SCOTUS REJECTS 1 OF 2 BIDEN MANDATES: The Supreme Court has stopped a major push by the Biden administration to boost the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, a requirement that employees at large businesses get a vaccine or test regularly and wear a mask on the job (AP). At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S. The court’s orders Thursday came during a spike in coronavirus cases caused by the omicron variant. The court’s conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected and OSHA had estimated that the rule would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months.“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the conservatives wrote in an unsigned opinion.

 

NO GENERAL SHUTDOWN, BUT COVID CONTINUES TAKING ITS TOLL: While the days of government shutdowns appear over in Indiana, there's no doubt the fast-spreading highly infectious omicron variant is taking its toll (IndyStar). From day cares to restaurants, schools to automotive shops, places vital to our everyday lives are closing as COVID-19 spreads through a Hoosier population, where just over half of us are fully vaccinated. It's left many Hoosiers unsure what to do, juggling work with caring for kids home from school or day care, trying to schedule needed services when go-to businesses are closed and wondering which restaurants are shuttered on any given day. It looks like we better get used to it. As cases continue to rise — on Wednesday the Indiana Department of Health reported a seven-day average of an all-time high of more than 13,550 a day — omicron may continue to disrupt life with a drip drip drip of closures instead of the firehose spray of two years ago.

 

HOUCHIN LINES UP 9TH CD ENDORSEMENTS: After announcing her campaign Thursday morning, conservative leaders across the 9th CD endorsed Sen. Erin Houchin (R-Salem) and joined her campaign for Congress (Howey Politics Indiana). “I appreciate my friends and colleagues joining our campaign today and I’m honored by their trust,” Houchin said. “In the coming days we will continue to grow our team and build on this momentum.” Endorsing and joining the Houchin campaign this morning are: State Sen. Eric Koch, State Rep. Ryan Lauer, State Rep. Chris May, Dearborn/Ohio Prosecutor Lynn Deddens, Washington County GOP Chairwoman Tara Hunt, Bartholomew County Recorder Tami Hines, Bartholomew County Recorder & former Bartholomew County Clerk, and DeWayne Hines, a member of Indiana Republican State Central Committee. “It has been a pleasure to work with Erin Houchin to elect strong Republican candidates at the local level, and to keep our party strong,” Hunt said. “Erin is a dedicated conservative who has spent years volunteering for our cause and fighting for our values. As a legislator, she has proven her effectiveness, and I know she will be the leader we need in Congress.”

 

SODREL WEIGHS RETURN: Informed and reliable sources tell Howey Politics Indiana that former Republican congressman Mike Sodrel is weighing a 9th CD bid. Sodrel defeated Democrat U.S. Rep. Baron Hill in 2004 after losing to Hill in 2002, 2006 and 2008.

 

HOUSE SET TO LIMIT VAX POLICIES FOR HOOSIER BUSINESSES: The Indiana House could vote as soon as Tuesday to approve a controversial plan restricting Indiana companies from imposing a COVID-19 vaccine requirement on their employees — even as coronavirus infections surge across the Hoosier State (Carden, NWI Times). The Republican-controlled chamber made two minor revisions to House Bill 1001 Thursday, setting up a final decision on advancing the plan to the Senate when state representatives return to the Statehouse next week following the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. House approval is nearly certain since 57 lawmakers in the 100-member body have signed on as co-sponsors of the proposal. Under a House amendment adopted by voice vote Thursday, businesses would not be required to pay higher unemployment premiums, or be otherwise penalized, if their anti-vaccine employees claim unemployment benefits following termination. A second House amendment, approved 64-23, prohibits business contracts from including provisions that require employees to waive their right under the legislation to refuse to comply with an employer's COVID-19 vaccine requirement. At the same time, the House voted 83-5 to reject a call to give up an estimated $369 million in federal COVID-19 aid to states and individuals that state Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Milford, said would signal Indiana's displeasure with what he claimed is excessive, unsustainable federal spending.

 

BALDWIN BILL ON HOLD; SENATOR HAS COVID: An Indiana Senate bill that’s drawn national ire and scrutiny after its author said it would require teachers to remain impartial on Nazism is on hold, but a similar House bill moved forward Wednesday despite continued concerns that it may limit what students could be taught about race, history and injustices, such as slavery (Herron, IndyStar). Similar bills recently have been proposed in about 20 states, and many of them utilize language directly taken from an executive order regarding race former President Trump signed while he still was in office. Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray said that Senate Bill 167 was pulled from the chamber’s education committee schedule, where it had been slated to be amended and voted on Wednesday, while the bill’s author continued to work on the language to address concerns it would require teachers to remain impartial when teaching about historical injustices and atrocities. During that committee meeting Wednesday, its chair, Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond, said the bill was taken off the calendar and the author, Sen. Scott Baldwin, was isolating after a COVID-19 exposure. Baldwin, R-Noblesville, became the target of national outrage and late night television ridicule earlier this week after an exchange he had with a teacher over the bill went viral.

 

COLLEGE ENROLLMENT IN FREE FALL: Student enrollment at colleges fell once again in the fall, a new report has found, prompting some to worry whether the declines experienced during the pandemic could become an enduring trend (Washington Post). The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center on Thursday said undergraduate enrollment in fall 2021 dropped 3.1 percent, or by 465,300 students, compared with a year earlier. The drop is similar to that of the previous fall, and contributes to a 6.6 percent decline in undergraduate enrollment since 2019. That means more than 1 million students have gone missing from higher education in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Clearinghouse. Even as campuses have largely reopened and returned to some semblance of normalcy, people are not pursuing credentials at the same rate as before. Experts worry that the unabating declines signal a shift in attitudes about higher education and could threaten the economic trajectory of a generation.

 

NAVIENT CANCELS $1.7B IN STUDENT DEBT: Student lender Navient has announced that it has canceled over $1.7 billion in student loans as part of an agreement to settle ongoing litigation with various states attorneys general (Fox News). States attorneys general accused Navient of engaging in "deceptive and abusive practices, targeted students who it knew would struggle to pay loans back, and placed an unfair burden on people trying to improve their lives through education." The agreement, announced Thursday following over four years of litigation, does not include any admission of guilt on the part of Navient. The company "expressly denies violating any law, including consumer-protection laws, or causing borrower harm."

 

GOV. NEWSOM DENIES PAROLE TO RFK ASSASSIN: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has blocked the release from prison of Robert Kennedy's assassin Sirhan Sirhan, whose fatal shots half a century ago rocked America and redirected history (Politico). The Democratic governor said he had determined that Sirhan posed too great a threat to public safety, citing Sirhan's declining to accept responsibility for the crime or to renounce violence. “Mr. Sirhan’s assassination of Senator Kennedy is among the most notorious crimes in American history,” Newsom said in a statement. “After decades in prison, he has failed to address the deficiencies that led him to assassinate Senator Kennedy. Mr. Sirhan lacks the insight that would prevent him from making the same types of dangerous decisions he made in the past.”

 

IRSAY SAYS 'BUCK STOPS WITH ME':  Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay shared a message with fans after the team's shocking loss to Jacksonville that caused them to miss the playoffs (WTHR-TV). The Indianapolis Colts took to Twitter on Wednesday to share Irsay's letter to fans. Irsay didn't pull punches. He wrote the Colts ended the season in "perhaps the worst way possible."  "When we started 0-3, we knew the rest of this season would be an uphill climb. We all were hopeful we could dig our way out of the hole and reach the playoffs, and we should have," Irsay said. "But we ended our season in perhaps the worst way possible and missed our chance to compete for history." As far as who's to blame, Irsay said, ultimately, "the buck stops with me."

 

CONFERENCE REJECTS CARMEL, CENTER GROVE: Following proposals from former Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference members Carmel and Center Grove last month, the Hoosier Crossroads Conference voted on Thursday to remain an eight-team conference (IndyStar). In a letter signed by the administrators from the HCC’s eight schools (Avon, Brownsburg, Fishers, Franklin Central, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville, Westfield and Zionsville), the league noted that “is committed to our partner schools and unified in the decision.” “The recent proposal by Carmel and Center Grove High Schools has created an opportunity for the HCC to reflect on this commitment and consider whether expansion to 10 schools would be of benefit to our student programs and services,” the letter stated. “Earlier today, the HCC member schools voted to remain an eight-school conference. We are honored by the Carmel Greyhounds’ and Center Grove Trojans’ request and look forward to maintaining positive relationships with them in the future.” Carmel released a statement that it would compete as an independent school in athletics starting in the spring of 2022 and “continue to consider options for future conference affiliations.”

 

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: It was a bad week for President Biden ... and Sen. Scott Baldwin. The president had Sen. Sinema pull the rug out from him over the filibuster (following Sen. Manchin) just as he was meeting with Senate Democrats, and then the Supreme Court killed one of his COVID mandates on businesses. Sen. Baldwin found himself having say something akin to "Nazism is bad" (anytime you're compelled to make a statement on Nazism, you're having a bad day), was skewered by Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show" and finished the week suffering from COVID. - Brian A. Howey

 

Campaigns

 

HUPFER LAUDS SCOTUS MANDATE DECISION:  Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer released the following statement on the Supreme Court's decision to block Biden's unconstitutional vaccine mandate (Howey Politics Indiana): “I am relieved to see that Supreme Court has blocked Joe Biden's unconstitutional  vaccine mandate for private businesses. If it had been allowed to go into effect, the mandate would have further weakened our fragile supply chains, kept shelves empty, and worsened our already critical labor shortage. As the general counsel of the RNC, I am proud of our team for filing one of the lawsuits challenging the reckless Biden Administration. We will continue to stand up and fight for workers and businesses.”

 

WALORSKI, BUCSHON ENDORSE HOUCHIN FOR 9TH CD: U.S. Reps. Larry Bucshon, Jackie Walorski, and State Sen. Chip Perfect endorsed Erin Houchin for Congress (Howey Politics Indiana). “Erin Houchin is a strong conservative leader and hardworking Hoosier who will be a real fighter for Indiana’s 9th Congressional District,” Walorski said. “She already has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to creating jobs, protecting taxpayers, safeguarding Indiana communities, and defending our conservative values. I’m proud to endorse Erin, and I encourage 9th District Hoosiers to send her to Congress as we fight to take back the House and restore sanity to Washington.” "It has been my privilege to know Erin Houchin, to watch her work tirelessly on behalf of her constituents and all Hoosiers, and to partner with her on important legislation to improve educational outcomes for our children,” Bucshon said. “Erin is a proven conservative leader, and a relentless fighter for our values and communities. I offer her my full support as she runs for Indiana's 9th Congressional District, and look forward to working with her to fix Washington."

 

SNYDER ASSAILS BANKS ON GI ACT: Third CD Democrat candidate Gary Snyder criticized U.S Rep. Jim Bank’s vote against HB1836, Guard & Reserve GI Bill Parity Act, which would expand the GI Bill eligibility for National Guard and Reserves. This follows Banks’ no vote against the American Rescue Plan (2) which provided $17 billion dollars in support of Veterans in response to the coronavirus pandemic (Howey Politics Indiana). “Jim Banks continues to put extreme partisan politics ahead of the needs of our veterans. As a veteran, and more importantly, as an American, I am outraged that Jim Banks continues to put his personal ambitions and extreme partisan politics ahead of the needs of our veterans and their families. Jim should know better,” said Snyder. “Helping veterans and their families should not be a partisan issue. As your next Congressman, whether you are a Republican or Democrat, I will always do what is right and help our veterans and their families,” Snyder added.

 

HAMILTON COUNTY GOP CHAIR CAMPBELL RESIGNS: Laura Campbell is stepping down as Hamilton County Republican Party Chair next Wednesday (Clampitt, Hamilton County Reporter). In both a public statement and in a conversation with The Reporter, Campbell said her decision was about personal reasons and time management. "I am resigning as Chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party effective midnight on January 19, 2022," Campbells said. "After the loss of both of my parents last year I gained a new perspective on how I want to spend my free time. Being party chairman takes up a large part of my free time and I would like to spend more time with my family." Campbell told The Reporter that once she had decided to step down, she wanted to do so early enough in the year that her replacement would have ample time to prepare for and help with the upcoming primary election. Before becoming Hamilton County Republican Party Chair, she had previously served as Executive Director and later Vice Chair.

 

HAGER TO SEEK SofS LIBERTARIAN NOMINATION: Paul Hager, a former Libertarian candidate, is seeking the secretary of state Republican nomination at convention this summer (IndyStar). Already Secretary of State Holli Sullivan, former Mike Pence aide Diego Morales and Newton County Commissioner Kyle Conrad have all announced they are running.

 

CANDIDATE FILINGS: Congress Republican: Aaron Storer CD1; Larry Bucshon CD8; Bill J. Thomas CD9.

 

Indiana Senate, Democrat: Martin Del Rio SD1; Deb Chubb SD4; Ron Meer SD4; Jocelyn Vare SD31. Republican: Linda Rogers SD11; Chris Garten SD45.

 

Indiana House: Carolyn B. Jackson HD1; Earl Harris Jr. HD2; Ragen Hatcher HD3; Cherrish S. Pryor HD94; Robin Shackleford HD98; Vanessa J. Summers HD99; Blake Johnson HD100. Republican: Dion Bergeron SD9; Stephen Gray SD21; Timothy Wesco HD21; Becky Cash HD25; Shane Weist HD41; Lorissa Sweet HD50; Michelle Davis HD58; Peggy Mayfield HD60; Matt Hostettler HD64; John Lee HD65; Dave Heine HD85; Mike Speedy HD90; Julie McGuire HD93.

 

RNC POISED TO PULL OUT OF DEBATES: The Republican National Committee is preparing to change its rules to require presidential candidates seeking the party’s nomination to sign a pledge to not participate in any debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates (New York Times). Republican committee officials alerted the debate commission to their plans in a letter sent on Thursday, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. If the change goes forward, it would be one of the most substantial shifts in how presidential and vice-presidential debates have been conducted since the commission began organizing debates more than 30 years ago.

 

TRUMP ON SCOTUS DECISION: Statement by Donald J. Trump (Howey Politics Indiana): "The Supreme Court has spoken, confirming what we all knew: Biden's disastrous mandates are unconstitutional. Biden promised to shut down the virus, not the economy but he has failed miserably on both—and mandates would have further destroyed the economy. We are proud of the Supreme Court for not backing down. No mandates!"

 

State

 

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB 'RESPECTS' SCOTUS DECISIONS - Gov. Eric Holcomb said he “respects” two opinions issued from the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday. One blocked vaccine requirements for large employers. Another upheld requirements for health care workers in medical facilities that receive federal dollars (Indiana Public Media). Holcomb said in a statement he still believes a COVID-19 vaccine is the “number one tool” to protect Hoosiers. But he also contends neither state nor federal government should issue vaccination requirements on businesses.

 

GOVERNOR: ZIMMERMAN TO HEAD INVETS - INvets announced today that Blaine Zimmerman has been promoted to executive director. This decision follows a nomination by Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, recommendation from INvets’ previous executive director and founder Wes Wood, and approval by the INvets’ board (Howey Politics Indiana). “Blaine has been operating as a key leader of our organization since he was hired in 2020,” Wood said. “His leadership ability along with his intimate understanding of our operations make him the ideal candidate to lead the program going forward.” Under Zimmerman’s leadership as Director of Veteran Engagement, the INvets veteran engagement team has recruited over 5,000 veterans from across the nation to join the INvets network. “Our administration continues to attract new jobs to Indiana, and the leadership at INvets has played a critical role in filling some of those positions with highly skilled men and women who are transitioning out of the military,” Crouch said. “I want to thank Wes for his commitment to boosting Indiana’s workforce and attracting our brave veterans to our state. I wish him the best in the next chapter of his career, and I am looking forward to the opportunity of working with Blaine Zimmerman and continuing the success INvets has had in growing our veteran population.”

 

COVID: INDIANA SETS ANOTHER HOSPITALIZATION RECORD - Indiana sets its fourth #coronavirus case record in nine days, with 16,563 new cases; 21.6% of today's batch of tests came back positive (Berman, WIBC). The 7-day positivity rate, which runs a week behind, sets a 10th straight record at 28.7%; the rate has doubled in 15 days.

 

SUPREME COURT: RUSH TALKS ABOUT INNOVATION - Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush told state leaders Wednesday the state’s judicial system is hard at work to increase public trust and innovate (WVPE). Rush also invited a fellow justice to help deliver her annual State of the Judiciary address. Like every part of government, courts have had to adjust to the pandemic. And Rush said to help improve access to the justice system, the state will soon unveil a tool that could make it so some people don’t need to come to court at all. “A new online platform for online dispute resolution will allow court customers to resolve their disputes at no cost and on their own time,” Rush said. Justice Steven David, the longest-serving member of the current state Supreme Court, is retiring this year. And Rush had David tell lawmakers about the initiatives he’s spearheaded in his time on the bench.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL: ROKITA PRAISES SCOTUS OSHA DECISION -  Attorney General Todd Rokita vowed to continue fighting President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates following today’s rulings on two of the mandates (Howey Politics Indiana). The court blocked an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule requiring vaccination or weekly testing of workers at large employers. In a separate decision, it allowed another rule imposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requiring vaccination of all staff at all Medicare and Medicaid providers. “The court quite correctly discerned the intrusive federal overreach of the OSHA rule,” Attorney General Rokita said. “Now, we must continue our legal efforts to protect Hoosiers’ liberties from all the other draconian edicts unleashed by the Biden administration.”

 

PURDUE: DANIELS ASSAILED OVER ASKING 'WHERE ARE THE MEN?' - Students and alumni in engineering and science fields have been coming at Purdue President Mitch Daniels in the past week, since he riffed in his annual letter about national trends in enrollment, asking “Where are all the men?” (Bangert, Based in Lafayette). In open letters and social media call outs, the Society of Women Engineers and other campus professional groups dedicated to women in STEM fields have called Daniels’ take, as one alum put it, “a huge slap in the face to every single woman that has graduated from Purdue, especially women in STEM.”

 

BIG TEN: IOWA TOPS IU 83-74 - On a night when his heralded twin struggled with fouls, Kris Murray came through with career highs of 29 points and 11 rebounds, leading Iowa to an 83-74 win over Indiana on Thursday night (AP). Murray was 12-of-18 shooting, posted his first career double-double and capped an 8-0 run with a steal and dunk for a 76-66 lead with four minutes remaining. He had 17 points in the first half, already matching his previous career best. Iowa took the lead for good with nine minutes left after Tony Perkins scored six straight points.

 

BIG EAST: BUTLER DEFEATS GEORGETOWN 72-58 - There was no seminal moment. Nor did Bo Hodges spontaneously combust -- although if there is anyone in Big East basketball who could do, it is Bo (IndyStar). But two plays were representative of the kind of night it was for the Butler Bulldogs in a 72-58 victory over Georgetown on Thursday. One started with Butler’s 6-7 Bryce Nze blocking a shot by 7-foot Timothy Ighoefe at the rim. Bryce Golden cleared the rebound and passed immediately to Aaron Thompson, who dribbled once and sent a long bounce pass to a streaking Jayden Taylor for a layup.  Taylor was fouled and converted a three-point play, expanding a lead that became 10 points and soon 20.

 

NFL: BALLARD WON'T COMMIT TO WENTZ - Is quarterback Carson Wentz, less than 10 months removed from his trade from Philadelphia to Indianapolis, headed for a one-and-done ending with the Colts? GM Chris Ballard, Coach Frank Reich, and the vast majority of the 2021 coaching staff will be back next season (WISH-TV). Wentz, meanwhile, was delivered no assurances of his future on Thursday. “After Philip (Rivers) retired and we made the decision to make a move on Carson (Wentz), at the time of the decision we felt good about it. I still don’t regret the decision, at the time. Just sitting here today, just so you all know, I will not make a comment on who is going to be here next year and who is not going to be here next year. It is not fair for any player. I thought Carson (Wentz) did some good things. And there a lot of things that he needs to do better. Our passing game has to be better.” The key phrase for Colts fans here will be “at the time.”

 

General Assembly

 

MAYORS CONCERNED ABOUT LOSS OF TAX REVENUE: Indiana House Republicans are advancing a bill that would provide $1 billion in tax cuts. They say the cuts will attract business to the state, but some mayors are worried about the potential impact on their communities and are planning to fight the cuts (Hren, Indiana Public Media). Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop says the business personal property tax has been around for decades. It’s a tax business owners pay for goods they own and use, such as furniture, computers, or equipment. “Nobody from California or Germany or Japan, or any, any place that's looking at Columbus, Indiana, has ever said, well, you know, your business personal property taxes too high. I mean, that's just not become part of the conversation,” Lienhoop said. Legislators are considering HB 1002 which would eliminate a significant portion of the tax through state tax credits and other means. “We can't do without the revenue. I mean, it's built into our budget that we have from year to year, and so if you want to take this away, and that's okay, but, you know, find some way to replace it,” he said.

 

TENSE EXCHANGE ON CURRICULA BILL: Two Indiana lawmakers got into a tense exchange Wednesday over whether a controversial bill would prevent teachers from condemning racism (Appleton, Chalkbeat). The bill, authored by Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, would ban teachers from promoting eight concepts, including teaching about race and racism in a way that makes students feel responsible for matters like slavery and discrimination. In an education committee hearing, Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, asked Cook whether a “good citizenship” clause added to House Bill 1134 would allow teachers to say unequivocally that “racism is bad.” In response, Cook said teachers could teach historical events, like the Tulsa race massacre, the Selma Civil Rights march, and the Japanese-American internment during World War II. “(Those) examples would certainly talk about racism and how it was approached in a very bad way in our country at one time,” Cook said. “What this bill is meant to caution against is bringing in my own feelings and imposing or promoting those to students.”

 

ISLAMIC GROUP OPPOSES CRT BILL: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, called on the Indiana House of Representatives to drop a bill that would ban anti-racism teaching (Howey Politics Indiana). House Bill 1134, authored by Republican State Rep. Tony Cook, seeks to ban the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in schools. The bill passed the Indiana House Education Committee on an 8-5 vote. “Operating on the false premise that critical race theory is being taught in schools, legislation like House Bill 1134 limits the freedom of teachers to educate our nation’s youth about the ways in which systemic racism continues to negatively impact our society,” said CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw. “We call on the Indiana House of Representatives to drop this harmful and un-American bill.”

 

Congress

 

BRAUN APPLAUDS SCOTUS DECISION ON MANDATES: U.S. Sen. Mike Braun released the following statement after the Supreme Court announced they would block President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for millions of employees of private businesses (Howey Politics Indiana). “President Biden’s vaccine mandate for private employees is unconstitutional and wrong. I was proud to lead the vote to overturn this illegal mandate in the Senate, and the Supreme Court blocking this mandate is a win for the liberties and livelihoods of millions of Americans.”

 

WALORSKI PRAISES SCOTUS DECISION: U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) released the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) blocked the Biden Administration’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard requiring private employers with more than 100 employees to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine or weekly testing (Howey Politics Indiana). “I am relieved the U.S. Supreme Court rightfully has struck down President Biden’s unconstitutional mandate on workers and job creators, protecting Americans’ fundamental rights,” said Congresswoman Walorski. “The administration’s mandate on private employers clearly trampled on Americans’ liberties, and it would have been a disaster as we face mounting inflation, supply chain, and workforce crises. Northern Indiana is home to a robust manufacturing and small business community that feeds and powers our nation. Today the Supreme Court upheld these Hoosiers’ vital right to work and provide for their families.”

 

YOUNG INTRODUCES ANTI-INFLATION ACT: U.S. Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced the Inflation Prevention Act (IPA) that would help combat inflationary spending (Howey Politics Indiana). Due to record government spending over the last two years, many Americans are facing rapidly rising costs of consumer goods. This bill would bar legislation that would be estimated to increase inflation until the year-over-year inflation rate drops below 4.5 percent. “Under the Biden inflation crisis, inflation is at a 40-year high and working Americans are struggling to pay for the daily essentials. For months, Democrats have ignored the problem, blaming everything instead of their socialist spending agenda. The Inflation Prevention Act would ensure that the bills we are voting on in Congress do not make this problem worse,” said Young. Joining Senators Young, Scott, and Thune are Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), and Steve Daines (R-Mont.).

 

BAIRD RELEASES 2022 PRIORITIES: U.S. Rep. Jim Baird (IN-04) issued the following statement on his legislative priorities for 2022 (Howey Politics Indiana): This year, I will continue building on the promises I made when I came to Congress – standing for conservative principles by protecting Hoosiers’ Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, defending the lives of the unborn, and fighting against any policies that advance the foothold of socialism in the United States. Keeping these principles in mind, I will continue my efforts to decrease federal spending and stand against government overreach, with a focus on finding solutions that will improve lives for Hoosiers, enhance rural communities and the farm economy, and support our nation’s Veterans. Maintaining a safe and prosperous community requires that law enforcement officers are provided with tools and support to perform their jobs effectively. Throughout the next year, I will continue working with local law enforcement and my colleagues in Congress to close loopholes exploited by criminals and help officers enforce the law. Our Veterans make tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend the United States, and it’s crucial that we support those who have made such significant contributions to our nation. As Vice Chair of the For Country Caucus, I have renewed my ongoing commitment to be a champion for Veterans. It is an honor to advance solutions that make sure Veterans receive the support that they have earned, and their unique needs are met.

 

SINEMA BLINDSIDES BIDEN ON FILIBUSTER:  President Biden’s drive to push new voting rights protections through Congress hit a major obstacle on Thursday when Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, declared that she would not support undermining the Senate filibuster to enact new laws under any circumstances (New York Times). Pre-empting a presidential visit to the Capitol to meet privately with Democrats, Ms. Sinema took to the floor to say that while she backed two new voting rights measures and was alarmed about new voting restrictions in some states, she believed that a unilateral Democratic move to weaken the filibuster would only foster growing political division. “These bills help treat the symptoms of the disease, but they do not fully address the disease itself,” Ms. Sinema said. “And while I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country.”

 

JAN. 6 SUBPOENAS TECH GIANTS: Months after requesting documents from more than a dozen social platforms, the House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection has issued subpoenas targeting Twitter, Meta, Reddit and YouTube after lawmakers said the companies' initial responses were inadequate (ABC News). The committee chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, demanded records Thursday from the companies relating to their role in allegedly spreading misinformation about the 2020 election and promoting domestic violent extremism on their platforms in the lead-up to the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

 

Nation

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN DISMAYED BY SCOTUS RULING - President Biden expressed dismay at the Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday to halt his administration’s efforts to impose a requirement for coronavirus vaccinations or testing on businesses with at least 100 workers (Washington Post). “I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law,” he said in a statement, adding that he would still push companies to immunize their employees. “The Court has ruled … but that does not stop me from using my voice as President to advocate for employers to do the right thing.” “The good news is that many companies have moved forward anyway in implementing vaccine requirements, because they know again, it’s good for the workers, it’s good for customers,” said Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy during an appearance on CNN.

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN HAS DOUBTS ON STALLED VOTING RIGHTS BILL - President Biden expressed doubts that Democrats would pass their elections legislation, bowing to political realities that left party leaders shy of any path forward in the Senate, just two days after he cited a grave threat to democracy in imploring lawmakers to approve the measure (Wall Street Journal). “The honest-to-God answer is I don’t know if we can get this done,” Mr. Biden told reporters Thursday after a closed-door lunch with the Senate Democratic caucus. He said he still had hope for what the party had dubbed its top priority but added, “One thing for certain: Like every other major civil rights bill that came along, if we miss the first time, we can come back and try the second time.”

 

WHITE HOUSE: OBAMA BACKS BIDEN ON FILIBUSTER - Former President Barack Obama used his first op-ed since leaving the White House to back President Joe Biden’s call to change Senate filibuster rules in order to pass voting rights legislation (Politico). Obama, in his opinion piece for USA Today, wrote about the work that must go into protecting democracy — something he says the late Rep. John Lewis understood all too well. But it isn’t the first time the former president has made his stance on the Senate rule clear. When delivering Lewis’ eulogy in 2020, Obama suggested eliminating the filibuster — what he called a Jim Crow relic — in order to pass sweeping voting reforms in the Georgia congressman’s honor. Obama echoed that message in Wednesday’s piece, writing that the filibuster “has no basis in the Constitution.” He noted that historically, the tool was used mainly by Southern senators to obstruct the passage of civil rights legislation and to keep Jim Crow laws on the books.

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN SCHEDULE - President Biden's schedule  — 10 a.m.: The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief. — 12:30 p.m.: Biden will deliver remarks on infrastructure in the South Court Auditorium. — 6 p.m.: Biden will depart the White House en route to Wilmington, Del., where he is scheduled to arrive at 6:55 p.m. VP Harris: — The VP will ceremonially swear in Rufus Gifford to be chief of protocol at 10:20 a.m. Press secretary Jen Psaki will brief at 11:45 a.m. with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.

 

JUSTICE: OATH KEEPERS LEADER CHARGED WITH SEDITION - Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group, and 10 other members or associates have been charged with seditious conspiracy in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, authorities said Thursday (AP). Despite hundreds of charges already brought in the year since pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, these were the first seditious conspiracy charges levied in connection with the attack on Jan. 6, 2021. It marked a serious escalation in the largest investigation in the Justice Department’s history – more than 700 people have been arrested and charged with federal crimes – and highlighted the work that has gone into piecing together the most complicated cases. The charges rebut, in part, the growing chorus of Republican lawmakers who have publicly challenged the seriousness of the insurrection, arguing that since no one had been charged yet with sedition or treason, it could not have been so violent.

 

STATE: RUSS SIGNALS UKRAINE TALKS AT DEAD END - Russian officials signaled that they could abandon diplomatic efforts to resolve the security crisis surrounding Ukraine, bringing a whirlwind week of European diplomacy to an ominous end and deflating hopes that negotiators could forge a path toward easing tensions in Eastern Europe (New York Times). One senior Russian diplomat said that talks with the West were approaching a “dead end,” while another said the Kremlin would wait until it receives written responses next week to its demands from Washington and from NATO before deciding how to proceed. It was clear that Russia’s next move would be up to President Vladimir V. Putin, who, his spokesman said on Thursday, was being briefed regularly this week on negotiations with the West. “The United States and its allies are actually saying ‘no’ to key elements of these texts,” Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei A. Ryabkov, said, referring to the draft agreements with NATO and Washington that Russia published last month. “This is what we call a dead end or a different approach.”

 

MEDIA: SUNDAY TALK - “Fox News Sunday,” anchored by John Roberts: Ashish Jha, Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin. Panel: Josh Holmes, Marie Harf and Chad Pergram. MSNBC “The Sunday Show,” with a special edition on “Our Fragile Democracy”: Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Barbara Walter, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam,  Cora Masters Barry, Melanie Campbell, Nsé Ufot, Clarence Jones. CBS “Face the Nation”: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Scott Gottlieb, Betsey Stevenson, Anthony Salvanto. CNN “Inside Politics”: Jonathan Reiner. Panel: Margaret Talev, Toluse Olorunnipa, Seung Min Kim and Kaitlan Collins. ABC “This Week”: Panel: Cecilia Vega, Rachel Scott, Ian Pannell and Steve Inskeep. NBC “Meet the Press”: Panel: Matthew Continetti, Andrea Mitchell, Amna Nawaz and Eugene Robinson.

 

Local

 

MISHAWAKA: COP KILLER RELEASED FROM PRISON AFTER 12 YEARS - He was sentenced to 31 years for killing a police officer and his K-9 during a drunk driving incident but only served 12 years (WNDU-TV). On Monday, Shawn Devine was released from prison on parole, one day after the 12-year anniversary of the crash that killed Mishawaka Police Cpl. James Szuba. Just days after his release, folks are now fuming online. The Mishawaka F.O.P. Lodge 91 President Richard Freeman expressing his concern in a " target="_blank">Facebook post saying, “Imagine going through the court process to seek “Justice.” And then a day after the anniversary of your loved one being taken from you, their killer is paroled from prison after not even serving half of the so-called “Justice” imposed on them....Why?!”

 

INDIANAPOLIS: CITY DENIES COMPENSATION FOR FED-EX FAMILIES — The city of Indianapolis has effectively denied a request for over $2 million in compensation made by three members of the Sikh community affected by a mass shooting at an Indianapolis FedEx facility (AP). The victims of the April 15 attack each requested $700,000 in damages from the city. They claimed that local officials failed to pursue a court hearing that could have prevented the shooter from accessing guns used in the attack. The Indianapolis Star reported that the city did not respond to the tort claim by the Jan. 10 deadline. The city’s silence is the equivalent of a denial, which opens the door for victims to respond with a lawsuit. The Sikh Coalition said its lawyers will not be pursuing a lawsuit.

 

LAFAYETTE: ROSWARSKI LAMENTS LACK OF EMPLOYEES — Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski is sharing is vision for the city in 2022.  He said that he is focused on continuing development and cooperation throughout Greater Lafayette (WLFI-TV). "How do we find talent? How do we bring people in here to fill these jobs?" Roswarski wants the city to continue to grow in 2022. He said one of the first steps is filling the thousands of open jobs in the area. "It is a real balancing act of how do we continue to work through COVID? How do we continue to attract talent and keep people here?"

 

GARY: CITY RENEWS CONSTITUENT SERVICES DEPT. — The city's "front door" to the community is open once again as the Constituent Services Department relaunches, recently appointed Executive Director Rachelle Morgan-Ceaser said (DeVore, NWI Times). Designed to connect residents with information and city services such as permits, licenses and street clean ups, the Constituent Services Department is operating for the first time under Mayor Jerome Prince's administration, with longtime public servant Morgan-Ceaser at the helm. Born and raised in Gary, Morgan-Ceaser developed a passion for local government early on, working with the Common Council as chief of operations from 2000 to 2008. She has also worked with the Gary Sanitary District and most recently oversaw general services as a Public Works deputy director.

 

BLOOMINGTON: COUNCIL MULLS DISSOLVING STANDING COMMITTEES - Bloomington City Council debated a procedural change for almost two hours Wednesday, but it delayed an actual vote on the legislation until next week (Abshier, Indiana Public Media). Councilmembers Susan Sandberg, Sue Sgambelluri, and Jim Sims sponsored resolution 22-02, which seeks to eliminate certain standing committees and replaces them with a committee of the whole. These meetings include all nine members and are typically scheduled in off weeks between regular sessions. This ordinance would essentially revert to how council operated prior to resolution 20-01, which passed Feb. 19, 2020. “Our intent is to simplify, to clarify, and to get back to some basics that are going to make us less focused on process as a council and more focused on the policy issues,” council president Susan Sandberg said.

 

NEWBURGH: COUNCIL APPROVES ANNEXATION ORDINANCE - The Newburgh Town Council approved an annexation ordinance in a 3-2 vote on Wednesday night (WFIE-TV). Councilmembers Steven Shoemaker, Allyson Shelby and Stacie Krieger voted in favor of the plan, while Anne Rust Aurand and Leanna Hughes voted against it. The area to be annexed includes 1,800 people north of the current city limits. Town manager Kristy Powell says the remonstrance period begins on January 27 and lasts for 90 days.

 

WARSAW: CITY SAYS GOODBYE TO DRAKE PRICE - Folks from every corner of the Warsaw community came out to honor the life of 16-year-old Drake Price who served as an inspiration to others during his recovery from several brain surgeries back in 2017 (WNDU-TV). He unexpectedly passed away on Friday but today, the community had one last chance to say goodbye. Drake had a special connection with several police departments in the Hoosier State, but those aren’t the only ones saying they were lucky to have met this brave young man.

 

ALLEN COUNTY: 5 SCHOOL DISTRICTS GOING VIRTUAL - Five Allen County schools are switching to a remote format today because of staffing shortages fueled partly by COVID-19 cases and quarantines (Sloboda, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). They join at least two other Fort Wayne schools that previously shifted to a virtual format. Fort Wayne Community Schools – the area's largest district with almost 30,000 students – is implementing e-learning at Shawnee Middle School and Abbett, Fairfield and Franke Park elementary schools. “These four schools are going to eLearning because they have an exceptionally high number of staff members out ill or in quarantine,” Superintendent Mark Daniel said in a statement. “While our goal has been to keep students in school as many days as possible, we also have to maintain a safe and healthy learning environment.”

 

ALLEN COUNTY: SACS WARNS PARENTS OF SUDDEN SCHOOL CLOSURES - Administrators at Southwest Allen County Schools are warning parents to be ready for sudden shifts to e-learning (WPTA). In a note to parents Thursday, superintendent Park Ginder said COVID-19, cold and flu infections are “creating challenges and absences” in the schools. While Ginder heaped praises on school staff who have kept classrooms open, he conceded that current trends may force temporary shifts to e-learning. “Please be prepared that your student’s school could shift briefly to eLearning with relatively short notice if we are unable to maintain in-person education momentum due to staffing shortages,” Ginder wrote.

 

TIPPECANOE COUNTY: WABASH TWP. TO REHIRE FIREFIGHTERS - The Wabash Township Board and Trustee took two steps tonight to be able to hire the paid firefighters back and create a sustainable revenue source for the department (WLFI-TV). Tonight was Interim Wabash Township Trustee Angel Valentín's first meeting since being sworn in.  The board's first step was to move funds that were left over from an emergency loan into the Fire Fighter 11-11 fund.  By doing that, the paid firefighters and Chief will have their positions funded through 2023. Another thing the board did was vote to pursue a Population Growth Based Maximum Levy Appeal.  Doing this would give the Township some flexibility to increase the levy higher then it is now, since the current levy is at its max. "It allows us to create a sustainable revenue source. It allows future boards to make better determinations as to what the ideal level of fire protection is as our township continues to grow," said Valentín.

 

ADAMS COUNTY: SHERIFF TO SEEK REELECTION - The current Sheriff of Adams County announced on Thursday that he will be seeking re-election (WPTA-TV). Daniel Mawhorr said in a press release that he is running for a second term as the Sheriff of Adams County after being elected as the Republican candidate for Sheriff in 2018. “I believe I have a strong relationship with the Court and Prosecutor’s office; we have worked hard together to lower crime in Adams County,” Mawhorr’s release says. “I have put systems in place to help inmates to be in a better position to succeed once they are released from the Adams County Detention Center. I am asking for your support and re-elect me to be your Adams County Sheriff in 2022.”

 

CARROLL COUNTY: EX-SHERIFF TO RUN AGAIN - Former Carroll County Sheriff Lee W. Hoard announced he will be pursuing his former position as a candidate in the 2022 primary election in Carroll County (Logansport Pharos-Tribune). “My past experience and training qualifies my candidacy to be a strong, professional, and objective leader,” Hoard said in a press release. The Republican primary election is Tuesday, May 3. Detective Tony Liggett and First Deputy Mike Thomas have also filed the paperwork to enter the race.