, Inside Indiana Business). O’Hara, who graduated from Purdue in 2009, spent two years completing training in spacewalking, robotics and the systems used on the International Space Station. In 2017 O'Hara was named a NASA astronaut candidate, chosen from more than 18,000 applicants. As a student at Purdue, O’Hara was part of the first all-female team in the rocket propulsion facilities at Purdue’s Maurice Zucrow Laboratory, according to the university. O’Hara is the third Purdue alumna to graduate the program.

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: The 6 p.m. poll closing time was probably appropriate for 1920 Indiana. But this is 2020 and Rep. Wesco's bill to extend the voting until 8 p.m. should be seriously considered. Getting more people to the polls is far more important than having the state go on the Electoral College map first. The state has appropriately shifted to the vote center concept, and the extension of voting hours is an ancillary step that should be a priority this session, as the 2020 election looks like it will be a high turnout affair. Getting more Hoosiers to vote is in our best interest. - Brian A. Howey



Campaigns

HOLCOMB FILES 9K BALLOT SIGNATURES: Gov. Eric Holcomb’s campaign filed more than 9,000 petition signatures at courthouses and government offices in each of Indiana’s 92 counties. The signatures, filed on Wednesday and Thursday, will earn Governor Holcomb a place on the 2020 election ballot for reelection (Howey Politics Indiana). “Governor Holcomb is working to serve Hoosiers everywhere every single day, and so is his campaign. Our team of volunteers, county coordinators and field staff are out in every county and every corner of Indiana,” said Kyle Hupfer, Eric Holcomb for Indiana campaign manager. “We’re organized, mobilized and energized to keep Indiana’s momentum rolling. It started with collecting ballot petition signatures in rapid time, and now we’re taking that same energy to the next stage of the campaign.”

HACKETT ENDORSED BY LPAC: 2nd CD Democrat Pat Hackett announced she has received the endorsement of the influential national political organization LPAC (Howey Politics Indiana). LPAC is a prominent organization dedicated to building the political voice of LGBTQ women and supporting candidates who display a commitment to women’s equality, LGBTQ rights, and social justice (Howey Politics Indiana). "As the only organization dedicated to building the political voice of LGBTQ women, LPAC is proud to endorse Pat Hackett in her run to bring Indiana's 2nd Congressional District the representation it deserves,” said LPAC Executive Director Stephanie Sandberg. “I proudly accept the endorsement of LPAC. I am running for Congress because I believe in dignity and justice for all people,” Hackett said. “Jackie Walorski has spent her career representing outside corporate special interests and voting against equal rights for all Americans.”

ANOTHER VISCLOSKY ALUM ENTERS 1ST CD RACE:  Another Democrat with ties to retiring U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, is joining the contest to succeed him as Northwest Indiana's representative in the U.S. House (NWI Times). Melissa Borom, of Gary, worked for Visclosky in his Region and Washington, D.C. offices in 2014 and 2015 while simultaneously earning her law degree at Valparaiso University. She announced Wednesday that she's running for Congress because everyone deserves a similar opportunity to succeed — no matter where they're from. "As an African American woman growing up in Northwest Indiana, it didn't always feel like every door was open to me," Borom said. "But because of determined parents — a retired East Chicago teacher and a Merrillville school custodian — willing to make every sacrifice to ensure I received a quality education, I had the opportunity to go to law school and even give back to my community."

PRIMARY FILINGS: Filings for the May primary include Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody filing for the open SD40, former representative Hal Slager, who lost HD15 in 2018, and deputy Fishers Mayor Leah McGrath in HD88. Here is the complete list as of Thursday:

Congress: Antonio (Tony) Daggett Sr., D, CD1; Mara Candelaria Reardon, D, CD1; Jennifer Christie, D, CD5; André Carson, D, CD7; D. Liam Dorris, D, CD9; James C. O'Gabhann III, D, CD9; Mark J. Powell, D, CD9; Spencer T. Lemmons, R, CD1; William F. Powers, R, CD1; Delano M. Scaife, R, CD1; Jim Baird, R, CD4; Andrew Bales, R, CD5; Micah Beckwith, R, CD5; Allen R Davidson, R, CD5.

Indiana Senate: Lonnie M. Randolph, D, SD2; Darren L. Washington, D, SD3; Tim Barr, D,SD16; Fady Qaddoura, D, SD30; John Zody, D, SD40; Brian W. Buchanan, R, SD7; Blake Doriot, R, SD12; Jeffrey W. Wible, R, SD13; Justin Busch, R, SD16; Stacey A. Donato, R, SD18; Michael R. Crider, R,SD28; Jean Leising, R, SD42.

Indiana House: Carolyn B. Jackson, D, HD1; Ben Blohm, D, HD4; Debora (Deb) Porter, HD4; Ross J. Deal, D, HD7; Charles (Chuck) Moseley, D, HD10; Lisa Beck, D, HD19; Naomi S. Bechtold, D, HD24; Sue Errington, D, HD34; Melanie M. Wright, D, HD34; Tonya Pfaff, D, HD43; Matt Pierce, D, HD61; Terry Goodin, D,HD66; Mitch Gore, D, HD89; Andy W. Miller, D, HD93; Abdul-Aziz Yamobi, D, HD93; Justin Moed, D, HD97; Edwin Lewis Jones, D, HD98;  Andrew Duncan, D, HD100; Dan Forestal, D, HD100; Michael J. Aylesworth, R, HD11; Hal Slager, R, HD15; Douglas L Gutwein, R, HD16; Jack Jordan, R, HD17; Russell "Russ" Reahard, R, HD18; Ethan Manning, R, HD23; Donald J. Lehe, R, HD25; Jeffrey A. Thompson, R, HD28; Chuck Goodrich, R, HD29;

Mike H Karickhoff, R, HD30; Daniel A. Bragg, R, JD32; Anthony J. ("Tony") Cook, R, HD32; Brittany (Bridges) Kloer, R, HD33; John (J. D.) Prescott, R, HD33; Todd Huston, R, HD37; Beau Baird, R, HD44; Bob Heaton, R, HD46; Doug Miller, R, 48; Daniel J. (Dan) Leonard, R, HD50; Ben Smaltz, R,HD52; Robert W. Cherry, R, HD53; Thomas E (Tom) Saunders, R, HD54; Cindy Meyer Ziemke, R, HD55; J. David Hopper, R, HD58; Ryan Lauer, R, HD59; Peggy Mayfield, R, HD60; Chris May, R, HD65; Brian Tibbs, R, HD66; Randy Frye, R, HD67; Randy Lyness, R, HD68; Jim Lucas, R, 69; Karen Engleman, R, HD70; Stephen R. Bartels, R, HD74; Dave Heine, R, HD85; Leah McGrath, R, HD88; Mike Speedy, R, HD90; Dollyne Sherman, R, HD93.

Presidential 2020

BIDEN HAS BIG SC LEAD: Joe Biden continues to hold a large lead in the race for the Democratic nomination in South Carolina, as newcomer Tom Steyer jumps into second. That’s according to a Fox News Poll of likely Democratic primary voters in the Palmetto State, which is the fourth state to vote in the Democratic race. “Biden is the clear frontrunner in South Carolina,” says Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who conducts the Fox News Poll with Democrat Chris Anderson. “And it appears Steyer has spent himself into a potentially relevant position, as he’s knocking on the door of the 15 percent delegate threshold.” The former vice president receives the backing of 36 percent of primary voters (down 5 points since October).  Steyer captures 15 percent, up 11 points.  Bernie Sanders gets 14 percent (+4 points) and Elizabeth Warren stands at 10 percent (-2).

BIDEN LEADS IN NEVADA: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders remain the top picks for the Democratic nomination among Nevada caucusgoers, while Elizabeth Warren fades and Tom Steyer gains momentum (Fox News). In the general election contest, the latest Fox News Poll of Nevada voters shows Democrats besting President Trump -- but only Biden has a lead outside the poll’s margin of error. First, in the race for the Democratic nomination, Biden tops Sanders by 23-17 percent among Democratic caucusgoers, with both down one percentage point since November. Warren comes in at 12 percent, down from 18 percent -- and ties with Tom Steyer for third. Steyer’s 12 percent is up from 5 percent two months ago.

BUTTIGIEG RELEASES INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN: Pete Buttigieg released “Building for the 21st Century,” a comprehensive infrastructure plan that will create more economic opportunities for individuals and communities. His plan will create 6 million well-paying jobs, ensure that everyone has access to clean drinking water and affordable ways to get to work and empower local communities to lead on infrastructure development so that they can support safe, vibrant, growing neighborhoods (Howey Politics Indiana). “The current administration has been incapable of keeping its promise to pass major infrastructure legislation, and as a result, critical projects around the country are stalled and communities are paying the price,” said Buttigieg. “Cities and towns have been leading the way on new infrastructure partnerships and approaches, but too often the federal government does not help as it should—failing to fund and prioritize infrastructure and relying on outdated standards. Under my administration, local governments will finally have a partner in Washington. As a former mayor, I know that priority-based budgets made locally are better than budget-based priorities set in Washington.” His administration will invest over $1 trillion to work with states, cities, and other local governments to build the sustainable infrastructure of the 21st century.

BUTTIGIEG SCHEDULE: Pete Buttigieg will tour the A Bridge Home Project with City Councilmember Joe Buscaino in Los Angeles. On Saturday, Pete will return to Las Vegas for his ninth trip to the state. Pete will participate in a town hall hosted by Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165, tour the Culinary Health Center, and rally supporters at Silverado High School. On January 12-17, Pete will campaign in Iowa with stops in Des Moines, Winterset, Ames, Newton, Cedar Falls, Mason City, Algona, Emmetsburg, Arnolds Park, Orange City, Sioux City, and Le Mars. He will speak on January 18 at the 2020 ISEA Legislative Conference. Additional stops will be announced.



General Assembly

SEN. KRUSE CALLS FOR END TO STANDARDIZED TESTING: A member of the Indiana Senate Education Committee said Thursday he'd like to see statewide standardized testing in schools eliminated. “We don't need a state test of any kind,” Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, told more than 100 people attending a public education forum at Carroll High School (Francisco, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). “Most all teachers I think know their students, they know what they're doing in the classroom, they know if they're learning or not learning, they're giving them their quizzes,” said Kruse, a former chairman of the education panel.  “I don't think that the federal government ought to be telling us” to test students, “and I don't think we ought to be telling the local schools. I would be in favor of doing away with the statewide test totally,” he said. The audience applauded his remarks, which were echoed by other legislators appearing at the forum. “You can't judge performance and success by a test like that,” said Rep. Dave Abbott, R-Rome City. Abbott also said, “I think the teachers and the schools are doing a pretty fine job” on their own.

SENATE DEMS PITCH TEACHER PAY PROPOSALS: Indiana Senate Democrats offered their plans Thursday to boost teacher pay – in both the short term and the long term (Smith, Indiana Public Media). The proposals wouldn’t reduce money from the state’s existing budget. Sen. Eddie Melton’s (D-Gary) plan would use excess state surplus dollars to put $100 million a year more this school year and next into existing teacher appreciation grants. Melton uses Indianapolis Public School teachers as an example: they currently get an average $350 a year from the grants. “Under this bill, they would receive over $1,100,” Melton says. Sen. Karen Tallian’s (D-Ogden Dunes) plan is more ambitious. She wants to change the pace at which the state is paying off a teacher pension fund. It wouldn’t affect those pensions – but it would free up a lot of money. “This is a 20-year plan that will get you at least $100 million a year,” Tallian says.

Congress

BROOKS VOTES ON WIRELESS ACT: U.S. Rep. Susan W. Brooks (R-IN05) voted in favor of H.R. 2881, the Secure 5G and Beyond Act and H.R. 4463, the Promoting U.S. Wireless Leadership Act, two bipartisan bills she proudly cosponsored. Brooks provided the following statement (Howey Politics Indiana): “As our world becomes even more interconnected, it is critically important the U.S continues to lead in wireless innovation. It is because of Indianapolis’ leadership and role as a test city for 5G, I co-founded and co-chair the 5G Caucus in Congress. 5G is the first mobile technology designed specifically to meet the unique requirements of connected cars, smart cities, smart homes, health care devices, and much more. With innovation also comes new, unique threats to our country. I strongly support protecting our nation from dangerous foreign intrusion into our telecommunication networks while continuing to allow this next generation mobile technology to transform the way we live for the better.”

HOUSE PASSES WAR POWERS RESOLUTION:  A sharply divided House voted on Thursday to force President Trump to come to Congress for authorization before taking further military action against Iran, in a sharp response to his ratcheting up of hostilities with Tehran without the explicit approval of the legislative branch (New York Times). The vote was 224 to 194, almost entirely along party lines, to curtail Mr. Trump’s war-making power. It came as Democrats insisted that the president must involve Congress in any escalation against Iran, and Republicans — following Mr. Trump’s lead — accused Democrats of coddling the enemy in questioning the commander in chief at a dangerous moment.

3 REPUBLICANS VOTE FOR WAR POWERS: The House of Representatives on Thursday approved the Iran War Powers resolution -- an effort to restrain President Donald Trump's ability to use military action against Iran without congressional approval -- with the support of three Republicans (CNN). Republicans Reps. Matt Gaetz and Francis Rooney of Florida as well as Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky all crossed party lines to vote in favor of the resolution. The measure, which passed by a nearly party line vote of 224-194 on Thursday evening, will next go to the Senate. There were eight Democratic noes: Reps. Joe Cunningham (S.C.), Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.), Max Rose (N.Y.), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), Kendra Horn (Okla.), Elaine Luria (Va.), Ben McAdams (Utah) and Stephanie Murphy (Fla.). There were three Republican yeses: Reps. Thomas Massie (Ky.), Francis Rooney (Fla.) and Matt Gaetz (Fla.).

BROOKS VOTED AGAINST RESOLUTION: U.S. Rep. Susan W. Brooks (R-IN05) provided the following statement after voting against H. Con Res. 83, Directing the President pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran (Howey Politics Indiana). “As Commander-In-Chief, the President has inherent Article II authority to defend the United States and our forces. He possessed the legal authority for the strike on Soleimani and complied with the 48-hour reporting requirements under the War Powers Resolution. Under Article II powers, presidents of both parties have claimed the inherent Constitutional right to use U.S. military force without Congressional authorization in pursuit of an important U.S. national interest, such as defense of U.S. personnel or diplomatic facilities abroad, as long as that use of force is limited in nature, scope, and duration – as the strike on Soleimani was.

WALORSKI VOTES V. WAR RESOLUTION: U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today released the following statement after voting against H. Con. Res. 83, a non-binding resolution to limit the president’s authority to direct military action in response to Iranian aggression or to prevent Iran-backed terrorist attacks (Howey Politics Indiana): “While today’s vote is merely a partisan ploy – the resolution would have no force of law – it represents a dangerous effort to undermine our national security,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “This is no time to limit the president’s constitutional authority to protect the American people and defend against Iranian aggression. Recklessly tying the hands of our commander-in-chief would weaken our military, endanger the lives of U.S. servicemembers and our allies, and make America less safe.”

McCONNELL BACKS RESOLUTION CHANGING IMPEACHMENT RULES: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is backing a resolution to change the Senate’s rules to allow for lawmakers to dismiss articles of impeachment against President Trump before the House sends them over (The Hill). Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) announced on Thursday that McConnell has signed on as a co-sponsor to the resolution, which he introduced earlier this week. Spokesmen for McConnell didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about his support. Changing the rules would either require a two-thirds vote or for Republicans to deploy the "nuclear" option. The resolution would give the House 25 days to send articles of impeachment over to the Senate.

State

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB STATE OF STATE WATCH PARTIES - Gov. Eric Holcomb’s 2020 State of the State speech is this Tuesday, Jan 14 at 7:00 p.m. ET/6 p.m. ET. As you’re making plans on where to watch the speech, consider attending one of these watch parties, which will include a presentation from a member of our Holcomb campaign team updating you on our campaign's grassroots efforts (most parties start at 6 p.m. ET/5 p.m. CT):

Allen County Watch Party

135 W. Main St. Fort Wayne

Butler University Watch Party

Lacy School of Business, Room 218

Grant County Watch Party

2301 S. Western Ave, #D Marion

Hamilton County Watch Party

209 E. 175th St. Westfield

Hendricks County Watch Party

355 S. Washington St. Danville

Indiana University Watch Party

Kelley School of Business, Room HH4075

Knox County Watch Party

26 N. 4th Street

Vincennes *Note: This event starts at 6:30 p.m. ET

Kosciusko County Watch Party

123 W. Center Street Warsaw

Marion County (Lawrence Township)

9302 Timberline Dr. Indianapolis *Note: This event starts at 7 p.m. ET.

Marion County (Southside)

3145 Madison Avenue Indianapolis

Porter County Watch Party

2203 William Drive Valparaiso

*Note: This event begins at 5 p.m. CT.

St. Joseph County Watch Party

4133 S. Main St. South Bend

Tippecanoe County Watch Party

John Purdue Room, Seargent Crestons

14 N. 2nd Street, Lafayette

University of Indianapolis Watch Party

Goode Hall, Room 104

SUPREME COURT: TO HEAR BLOOMINGTON ANNEXATION CASE - The Indiana Supreme Court will deliberate on an annexation dispute involving the State of Indiana and the City of Bloomington (Pinsker, Indiana Public Media). Lawyers argued before the justices Thursday morning that the state legislature overstepped its bounds in 2017 when it inserted language into a budget bill barring the city of Bloomington from annexing any part of Monroe County for five years. Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton says the city had no choice but to sue Governor Eric Holcomb, even though the governor has no line item veto authority. “We’re trying to follow the law, when the State Assembly says you can’t receive the annexation, I didn’t really feel comfortable saying I’m going to do it anyway," Hamilton says. Last spring, a lower court ruled the legislature violated the “single subject clause” by singling out Bloomington in the legislation.

ATTORNEY GENERAL: LANDLORDS CAN'T BE HELD FOR UTILITY BILLS - Landlords cannot be held responsible for tenants’ municipal utility bills, Attorney General Curtis Hill said in an advisory opinion issued today (Howey Politics Indiana). “If a tenant is responsible for payment of utilities under a lease, the municipal utility cannot hold the landlord responsible for payment unless the landlord is a party to the service agreement,” Attorney General Hill said. “The utility cannot deny service to subsequent occupants of the property, and unpaid utility bills do not constitute a lien on the property.” Further, Attorney General Hill said, a municipal utility that requires a property owner to sign for an account with a tenant so that the landlord is responsible for the tenant’s delinquent bills is acting in a manner contrary to the purpose of the statute. In fact, imposing such a requirement may exceed the utility’s authority under Indiana‘s Home Rule Act. The Office of the Attorney General issued the opinion in response to an inquiry from state Rep. Woody Burton of Greenwood. He sought guidance on issues related to recently-enacted legislation designed to clarify the responsibility for payment for services provided by municipally owned utilities to rental properties.

EDUCATION: VU TO PARTNER WITH FISHERS ACADEMY - Eleven Fifty Academy students are now eligible to earn credits through Vincennes University Christian, IBJ). Vincennes University announced its partnership Thursday with Fishers-based Eleven Fifty Academy to develop new talent in the cybersecurity field. The not-for-profit coding school has classrooms in Fishers and Indianapolis. Credits earned at either location may be applied to a certificate of program completion in cybersecurity and networking or degrees in cybersecurity information technology from Vincennes University. “There is a great need in the state of Indiana for more cybersecurity experts in our workforce,” Jaci Lederman, VU Information Technology Department chair and associate professor, said in a written statement. “We are excited to work with Eleven Fifty Academy to educate more Hoosiers in cybersecurity.”

EDUCATION: IVY TECH PARTNERS WITH GOSHEN COLLEGE - Ivy Tech Community College students are now able to transfer credits into Goshen College’s four-year bachelor degree programs in accounting, business and marketing. The institutions last month signed articulation agreements for the initiative, and officials say other fields of study are also being considered (McLaughlin, Inside Indiana Business). “Goshen College has welcomed transfer students from Ivy Tech Community College for many years and we are happy to see them complete their bachelor’s degree with us,” said Dr. Ann Vendrely, Goshen College academic dean. “The agreement provides a clear pathway for students to complete their associate’s degree at Ivy Tech and move seamlessly to Goshen College.” The agreement empowers students who achieve their associate's degree in accounting, business or marketing at Ivy Tech to complete their bachelor’s degree at Goshen College in two years, according to the college.

STEEL: IMPORTS DROP 15% - The United States imported 28.6 million tons of steel in 2019, a 15% drop as compared to the previous year (Pete, NWI Times). The decline could mostly be attributed to the Section 232 tariffs of 25% on most foreign-made steel to protect the domestic steel industry for national security reasons during an unprecedented glut of global steelmaking capacity, which has more than doubled over the past 20 years as China now cranks out nearly 1 billion tons of steel a year. The duties effectively serve as a tax on steel imports, making them more expensive to buy.

GAMING: 3 OF JACKSON 5 BREAK GROUND ON GARY CASINO - The dice started rolling Thursday on one of the biggest business wagers in recent city history when ground was broken for the $300 million Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana (NWI Times). Under a huge white tent at the center of a recently cleared 30-acre site, adjacent to the Borman Expressway at Burr Street, casino company leaders, state and local dignitaries and three members of the world-famous Jackson 5 music group used shovels, complete with guitar-style handles, to ceremonially dig into a new era for gaming in Northwest Indiana. "We are ready to rock the Region!" proclaimed Jahnae Erpenbach, executive vice president for Spectacle Entertainment. "As a Hard Rock destination, we are going to deliver unparalleled fun, excitement and incredible entertainment value."

Nation

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP CITES PLOT TO BLOW UP EMBASSY - President Donald Trump suggested Thursday that he ordered the killing of Iran’s top military commander last week to disrupt a previously undisclosed plot to attack the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad (Politico). “I will say this, we caught a total monster. We took him out. That should have happened a long time ago,” Trump said during an environmental event at the White House of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. “We did it because they were looking to blow up our embassy. We also did it for other reasons that were very obvious. Somebody died, one of our military people died. People were badly wounded just a week before,” he added.

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP SEEKS ENVIRONMENTAL REG OVERHAUL - President Trump proposed a major overhaul of federal environmental permitting, responding to business complaints of bureaucratic delays to infrastructure projects such as roads and energy pipelines (Wall Street Journal). “We want to build new roads, bridges and highways bigger and faster,” Mr. Trump said from the White House, adding that the proposal would help create new jobs. But environmentalists assailed the changes to rules tied to the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, saying they would weaken standards at a time when climate change is making federal review even more critical. “Forcing federal agencies to ignore environmental threats is a disgraceful abdication of our responsibility to protect the planet for future generations,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said this week anticipating the overhaul. He called it a “gift to the fossil-fuel industry.”

WHITE HOUSE: PENCE DEFENDS IRAN BRIEFING - Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday said the administration could not share all of the intelligence during briefings to members of Congress about the drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani because some of it was too sensitive (New York Post). He was responding to criticism from Democratic and some Republican lawmakers that the briefings failed to provide sufficient evidence justifying the attack against the top Iranian military commander. “Some of the most compelling evidence that Qassem Soleimani was preparing an imminent attack against American forces and American personnel also represents some of the most sensitive intelligence we have,” Pence said during an interview on NBC’s “Today” show. “It could compromise those sources and methods.”

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP SCHEDULE - President Trump will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 1:45 p.m. in the Oval Office.

LABOR: SLOWED JOBS REPORTED EXPECTED THIS AM - U.S. job growth likely slowed in December, but the pace of hiring probably remains more than enough to keep the longest economic expansion in history on track despite a deepening downturn in a manufacturing sector stung by trade disputes (Reuters). The Labor Department's closely watched monthly employment report on Friday could buttress the Federal Reserve's assessment that both the economy and monetary policy are in a 'good place.' It would extend the run of upbeat data such as consumer spending, trade and housing that have suggested the expansion, now in its 11th year, is not in immediate danger of being derailed by a recession.

MEDIA: SUNDAY TALK - CBS "Face the Nation": Defense Secretary Mark Esper, John Kerry, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). ABC "This Week": Speaker Nancy Pelosi. CNN "State of the Union": Panel: Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), Rick Santorum, Wajahat Ali and Mia Love. NBC "Meet the Press": Panel: Yamiche Alcindor, David French, Steve Inskeep and Andrea Mitchell. "Fox News Sunday": Panel: Jonah Goldberg, Donna Brazile, Gillian Turner and Juan Williams. CNN "Inside Politics": Panel: Julie Pace, Vivian Salama, Jeff Zeleny and Karoun Demirjian.

Local

PORTAGE: MAYOR CANNON SAYS HE WAS STIFFED ON PAY - The city’s former mayor said he and seven former city officials and employees have been denied their final paychecks by the city’s new clerk-treasurer (Dolan, NWI Times). John Cannon said Wednesday he has hired a lawyer to recover what he believes to be more than $10,000 in salary the city owes him, former city council members William Fekete, Mark Oprisko and Elizabeth Modesto and four others. Modesto said, “We are entitled to that money. We all took our jobs expecting to be paid to the end of our tenure. It doesn’t make sense.”

KENDALLVILLE: TIF EXPANSION EXPECTED -  Kendallville officials have a lot of homework to do before making any decisions about whether to expand the city’s tax-increment financing districts or, at least, expand where they can spend the money they’re already collecting (KPC News). In a lengthy information session Wednesday morning, Kendallville Redevelopment Commission members hosted Heidi Amspaugh of financial consulting firm Baker-Tilley and Pattie Zelmer of law firm Ice Miller to discuss the city’s plan to potentially expand the reach of its TIF districts. Currently, Kendallville has two TIF districts, a Downtown TIF that covers the downtown area around Main Street, and the Eastside TIF, which covers the general area east of Fair Street to the eastern city limits along U.S. 6 and south to the railroad tracks.

INDIANAPOLIS: RAMPING UP FO 2022 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - Susan Baughman will spend this weekend getting learning the nuances of putting on a national championship game (Indiana Public Media). Then the Indianapolis College Football Playoff host committee president will spend the next two years using those lessons to come up with a game plan. On Wednesday, Baughman announced the rest of her team then took a few moments to contemplate the four-day event Indy be hosting in 2022. “We’re going to overprepare, we’re going to plan for everything,” Baughman said. “We’re going to take a look (in New Orleans) at how we can develop our plan here.” Indianapolis has plenty of experience hosting major events, including seven Final Fours, the 2000 NBA Finals, multiple Olympics trials, the 2002 basketball world championships, the 2012 Super Bowl and races including the annual Indianapolis 500 each May.

INDIANAPOLIS: CHURCH ACQUIRES BROAD RIPPLE MARSH SITE - Another former Marsh Supermarkets property is heading toward a new use. Fast-growing Traders Point Christian Church has acquired the vacant Marsh grocery property in Broad Ripple for $7.6 million and apparently plans to use it for its new Midtown campus (IBJ). The sale of the 6.6-acre property, which closed Dec. 26, included the 57,000-square-foot store building at 2350 Broad Ripple Ave. and parking lots to the north and south, according to Marion County Assessor’s Office records. The name of the seller is listed as 2350 Broad Ripple Avenue. Traders Point, which has six church campuses around the Indianapolis area, is temporarily using the Glendale Seventh Day Adventist Church at 2900 E. 62nd St. as its Midtown Campus. The campus is about two blocks east of the Marsh site. On its website, the church says it plans to make an announcement about a permanent Midtown location soon.

BLOOMINGTON: FARMERS MARKET WILL CONTINUE - The City of Bloomington will continue to run the Community Farmers’ Market through 2020. The Board of Park Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday evening to retain control of the market (Indiana Public Media). The vote eases tensions for many vendors who rely on the market to make ends meet. Earlier this week, over 90 market vendors sent a letter to city officials asking them to keep the market city-run. “Making the market private doesn’t solve our problem, it creates several new ones,” says Parks Board member Kathleen Mills. “Ones that would not be managed by experienced people and the considerable resources available through the Parks Department. Problems that would be up to some other unknown entity to grapple with. It also carelessly puts the livelihoods of 125 small farmers and gardeners, 17 prepared food vendors and 87 artists up to chance.”

ROCHESTER: SPECIAL PROSECUTOR SOUGHT IN BUS CASE - A special prosecutor has been requested in the criminal proceedings against Brittany Ingle, the woman whose three children were killed when they were struck at a bus stop in 2018 by a car driven by Alyssa Shepherd. Fulton County prosecutors said they could not be unbiased in prosecuting Ingle on battery charges after she allegedly attacked Shepherd last month as the pair exited a Fulton County courtroom (AP). Shepherd, 25, was sentenced Dec. 18 to four years in prison after she failed to stop at the bus stop north of Rochester, killing three of Ingle’s children. As Shepherd was being led out of the courtroom that day, Ingle “attacked” Shepherd, according to a probable cause affidavit, and was led away in handcuffs. Ingle, 30, has not yet been charged in connection with the incident, according to Fulton County Prosecutor Michael Marrs. Marrs said he does not feel his office could be unbiased in its prosecution of the case because of how close staff came to Ingle and her family while working on the state’s case against Shepherd.