HOLCOMB/CROUCH FUNDRAISING SMASHES RECORDS: Gov. Eric Holcomb and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch are poised to obliterate gubernatorial fundraising records, with a combined $4.815 million cash on hand after a money surge in December (Howey Politics Indiana). Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer told HPI in early December that Eric Holcomb for Indiana would likely post $3.6 million and Crouch $750,000. Those numbers have ratcheted up to $4 million and $815,000. "When the full report comes out and you dig through who's giving, there are a lot of traditional funding sources like trade unions or individuals in there who have been Democratic donors," Hupfer told HPI Wednesday afternoon. "If you don't have your traditional base with you, it becomes impossible." With Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., opting for reelection in 2019 and other potential contenders like John Gregg and Christina Hale laying low, Holcomb and Hupfer are attempting create an aura of invincibility. "To pull in another half million in the last 30 days is pretty unbelievable," Hupfer said. "There is just tremendous support for the governor. By breaking this record, and eclipsing even our own projections, our supporters in every corner of the state are sending a strong message regarding their sustained support of Governor Holcomb.” In 2014, Mike Pence for Indiana reported $3.549 million, and in 2006, Mitch for Governor posted $2.594 million. “Good policy is good politics and Gov. Holcomb is delivering on both accounts," Hupfer said. Hupfer also pointed to Holcomb's 65% approval in a recent Public Opinion Strategies Poll for the Indiana Realtors as evidence of the governor's historically strong standing. "That $4 million is going to set a signal to the state and country," Hupfer said. "Two years out at $4 million is a big message to anybody sitting around or being courted."

TRUMP TORCHES PENCE SHUTDOWN COMPROMISE: President Trump on Wednesday torched a compromise that his own vice president floated with Democrats last month to stave off a government funding lapse, saying $2.5 billion in border security spending was insufficient as he renewed calls for $5 billion for his border wall amid a shutdown that has stretched into its 12th day (New York Times). He also rejected suggestions from Republican senators that negotiators revive a compromise that would twin border-wall money with legislation to shield young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children from deportation and grant them legal work permits. The comments ahead of a meeting with congressional leaders set back any notion that the shutdown could be nearing a negotiated end. They were a remarkable public rejection of a plan that Vice President Mike Pence broached with Democrats behind closed doors 12 days ago, in the hours before a midnight deadline to avert a shutdown, and which his team has quietly continued to push in the days since. And they confirmed the concerns of Democratic leaders who had privately questioned whether they could trust senior White House officials to broker any compromise that could then be rejected by a mercurial president who has often shifted his position at the last moment, especially when it comes to immigration. “No, not $2.5 billion, no — we’re asking for $5.6” billion, Mr. Trump said during a cabinet meeting, hours before he was scheduled to host Republican and Democratic congressional leaders for a border security briefing in the White House Situation Room. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) after a White House meeting with President Trump and other congressional leaders said Wednesday that the partial government shutdown could continue for days or even weeks (The Hill). "It was a civil discussion. We're hopeful that somehow in the coming days and weeks we'll be able to reach an agreement," McConnell told reporters, opening the door to a lengthy shutdown that is already in its 12th day. McConnell and other members of congressional leadership of both parties met with Trump and members of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for what was billed as a "briefing" on the border.

THIS IS TRUMP'S LAST EASY DAY: Donald Trump may not realize it totally yet, but today was the last easy-ish day of his presidency (Cillizza, CNN). By noon (or so) today, Nancy Pelosi will become the new speaker of the House of Representatives -- formalizing the Democratic majority her side won in last November's election. And that will change everything. Trump has sought to look on the bright side of divided control of government to date -- insisting that maybe he will be able to make deals with the new Democratic majority in the House. "It really could be a beautiful bipartisan situation," he said at a press conference the day after the 2018 election. But the early returns are not promising. The federal government has been shut down for the past 12 days -- and there's little reason to believe that will change at any point soon. Trump has dug in on his demand for $5 billion to fund construction of his border wall. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, are equally dead-set on providing zero dollars for Trump's wall. And this is only the beginning. Starting tomorrow, Democrats in the House will make Trump's life a living hell. Efforts are already underway to bring a number of his Cabinet officials before Congress, to extricate his tax returns from his grip and to more deeply probe his business dealings both before and during his presidency. Trump, a political neophyte prior to the 2016 race, has never had to deal with this sort of opposition before.

SPEAKER PELOSI RETURNS; DEMS TO PUSH ELECTION REFORMS: California Rep. Nancy Pelosi is expected to be elected as speaker of the House on Thursday with two, immediate legislative priorities: ending a partial government shutdown and passing a government-overhaul package changing campaign-finance rules and government-ethics law while expanding voting rights (Wall Street Journal). On ethics, the package would prohibit senior government officials from lobbying their former executive-branch peers for two years after they have left government. It also calls for establishing a nationwide automatic voter-registration system. On the campaign-finance front, the legislation would require several classes of politically active organizations, including tax-exempt 501(c)(4) charitable groups, to disclose donors who have given $10,000 or more during an election cycle. Currently, those groups don’t have to disclose their donors. The bill also allocates a pool of taxpayer money to match certain small-dollar donations 6-to-1; aides didn’t disclose how much money would be set aside for that initiative, which is meant to encourage grass-roots campaigning. “The most important thing we can do is come out strong with passage in the House,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D., Md.), who was one of the chief architects of the legislation, known as House Resolution 1, or H.R. 1. “Then it becomes a matter of political consequence for those who stand in its way.” Pelosi is the first member of Congress to return to the speakership since Sam Rayburn returned for a third stint atop the chamber in 1955 (Politico Playbook).

GENERAL ASSEMBLY OPENS TODAY: Indiana lawmakers could struggle to give more than minimal funding increases to public schools in the new state budget that will emerge from this year’s legislative session (Davies, AP). Members of the General Assembly will return Thursday to the Statehouse in Indianapolis for a session expected to last until late April. Republicans are entering their seventh year of supermajorities in both the House and the Senate that give them complete control of legislative action. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and GOP legislative leaders have said boosting teacher pay is a top priority, but that will compete for money with growing Medicaid and child protection expenses. The legislative session could get sidetracked by a possible heated debate over adopting a state hate crimes law and proposals to allow sports betting in the state.

DUDICH WARNS OF SOME SPENDING CUTS: Some state programs could face spending cuts to steer money to the Holcomb administration's top priorities. The administration will lay out a detailed budget proposal next week, but it's already given a few hints. State budget director Jason Dudich told a conference last month the governor will propose increases for schools, the Department of Child Services, Medicaid, and state pensions and salaries, but the rest of the budget is likely to look a lot like the current one (Berman, WIBC). Legislative leaders have been warning of a tight budget, thanks to a nearly $300 million shot of cash for Child Services as caseworkers wrestle with swelling caseloads. In the past, the department has used federal grants to cover some of those expenses. And Holcomb made a one-time dip into state reserves last year to raise caseworker salaries, one of the recommendations of an independent review of the agency. He's now proposing incorporating that money into the budget. The DCS increase plus a projected jump in Medicaid costs means there's not much new money for anyone else, despite predictions of continued strong economic growth. Holcomb has said he believes there's more money than meets the eye, and Dudich says there could be spending cuts elsewhere. He says the administration is looking for programs that aren't working or have outlived their usefulness, with an eye to redirecting that money elsewhere. Holcomb has said he wants to maintain an 11% surplus, about the same as what it is now.

LAWMAKERS FACE COMPETING PRIORITIES; LIMITED MONEY: Lawmakers will face competing priorities and limited resources when the 2019 General Assembly convenes Thursday (Lange, IndyStar). During the nearly four-month session, legislators will be focused on drafting a two-year state budget that will give enough money to both the Department of Child Services and K-12 education, despite a limited amount of extra revenue to go around. But they could be distracted by a contentious hate crime legislation fight, a request for more money for Bankers Life Fieldhouse and an attempt to expand Indiana gambling. Lawmakers will have less money to work with than they had hoped for in the upcoming two-year budget. While lawmakers will have $321 million in new revenue to spend in 2020 and an extra $262.9 million in 2021, they'll be stretched thin when it comes to spending. City officials want to keep the Pacers in Indianapolis for the long haul, but that could take a little extra money from the state. The Capital Improvement Board is asking for more money for long-term improvements to CIB-managed properties, including Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

INDIANA GRADUATION RATE AT 80% AND 87%: The Indiana Department of Education today released the 2018 state graduation rate. In 2018, Indiana’s waiver graduation rate was 88.1 percent, and the non-waiver rate was 80.78 percent. In 2017, the waiver graduation rate was 87.19 percent with a non-waiver graduation rate of 80.10 percent (Howey Politics Indiana). “With the increase to Indiana’s graduation rate, it is evident our schools are committed to the academic success of our students,” said Dr. Jennifer McCormick, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction. “While there is still work to be done, we will continue to partner with local districts to ensure every student graduates prepared for life beyond high school.” Due to differences between federal and state accountability equations and standards, IDOE also released 2018 federal graduation rates. In 2018, Indiana’s federal graduation rate was 87.23 percent, and the federal non-waiver rate was 79.97 percent. With the previous exclusion of the general diploma due to the Every Student Success Act, Indiana’s 2018 federal graduation rate is not comparable to prior years.

JOHNSON COUNTY FACES COLLISION WITH TRUMP EPA GOALS: The children fell ill, one by one, with cancers that few families in this suburban Indianapolis community had ever heard of. An avid swimmer struck down by glioblastoma, which grew a tumor in her brain. Four children with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. Fifteen children with acute lymphocytic leukemia, including three cases diagnosed in the past year (New York Times). At first, families put the illnesses down to misfortune. But as cases mounted, parents started to ask: Could it be something in the air or water? Their questions led them to an old industrial site in Franklin, the Johnson County seat, that the federal government had ordered cleaned up decades ago. Recent tests have identified a carcinogenic plume spreading underground, releasing vapors into homes. Now, families in a county that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump are making demands of his administration that collide directly with one of his main agendas: the rolling back of health and environmental regulations. The Franklin area is thriving under Trump administration policies, the mayor said. But he also wants more E.P.A. action to fix decades-old contamination.  On Wednesday, a group representing dozens of concerned parents called for a federal investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General — the same watchdog that examined the government’s slow response to the water crisis in Flint, Mich. — into why Franklin’s toxic plume of trichloroethylene, or TCE, persists. The group accuses the E.P.A. of “serious mismanagement” and “significant delays” at the site, even after the dangers became apparent this summer, according to a letter the group said it sent to the E.P.A.’s Office of the Inspector General.

RNC CHAIR SLAMS UNCLE MITT: Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, the niece of Mitt Romney, blasted the incoming GOP Senator on Wednesday, saying that the op-ed he wrote criticizing President Trump was "disappointing and unproductive" (The Hill). "POTUS is attacked and obstructed by the MSM media and Democrats 24/7," McDaniel wrote on Twitter. "For an incoming Republican freshman senator to attack @realdonaldtrump as their first act feeds into what the Democrats and media want and is disappointing and unproductive." President Trump also responded, tweeting, "Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake?  I hope not. Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!"

APPLE REVISES PROFITS OVER CHINESE FEARS: Apple on Wednesday fed fears that the global economy could be slowing faster than anticipated by announcing it would miss its first-quarter revenue estimate, a rare misfire that the company blamed on unexpected challenges in the Chinese economy and the trade conflict between the United States and China (Washington Post). Months after unveiling two new iPhones in time for the holiday season, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a note to investors that the company had lowered its revenue guidance to $84 billion, compared to its previous estimate of revenue between $89 billion and $93 billion. The news sent Apple’s stock plunging after hours. In explaining the change, Cook said Apple “did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deterioration” in markets including Greater China. Cook said that most of the revenue shortfall to the company’s initial guidance “occurred in Greater China across iPhone, Mac and iPad.”

HOOSIER BREWERIES TAPPING FUNDS FOR CAMP FIRE VICTIMS: Switchyard Brewing Company and Upland Brewing Company will tap a special beer Wednesday night to help raise money for victims of California's devastating Camp Fire (Indiana Public Media). The breweries are among more than 1,200 across the country making Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Resilience Butte County Proud IPA. All proceeds from the beer will go to relief efforts. Upland and Switchyard will tap the beer at 4 p.m. Wednesday. It will also be on tap at all other Upland locations.  The beer has notes of pine and grapefruit. Upland and Switchyard worked together to make 15 barrels of the beer, which will remain on tap until it's gone. There are 20 other Indiana breweries that are also making the special IPA.

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: First, we are proud to announce our new HPI Daily Wire sponsor: the Indiana Motor Truck Association, an organization which has been a vital partner in Hoosier progress and vitality since 1934. Almost everything we produce, build, use, grow, eat, drink and prosper with comes to you at some point via a motor truck. Second, wonder why congressional approval is often under 20% and President Trump's Gallup approval slinks at 39%. Look what happened in the White House Situation Room on Wednesday. The government shutdown now persists for a 13th day. Sad! Stupid! - Brian A. Howey- Brian A. Howey


AXIOS POLL SHOWS AMERICANS SEE RECESSION COMING: Most Americans think the economy is growing, but they're worried a recession could be coming this year, according to a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll. Between the lines, from Axios managing editor David Nather: Democrats are more pessimistic than Republicans and independents, but majorities across the board say a recession is likely, including a slight majority of Republicans. That suggests an emerging economic anxiety that President Trump hasn't had to deal with until now. Nearly six out of 10 Americans think the economy is growing now, including 84% of Republicans, 47% of independents, and 36% of Democrats. But more than eight out of 10 Democrats and six out of 10 independents think a recession is likely during the next year.

ROMNEY SAYS HE WON'T CHALLENGE TRUMP: Incoming Sen. Mitt Romney on Wednesday said he won't run for president again, though he warned that President Donald Trump doesn’t necessarily have his support for his 2020 reelection campaign (Politico). “I think it's early to make that decision and I want to see what the alternatives are,” Romney told CNN’s Jake Tapper about whether he will endorse Trump in 2020.

GOV. INSLEE TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is running for president with a single-issue focus on climate change (WECT-TV). The governor’s intention to compete for the Democratic nomination was announced in an article published Wednesday in The Atlantic. Inslee has served as governor of the state since 2012. One of focuses has been environmental concerns in the state, including reducing the use of fossil fuels while pushing alternative energy development and boosting green jobs, according to his bio.

RNC MEMBER WANTS TO MAKE PRIMARY CHALLENGE TOUGHER: A member of the Republican National Committee, fearing primary challengers to President Trump in the wake of incoming GOP Sen. Mitt Romney's scathing op-ed, is urging fellow committee members to change the rules to thwart intra-party threats to Mr. Trump in 2020 (CBS News). In an email obtained by CBS News, Jevon O.A. Williams, the national committeeman for the Virgin Islands, urged fellow elected RNC members Tuesday night to push for an "unprecedented" rule change in the wake of the Romney op-ed's "calculated political treachery." Williams wants to close "loopholes" in the nomination in a way that would make it tougher for even token challengers to Mr. Trump to enter the fray. The Washington Examiner first reported the letter.

GIFFEL ANNOUNCES FOR INDY COUNCIL: Neighborhood advocate and leader Laura Giffel has announced her candidacy as an independent candidate for City-County Councilor in District 16, which includes much of the Southeast, South and Southwest sides of downtown Indianapolis. Laura cites her hands-on experience with neighborhood issues as her main motivation to run for office (Howey Politics Indiana). “The Indianapolis City-County Council is the most intimate form of local government, and its Councilors should be the most engaged and accessible elected officials. As an independent, my loyalty lies first with residents and ensuring that the values of District 16 are represented in the Council” says Giffel.

DALEY HAS CHICAGO FUNDRAISING QUARTER: Bill Daley scored as the fourth quarter wrapped up, according to the state Board of Elections. The mayoral candidate raked in $325,000 in the last five days of filing — including $100,000 from Dan Tierney, a cannabis investor and president of Wicklow Capital (Politico Playbook). Glenn Tilton , the retired Midwest chairman of JP Morgan Chase, gave $25,000. Tilton succeeded Daley in that job. It's a signal the business community is lining up behind Daley. But it's worth noting that some of those donations are from out of state, an indication donors like Daley but may not necessarily have an opinion on who runs the city. Some donations are from Texas, where Daley held the No. 2 job at SBC Communications Inc., and Washington, D.C., where he served as U.S. Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration and chief of staff to President Barack Obama.

General Assembly

LEADERSHIP TO ANNOUNCE SALVATION ARMY DEAL: The Indiana House of Representatives will formally announce their partnership and donation drive with the Indiana Division of The Salvation Army to increase awareness about child hunger (Howey Politics Indiana). Speaker Brian C. Bosma,  Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta and representatives from the Indiana Division of The Salvation Army will announce the program at 10 a.m. today on the fourth floor of the South Atrium.

KENLEY TO LOBBY FOR FIELDHOUSE: Pacers Sports & Entertainment has hired former state Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley as a lobbyist during the upcoming session (IndyStar). Arguably few people, if any, know the state budgeting process better than Kenley, who was the Senate's chief budget architect for eight years. Still, there's not much money in the budget to spend.

WYSS WANTS .05 BAC: Tom Wyss served in the Indiana Senate for nearly 30 years and was among the group of state lawmakers who made the push to lower the legal limit in 2001 from 0.10 to 0.08. He said the overall goal was to eventually lower the limit to 0.05 (Miller, WIBC). "Going to 0.08 was a stop-gap because 0.05 is a point at which the majority of people are impaired to the point where they should not drive," according to Wyss, who says that the threat of having federal funding pulled during the Clinton administration if all 50 states did not lower their drunk driving limits to 0.08 is what eventually got the law passed in 2001 after he said he pushed for it at the Statehouse for more than a decade. Wyss believes that lowering the threshold would make someone think twice about deciding to get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol if an arrest was more likely to happen. "It's not about arresting somebody.  What it's about is making somebody aware that they should be more responsible and not be drinking and driving.  We're losing people to death all because somebody has taken the irresponsible way of drinking and driving," says Wyss. The former state senator says he's not against drinking, but he is against those who would put other lives in danger by taking a risk by driving drunk. "Party 'til you puke, but don't get in a car and drive," says Wyss.


BRAUN TAKES OATH TODAY: Mike Braun becomes a U.S. Senator today, taking the oath of office from Vice President Mike Pence at mid-day (Howey Politics Indiana). Braun defeated U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly on Nov. 6 as Republicans maintained control of the Senate. Donnelly has not announced what his future plans will be.

TODAY'S CONGRESSIONAL SCHEDULE: The House will begin a vote for speaker toward the end of the noon hour. It's quite a spectacle. Each member recites the name of the person he or she is voting for aloud from the House floor. Members can vote for anyone they want, including people who are not even in Congress. Voting should wrap just before 2 p.m. Incoming House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will give his speech presenting Nancy Pelosi as House speaker around 2 p.m., then Pelosi will address the House. Rep. Don Young -- the dean of the House -- will swear Pelosi in around 2:20-2:30 p.m.

PELOSI BELIEVES TRUMP CAN BE INDICTED: In an interview to air on NBC's "Today," co-anchor Savannah Guthrie asks Nancy Pelosi, who will become House speaker at around 1:30 p.m.: "Do you believe the special counsel should honor and observe the Department of Justice guidance that states a sitting president cannot be indicted?" Pelosi replies, according to an excerpt from NBC: "No, I mean I don't think — I do not think that that is conclusive. No, I do not." Why it matters: Pelosi is the highest ranking official to suggest President Trump could be indicted while in office (Axios).

CARSON BACKS BILLS TO REOPEN GOVERNMENT: U.S. Rep. Andre Carson (D-District 7) says he’ll support two bills being brought forward by House Democrats Thursday in attempt to reopen the government (Indiana Public Media). The partial government shutdown started Dec. 22. Carson says it costs the economy an estimated $1.5 billion a day. The first bill Carson will support would reopen all government agencies except the Department of Homeland Security. But the second bill would fund operations for DHS, allowing employees to be paid, until Feb. 8. "It is my hope the Senate passes this legislation and the President signs it into law," Carson said in an emailed statement. A spokesperson for Sen. Todd Young says in a statement that the Republican is hopeful an agreement will be reached soon to secure borders and fully fund government agencies.

POLITICO POLL SHOWS AMERICANS CONCERNED ABOUT HATE CRIMES: Americans want the new Congress to combat a surge in hate crimes and follow through on longstanding concerns like President Donald Trump’s pledge to lower drug prices, according to a new POLITICO-Harvard poll gauging the public's priorities for 2019. The poll reflects changing attitudes since the November elections as the new divided Congress starts Thursday. Leading up to the midterms, Democrats said they were most focused on defending insurance protections for pre-existing conditions and Republicans on terrorism – Americans now say they want lawmakers to focus on lowering drug prices and reducing the federal budget deficit. "The top two issues were not top two issues in the election,” said Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who helped design the poll with POLITICO. “So you've had a shift from what really drove voters to a somewhat different agenda.”


GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB WON'T OPPOSE SPORTS WAGERING - Indiana appears likely to let you start betting on the Colts and Pacers, and Governor Holcomb says he won't stand in the way (Berman, WIBC). Eight states have legalized sports betting since the Supreme Court said in May that they could. Indiana is one of 21 more considering it. Governor Holcomb says it's clear more states will be climbing aboard, and says while it's not among his priorities, he doesn't have a problem with Indiana being one of them. Like legislative leaders, Holcomb says the thornier questions are likely to involve not whether to legalize sports bets, but how. Legislators have said they expect to put casinos in charge of handling sports gambling, with the Indiana Gaming Commission overseeing it. They still need to consider who's allowed to place bets, whether you can bet on college or high school games, and how casinos gather the data they use to set the odds. Holcomb says the final law needs enough safeguards for fans to be confident the teams are playing to win.

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB TRIBUTE TO TYLER TRENT - Gov. Eric J. Holcomb offered the following statement regarding the passing of Tyler Trent: “Tyler Trent was among the biggest, strongest and wisest people you could ever meet. He reminded us what being good is all about. I’m convinced Tyler was touched by our Lord and guided home every step of the way. Janet and I send our love to the Trent family and remain here for them.” Trent's funeral and a Purdue University memorial vigil for him are scheduled for Tuesday (IndyStar). The funeral is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at College Park Church, 2606 W. 96th Street in Indianapolis. There won’t be a visitation before the funeral; there will be a reception after. Those wishing to share condolences can send a video using #NeverGiveUpT2. “We mourn the passing of Tyler Trent but praise God for Tyler’s life and the testimony of faith he has boldly proclaimed. Tyler is so much more than his cancer,” the church wrote on a page dedicated to him. “He used all of his God-given days to fight against cancer and for his Savior, and for a 20-year-old man, he has left a huge legacy.”

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB ANNOUNCES STATE FAIR THEME - The theme of the 2019 Indiana State Fair will be “Heroes in the Heartland” (AP). Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb made the announcement early Thursday in an online video. State officials say the theme is meant to celebrate the heroism of everyday people, saluting farmers, first responders, educators and members of the Armed Forces. The 17-day fair are will be held this year between Aug. 2 and Aug. 18.

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB SCHEDULE - Gov. Eric J. Holcomb’s public schedule for January 3, 2019: 15th Annual Statehouse Prayer Service, Gov. Holcomb, Lt. Gov Suzanne Crouch, Chief Justice Loretta Rush, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, noon, Indiana Statehouse South Atrium.

LT. GOVERNOR: CROUCH SCHEDULE - Below is Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch's public schedule for Jan. 3 - 5, 2019. Thursday, Jan. 3, Crouch attends Statehouse Prayer Service, Noon - 1 p.m., ET, Indiana Statehouse, Atrium. Saturday, Jan. 5, Crouch tours Mesker Park Zoo & Botanical Garden, Mesker Park Zoo 10-11 a.m. CT, 1545 Mesker Park Dr., Evansville.

AGRICULTURE: PURDUE'S HURT OPTIMISTIC ABOUT 2019 - While we still have 364 days left in 2019, at this point, one of the state’s top ag economists is optimistic about farm profit in the new year (Truitt, Hoosier Ag Today). Purdue Ag Economist Dr. Chris Hurt is optimistic, overall, that 2019 will be a better year financially than 2018, “I think we have a better tone to prices for 2019 especially for corn and wheat. I feel there is a sense of renewed optimism by most producers.” Hurt sees fertilizer prices higher in the new year, but most other production costs remaining stable, “At Purdue, we are forecasting cash rents to be stable and chemical costs also are not expected to rise. So I feel production costs will be steady to perhaps only up slightly.” As for crop prices, Hurt sees upward movement for corn and wheat, “We are seeing new crop corn prices above $4. If we get a weather rally out of South America, we could see December corn futures reach $4.25.” But, like most analysts, the outlook for soybean prices is not good because of the large production levels in the U.S. and South America.

AGRICULTURE: SOYBEAN SALES TO E.U. UP - While U.S. soybean sales to China suffered in 2018, they’re making some headway across the Atlantic Ocean (Hoosier Ag Today). On the 50th anniversary of the soybean industry’s development efforts in the European Union, the United States has outpaced Brazil as the number one supplier to the continent. The website ussoy.org (U.S. Soy) says America is also the top soybean supplier to the Middle East and North Africa. Farmers and industry officials say the challenge is to make sure the growth that began as a result of the trade dispute with China keeps going in the right direction. Brazil soybeans are currently fetching a big premium. Government data says Brazil soybeans are getting $89 per metric ton more, on average, than U.S. oilseeds were last month, due to Chinese demand. A drought also dramatically cut production and meal output in Argentina, the world’s top exporter in 2017. As a result, U.S. soybeans and meal exports are up 243 percent and 105 percent, respectively, to Europe and the Middle East/North Africa regions.

HEALTH: FLU KILLS 3 HOOSIERS - Three people in Indiana died from the flu, according to the latest report from the Indiana State Department of Health. As the season ramps up, Indiana hospitals also report an increase in flu cases (Indiana Public Media). The rise in flu cases prompted Indiana University Health to announce temporary visitor restrictions at two children’s hospitals. Riley Children’s Hospital's medical director of infection prevention, Dr. John Christenson, says they keep track of respiratory viruses circulating throughout the state to determine visitor restrictions. "Our greatest concern is young children who are more likely to transmit viruses if they come into our hospital environment they may spread one of these respiratory viruses to one of our children in the hospital," says Christenson. 

INDOT: SAFE TRUCK PARKING PROGRAM TO BE ANNOUNCED - Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuinness, Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter, Federal Highway Administration officials, and trucking industry leaders will announce the launch of the Trucks Park Here system on Friday at 9:30 a.m. at the Greenfield Rest Area along eastbound I-70 at mile marker 107 (Howey Politics Indiana). Trucks Park Here is a multi-state initiative designed to make interstates safer by helping truck drivers to find safe, convenient parking.

EDUCATION: PURDUE STATEMENT ON TYLER TRENT - This statement from Purdue University was issued Wednesday (Jan. 2) on the Jan. 1 passing of former student Tyler Trent (Howey Politics Indiana): “The world lost a great Boilermaker in Tyler Trent. Anyone who spent time with him or heard his story in one of the countless national media accounts knows he was a remarkable young man — someone whose record of accomplishment was far longer than most people can accrue in many decades of life. “We mourn with Tyler's family and the entire Purdue community, and invite all to attend a candlelight memorial on Tuesday (Jan. 8) at 6 p.m. outside Hovde Hall to honor Tyler's life and the lives of all those who are battling cancer and those who are working to find a cure.”

EDUCATION: TEACHING STIPEND DEADLINE EXTENDED - Hoosier students participating in a student teaching or school administration internship now have until Jan. 31, 2019, to apply for the Earline S. Rogers Student Teaching Stipend for Minorities and the Student Teaching Stipend for High-Need Fields. Each stipend provides up to $4,000 during the semester in which the student teaches or interns (Howey Politics Indiana). “We know that quality teacher preparation is crucial to student success, and student teaching is one of the best ways for aspiring teachers to get hands-on experience in a classroom,” said Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers. “By alleviating some of the financial stress that comes with balancing work, school and the student teaching requirements, we hope to attract and retain more teachers of color and teachers specializing in high-need fields.” To qualify for the Earline S. Rogers Student Teaching Stipend for Minorities, students must be a minority—Black or Hispanic—participating in a student teaching or school administration internship. In addition, students must maintain a cumulative GPA upon entering student teaching that is required by their institution and agree in writing to apply for a teaching position at an accredited school in Indiana following graduation and, if hired, teach for at least three years.

NWS: 2ND TORNADO CONFIRMED IN SPENCER COUNTY - The National Weather Service has confirmed a second tornado struck southern Indiana this week (AP). It says the EF-1 twister with estimated peak winds of 105 mph touched down Monday afternoon in Spencer County, damaging at least three homes, mostly to their roofs and facia. A detached garage was destroyed with the debris thrown at least 300 yards. At least three metal farm buildings sustained minor roof damage in the tornado’s 3-mile path. The weather service earlier confirmed a brief EF-1 tornado with maximum winds of 100 mph caused damage on Monday in near the Harrison County community of Dogwood.

LAW: HOLTSCLAW NEW PRESIDENT OF INDIANA PROSECUTORS - Greene County Prosecutor Jarrod D. Holtsclaw will serve as president of the Association of Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys, Inc. during 2019 after being nominated by the Association’s Board of Directors and elected by Association members during a recent meeting in December (Howey Politics Indiana). Holtsclaw, who served as President-Elect in 2018, takes over for outgoing President Ric Hertel, the Ripley County Prosecutor. “I’m excited about this opportunity to lead and serve prosecutors in Indiana,” Holtsclaw said. “I want to thank Ric for his service and I hope to continue the important work this group does.” During the December meeting, Association members also voted on additional Association officers and members of the Board of Directors. The new slate of officers is as follows: President-Elect – Patrick Harrington, Tippecanoe County Prosecutor; Vice President – Amy Richison, Huntington County Prosecutor; Secretary/Treasurer – Lee Buckingham, Hamilton County Prosecutor. Board of Directors: Bernard Carter (Lake County), Nicholas Hermann (Vanderburgh County), Terry Curry (Marion County), William Hartley (Wabash County), Bruce Aukerman (Vermillion County), Nathan Harter (Decatur County), Rodney Cummings (Madison County), Daniel Murrie (Daviess County) and Dustin Houchin (Washington County). Holtsclaw has served as Greene County Prosecutor since 2007 and was recently elected to his fourth term. Prior to that he was deputy prosecutor in Greene County. Association Presidents serve for a term of one year each. As president, he will also serve on the Association’s Executive Committee.

ECONOMY: THIENEMAN TO HEAD INDIANA BUILDERS - The Indiana Builders Association (IBA) recently elected the association’s 2019 senior officers. Don Thieneman, Floyds Knobs, will serve as IBA’s 2019 president (Howey Politics Indiana). With over 34 years in the construction industry, Don is the president and CEO of his own home building business, The Thieneman Group. Serving the Kentuckiana region, Don is a well-known developer, excavator, contractor and custom home builder. The 2019 IBA Senior Officers include: Vice President: Brett Harter, owner of Harter Custom Homes, Leesburg; Treasurer: Jeff Thomas, co-owner and vice president of Oakmont Development, Fort Wayne; Secretary: Paul Schwinghammer, Owner of Hallmark Homes, Anderson.

TECH: VIRAL LAUNCH ADDS NASH TO BOARD - Indianapolis-based Viral Launch has added well-known technology executive and entrepreneur Andrew J. Nash to its Board of Directors. Viral Launch is a leading provider of software and services that enable private-label and major brands to sell successfully on Amazon (Howey Politics Indiana). Nash is currently CEO of PropertyRoom.com, Inc. and brings more than 20 years of experience in e-commerce and digital marketing. He has led multiple technology companies, including startups in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Nash has also worked extensively with the portfolio companies of Venture Capital and Private Equity firms. He currently serves on the Boards of Directors of G5 Search Marketing, Occasion Brands, Silectis and AGERpoint.

MEDIA: VARVEL LEAVING INDYSTAR - IndyStar cartoonist Gary Varvel is leaving, writing: "After 24 years as IndyStar’s cartoonist, I've drawn nearly 8,000 cartoons, including those of Bill Clinton’s boxers, George W. Bush and Barack Obama’s ears and Donald Trump’s hair. Today's will be my last.  I have chosen to take Gannett’s early retirement offer. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:9, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Cartooning has been my dream job since I met The Indianapolis News cartoonist, Jerry Barnett in 1974. I was just 17 and willing to move anywhere in the country to draw cartoons for a major metropolitan newspaper. But the Lord established my steps here and working at IndyStar has been a fulfillment of that dream. But I have new dreams now and the buyout gives me the chance to pursue them. More about that later. I’m leaving but not retiring. Thanks to Creators Syndicate I will continue to draw cartoons and people can still see my work in publications around the country and on Facebook, Twitter and my other social media platforms."

MEDIA: SPECTRUM CUSTOMERS LOSE CBS4, FOX59 - Millions of Spectrum customers in Indianapolis and across the country can no longer watch Tribune Media-owned TV stations after the cable provider and the company failed to reach an agreement on a new contract (IndyStar). The contract between both parties expired on 5 p.m. Wednesday. Within the hour, Spectrum subscribers began losing access to Tribune's news and entertainment content, including WXIN-59 (Fox59) and WTTV-4 (CBS4) in Indianapolis. CBS4 displayed a blue screen explaining why the programming is no longer available. "Tribune is seeking excessive fees for its broadcast station as well as forcing consumers to pay for networks like WGN, which very few people watch," the message said in part.


WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP CABINET MEETING BECOMES STREAM OF INSULTS - President Trump, 12 days into a government shutdown and facing new scrutiny from emboldened Democrats, inaugurated the new year Wednesday with a Cabinet meeting. It quickly became a 95-minute stream-of-consciousness defense of his presidency and worldview, filled with falsehoods, revisionist history and self-aggrandizement (Washington Post). Trump trashed his former secretary of defense, retired four-star Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, as a failure after once holding him out as a star of his administration. “What’s he done for me?” Trump said. He claimed to have “essentially” fired Mattis, who had surprised the White House by resigning in protest last month after the president’s abrupt decision to pull U.S. forces from Syria. And Trump, who did not serve in the military and received draft deferments during the Vietnam War, suggested he would have made a good military leader himself. “I think I would have been a good general, but who knows?” Trump said.

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP SAYS HE 'ESSENTIALLY' FIRED MATTIS - President Trump said on Wednesday that he had “essentially” fired Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last month because he was dissatisfied with the retired Marine general’s performance in the top civilian job at the Pentagon (New York Times). Mr. Mattis resigned on Dec. 20 after failing to persuade Mr. Trump to change his mind about withdrawing the 2,000 American troops now in Syria. In a stunning letter of resignation, Mr. Mattis outlined his own views about the value of alliances and wrote that the president was entitled to have a defense secretary whose views were “better aligned with yours.” Mr. Trump’s latest broadside against Mr. Mattis came at a Cabinet meeting that turned into an extended question-and-answer session with reporters. “What’s he done for me? How has he done in Afghanistan? Not too good,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Mattis. “I’m not happy with what he’s done in Afghanistan and I shouldn’t be happy.” He went on: “As you know, President Obama fired him, and essentially so did I.”

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP PREDICTS ROMNEY WILL FALL IN LINE - President Trump said he was surprised by recent criticism from fellow Republican Mitt Romney, saying that the party’s 2012 presidential nominee would have won that election if he campaigned “the way he fights me” (Wall Street Journal). Mr. Trump predicted that Mr. Romney, Utah’s senator-elect, will soon fall in line and support him, and said he didn’t expect him or any other Republican to challenge him for the party’s presidential nomination in 2020. “He agrees with many of the things we’ve done, and many of the things we have in mind, and we’ll see what happens,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Wednesday at the White House.

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP ASKS OF ROMNEY 'IS HE A FLAKE?' - President Donald Trump responded to a withering essay by Sen.-elect Mitt Romney by tweeting Wednesday morning that he — unlike the former Massachusetts governor — has "won big" and Romney should instead "be a TEAM player & WIN!" (NBC News). The president asked in a tweet, " ... is he a Flake? I hope not" — in a reference to Jeff Flake, the outgoing Republican senator from Arizona who has been a severe critic of Trump. "Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful."

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP BLAMES COURTS FOR DERAILING DACA DEAL - President Donald Trump on Wednesday blamed a federal court for killing a nascent deal last year between Republicans and Democrats to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but he expressed confidence that talks will resume if the Supreme Court rules in his favor (Politico). The president, in a Cabinet meeting at the White House, said he'd been nearing a deal with Democrats in November to protect DACA legislatively in exchange for heightened border security — but that Democrats walked away after a federal appeals court ruled in their favor. Attorney General Jeff Sessions initiated a phaseout of DACA in September 2017, but that action was later blocked, first by three district court judges and eventually by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. “We had a deal pretty close to being done, and a lot of people say I backed away from that deal. I didn’t back away,” Trump said. “The minute the judge overruled the case and they allowed DACA, they didn’t talk to us — and I don’t blame them — they didn’t answer the calls.”

STATE: POMPEO PUSHES FOR CONTACT WITH WHELAN - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday expressed hope that U.S. officials in Russia would get consular access to an American citizen who has been detained in Moscow on charges of spying (Politico). Paul Whelan, a retired Marine who works as a global security director for a Michigan-based auto parts supplier, disappeared over the weekend in Moscow, where his brother said he was set to attend the wedding of a friend. Russia’s Federal Security Service, essentially the Kremlin equivalent of the CIA, said on Monday that he was caught “during an espionage operation,” accusations his family has vehemently denied. Speaking to reporters in Brazil on Wednesday, Pompeo said he hoped U.S. diplomatic officials would get access to Whelan “within the next hours” to learn more about the circumstances of his arrest. “We have made clear to the Russians our expectation that we will learn more about the charges, come to understand what it is he’s been accused of and if the detention is not appropriate, we will demand his immediate return,” he said.

STATE: HUNTSMAN MEETS WITH AMERICAN DETAINEE - U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman met in Moscow on Wednesday with a Michigan man who has been detained on espionage charges as the American government seeks answers about his arrest (AP). Huntsman said he offered support and assistance to Paul Whelan, a corporate security executive and former Marine, and later spoke to the man's family by phone, but he would not discuss the case in detail. The ambassador said the U.S. complained to the Russian government about the length of time it took them to grant consular access to Whelan, who was arrested Friday. Russian Federal Security Service said Whelan was caught “during an espionage operation,” but gave no specific information about why he was detained.

INTERIOR: ZINKE RIDES INTO SUNSET - Ryan Zinke, the embattled interior secretary who famously rode to work dressed like a cowboy on horseback, departed the job Wednesday at high noon (Washington Post). Zinke signed off with a letter written on official departmental stationery with what appeared to be a red marker. “It’s been a high honor to serve the president and the American People as @ Interior secretary,” it said.

TARIFFS: STEEL IMPORTERS WINNING EXCLUSIONS - Steel importers are winning most of their requests for tariff exclusions for products they say they can’t find in the U.S., but the process is riddled with inconsistencies and frequent procedural changes, according to manufacturers and importers (Wall Street Journal). The Commerce Department as of Dec. 17 granted about 75% of the 19,000 requests it processed to exclude products from tariffs on foreign steel that took effect in March, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of those applications. Exclusions issued so far cover 3.8 million tons of steel, or about 16% of the finished foreign steel entering the U.S. through 11 months of 2018.

SCOTUS: INDIANA ABORTION CASE TO BE HEARD - The U.S. Supreme Court has placed the Dignity for the Unborn law on its conference calendar for Friday (Howey Politics Indiana). The justices will consider the petitions for hearing oral arguments in the case, Kristina Box, Commissioner, Indiana Department of Health et al. v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc., et al..  The Dignity for the Unborn law, signed in 2016 by then-Gov. Mike Pence, bars discriminatory abortions because of the child's sex, race, national origin or a potential disability like Down syndrome. It also prohibits abortion businesses from disposing of human remains with common medical waste. "The abortion industry wants you to believe Roe v. Wade is settled, but the Dignity for the Unborn law has the potential to shake the foundations of legalized abortion," said Mike Fichter, President and CEO of Indiana Right to Life. "By arguing against the Dignity for the Unborn law, Planned Parenthood is advocating for the systematic targeting of classes of unborn children it deems less valuable than others. Planned Parenthood wants to profit off a woman aborting a child because of the child being a girl, or because the child has Down syndrome. That is not what our country is about. We pray the Supreme Court will recognize that the Dignity for the Unborn law deserves its day in court."

VERMONT: STATE PAYING PEOPLE TO MOVE IN -  The new year brings a host of state laws that took effect Tuesday — including Vermont paying people to move there (NBC News). The state is giving people up to $10,000 over two years for those employed by out-of-state companies who are willing to work remotely from Vermont in a home office or cooperative work space. "We have a demographic problem in the state. We need more people," Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, said in supporting the measure. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Vermont has the nation’s third-highest median age, 42.7 years, and the state's population of just over 600,000 (in 2017) is flat or slightly shrinking, The Associated Press reported. Anyone interested should hurry, however, because the money for the program is limited and will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Lawmakers have set aside $500,000 for the program.

KENTUCKY: COPS JOKE ABOUT LOSS OF DOUGHNUT TRUCK -  Police in Kentucky found some humor after an empty doughnut truck caught fire. WKYT-TV reports no one was injured when the Krispy Kreme driver stopped Monday after noticing smoke in the cab of his truck after a delivery in Morehead. The fire was extinguished quickly and the cause remains undetermined. Lexington police posted photos on social media of the blackened side of the truck and officers jokingly mourning the truck’s loss. The post was accompanied by the comment, “No words.”

MICHIGAN: CHAMBERS TO PARTNER WITH SOUTH BEND -  In an effort to streamline missions and improve service to members, the Four Flags Area Chamber of Commerce and the Southwestern Michigan Economic Growth Alliance have merged to form a new entity, the Greater Niles Chamber of Commerce (South Bend Tribune). The combination, effective on Tuesday, brings together two organizations that advocate for business in Southwest Michigan. But the merger also includes a new partnership with the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce, which is being contracted to handle back-office functions ranging from human resources to marketing for the new chamber in Niles.


CHINA LANDS ROVER ON DARK SIDE OF MOON: China reached a milestone in space exploration on Thursday, landing a vehicle on the far side of the moon for the first time in history, the country’s space agency announced (New York Times). The landing of the probe, called Chang’e-4 after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology, is one in a coming series of missions that underscore the country’s ambitions to join — and even lead — the space race. China landed another rover on the moon in 2013, joining the United States and the Soviet Union as the only nations to have carried out a “soft landing” there, but the Chang’e-4 is the first to touch down on the side of the moon that perpetually faces away from the Earth.


CITIES: FEDERAL MAGISTRATE RULES IN FAVOR OF FORT WAYNE COP - A federal magistrate has ruled against a man who sued the city, alleging a Fort Wayne police officer used excessive force after he was arrested in 2016 (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Eddie Billingsley was handcuffed to a hospital bed Jan. 7, 2016, when he was struck twice in the head by Officer Darrell Caudill. The officer also "took (Billingsley's) left arm over his head until it popped," according to court documents. Billingsley sued Caudill and the city a year later in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne, seeking unspecified damages. Magistrate Susan Collins ruled Caudill acted reasonably "under the circumstances" in an order filed last month. Billingsley was arrested after Caudill and another officer were called to a downtown fast food restaurant, where a man said Billingsley threatened him with a knife. Billingsley was charged with felony battery in state court, but the case was thrown out a few months later when an Allen County judge found prosecutors were negligent when they failed to provide evidence to a defense attorney.

CITIES: ANDERSON ENDS WITH CASH BALANCE - When the city of Anderson closed the financial books on 2018 it showed an increase in the operating balance of $2.3 million or 27 percent over the previous year (de la Bastide, Anderson Herald-Bulletin). Doug Whitham, Anderson City controller, said last week the city ended 2017 with an operating balance of $8.6 million and will start 2019 with a cash balance of $10.9 million. According to a city press release, that is the largest operating balance in the last 15 years. Madison County Auditor Rick Gardner said the county will enter 2019 with an operating balance of $9.3 million.

CITIES: BLOOMINGTON MERCHANTS CONCERNED ABOUT GARAGE CLOSURE - There are fewer places to park in downtown Bloomington with the Fourth Street garage officially closed (Indiana Public Media). City officials announced the garage would close Wednesday due to its deteriorating condition. The city plans to repair the structure, but construction may not start for several more months. Although the city has outlined a number of alternative parking options in the downtown area, some business owners in the Fountain Square Shopping Mall still have concerns. Kendall Reeves is the owner of Spectrum Studio and Gallery 406. He says as a business owner, he was in favor of tearing down the garage and building a new one. "Rather than putting a very small Band-Aid on the fix, close the garage, tear it down, build a new garage with more capacity," he says.

CITIES: WHITESTOWN MANAGER RESIGNS - Whitestown Town Manager Dax Norton has resigned to work in private sector (IBJ). Norton became the town manager in 2013 and led the Boone County community through a period of significant growth and booming economic development.

COUNTIES: FORMER BROWN PROSECUTOR DISBARRED - A former Brown County prosecutor has surrendered his law license for the next five years amid allegations of professional misconduct (WRTV). The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission filed an 18-page formal disciplinary complaint against Andrew A. Szakaly, Jr. on June 7 alleging Szakaly “engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud deceit or misrepresentation.” Szakaly commingled his personal or business funds with the funds of his clients, and used his clients’ funds without their knowledge or consent, read the complaint.

COUNTIES: LAKE SHERIFF SEEKS RAISES - Some 11 Lake County Sheriff Department employees may see a more prosperous new year (Dolan, NWI Times). Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez has presented the Lake County Council with a request for $81,400 in proposed pay raises in his police and jail divisions. The increases range from 11 percent for a couple of computer technicians to 48 percent for an unidentified county jail clerk whose pay would rise from $25,504 to $37,682, according to the council's agenda. Police Chief William Paterson said the sheriff wants to retain the essential services of these 11 employees. He said a study indicates their current pay is below average. He said the sheriff department's head mechanic keeps a fleet of 233 hard-driven interceptors, SUVs, vans, minivans, and pickup trucks on the road. The mechanic's pay would rise from $38,110 to 50,000, a 31 percent increase.

COUNTIES: ST. JOE STUDIES NEW SOUTH SHORE SITE - St. Joseph County has planned a study to explore building a rail line that would branch from the South Shore Line to the west side of South Bend International Airport, where a rail-to-air logistics park is being planned (Booker, South Bend Tribune). The $119,000 study, approved Wednesday by the county Redevelopment Commission, calls for determining the cost of different options for the line and how it would affect neighborhoods and roads. The county could decide to build a line that would serve freight trains only, or one that would be used by freight and passenger trains. On Jan. 15, the county Board of Commissioners will consider final approval for the 90-day study, which would be done by South Bend engineering firm DLZ Inc.