PEOPLE DYING AT ELKHART GENERAL AWAITING ER ENTRY: Elkhart General Hospital has hit an all-time high for hospitalizations just ten days into the new year. According to Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Michelle Bache, the rise in patients, because of COVID-19, has resulted in some dying while waiting in the emergency room for a hospital bed (Samra, WNDU-TV). “We are just started to hear about some of these patients who have been waiting to get very critical procedures done, such as by-pass surgery on the heart, valve replacement, that are dying. They didn’t die of COVID but the pandemic has really played a major role in those individuals’ deaths and it is really sad,” Dr. Bache told 16 News Now Monday. As of Monday morning, Dr. Bache reports 33 people were kept waiting for a hospital bed in the ER. “The ER, to put it bluntly, is really just a disaster right now. You can’t easily walk through the areas. The patients who continue to come through our front door that are needing to be evaluated and treated, they are occupying beds in the halls, chairs, we are trying to see them out in the waiting room. The waiting room is completely overflowing. It just really is a disaster,” Dr. Bache explains.

 

570 HOOSIERS DIED OF COVID LAST WEEK: Indiana reports more than 15,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day. State health officials open booster shots to Hoosiers 12 to 15 years old. And the Indiana House GOP’s bill to effectively ban private companies from enforcing vaccine mandates passes its first legislative hurdle (Chapman, Indiana Public Media). The Indiana Department of Health reported 71,595 new cases in the last week, adding more than 12,000 new cases three out of seven days. It also hit a new single-day record for new cases, reporting 15,277 new cases Thursday. Indiana averaged 1,876.2 new cases per day in October, 2,707.3 in November, and 5,179.6 in December. In just the first week of January, the state has averaged 10,316.8 new cases per day. The state added 573 new deaths to its total in the last week. And the state’s COVID-19 hospital census is currently at more than 3,300 Hoosiers.

 

HOUSE GOP GET DATA TO SUPPORT TAX CUT: House Republicans seeking to bolster their case for enacting a tax cut during this year's legislative session got the numbers they were looking for Friday (Carden, NWI Times). Data released by the State Budget Agency show Indiana tax collections in December exceeded even the revised monthly revenue target and far surpassed the revenue prediction Hoosier lawmakers used last spring to craft the state's two-year spending plan. In total, the state's general fund took in $1.66 billion last month. That was $19 million, or 1.2%, more than anticipated by the revised revenue forecast issued Dec. 16. But compared to the April 2021 budget plan, state revenue crushed the December estimate by $178.2 million, or 12%, pushing Indiana's surplus tax collections through the first six months of its budget year to $825.1 million, or 10.1%. House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, already announced his plan to permanently cut business and personal taxes by more than $1 billion even before the December revenue figures showed Indiana probably can afford it. He's now likely to redouble his efforts to advance House Bill 1002 in the weeks ahead, and may even be able to persuade skeptical Senate Republicans and Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb to get on board.

 

BULK OF BIDEN COVID MANDATES GO INTO EFFECT: Much of the Biden administration’s vaccination mandate for larger employers went into effect Monday despite the possibility the Supreme Court could halt the rule as it considers a legal challenge to it (Wall Street Journal). As of Jan. 10, all employers with more than 100 employees must have a procedure in place to ensure employees are vaccinated and keep track of workers’ vaccination status. Employers must also track whether their workers are infected and keep those who test positive away from work. Workers who aren’t vaccinated must wear a mask while indoors. The Labor Department in December gave employers an extra month to require that unvaccinated employees take weekly Covid-19 tests. It goes into effect Feb. 9. The rule covers roughly 84 million workers. It doesn’t apply to businesses where employees don’t report to a central workplace. It also doesn’t apply to those whose employees work at home or outdoors.

 

PENCE 'ANNOYED' BY JAN. 6 COMMITTEE: Former VP Mike Pnece remains undecided on whether to cooperate with the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation, and sources tell the New York Times he’s most recently “grown increasingly disillusioned with the idea of voluntary cooperation. He has told aides that the committee has taken a sharp partisan turn by openly considering the potential for criminal referrals to the Justice Department about Donald Trump and others. Such referrals, in Mr. Pence’s view, appear designed to hurt Republican chances of winning control of Congress in November.” And on top of that, Pence has also “grown annoyed that the committee is publicly signaling that it has secured a greater degree of cooperation from his top aides than it actually has, something he sees as part of a pattern of Democrats trying to turn his team against Mr. Trump.”

 

SCHOOLS RECEIVE $3B IN FED COVID AID: The pandemic upended education for about 50 million American students, and U.S. lawmakers responded by giving schools an unprecedented surge of federal funding — including nearly $3 billion for Indiana schools (McCoy, Indiana Public Media). The aid has few restrictions, so districts can decide what they need to operate during the enduring crisis and what will help make up for the instruction students have missed out on. School systems with larger shares of children from low-income families received more money. Although public information on how districts use the aid is inconsistent and often hard to find, schools were required to post plans on their public websites of how district leaders will use the latest round of funding. District leaders decide what to include in the plans, however, and some are far more detailed than others.

 

INDIANA FACES CRITICAL BLOOD SHORTAGE: There's a call to action for eligible Hoosiers to donate blood because supply is at a critically low level across the state (WRTV). Versiti Blood Center, which provides blood and blood products to 90 hospital partners throughout the state, says they have less than a one-day supply on their shelves. This means that communities across the state may not have the blood they need to help those in need. "This is the lowest the blood supply has been in a decade, and it is dangerous," said Dr. Dan Waxman, senior medical director at Versiti. "Without blood readily available, patients' lives could be at risk. Trauma patients may not have the blood needed for treatment; cancer patients may not have the blood needed for transfusions. It is dire. We urge those who are able to make an appointment to donate today."

 

BIDEN TO CALL FOR FILIBUSTER CHANGE TODAY: President Joe Biden plans to use a speech in Georgia to throw his support behind changing the Senate’s filibuster rules to allow action on voting rights legislation, calling it a moment to choose “democracy over autocracy.” But some civil rights activists, proclaiming themselves more interested in action than speeches, say they plan to stay away (AP). Biden on Tuesday will pay tribute to civil rights battles past — visiting Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once held forth from the pulpit, and placing a wreath at the crypt of King and his wife, Coretta Scott King — before turning to today’s challenge. With Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., setting up Martin Luther King Jr. Day as the deadline to either pass voting legislation or consider revising the rules, Biden is expected to evoke the memories of the U.S. Capitol riot a year ago in more forcefully aligning himself with the effort.

 

GEORGIA DERAILS ALABAMA AS CFP CHAMP: Confetti rained down on Georgia. The Bulldogs fans chanted “Kir-by, Kir-by!” Four decades of pent-up emotion were unleashed Monday night as the Bulldogs snapped a frustrating national championship drought by vanquishing their nemesis (AP). Stetson Bennett delivered the biggest throws of his storybook career and Georgia’s defense sealed the sweetest victory in program history, beating Alabama 33-18 in the College Football Playoff for its first title in 41 years. “I’ve never been around a group of players that really wanted it so bad and wouldn’t be denied,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I told the guys in the locker room, just take a picture of this.” Smart, a Bulldogs defensive back in the mid-1990s, returned to his alma mater in 2016 after helping Nick Saban build a dynasty as an assistant at Alabama.

 

DNR POSTS NEW FLOOD PLAIN TOOL: A new Indiana Floodplain Information Portal (INFIP) is available that will save users valuable time. INFIP is designed to show flood risk associated with Indiana bodies of water and provide information specifically for local and state floodplain permitting. The information is based on the regulatory floodplain limits, because floods exceeding the regulatory floodplain can and do occur (Howey Politics Indiana). With this new tool, the user can download a Floodplain Analysis and Regulatory Assessment (FARA) directly from the app. The tool reduces FARA wait times from 30-60 days to a matter of minutes. The user also has an option to file for staff review of their site but should only do so if: the nearest stream’s drainage area is greater than one square mile and there is no mapped floodway; there is not a mapped floodplain on the nearest stream to the point of interest; there is no mapped floodway for the stream nearest the point of interest; or, the point of interest is in a floodplain of another stream, but the stream nearest the point of interest does not have a mapped floodplain with a floodway of its own.

 

IRSAY SUMMONS REICH, BALLARD SUNDAY NIGHT: Colts owner Jim Irsay summoned Chris Ballard and Frank Reich to West 56th Street late Sunday night (Chappell, CBS4). He always has a season-ending sit-down with his general manager and head coach. But generally not so soon after a season ends. Reich and Ballard were home, presumably trying to figure out what went wrong. Then, their cell phone buzzed. “When we got back, he wanted to meet with Chris and I,’’ Reich said. “So, we came back over here to the building last night and met with Mr. Irsay for a couple of hours just reflecting on the game, on the season.’’ “It’s clear that we did not have the right stuff,’’ he said. “We were not able to perform at the level we were certainly capable of performing to.

 

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Gov. Holcomb gives his sixth state of the state address and third of this pandemic era at 7 tonight. Usually the state of the state gives a governor a perch to boast about how well the state is doing, but as the WNDU-TV story from Elkhart General Hospital says, Hoosiers are dying in emergency rooms awaiting unstaffed ICU beds because this pandemic is out of control. - Brian A. Howey

 

Campaigns

 

SEC. SULLIVAN FILES FOR FULL TERM: Secretary of State Holli Sullivan today filed to seek the Republican Party’s nomination for Secretary of State to continue protecting the integrity of Indiana’s elections (Howey Politics Indiana). “As Secretary of State I know how much is at stake,” Sullivan said. “I’m running because safe and secure elections is not a destination. It is a relentless pursuit to ensure that all eligible voters are able to cast a ballot and all legal votes are counted in a timely manner, free of fraud, corruption and interference.” Secretary Sullivan became Indiana’s 62nd Secretary of State when she was appointed by Governor Eric Holcomb following the retirement of Secretary Connie Lawson. “Here in Indiana, we have safe and secure elections with our strong voter ID laws and our transparent process for maintaining current and accurate voter rolls,” Sullivan said. “Democrats and their allies are trying to federalize our elections. We can never let this happen. Hoosier elections should always be run by Hoosiers.” She faces a Republican Convention floor fight next June against Newton County Commissioner Kyle Conrad and Diego Morales. Democrat Destiny Scott Wells announced she was running last week.

 

PENCE TO CAMPAIGN FOR FORT WAYNE SENATE CANDIDATE: Former Vice President Mike Pence will headline a February fundraiser for Ron Turpin, the Fort Wayne businessman running in the Republican primary for Indiana State Senate in District 14. The $1,000 per couple event will take place on Feb. 1 at an undisclosed location in the district which covers most of Allen County’s east side. Turpin is pitted in the primary against Dr. Tyler Johnson, an emergency room physician with Parkview Health. The seat has been held for years by Dennis Kruse. “We are honored to have Vice President Pence come to Northeast Indiana to support our campaign for State Senate District 14,” Turpin wrote to WANE 15.

 

TRUMP CALLS OUT SEN. ROUNDS: Statement by Donald J. Trump (Howey Politics Indiana): “'Senator' Mike Rounds of the Great State of South Dakota just went woke on the Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020. He made a statement this weekend on ABC Fake News, that despite massive evidence to the contrary, including much of it pouring in from Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and other states, he found the election to be ok—just fine. Is he crazy or just stupid? The numbers are conclusive, and the fraudulent and irregular votes are massive. The only reason he did this is because he got my endorsement and easily won his state in 2020, so now he thinks he has time, and those are the only ones, the weak, who will break away. Even though his election will not be coming up for 5 years, I will never endorse this jerk again. It’s RINOs like this that are allowing the Democrats to destroy our Nation! Our Borders, our Military, our Economy, Inflation, the horrible handling of the China Virus and Afghanistan, and rampant crime throughout our Democrat-run cities are ripping our Country apart. We are a laughingstock throughout the world when we were respected and even feared just 1 year ago. There were no thoughts of Russia with Ukraine, China with Taiwan, Iran with nuclear weapons, or North Korea with nasty statements. The Radical Left Democrats and RINOS, like “Senator” Mike Rounds, do not make it easy for our Country to succeed. He is a weak and ineffective leader, and I hereby firmly pledge that he will never receive my Endorsement again!"

 

CANDIDATE FILINGS: Congress Democrat: Phillip Beachy CD3; Aaron (A.J.) Calkins CD3. Republican: T. Charles Bookwalter CD4; Russell Scott Johnson CD7.

 

Indiana Senate Democrat: Bobby Kern SD46. Republican: Ronnie Alting SD22; Kyle Walker SD31.

 

Indiana House Democrat: Teresa Kendall HD63; Justin Moed HD97. Republican: Craig Snow HD22; Ann Vermillion HD31; Susan Dillon HD34; Luke Campbell HD47; Wendy McNamara HD76; Tim O'Brien HD78; David Hewitt HD91.

 

RNC PAYS $720K IN TRUMP LEGAL BILLS: More than a year after the 2020 presidential election, the GOP is still covering numerous legal bills for the benefit of former President Donald Trump -- and the price tag is ruffling the feathers of some longtime GOP donors who are now critical of Trump (ABC News). In October and November alone, the Republican National Committee spent nearly $720,000 of its donor money on paying law firms representing Trump in various legal challenges, including criminal investigations into his businesses in New York, according to campaign finance records.

 

TRUMP ANGERED THAT 'TRUTH SOCIAL' DELAYS: Former president Donald Trump’s upstart social network is probably months away from being fully operational, potentially limiting his ability to influence the midterm elections, according to people familiar with the fledgling operation (Washington Post). The pace of development for Truth Social has at times frustrated Trump, who has discussed but ultimately turned down opportunities to work with other platforms in the fast-growing universe of right-wing social media sites, said three people familiar with the discussions, who like others in this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. He is holding out for his own venture, which he believes will be more lucrative and gives him more control, advisers say.

 

State

 

EDUCATION: FEWER STUDENTS GRADUATE IN 2021 - Indiana's 2021 state graduation rates show that a slightly lower percentage of students graduated in 2021 than 2020, according to data from the Department of Education (NWI Times). IDOE released 2021 state graduation rates in late December showing that 86.69% of students graduated last school year. The graduation rate is down from both 2020 and 2019. In 2020, 87.69% of students graduated and in 2019, 87.29% of students graduated.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL: ROKITA ADDRESSES ROBOCALLS - Attorney General Todd Rokita called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to put measures in place to better prevent foreign-based illegal robocalls aimed at scamming Americans (Howey Politics Indiana). “Hoosiers are sick and tired of getting scam calls, along with everyone else in the country,” Attorney General Rokita said. “Bad actors who willfully or blindly enable illegal robocalls have no place in the calling ecosystem. We will continue to fight to stop those calls. We will keep working to protect Hoosiers’ privacy and hard-earned money.” In October, Attorney General Rokita filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against an Indiana company that allegedly acted as a gateway into the United States for robocallers in India, the Philippines and Singapore. The robocallers allegedly made more than 5 million phone calls to Hoosiers and hundreds of millions of calls to other states.

 

CAMP ATTERBURY: 1,200 AFGHAN REFUGEES REMAIN - Today, the majority have been resettled, and about 1,200 evacuees remain at the base, Public Affairs Officer Maj. Jennifer Pendleton told IndyStar on Thursday. “You see how excited people are to finally leave,” Pendleton said. “They get to start anew and it's great … It’s really promising and fills you with a lot of positive vibes.” Resettlement agencies across the country, including Exodus Refugee Immigration in Indianapolis, have ramped up efforts to welcome the influx of new residents.

 

DNR: PUBLIC HEARING ON PROPOSED PERMITS - The Natural Resources Commission’s Division of Hearings has scheduled a virtual public hearing to accept public comments on proposed rule changes governing fishing tournament licenses/permits, trapping wild animals, and registering to be an organ donor through the DNR’s license system. More information about the proposed changes is at wildlife.IN.gov/rule-regulation-changes/  The virtual public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. ET on Jan. 20, 2022, using WebEx. Individuals may join the public hearing in two ways: To join by phone using only audio, please dial 1-240-454-0887, when prompted enter access code 23034329797##.

 

DNR: VOLUNTEER ON MLK DAY - Honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by volunteering at one of Indiana’s DNR properties this year (Howey Politics Indiana). DNR provides a variety of ways to make a difference in maintaining, improving, and restoring Indiana’s natural and cultural heritage. Several opportunities are available, including maintaining trails, helping in nature centers, and sharing photography or artwork. DNR also welcomes those who can use their unique talents to create a unique volunteer opportunity. "Volunteering gives you a great sense of accomplishment,” said Jody Heaston, volunteer coordinator for Indiana State Parks. “You know you are helping manage and conserve our natural and cultural resources for future generations to enjoy.” Explore the DNR volunteer website for more information at on.IN.gov/dnrvolunteer or email questions to DNRvolunteer@dnr.IN.gov.

 

PURDUE: EXTENSION TO OFFER URBAN FARMING PROGRAM - A new program out of Purdue Extension is equipping local farmers with all the skills they need to grow in the city (NWI Times). Launching this spring, Purdue Extension's Urban Farming Signature Program will guide participants through the complexities of growing in urban spaces while connecting with other local farmers. An introductory course designed for anyone interested in farming in an urban setting, students will gather at the Purdue Extension-Lake County office in Crown Point every Wednesday afternoon from Jan. 26 to March 2. The classes will feature local urban farmers as guest speakers, helping form a network of growers. Interest in urban farming has grown in recent years, said Rebecca Koetz, of Lake County Extension.

 

PURDUE FORT WAYNE: LEWINSKY LECTURE POSTPONED DUE TO COVID - Monica Lewinsky’s scheduled talk at Purdue Fort Wayne set for later this month has been rescheduled due to COVID-19 (WANE-TV). Lewinsky was set to speak at the university Jan. 25 as part of the Omnibus Speaker Series. “Due to the current spike in COVID-19 cases in Indiana and nationwide, and to ensure as safe of an experience as possible for patrons in attendance at the university’s 1,500-seat Auer Performance Hall at Rhinehart Music Center,” though, the lecture was postponed. Representatives of Lewinsky and university officials have begun working to establish a new date for her visit later this year, the university said.

 

NOTRE DAME: SUED FOR ALLEGED FINANCIAL AID COLLUSION - The University of Notre Dame and 15 other top schools across the country are being sued for allegedly colluding to limit financial aid to students (Lazzaro, WVPE). The class-action lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Chicago on Sunday, accuses Notre Dame and 15 other top universities of engaging in price-fixing to artificially inflate the cost of attendance for students receiving financial aid.Allegedly, the 16 schools have overcharged at least 170,000 financial-aid recipients by hundreds of millions of dollars over the past two decades.

 

NBA: BOSTON DEFEATS PACERS 101-98 - Jaylen Brown scored 26 points and Jayson Tatum had 24, carrying the Boston Celtics to a 101-98 overtime victory over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night in the first of a home-and-home series between the teams (AP). “We stuck with them and ran them a little bit longer, but we knew the importance of this game,” Boston coach Ime Udoka said of his two stars, Brown and Tatum.

 

NFL: FOR COLTS, NOW WHAT? In three ugly, embarrassing, listless hours on an impactful Sunday in Jacksonville, Fla., the scenario for an entire franchise devolved from win-and-in to lose-and-now-what? Where to the Indianapolis Colts go from here? Certainly not to the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. They took care of that, completely thumbing their nose at the ridiculously favorable odds with two games remaining – roughly a 98% shot at reaching the postseason – and, as a result, forced to deal with the harsh reality of a season over too soon (Chappell, CBS4). “Never expect to be sitting here, you know, having this moment right now,’’ a crest-fallen Frank Reich said. “Not like this.’’ Not after being in position – for a second straight week, for crying out loud – to earn a playoff spot by taking care of business, this time against the NFL’s worst team. That would be the Jacksonville Jaguars, who entered the afternoon 2-14 but bounced off the TIAA Bank Field 3-14 and still that 400-pound gorilla on the Colts’ back. Jaguars 26, Colts 11. And it didn’t seem that close as the Colts’ losing streak in Jacksonville incredibly reached six games. “Very devastating,’’ said veteran wideout T.Y. Hilton, who might have played his final game for the Colts. “Yeah, it’s kind of a shock to everybody,’’ offered center Ryan Kelly. “There’s not many words to describe it.’’

 

General Assembly

 

BALDWIN CONDEMNS NAZISM: Statement from State Sen. Scott Baldwin (Howey Politics Indiana): "I unequivocally condemn Nazism, fascism and Marxism. When I said in the meeting, 'I’m with you on those particular isms' that is what I meant to convey. As someone who fought to defend our democracy, I agree teachers should condemn those dangerous ideologies and I sincerely regret that I did not articulate that and apologize for it. We absolutely need to teach our children about the tragedies of the past, which is why the legislation in its current form specifically protects the teaching of historical injustices. I said Wednesday that we need to listen and be open to changes that can improve the bill, and we are working on amendments to that end."

 

WEDNESDAY VOTE FOR CURRICULUM HB1134: House lawmakers heard roughly five hours of testimony on their chamber's version of a school curriculum bill Monday (Lindsay, Indiana Public Media). House Bill 1134 largely focuses on how schools present conversations on race, politics and religion, and grants parents more authority over classroom content. The legislation is nearly identical to Senate Bill 167, which a committee debated and listened to testimony on for almost eight hours last week. Much of the testimony about the House legislation echoed what members in the Senate heard. Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues. Supporters of the bill appreciate its focus and say efforts to enhance parental involvement and transparency in schools remain a key, essential priority. But critics worry it would add on to teachers' workloads – driving them away from the profession – and undermine social supports and the quality of education provided by public schools. The committee is scheduled to consider changes to the bill and vote on it Wednesday.

 

HAMMOND SUPT PUSHES BACK ON HB1134: A controversial Indiana bill that Republican lawmakers contend would increase transparency around school curricula has drawn opposition from dozens of teachers who testified Monday at the Statehouse that the legislation would censor classroom instruction and place unnecessary additional workloads on educators (Smith, AP). Scott Miller, superintendent of the School City of Hammond, emphasized that addressing "sensitive topics" in the classroom is necessary to help young people learn how to evaluate the truth. Attempts to keep students from learning about dissenting ideologies, he continued, "will only end up driving our youth straight to those ideologies." Miller said he believes the legislation stems from "fear that diverse perspectives on our country's founding will lessen the strength and patriotism of our young people."

 

NIEMEYER PROPOSES 4 STEPS TO REMOVE TWP TRUSTEES: Of Indiana's 1,000 townships, two in Tippecanoe County motivated state Sens. Rick Niemeyer and Ron Alting to file legislation to remove rogue trustees (Wilkens, Lafayette Journal & Courier). Niemeyer said Senate Bill 304 proposes a procedure to remove wayward trustees, much like a bill adopted last year that removes county officials who fail to do their jobs. “A township board must draft an ordinance eliminating the township trustee or bringing around the investigation of doing that," he said Thursday during a news conference in Lafayette.  “They submit that to the county commissioners. The county commissioners act on that ordinance, and then it goes to the county council. They must look at it, also. “If they decide removal is something they want to look at go forward with, then it goes the court system," Niemeyer said, noting that the judge then would decide if the resolutions to remove a particular trustee had merit.

 

GOP BLOCKS GORE ON GUNS, KIDS: Indiana House Republicans blocked an attempt from State Rep. Mitch Gore (D-Indianapolis) to enact responsible firearm storage standards that would help ensure guns do not end up in children's hands (Howey Politics Indiana). The law enforcement officer's proposal for House Bill 1077 would have prohibited keeping or storing firearms in a place where a child is likely to gain access. "To meaningfully address gun violence requires addressing 'family fire,' a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun in the home," Gore said. "Hoosier families purchase firearms for a sense of protection and safety. However, irresponsible gun owners in our community make all of our families less safe. "Safe storage requirements promote responsible gun-owning practices that keep firearms out of the hands of children. It doesn't get more common sense than this. As a firearms enthusiast, law enforcement officer, and Second Amendment proponent I, and those like me, understand that guns need to be stored securely. I don't know where opposition to this policy would come from, but it isn't from responsible gun owners."

 

BILL WOULD PROVID LAWYERS FOR FOSTER KIDS:  Lawmakers have filed a bill aimed at protecting victims of human trafficking in Indiana (Kenney, WRTV). Currently, Indiana law requires victims who are 15 years old or older at the time of trial to testify in court. House Bill 1081 would allow survivors 14 years old or younger at the time of their assault to submit a video statement for court procedures if they are younger than 18 at the time of the trial. Co-author Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, told WRTV the change would remove an emotional hurdle so that more children are willing to testify against their perpetrators.

 

PURDUE CASES INFLUENCES RAPE CONSENT BILL: Four years after a former Purdue student was acquitted of rape charges, even after testifying that he initiated sex in a dark dorm room with a woman who thought he was her boyfriend, another effort to make rape by impersonation a crime will get a hearing in the Indiana House this week (Bangert, Based in Lafayette). House Bill 1079, authored by state Rep. Sharon Negele, a Republican from Attica, also would add a definition of consent to Indiana’s rape law. The bill is identical to a proposal approved overwhelmingly in the Indiana House but that was held back in an Indiana Senate committee in 2021. “These things take time,” Negele, who represents a large portion of Tippecanoe County, said. “I think we have some momentum this time. People are starting to get it. Our law is just inadequate.” House Bill 1079 is scheduled for a hearing at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday In the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee.

 

BILL WOULD PREVENT INDYGO LANES: A bill introduced in the Indiana General Assembly seeks to prevent IndyGo from establishing new dedicated bus lanes outside Mile Square in downtown Indianapolis, which would derail the public transit agency's planned Blue Line (Dwyer, IndyStar). The city's third planned bus rapid transit line calls for dedicated bus lanes along the majority of Washington Street from Cumberland to the Indianapolis International Airport and relies on federal funding stipulating dedicated transit lanes. Senate Bill 369, authored by Republican Senators Jack Sandlin and Mike Young, would not affect the Red Line or incoming Purple Line. Instead, it addresses the city's main east-west artery, Washington Street, also known as US 40. "I think we need to take a look at protecting the route," Sandlin said, citing concern over how taking away general-purpose lanes would impact traffic and businesses along the route. "We can still have a vibrant bus system without decimating Washington Street."

 

FARM SEED TESTS COSTS COULD GO UP: Farmers will have to pay more to get their seed tested by the state if an Indiana Senate bill, SB 129, becomes law. It passed unanimously in committee on Monday (Thiele, Indiana Public Media). The Office of Indiana State Chemist offers to test seed for purity and germination, but only charges about half as much as what private companies do. John Baugh is with Purdue University’s college of agriculture — where the OISC is located. He said the low fees make it hard for the agency to pay for testing materials and labor on a service it isn’t required to provide. “We are too cheap. We’re losing money every time we do one of these tests and so it's time for us to be able to change it. The issue with the rule making process is 18 months. By the time we do it, we have to turn around and do it again," Baugh said.

 

IBLC TO ANNOUNCE AGENDA TODAY: On Tuesday, Jan. 11, the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) will hold a press conference to announce their 2022 Legislative Agenda at 2 p.m. today, Statehouse 4th Floor, Senate Democrat Caucus Room. Livestream available via the Indiana House Democrat Facebook page.

 

HUMAN TRAFFICKING MONTH TO BE OBSERVED: On Tuesday, Jan. 11, National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, State Reps. John L. Bartlett (D-Indianapolis) and Wendy McNamara (R-Evansville) will join the Indiana Youth Services Association at 10 a.m. today, Statehouse 3rd floor in North Atrium, to present a House resolution recognizing January 2022 as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Indiana.

 

REP. ANDRADE CELEBRATES VETERANS:  State Representative Mike Andrade (D-Munster) celebrated the sacrifices and contributions of Hoosier veterans alongside veterans from District 12 during the eighth annual Indiana Military Veterans Legislative Day (IMVLD) on Monday at the Indiana Statehouse (Howey Politics Indiana). Three dozen veterans and family members traveled from Wicker Park on a bus chartered by the Office of the North Township Trustee, Adrian Santos. During IMVLD, visitors were given a review of legislation related to veterans' affairs currently being considered by the General Assembly. They also visited information booths from veteran organizations and had the opportunity to speak with state legislators about veteran concerns and needs over lunch. After putting their lives on the line in service to our state and our country, it is an honor to welcome Hoosier veterans and their families from around the state to the Statehouse for Indiana Military Veterans Legislative Day,” Andrade said. “I want to thank the over two dozen veterans' organizations who came from around the state to set up booths for their contributions in making lives better for the military community.

 

SOLAR GROUP BACKS NET METERING: Nonprofit group Solar United Neighbors today launched an online countdown clock set to July 1, when the state’s net metering policy is set to expire unless lawmakers act to extend it during the 2022 legislative session that kicked off last week (Howey Politics Indiana). “The clock is officially ticking for Hoosiers who want to go solar and ensure they are reimbursed a fair rate for power they generate and send back to their neighbors on the grid,” said Zach Schalk, the Indiana program director for Solar United Neighbors. “We hope legislators will see the value in extending net metering, which allows homeowners and businesses to embrace their energy freedom while benefiting all Hoosiers, but we also want to make sure folks thinking about going solar know they need to act quickly.” Net metering allows solar owners to receive a credit on their electric bill for the electricity they send to their neighbors on the grid at the same rate that they purchase electricity from their utility—an even swap. Despite several proposals last legislative session that would have extended net metering, under current law, the mechanism will no longer be available to new solar owners after July 1, 2022.

 

Congress

 

THE SENATE is in, with a recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for weekly conference meetings. The Banking Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s nomination for another term at 10 a.m. CDC Director Rochelle Wallensky, Anthony Fauci, acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock and HHS’ Dawn O'Connell will testify before the HELP Committee about new coronavirus variants at 10 a.m.

 

THE HOUSE will meet at 10 a.m. House Sergeant-at-Arms William Walker, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger and Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton will testify before an Appropriations subcommittee on the post-Jan. 6 security of the Capitol campus at 10 a.m.

 

Nation

 

WHITE HOUSE: INSURERS TO COVER TESTING COSTS - Private insurers will have to cover the cost of over-the-counter Covid-19 tests starting Saturday under a Biden administration plan that aims to make it more affordable for people to screen for infections and limit the spread of the Omicron variant (Wall Street Journal). The policy outlined Monday by the administration means that millions of people with private health insurance can expect insurers to reimburse them for up to eight tests a month per covered individual, or that they will be able to purchase them at no cost through their insurance.

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN TO SAY U.S. AT 'TURNING POINT' - President Biden plans to throw his weight behind congressional Democrats’ push to pass long-stalled elections bills, even if it requires changing Senate rules, in a speech in Atlanta on Tuesday designed to build support for the imperiled legislation with votes just days away (Wall Street Journal). While House and Senate Democrats support the proposals, the bills need 60 votes to advance in the 50-50 Senate. Both are expected to fall well short of that mark due to opposition from GOP lawmakers, prompting a parallel effort by Democrats to change the filibuster procedure to ease their passage. But two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have resisted such an approach, leaving any progress uncertain. In his speech Tuesday, Mr. Biden will argue Democrats’ case that new federal laws are needed to counter recent state measures, which party lawmakers paint as a threat to access to the polls, particularly for minority voters.

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN SCHEDULE - President Biden's schedule today — 9:30 a.m.: The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief. — 10:40 a.m.: Biden will depart the White House en route to Atlanta, where he is scheduled to arrive at 12:45 p.m. — 2:40 p.m.: Biden and VP Harris will participate in a wreath laying at the crypt of Martin Luther and Corretta Scott King. — 3 p.m.: Biden and Harris will visit the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. — 3:50 p.m.: Biden and Harris will deliver remarks on voting rights legislation at the Atlanta University Center Consortium. — 6:15 p.m.: Biden will depart Atlanta to return to the White House, where he is scheduled to arrive at 8:05 p.m. Press secretary Jen Psaki will gaggle aboard Air Force One en route to Atlanta.

 

STATE: RUSSIA DOWNPLAYS UKRAINE INVASION THREAT - With Russian troops massing along Ukraine’s borders, American and Russian diplomats made clear after an intense round of negotiations on Monday that while the two sides would keep talking, they remain far from agreement on meeting each other’s security concerns (New York Times). Russian officials said they told their American counterparts they had no plans to invade Ukraine, in a series of talks that lasted nearly eight hours. “There is no reason to fear some kind of escalatory scenario,” Sergei A. Ryabkov, a Russian deputy foreign minister, told reporters after the meeting. “The talks were difficult, long, very professional, deep, concrete, without attempts to gloss over some sharp edges,” Mr. Ryabkov said. “We had the feeling that the American side took the Russian proposals very seriously and studied them deeply.”

 

TREASURY: TAX SEASON DELAYS EXPECTED - Treasury Department officials on Monday said that the Internal Revenue Service will face “enormous challenges” during this year’s tax filing season, warning of delays to refunds and other taxpayer services (Washington Post). In a phone call with reporters, Treasury officials predicted a “frustrating season” for taxpayers and tax preparers as a result of delays caused by the pandemic, years of budget cuts to the IRS, and the federal stimulus measures that have added to the tax agency’s workload.

 

FED: VICE CHAIRMAN STEPS DOWN - Richard Clarida, the Federal Reserve’s vice chair, announced Monday that he will resign from the Fed board following further revelations of his stock trading behavior during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic (Washington Post). Clarida, whose term was originally set to expire at the end of this month, sent a letter to President Biden on Monday saying he would resign on Jan. 14. He’s the third Federal Reserve official in recent months to resign over questionable trades, amid an investigation into whether Federal Reserve officials broke rules while trading stocks with insider knowledge of economic conditions.

 

MEDIA: FOX HIRES WATTERS FOR 7 P.M. - Jesse Watters, the right-wing talk show host who throughout his career has courted controversy with incendiary commentary, will be Fox's new 7 p.m. host, the network announced on Monday (CNN). The installment of the flame-thrower Watters into the key time slot cements a strategy Fox initiated soon after President Donald Trump lost re-election: More right-wing commentary, less news. Before Trump's loss, the 7 p.m. hour was occupied by a conservative newscast hosted by Martha MacCallum.

 

CFP: CFB EXPANSION TALKS STALL - College Football Playoff expansion talks remain stalled and the possibility of implementing a new format by the 2024 season dimmed Monday after three days of meetings failed to produce an agreement (AP). “We have entrenched issues that are no closer to be resolved, ” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Monday. While Bowlsby said it looked increasingly unlikely that an expanded playoff would come before the end of the current CFP contract that expires in 2026, it was not ruled out altogether. “We’re going into overtime,” Executive Director Bill Hancock said, hours before No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia played for the College Football Playoff national championship. Everybody involved supports expansion, but they are hung up on the how and when. Hancock said the management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, are still stuck on the same lingering issues: Whether conferences should have automatic qualification into an expanded field, and which ones; how bowls will be used as sites in a new system; and athlete health and welfare issues related to more games.

 

NFL: BEARS FIRE COACH, GM - Bears chairman George McCaskey sat on a Zoom call a year ago and said everything would be fine (Chicago Sun-Times). Don’t worry, he assured, he saw the same problems everyone else did and was just as mad. But he insisted general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy could fix them. The collective culture of the Bears would get this right. It still hasn’t. And any optimism that sprouted from the Bears resetting the organization by firing Pace and Nagy on Monday morning wilted when McCaskey laid out plans to find their replacements in the afternoon. He will lead a hiring committee that includes president/CEO Ted Phillips and former executive Bill Polian.

 

ILLINOIS: CHICAGO SCHOOLS TO REOPEN - Leaders of Chicago's teachers union have accepted the terms of a tentative agreement sent from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration Monday night that would reopen the nation’s third-largest public school system later this week (Politico). Though the deal needs to be approved by the broader union membership, the news marks an enormous step to resume school after four days of canceled classes in Chicago and a heated national debate about the safety of bringing students back to campuses during an Omicron-driven wave of Covid-19 cases.

 

Local

 

ANDERSON: SCHOOLS CLOSE DUE TO STAFFING ISSUES — Anderson Community School announced Monday night it will have virtual learning on Tuesday (WISH-TV). The Madison County district of 6,800 students northeast of Indianapolis cited a high number of COVID-19-related absences of staff.

 

KOKOMO: COMPANIES COMPETE IN 'COOLEST THING' CONTEST - Round one of the “Coolest Thing Made in Indiana” competition opened for online voting this week with three Kokomo companies calling out for your vote (Howey Politics Indiana). Kokomo Opalescent Glass, AndyMark and Green Cubes Technology were selected by the Indiana Chamber to compete in a field of 65 manufacturers. In the single-elimination bracket format, winners are chosen each round through public voting at www.indianachamber.com/coolestthing. “Kokomo’s diverse manufacturing industry is well represented in the Coolest Thing Made in Indiana competition,” said Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore. “Kokomo Opalescent Glass represents one of the competition’s oldest manufacturers while AndyMark and Green Cubes Technology exemplify our community’s tradition for technical innovation.”

 

WARSAW: GOFUNDME PAGE SET UP FOR DRAKE PRICE - A GoFundMe page was started over the weekend for Drake Price’s family to help cover the 16-year-old’s final expenses (Slone, Warsaw Times-Union). Started by Kimm Silveus, who said she’s a close friend of the family, it seeks to raise $10,000 and had raised $775 by Sunday. It can be found on gofundme.com under “Drake Price Funeral Assistance.” Price unexpectedly died Friday at his home in Warsaw. The gofundme page states, “A brilliant child with an infectious love of life and a smile that easily captivated hearts around the world, Drake fought couragely since his 2017 diagnosis of super mass craniopharyngioma and moyamoya disease. Despite his many surgeries and hospital stays, Drake continued to inspire his community and those who stumbled upon his journey with an easy spirit and joy for each day. “Drake received significant recognition from several police departments and was made an honorary officer with the Indianapolis, Chicago and Warsaw police forces.” Price was a 2018 Riley Champion. On Feb. 2, 2018, Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer proclaimed that day as Drake Price Day.

 

ALLEN COUNTY: INTERIM BUILDING COMMISSIONER NOW PERMANENT - The man who has been serving as Allen County’s building commissioner on an interim basis has been named to the post on a permanent basis (WPTA-TV). The Allen County Board of Commissioners on Monday selected George Smith for the position, which opened with the passing of John Caywood in October. Smith had previously been the assistant building commissioner and, before that, an electrical inspector in the department. His earlier career includes work as a commercial contractor. “I want to thank our county commissioners for the opportunity to serve Allen County as building commissioner,” Smith said.