HOLCOMB EXPECTED TO ADDRESS TEACHER PAY TONIGHT: Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is expected to talk during his annual State of the State speech about a possible additional boost in school funding — just not one that would happen this year (AP). Holcomb is set to speak at 7 p.m. (ET) tonight before a joint session of the Indiana House and Senate nearly two months after several thousand teachers attended a Statehouse rally calling for better pay. Holcomb and others haven't given details of the proposal, but Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma says it will “free up resources” in future years. Senate Democratic leader Tim Lanane of Anderson said more action “needs to be done and could be done” on issues such as the state’s lagging teacher pay and rising health care costs before the legislative session wraps up in mid-March. “I’d like to see (Holcomb) put something on the table that we can act on this session that will actually result in pay increases for the teachers,” Lanane said. “He says he has a surprise. I’m hoping he will surprise me.”

BOSMA SAYS GOV NEEDS TO MAKE CELLPHONE CASE: Legislators are already advancing bills on a Holcomb-backed proposal that would toughen the penalties for stores caught selling tobacco products to underaged customers as they raise the state’s minimum age for smoking and vaping from 18 to 21 to conform with a new federal law (AP). But they haven’t yet taken up Gov. Eric Holcomb’s request for a statewide ban on drivers using handheld cellphones as is already illegal in at least 20 other states, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Indiana currently prohibits texting while driving, but officials say that law has proven unenforceable. Speaker Bosma said he wasn’t sure about whether such a ban could pass this year as some House Republicans didn’t think such regulation is proper for government. Bosma described himself as a “swing vote” because he was concerned about how a police officer could determine how a cellphone was being used. Holcomb needs to persuade legislators on how the ban would improve safety, Bosma said. “Road safety is important and we’ve all seen distracted driving, so he’ll have a shot at that,” Bosma said.

ILEARN HARMLESS BILL PASSES SENATE UNANIMOUSLY: A bill authored by State Sen. Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond) that would hold schools, teachers and students harmless for 2019 and 2020 ILEARN results passed the Senate unanimously Monday (Howey Politics Indiana). Senate Bill 2 would provide a two-year “hold harmless” policy for state accountability grades and teacher evaluations. “SB 2 supports schools, teachers and students while stakeholders work to address the new rigors of the ILEARN assessment and state accountability standards,” Raatz said. “As chair of the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development, I remain a fierce advocate for policies that improve education in Indiana and will continue to fight for issues schools, teachers and students care about most.” If passed and signed into law, SB 2 would provide that each school’s 2019 state accountability grade cannot be lower than its 2018 accountability grade, and each school’s 2020 accountability grade cannot be lower than its 2019 accountability grade. Schools that earn higher accountability grades would still be able to receive that higher grade.

HOUSE OVERWHELMINGLY PASSES $291M OF SURPLUS: The Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly approved spending $291 million in surplus state revenue Monday to cash-fund construction projects at six state universities, instead of borrowing money to pay for new and improved campus buildings (Carden, NWI Times). It is rare for lawmakers in an even-numbered year to reopen the two-year state budget adopted in an odd-numbered year, but Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb urged the General Assembly to pay cash for the projects, rather than bonding, to save approximately $130 million in interest costs over the next 20 years. Democrats complained the money, generated by greater than expected tax receipts at the end of the 2019 state budget year, could be put to better use as a one-time bonus for Hoosier teachers, to expand Indiana's pre-kindergarten programs or address myriad other state needs. "Why not take the money, which would be a half billion dollars in 2020 and 2021, and invest it in our communities?" asked state Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis. "This is an opportunity lost to take care of the human capital of our state." In response, state Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said it only is because Indiana carefully manages its resources that it quickly can respond to financial surprises, such as directing $185 million in extra state funds to the South Shore Line expansion last year after the federal government scaled back its planned match to 38% from 49%. "We have acted responsibly and positioned ourselves well because you never know what is coming down the line," Huston said.

SOUTH BEND BLACK LIVES MATTER DOGGING BUTTIGIEG:  Black Lives Matter South Bend activists say they plan to keep following former mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg to his campaign events, distributing written materials and disrupting his speeches, either by raising money and traveling themselves or enlisting the help of other BLM chapters (Parrott, South Bend Tribune). On Friday, three South Bend members flew to Los Angeles to protest outside a homeless shelter in Watts, as Buttigieg and a city council member toured the facility and spoke with people staying there. On Sunday, activists followed him to Des Moines, Iowa, criticizing his “1,000 Houses in 1,000 Days” initiative, his efforts on homelessness and the strained relations between police and black residents. As Buttigieg spoke on a stage in Des Moines, a protester interrupted him. Buttigieg took a knee and reached out to shake his hand. The man initially declined but ultimately extended his hand, while continuing to talk. Before a police officer escorted the protester out, he yelled, “What happened to the accountability you promised for the South Bend Police Department?” “I think your facts are a little wrong, so I’d love a chance to talk with you about it, but I’d like for us to talk about it respectfully,” Buttigieg told the man.

BIDEN LEADS WITH BLACK VOTES; PETE AT JUST 2%: Former vice president Joe Biden is far and away the favored candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination among black Americans, boosted by his personal popularity, his service in the Obama administration and perceptions that he is best equipped to defeat President Trump, according to a national Washington Post-Ipsos poll. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) occupies second place in the Democratic field among African American voters, easily outdistancing the remaining candidates in the race. Sanders is leading among black voters under age 35, replicating his success with younger white voters in other national polls. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) runs third. The survey finds meager support for former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is among the leaders in polls in the predominantly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire but stands at 2 percent among Democratic black voters nationally. A lack of familiarity with him and concerns about his experience and sexual orientation appear to be contributing to his current standing. Buttigieg has said that as African Americans get to know him, he will gain more support, but the poll undercuts that assertion. He receives only 3 percent support among black voters who are familiar with him.

FRANKLIN COLLEGE TERMINATES PRESIDENT ACCUSED OF SEX CRIME: Over the weekend, Franklin College terminated the employment of President Thomas J. Minar when it became aware of a deeply disturbing incident (Howey Politics Indiana). The College was made aware of, and Dr. Minar confirmed, his recent arrest in Wisconsin. The College was notified of the arrest from an email from the Sturgeon Bay Police Department. It stated in part that Dr. Minar was “taken into custody in Sturgeon Bay, WI, Door County for Use of a Computer to Facilitate a Sex Crime, Child Enticement, and Expose a Child to Harmful Materials/Narrations and was released from custody on bond, subject to no direct contact with minors unless supervised and not to use social media.” Due to the nature of the arrest, Franklin’s Board of Trustees Executive Committee felt it was essential to act immediately and sever his relationship with the College. "Be assured that the Franklin College Board of Trustees is as stunned as you are by this event," the college said in a statement on Monday. "This is the first such incident the Board has been made aware of regarding Dr. Minar, and we are committed to cooperating fully with Wisconsin authorities and working to ensure the safety of our campus community."

WHITE HOUSE EXPECTS GOP DEFECTIONS ON WITNESSES: The White House is preparing for some Republican senators to join Democrats in voting to call witnesses in President Trump's impeachment trial, which could get underway in the coming days. Senior White House officials tell CBS News they increasingly believe that at least four Republicans, and likely more, will vote to call witnesses. In addition to Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and possibly Cory Gardner of Colorado, the White House also views Rand Paul of Kentucky as a "wild card" and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee as an "institutionalist" who might vote to call witnesses, as one official put it.

TRUMP NARRATIVE ON IRAN STRIKE FALLS APART: In the 10 days since it carried out the drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the Trump administration has been struggling to draft an after-the-fact narrative to justify it. On Monday, President Trump put an end to that hash of explanations. “It doesn’t really matter,” he tweeted, “because of his horrible past” (New York Times). Until that message on Twitter, the administration had insisted in various ways that General Suleimani, Iran’s most important military official, was planning myriad “imminent” attacks. The unraveling of the explanations accelerated over the weekend after Mr. Trump said four embassies were under immediate threat, a charge that his own administration could not back. With the president’s latest utterance, he bolstered critics of a strike that had raised fears of an all-out war with Iran and had led Iraq to call on the United States to leave the country. And, the critics wondered, was it reckless and irresponsible for the United States to kill Iran’s second most important leader if the reason did not “really matter”?

RUSS MILITARY HACKS BURISMA: With President Trump facing an impeachment trial over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, Russian military hackers have been boring into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the affair, according to security experts (New York Times). The hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in early November, as talk of the Bidens, Ukraine and impeachment was dominating the news in the United States. It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens — the same kind of information that Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment. The Russian tactics are strikingly similar to what American intelligence agencies say was Russia’s hacking of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign.

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: The biggest obstacle to Gov. Holcomb's reelection may be the teacher pay issue. So it will be quite interesting how he addresses that tonight during his State of the State address. - Brian A. Howey


KRUPP KICKS OFF AG CAMPAIGN: Indiana Department of Revenue Commissioner Adam Krupp is resigning at the end of the month to campaign full time for attorney general and try to unseat fellow Republican Curtis Hill (IBJ). Krupp, 41, officially announced his plans to seek the Republican nomination for attorney general Monday morning. Republican incumbent Hill is seeking re-election despite allegations that he inappropriately touched a state lawmakers and three legislative staffers in 2018. He has resisted  calls from top Republican officials to resign. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb tapped Krupp to run the revenue department in 2017, and Krupp also worked under former Govs. Mike Pence and Mitch Daniels. Krupp said his resignation will take effect Jan. 31. “I’ll be over the state fast and furious the next five months,” Krupp said. “I want to be all in. I want to be everywhere I can.” He said he met with Holcomb about his decision to leave the DOR and run for attorney general. “He was very thankful and supportive of my service in his administration,” Krupp said. “He wished me the best, and we shook hands, and we went from there.”

HOLCOMB STATEMENT ON KRUPP: “I’m grateful to Adam for his years of dedication to the public,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a written statement (IBJ). “His leadership helped transform the Department of Revenue into one recognized and ranked as a best place in the state to work. He leaves the department perfectly positioned to continue delivering Hoosiers with great government service at a great taxpayer value. I wish him well in his new endeavors.” Holcomb, who has called on Hill to resign, has not offered any endorsements in the attorney general’s race.

WESTERKAMP STRUGGLES TO GAIN TRACTION: Central Indiana attorney John Westercamp hopes to get the nod instead of Attorney General Curtis Hill at the Republican Party's state convention next year. But his campaign has struggled to gain traction (Kelly & Francisco, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Westercamp's first finance report filed in July showed he had raised $55,000. But the Zionsville resident hasn't had a single large donation – $1,000 or more – to report since. That's perhaps why some Republicans are whispering about finding another candidate to challenge Hill, who is saddled with scandal over allegedly groping women at an Indianapolis bar and questions about his spending while in office. Westercamp says he has visited all 92 counties and received more than 120 public endorsements from Republicans including from state legislators, county party officials and local government officials. The list includes Rex Early, former chairman of the state GOP and President Donald Trump's Indiana campaign. In addition, he has received endorsements from several Steuben County Republicans and state Rep. Dave Heine, R-New Haven.

TALLIAN POSTS $205K: State Sen. Karen Tallian's year-end report shows she posted $205,000 (Howey Politics Indiana). “We have to keep our eye on the prize” said former state representative and retired Hammond Police Captain Linda Lawson.  “The process right now is about choosing the candidate who is best able to defeat Curtis Hill next November.  Karen Tallian is the most qualified candidate in this race, on either side of the aisle, and the person most likely to win in the Fall.” Tallian has raised over $205,000 in the last quarter in her campaign to be the next Attorney General.  “We set a goal, and we met it” said Tallian.  Her campaign manager, Alex Cortwright,  said that the report evidences her wide support all across the state.   “Except for a couple of old high-school buddies, these donations are from Hoosiers.  This is in stark contrast to the past reports filed by Attorney General  Curtis Hill,  which show that large chunks of his money are  coming from out of state” he said.

BASHAM TO CHALLENGE REP. ERRINGTON:  Retired Muncie educator Dale Basham, who sees "fantastic things happening in Muncie," announced over the weekend that he will seek the Republican nomination for House District 34, currently represented by Democratic Rep. Sue Errington (Slabaugh, Muncie Star Press). The candidate, who is one of Muncie's most vocal cheerleaders, said it dawned on him to throw his hat in the ring when he learned —while on the road speaking about "all of the fantastic things happening in Muncie" — that the Indiana State Teachers Association was looking for educators to run for the Indiana General Assembly. The epiphany occurred during a speaking engagement in Metropolis, Ill., when Basham asked himself "why I am in Metropolis talking about Muncie and not in Muncie, Indiana, talking about how fantastic Muncie, Indiana, is," he told supporters at his campaign headquarters in the former Munson's used-car dealership on Saturday night.

BALDWIN KICKS OFF SD20 CAMPAIGN: Noblesville native, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and entrepreneur Scott Baldwin announced today he is running in the Republican primary for State Senate representing District 20 (Howey Politics Indiana).  “I’ve dedicated my life and career to serving our country and community, through my background in the military, law enforcement and public safety, to building and growing businesses in central Indiana,” Baldwin said. “As Senator serving the residents of District 20, I will champion commonsense, conservative leadership to help build our economy and grow jobs, promote fiscal responsibility, improve public safety and ensure Hamilton County continues to thrive.” Baldwin has already earned endorsements from Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen, Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness, Hamilton County Commissioner Steve Dillinger and seventeen other local elected officials within Hamilton County. Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen said, “with a history of public service and as an active member of the Noblesville community, Scott Baldwin will be an incredible State Senator who will listen to and serve the needs of our residents well.” Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness stated, “Scott Baldwin is an entrepreneur with a track record of success who will bring an important perspective to the state legislature.” 

GOP CONGRESS OF COUNTIES REGISTRATION: The Indiana Republican Congress of Counties takes place Friday, January 31 and Saturday, February 1 (Howey Politics Indiana). Can't make it both days? We understand your busy schedule and we're now offering a special registration opportunity that will allow you to save money and still attend some of Congress of Counties!  Here are some of the discounted sessions now available: Friday Night Party -- $50; Saturday Lunch -- $30; Friday Night Party & Saturday Lunch -- $75; Congress of Counties General Registration -- $100.

LEUCKE ENDORSES HACKETT: Former South Bend Mayor Steve Luecke endorsed Pat Hackett for Congress on Tuesday. In a video released by the campaign on Tuesday, the former South Bend mayor shared why he was supporting Hackett’s candidacy (Howey Politics Indiana). “I am endorsing Pat Hackett because of her integrity, her values and her work ethic. I know she will be a great representative for our community as a voice for health care for all and an economy that works for everyone. She will bring a voice to Congress that represents the values of the 2nd district. I encourage people to join Pat’s campaign.”

LEYVA FILES FOR GOP 1ST CD: A Republican congressional candidate who has lost seven times this century to retiring U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, wants to see how he'll fare without Visclosky on the ballot (NWI Times). Mark Leyva, of Highland, this week announced he's seeking the GOP nomination for a chance to represent all of Lake and Porter counties and western LaPorte County in the U.S. House. The former steelworker said if he's elected to serve the Region he will work to support organized labor and "advance legislation which allows our domestic steel industry to be competitive in the U.S. and global markets."

Presidential 2020

BIDEN PULLS AHEAD IN NH POLL: Former Vice President Joe Biden has jumped to a small lead in the first-in-the nation New Hampshire primary, while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has slumped to third place, a new Franklin Pierce University-Boston Herald-NBC10Boston poll shows. Biden now gets 26%, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in second place with 22%, and Warren trailing in third with 18%, according to the poll of 434 likely Democratic primary voters. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg gets just 7% of the vote and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is at 4%. Bloomberg is not on the ballot in New Hampshire, but voters can write in any candidate. Twelve percent of the poll respondents said they were undecided heading into the last few weeks of the primary campaign. The Democratic poll has a margin of error of 4.7 percent.

BIDEN JUMPS TO LEAD IN IOWA MONMOUTH POLL: Joseph R. Biden Jr. has regained some of his strength in Iowa, but his three closest rivals for the Democratic nomination remain clustered at his heels, according to a Monmouth University poll released on Monday (New York Times). The poll, published three weeks before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation nominating contest, found the former vice president with support from 24 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers, a bump of five percentage points since Monmouth’s most recent Iowa poll, in November. Mr. Biden’s three closest competitors are clumped together in a statistical tie, with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont earning 18 percent support, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., 17 percent, and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts earning 15 percent. The poll had a five-point margin of error.

BLACK WATERLOO MAYOR BACKS BUTTIGIEG: Quentin Hart, the black mayor of Iowa’s most racially diverse city, is backing Pete Buttigieg for president, giving the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor a rare boost from a minority leader as he struggles to attract voters of color (Indiana Public Media). Hart told The Associated Press he was supporting Buttigieg in part for what he called the Democrat’s effort to address racial economic disparity in South Bend. Like Waterloo, which Hart represents, South Bend is a once-thriving Midwestern city with a higher-than-average unemployment rate and a history of racial discord.

BUTTIGIEG COMMITS TO NLC 2020 AGENDA: Pete Buttigieg, presidential candidate and former Mayor of South Bend, Ind., announced his commitment to the Leading Together 2020 Cities Agenda. Leading Together is the formative, nonpartisan platform from the National League of Cities that seeks to address the issues that keep America’s residents and local elected leaders up at night (Howey Politics Indiana). “Commitment to the 2020 Cities Agenda is a commitment to partnering with cities, towns and villages to build a nation that works for everyone,” said NLC President Joe Buscaino, Councilmember, Los Angeles, California. “Mayor Buttigieg is the first candidate to sign on to Leading Together, and we look forward to other candidates committing to working alongside local leaders on behalf of our nation’s communities.”  The Cities Agenda is composed of four critical issues that we can make the greatest impact on as a united nation, including Building Sustainable Infrastructure, Creating a Skilled Workforce, Ending Housing Instability and Homelessness, and Reducing Gun Violence. Pete Buttigieg’s commitment to Leading Together follows his release of Building For the 21st Century, his campaign’s comprehensive infrastructure plan.

BOOKER DROPS OUT: Cory Booker suspended his presidential campaign Monday, conceding that he no longer sees a path to victory due to a lack of financial resources (Politico). “Friend, it’s with a full heart that I share this news — I’ve made the decision to suspend my campaign for president,” the New Jersey senator said in a Medium post and an email to supporters. He will instead run for reelection to his Senate seat.

BLOOMBERG CAMPAIGN SWELLS TO 1,000 WORKERS: Mike Bloomberg's presidential campaign has brought on more than 700 staffers spread out across 33 states, with a growing number of organizers joining his ranks in states that vote on Super Tuesday, aides told POLITICO. All told, the former New York mayor's operation totals more than 1,000 people, a figure that includes hundreds of staffers who work out of his Manhattan headquarters. The unprecedented scale and scope of the campaign — he has also spent over $200 million on TV ads — gives Bloomberg a massive footprint in states that hold their primaries on March 3 or later. Bloomberg is also working to provide a Democratic counterbalance to President Donald Trump in parts of the country that are vital to his party in November.

General Assembly

BRAY STATEMENT ON ILEARN LEGISLATION: State Sen. Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) made the following statement today regarding the Senate’s passage of Senate Bill 2, which would hold K-12 schools harmless for the 2019 and 2020 test scores (Howey Politics Indiana): “My colleagues in the Senate and I know our teachers and schools are working hard to give Hoosier children a great education, and we believe passing a hold harmless measure is the right thing to do as we adjust to the new rigors of ILEARN. This two-year measure will give the state time to adjust our accountability standards as we transition to the new test in order to provide more stability as we move forward. The Senate’s quick passage of this bill makes good on the promise we made publicly in the fall, and I’m pleased to see this measure progressing.”

REP. HATCHER SEEKS LAKE MICHIGAN WATER TESTING:  “It’s dangerous when we find toxic chemicals in our water systems, but it’s even more dangerous when corporations manipulate testing results and data. We need to put pressure on those who are polluting our waters to be held accountable for their actions. ArcellorMittal’s toxic spill is not the first time Lake Michigan has been affected by heavy industrial activity. It has experienced long-term abuse and this legislation is long overdue. This session, I am introducing a bill that would require independent testing and reporting of our water quality in addition to state permit testing. The independent testing would analyze the water at least four times per year for pollutants such as lead, chromium, mercury and cadmium, as well as pollutants from human activity." - State Rep. Ragan Hatcher, D- Gary, after the NWI Times reported that IDEM said that ArcellorMittal had manipulated data of chemical spills into Lake Michigan.

NIEZGODSKI AUTHORS 4 LABOR BILLS: State Senator David Niezgodski (D-South Bend) filed four bills this session aimed at protecting workers across the state. Senate Bill (SB) 51 would prevent any company that moves a call center to a foreign country from receiving tax payer money in the form of tax credits, grants or loans. SB 52 would reestablish the prevailing wage, commonly known as the common construction wage, which was repealed by the General Assembly in 2015 (Howey Politics Indiana). “SB 51 will prevent tax payer dollars from supporting companies that funnel jobs away from our country,” Sen. Niezgodski said. “Hoosiers work too hard for their money to see it used to fill the coffers of companies that take jobs away from themselves and their neighbors.” Sen. Niezgodski also introduced SB 308 which reinstates unemployment benefits for workers in the education sector. Sen. Niezgodski’s legislation SB 309 would create a system to report when companies classify their employees as independent contractors in order to avoid paying payroll taxes and benefits, as well as levy fines when employers are not in compliance with state laws. SB 51, SB 52 and SB 308 all await a hearing in the Senate Committee on Pensions and Labor. SB 309 is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee.

REP. SMITH SAYS GOP COMING AROUND ON TESTING: State Rep. Vernon G. Smith (D-Gary), ranking Democrat on the Indiana House Education Committee, is pleased to see House Republicans adopting ideas from House Democrats regarding standardized testing in Indiana (Howey Politics Indiana). House Democrats have joined with House Republicans today to remedy the repercussions from a decade’s worth of bad education policy and wasted state dollars. House Bill 1001 and House Bill 1002 would "hold harmless" both schools and teachers, respectively, from negative consequences due to poor student performance on ILEARN. “I am pleased to see this reversal in Republican apathy toward education issues, and fully support decoupling schools and teachers from an exam that was so defective when taken in 2019 that only one of every three students passed,” Smith said. “However, these measures are an attempt to Band-Aid a much larger issue: high stakes testing as a whole.”

BILL DEALS WITH LAKE MICHIGAN BEACH ACCESS: A House bill seeks to challenge an Indiana Supreme Court decision that secured the public’s right to use Lake Michigan beaches that are in front of private property. The bill — authored by Rep. Doug Miller (R-Elkhart) — would allow lakefront property owners the rights to prevent the public from accessing more of the beach as long as those rights were stated in the most recent deed to the property (Thiele, Indiana Public Media). Marissa Lynch of Long Beach Lakeside Homeowners Association says several residents in Long Beach were told their property extends to the water’s edge. She says the public should be limited to activities in the water and walking or jogging along the beach. “When it comes to anything broader — picnicking, laying out for the day — any of those sorts of things should be done with the permission of the property owner itself,” Lynch says. But opponents of the bill argue that the Indiana Supreme Court already decided that property lines along Lake Michigan only come to where the high water mark usually hits the beach — not to the water’s edge. The U.S. Supreme court decided not to take up the case.

2 BILLS DEAL WITH DEMENTIA: Advocates are pushing for two proposals that would offer more protections for people living with dementia (Benson, Indiana Public Media). Members of the Indiana’s chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association made their case Monday at the Statehouse. Senate Bill 249 would make it easier to charge someone with a felony for financial exploitation. According to current law, financial exploitation must be committed against someone age 60 years or older and reach $10,000 before automatically charged as a felony. The new bill would lower the amount to $750 and remove the age restriction. Another, Senate Bill 265, would expand Indiana’s Medicaid Advisory Committee to include a member to represent individuals living with dementia. Jason Barrett is the director of public policy for the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter. He says these bills are necessary to protect seniors and ensure dementia is a focus at the state level. “We just want to make sure that we have policies we can put forward that will lower the costs both to the state Medicaid budget and the out of pocket expenses of families, but do that while improving the care and support offered to those living with the disease,” Barrett says.

BILL WOULD END DIRECT ELECTION OF U.S. SENATORS: Senate Bill 75, filed by state Sen. James Buck last week and presented for a first reading Monday, would strip Indiana residents of the right to vote in U.S. Senate primaries. Instead, party insiders would select Republican and Democratic candidates for the most influential wing of Congress at state conventions (Webb, Evansville Courier & Press). The voters themselves wouldn’t be allowed to weigh in on Senate races until the general election. If passed, the bill would take effect on July 1. Since neither of Indiana’s senators are up for re-election this year, it wouldn’t alter things until 2022. Why does Buck want to do this? I tried to ask him that question, but he didn't respond to requests for an interview.

ARC HONORS SEN. KOCH: The Arc of Indiana recently named State Sen. Eric Koch (R-Bedford) as its 2019 Legislator of the Year (Howey Politics Indiana). Sen. Koch received the award for his work on Senate Enrolled Act 380 during the 2019 legislative session, which created the option of supported decision making agreements instead of guardianships for adults who need support and accommodations in making, communicating and effectuating decisions. The law also requires a court to consider less restrictive options before appointing a guardian. “Sen. Koch has been a long time champion of Hoosiers with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Hannah Carlock, director of public policy for The Arc of Indiana.

HOUCHIN LAUDS FUNDS FOR 2 TOWNS: The towns of Birdseye and Milltown, along with 19 other rural communities in Indiana, will receive more than $12.3 million in federal grant funding through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, said State Sen. Erin Houchin (R-Salem) (Howey Politics Indiana). Birdseye will receive $500,000 to build a new fire station. This funding will help provide the new fire station with HVAC as well as plumbing and electrical systems. Milltown has been awarded $700,000, which will go toward improving the town’s wastewater systems. “I am thrilled these two communities have been awarded with a combined $1.2 million,” Houchin said. “I look forward to seeing these improvements in Birdseye and Milltown, which will be made possible by this funding and the hard work of community members. Quality of life, public safety and health are crucial for our rural communities, and I am grateful to Lt. Gov. Crouch’s continued leadership in this area.”


GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB DECLARES JAN. 27 EVA KOR DAY -  Gov. Eric Holcomb has declared Jan. 27 “Eva Education Day” in honor of the late Eva Kor, the Holocaust survivor who dedicated much of her life to educating the world about the experiments of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele (Carden, NWI Times). Jan. 27 is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, where Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, were subjected to Mengele's experiments. The Terre Haute woman's experience was chronicled in a documentary titled “Eva: A-7063." That film is part of an Eva Educational Toolkit that has been distributed to every middle school and high school in Indiana. Kor died July 4, 2019, while conducting her annual group tour of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

ATTORNEY GENERAL: HILL TO CONTINUE JAIL ADDICTION PROGRAM - Throughout 2020, the Office of the Indiana Attorney General will continue awarding grants to help fund Jail Chemical Addiction Programs (JCAP) in counties across Indiana (Howey Politics Indiana). Administered in collaboration with the Indiana Drug Enforcement Association, the grants have now helped launch JCAP programs serving six Indiana counties — Fountain, Kosciusko, Montgomery, Scott, Shelby and Warren. The JCAP model is based on programs already implemented in Boone and Dearborn counties before the Office of the Attorney General began its grant process. JCAP programs are vital to reducing recidivism, Attorney General Curtis Hill said. “We must ensure that offenders in our jails and prisons are provided genuine and meaningful opportunities to turn their lives around and break the cycles that lead people repeatedly into criminal behavior,” he said. “JCAP programs are excellent examples of such opportunities.”

HEALTH: 22 FLU DEATHS - Twenty-two people in Indiana have died from the flu this season, according to the Indiana Department of Health (WFIE-TV). At this point in 2018, there were 79 flu-related deaths.

INDOT: I-69 TO CLOSE AT MARTINSVILLE FOR YEAR - State highway officials expect to close a section of the main route between Indianapolis and Bloomington for 10 months in 2021 during work on the next stage of the Interstate 69 extension project (AP). The Indiana Department of Transportation has awarded a nearly $165 million contract for upgrading Indiana 37 for six miles through Martinsville as part of the I-69 work. Crews will begin work this year to alternate routes for additional traffic around Martinsville ahead of the highway’s closure, officials said. “The full closure saves us an entire construction season, so we can make mainline improvements in one season instead of two,” said Sarah Rubin, INDOT’s deputy director for the highway project. Construction plans include widening the highway, building four interchanges and adding noise barriers.

DNR: TURKEY HUNT APPLICATIONS AVAILABLE - Applications are now being accepted for spring turkey hunting opportunities on private property through the Access Program Providing Land Enhancements (APPLE) program (Howey Politics Indiana). APPLE hunts are allocated through the online reserved hunt system. The only way to apply for these hunts is online at on.IN.gov/reservedhunt. Hunters may apply for only one hunting period. Applications are accepted until Feb. 19. Draw result notifications will be emailed within two weeks of the application deadline.

HISTORY: HARRISON HOME OFFERS VOTE PROJECT - “Protect the Vote!”, opening January 23, 2020 at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site will highlight how the United States voting process has changed over the years to become more secure. The exhibit explores the evolution of voting technology over time and the political instances which led to those changes (Howey Politics Indiana). "Leveraging technological innovation to help ensure fair and free elections has been fundamental to our system of self-government over the past two centuries," said Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site President & CEO, Charles Hyde.


WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP TO DIVERT $7B FROM PENTAGON FOR WALL - President Trump is preparing to divert an additional $7.2 billion in Pentagon funding for border wall construction this year, five times what Congress authorized him to spend on the project in the 2020 budget, according to internal planning figures obtained by The Washington Post. The Pentagon funds would be extracted, for the second year in a row, from military construction projects and counternarcotics funding. According to the plans, the funding would give the government enough money to complete about 885 miles of new fencing by spring 2022, far more than the 509 miles the administration has slated for the U.S. border with Mexico.

WHITE HOUSE: HOW THE TRADE DEAL WITH CHINA HAPPENED - U.S. talks with China to complete a first-stage trade deal had hit an impasse around Thanksgiving, raising fears a nascent accord would collapse again—and with it, hope for a halt to the nearly two-year-old trade war. Looking for a direct route to the president, Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai spoke with President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, say people familiar with the episode. The U.S. offer didn’t roll back enough tariffs, he told Mr. Kushner (Wall Street Journal). It was time to settle, Mr. Kushner responded. If not, on Dec. 15 the president was ready to proceed with new tariffs on about $156 billion in Chinese imports, including smartphones and toys. “Don’t think in terms of tariff reduction,” he advised. “Think in terms of what will happen if you don’t make a deal.” To Chinese negotiators dealing with a president they considered erratic, Mr. Kushner’s words at least offered certainty, say the people familiar with episode. They also recognized an opportunity: The agreement wouldn’t force them to make economic-policy changes Washington had long insisted on.

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP TO ADDRESS FARM BUREAU - President Donald Trump will fly to Austin on Sunday to keynote the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention — an election year opportunity to tout progress on trade deals with China, Mexico and Canada, and perhaps to shore up support in a state that has slowly slipped from the GOP’s iron grip (Dallas Morning News). It’s his third straight year appearing before the nation’s largest farm group and his 14th visit to Texas since becoming president three years ago next Monday. That’s triple the number of Texas visits by President Barack Obama during his first term, and Democrats call the attention Trump has lavished on the state a sign of a major political shift underway. The farm group announced the speech on Monday.

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP/PENCE SCHEDULE - President Trump will receive his intel briefing at 2:45 p.m. in the Oval Office. He will leave the White House at 4:40 p.m. en route to Milwaukee. He will speak at a campaign rally at 7 p.m. CST at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. He will depart at 8:30 p.m. en route back to Washington. He'll arrive at the White House at midnight. President\ Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are expected to be in Milwaukee Tuesday night for a campaign rally at the Milwaukee Panther Arena. 24 hours ahead of their visit, crowds began to lineup outside the arena.

STATE: BARR CALLS PENSACOLA SHOOTING 'TERRORISM' - Attorney General William P. Barr said Monday that the December shooting that killed three U.S. sailors on a Florida base was an “act of terrorism” (Washington Post). Barr made the announcement at a news conference to discuss the results of the FBI’s investigation into the shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola. He said investigators had found evidence that Ahmed Mohammed al-Shamrani, a Royal Saudi Air Force member training at the base, was motivated by “jihadist ideology,” noting that on Sept. 11, he posted a message on social media saying, “The countdown has begun,” and over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, he visited the memorial to those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

ILLINOIS: GRAPPLING WITH POT SHORTAGE - As some pot buyers in Illinois are finding their store shelves bare, state regulators have notified shops across the state they are investigating apparent violations of a rule meant to prevent stockpiling marijuana from a single grower and ensure that retailers are operating on an equal playing field (Chicago Sun-Times). Just over a week after recreational pot sales kicked off statewide, regulators sent a letter saying they were aware of violations and investigating whether stores were sourcing more than 40% of their product from one grower. The law is aimed at preventing pot growers from entering into exclusive agreements with specific shops and making sure all stores have a diversity of products from different sources. The warning comes as some dispensaries grappling with the pervasive supply shortage said they were worried that some companies that own both dispensaries and cultivation sites were trying to control the market by limiting product available to competitors.


MARTINSVILLE: MAYOR CONCERNED BY I-69 CLOSURE - Martinsville Mayor Kenny Costin said he was concerned about increased traffic on city streets during the closure of I-69 for the year, with the impact on businesses along the highway and frustration among drivers traveling to Indiana University’s Bloomington campus (IBJ). “I understand their reasoning to do it, but it is going to really make people not want to come through Martinsville once this comes,” Costin said.

ST. JOHN: PD CRITICIZED BY MURDER VICTIM'S FAMILY - Molley Lanham's disappearance was mishandled from the day she was reported missing to the St. John Police Department, the family said. Stacy Spejewski, Molley's mother, said Wednesday in a letter that after receiving and reviewing a final copy of the investigative report into Lanham's case, the family's feelings toward St. John police haven't changed (NWI Times). "I am so very disappointed in the findings and feel that our family and Molley were let down yet again by our town," Spejewski said. "My family and I were completely honest with the information we shared and the events that took place during and leading up to the time my daughter was missing." Lanham, 19, and Thomas Grill, 18, of Cedar Lake, disappeared Feb. 25. Police later found their bodies March 2 in a burned-out car in a remote, rural area southeast of Valparaiso. Both teens suffered gunshot wounds.

EAST CHICAGO: MAYOR TO SELL CONTAMINATION SITE - Residents of East Chicago are upset with the mayor’s plans to sell contaminated land where a housing complex once stood to industrial developers instead of rebuilding housing there (Inside Indiana Business). Our partners at The Times of Northwest Indiana report East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland now says he wants to sell the abandoned property of the former West Calumet Housing Complex and allow for industrial purposes. The public housing complex was condemned three years ago and declared a federal Superfund site due to lead and arsenic contamination of the soil. "We want it cleaned up correctly, but by changing it this way, EPA is going to choose the lesser plan, and the surrounding neighborhood will be affected. That’s a big concern," said Marzita Lopez, an East Chicago resident.

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY: 3 DEPUTIES SUSPENDED AFTER MAN'S DEATH - Three Bartholomew County sheriff’s deputies have been suspended and demoted for failing to detain a man who was later killed after a vandalism spree (CBS4). An emergency detention order directed “any police officer” to detain Derek Anderson for his “own health and safety” as well as the safety of others. The deputies, identified as Lt. Gary Knoef, Sgt. Jason Lancaster and Sgt. Jason Williams, all made contact with Henderson, who refused to leave his home or let the deputies inside on Jan. 3. The deputies left without detaining him and made no further attempt to serve the emergency order, according to Bartholomew County Sheriff Matthew Myers. Henderson later went on a destructive vandalism spree; he entered a home about two blocks away on Jan. 4 and confronted the homeowner with a baseball bat. The homeowner opened fire; Henderson suffered gunshot wounds to the head, chest and abdomen, according to an autopsy. He’d been ordered to be detained on grounds of mental illness.