DEMS POISED TO WIN BOTH GEORGIA SENATE RACES: Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler to become the first Black senator in Georgia history, capturing one of two Georgia runoffs that will decide control of the U.S. Senate and shape Joe Biden’s presidency (Atlanta Journal & Constitution). In the other contest, Democrat Jon Ossoff held a narrow but widening lead over U.S. Sen. David Perdue. If Ossoff prevails, Democrats will hold control of Congress when Biden takes office on Jan. 20. National outlets projected Warnock’s victory early Wednesday, hours after he surpassed Loeffler in the vote total. Loeffler told supporters that victory was still possible, though most of the remaining uncounted ballots originate from Democratic-leaning counties. Warnock, the pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, is the first Georgia Democrat to win a statewide contest since 2006, and his stunning victory was fueled by epic turnout from African American voters and strong support across metro Atlanta’s suburbs. It came on the heels of Biden’s narrow November victory in Georgia, which made him the first Democratic presidential nominee to capture the state since 1992 and offered partisans a road map to winning a second round in January.

 

TRUMP TURNS UP HEAT ON PENCE: President Trump is turning up the heat on Vice President Mike Pence on the eve of a joint session of Congress that is all but certain to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over Trump (Fox News). Pence, as vice president, will preside over the joint session, but is expected to play a mostly ceremonial role. But Trump, in what may be his final attempt to try and reverse his presidential election defeat, is insisting that Pence has the power to overturn the election results. "The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors," the president tweeted on Tuesday morning. But regardless of how much the president turns up the volume on his vice president, White House officials tell Fox News that Pence will "follow the law" on Wednesday.  Pence, who had lunch with Trump on Tuesday at the White House, has previously sought to explain his ceremonial role to the President in the hopes of easing pressure on himself in the lead-up to the January 6 joint session of Congress (CNN). Fox News is also being told that Pence may not stay as the presiding officer for the entire joint session of Congress. Officials at the Capitol tell Fox News congressional correspondent Chad Pergram that Pence may depart, especially if the sessions go deep into Wednesday night as each chamber hears the election objections raised by the lawmakers backing Trump. White House officials on Tuesday afternoon told Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts that the vice president "is taking a very diligent and studious approach to his job tomorrow. He has consulted at length with staff.

 

PENCE TELLS TRUMP HE CAN'T OVERTURN ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Vice President Mike Pence told President Trump on Tuesday that he did not believe he had the power to block congressional certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the presidential election despite Mr. Trump’s baseless insistence that he did, people briefed on the conversation said (New York Times). Mr. Pence’s message, delivered during his weekly lunch with the president, came hours after Mr. Trump further turned up the public pressure on the vice president to do his bidding when Congress convenes Wednesday in a joint session to ratify Mr. Biden’s Electoral College win. “The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning, an inaccurate assertion that mischaracterized Mr. Pence’s largely formal and constitutionally prescribed role of presiding over the House and Senate as they receive and certify the electoral votes conveyed by the states and announcing the outcome. In a statement issued late Tuesday night and inaccurately dated Jan. 5, 2020, Mr. Trump insisted the reporting about his discussion with Mr. Pence was “fake news.” “He never said that,” the statement went on. “The Vice President and I are in total agreement that the Vice President has the power to act.”

 

PENCE IN A NO-WIN SITUATION: A long shot effort to overturn the election results is putting Vice President Pence in a no-win situation (The Hill). Pence, as president of the Senate, will oversee Congress’s counting of the Electoral College vote during a joint session Wednesday, a typically brief, ceremonial proceeding that will end with him announcing President-elect Joe Biden’s election win. But the pro-forma role is turning into a loyalty test for Pence, as President Trump pressures him to challenge Biden’s win and some of the president's rivals for a potential 2024 White House bid lead the charge to overturn the election. Doug Heye, a longtime GOP strategist and former leadership aide on Capitol Hill, warned that the process could have “ramifications” for Pence, even as he’s largely just going through the motions followed by previous vice presidents. “Does Mike Pence do that and if he does, does he appear weak? Does Trump lash out at him? Do Trump loyalists lash out at Pence? He's been boxed in,” Heye said about Pence’s role in announcing Biden’s win.

 

SLEW OF GOP SENATORS WON'T JOIN CHALLENGE: As the House and Senate prepare to gather in a joint session on Wednesday to tally electoral votes and affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory, the number of GOP senators rejecting an effort by their fellow Republicans to challenge some states' results is swelling (CBS News). A slew of senators announced Tuesday they will not join the objections expected from their Republican colleagues to the electoral votes cast for Mr. Biden in several battleground states, bringing the number of Republicans expected to support the counting of those votes to at least 20. Among those who announced their decision not to bless the efforts from their fellow Republicans are Senators Tim Scott of South Carolina, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and John Boozman of Arkansas. "As I read the Constitution, there is no constitutionally viable means for the Congress to overturn an election wherein the states have certified and sent their electors," Scott said in a statement.

 

REP. PENCE WON'T SAY WHERE HE STANDS ON ELECTORAL COLLEGE CHALLENGE: Rep. Greg Pence, R-Indiana, is not saying where he stands on President Donald Trump’s intensifying efforts to sow doubt in the results of the 2020 presidential election or whether he will formally object to certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win (East, Columbus Republic). Trump has enlisted support from a dozen Republican senators and up to 100 House Republicans to challenge the Electoral College vote when Congress convenes in a joint session Wednesday to confirm Biden’s 306-232 win, The Associated Press reported. Pence, who was sworn in for his second term Sunday, has remained quiet, opting not to respond to multiple requests for comment on his position.

 

INDIANA DELIVERS 28% OF COVID VACCINES: A New York Times interactive reveals that Indiana has received 355,825 COVID-19 vaccines, has administered 100,487, or 28%. That's about 1.5% of Indiana's population. At least 4,836,469 people in the United States have received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, far short of the goal federal officials set to give at least 20 million people their first shots before the end of December. The federal government said Tuesday that it had delivered more than 17 million doses to states, territories and federal agencies.

 

LEHMAN BILL WOULD RESTRICT GOV'S EMERGENCY ORDERS: Nine months after Gov. Eric Holcomb first put Indiana under a public health emergency, a top Indiana House Republican has filed a bill that would require a special session before the governor could extend an emergency order beyond an initial 30 days (Erdody, IBJ). House Bill 1123, authored by Rep. Matt Lehman of Berne, would allow the governor to continue extending a state of disaster emergency order every 30 days, but only if lawmakers are already in session or are called into a special session by the governor. Only the governor can convene a special session. If the Legislature is not in session during any part of the 60-day period that an emergency order is in effect, the state of emergency would be terminated. Lehman, who is the House majority floor leader, said the intent of the bill is to allow lawmakers to object to extensions or raise concerns. However, he said he does not want to force all 150 members of the Legislature to come to Indianapolis if there are no objections. Therefore, he plans to work on the language to determine how that can be accomplished. A two-day special session could cost an estimated $70,000. “I don’t think we should come here to simply say, ‘yes’,” Lehman said.

 

HOLCOMB, McGUINESS CALL FOR COMMUNITY CROSSING PROJECTS: Gov. Eric J. Holcomb and INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness today announced the next call for projects in the Community Crossings grant program is now open. Community Crossings is part of Gov. Holcomb’s Next Level Roads program, a 20-year, fully funded plan to enhance Indiana’s highways and local roads by awarding communities grants for shovel-ready local road construction projects (Howey Politics Indiana). “Hoosier communities have made tremendous strides in building up and building out their local roads in recent years, thanks in part to partnering with state through Community Crossings,” Gov. Holcomb said. “This next round of Community Crossings grants will keep that momentum going and allow cities, towns and counties to complete additional projects to spur community growth and development.” Projects that are eligible for funding through Community Crossings include road resurfacing, bridge rehabilitation, road reconstruction, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance in connection with road projects. Material costs for chip sealing and crack filling operations are also eligible for funds. Projects submitted to the Indiana Department of Transportation for funding will be evaluated based on need, traffic volume, local support, the impact on connectivity and mobility within the community, and regional economic significance. Funding for this call for projects combines existing revenue available in the state’s local road and bridge matching grant fund and anticipated revenues during the first three months of the 2021 calendar year.

 

AMERICAN MANUFACTURING REBOUNDS IN DECEMBER: American factories grew in December at the fastest pace in more than two years as manufacturing continued to weather the pandemic better than the battered services sector (AP). The Institute for Supply Management reported Tuesday that its gauge of manufacturing activity rose to 60.7% last month, the highest reading since it stood at 60.8 in August 2018. The gauge was up 3.2 percentage points from a November level of 57.5. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion in the manufacturing sector.

 

ANNUAL HPI POWER 50 COMING ON THURSDAY: HPI's Power 50  list is going through final edits and inclusions and will be published around 9 a.m. Thursday. It's Indiana's annual audit and review of where the power lies from city halls, to the Statehouse, to Congress.

 

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: President Trump's unhinged behavior, his late call for $2,000 relief checks, and his ignoring the pandemic that has killed more than 350,000 and hospitalized (as of Tuesday) 131,000 Americans not only cost him a second term, but his bizarre rantings against Georgia GOP officials and phone calls have now apparently turned control of the U.S. Senate to Democrats. It is a stunning political collapse. Today, we’ll witness whether Trump’s toxic politics inflicts damage on Vice President Pence’s future. - Brian A. Howey

 

Campaigns

 

BLACK VOTERS FUEL GEORGIA SENATE VICTORY: Black voters were a force in the early vote and on Election Day. Notably, it wasn’t just in metro Atlanta, but also in rural and small-town counties across South Georgia, where Black turnout has historically lagged (AP). That means it was an alliance spanning from the most affluent Black residents of Atlanta, including recent transplants to Georgia, to those Black Georgia natives who hail from the most economically depressed pockets of the state. This election cycle a confluence of factors for Black voters: 2020 offered the first general election after the disappointment of Stacey Abrams’ narrowly missing out in 2018 on becoming the first Black woman governor in U.S. history, and it was the first election after the death of Rep. John Lewis, Atlanta’s civil rights icon who once marched alongside King and would publicly joust with Trump. Loeffler and her Republican allies used the two-month runoff campaign to hammer Warnock with ads calling him “dangerous” and “radical.” They used snippets of his sermons from Ebenezer Baptist Church to accuse him of “hate speech” and “racial” divisiveness.But Black voters can point to Tuesday’s vote count and take credit for that strategy ending in defeat.

 

REPUBLICANS BELIEVE PRESIDENTIAL, SENATE RACES RIGGED: Three-quarters of voters who backed Perdue and Loeffler told the AP VoteCast survey that Democrat Joe Biden was not legitimately elected in November. AP VoteCast interviewed more than 3,600 voters to measure the electorate’s views on a range of topics. Roughly 9 in 10 of the Republicans’ backers said they lacked confidence that votes in November’s presidential contest were accurately counted. Half said they have no confidence at all in the vote count. That’s roughly five times as many Republicans who said in November they had no confidence that votes would be counted accurately.

 

2020 BATTLEGROUND STATES WILL HAVE 2022 SENATE RACES: The six closest states in the presidential election all feature Senate races in 2022: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (Axios).

 

Presidential 2020

 

COLUMBIA CITY REPUBLICANS HEAD TO DC PROTEST: A group of Trump supporters from Northeast Indiana is on their way to a rally in our nation’s capital (WANE-TV). Around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning a group of 56 protesters loaded a bus in Columbia City for an overnight trip to Washington D.C. The group is headed to join a rally which is against the confirmation of Joe Biden’s win as president-elect. The group plans to get to Washington by 11 and join the rally and the crowd. Protesters say they are going to show support for their president and see history in action. Vice President Mike Pence will preside over the confirmation of the election results. Several Congress members, including Indiana Senator Mike Braun and Representative Jim Banks, have already indicated they’ll dispute the results.

 

BIDEN TAPS MORE OBAMA VETERANS: President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team have begun to fill out top positions on the incoming National Security Council and at the State Department, with key roles like deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of State going to veterans of the Obama administration (Politico). At the State Department, longtime diplomat Wendy Sherman will be nominated to serve as Secretary of State-designee Tony Blinken’s deputy, according to two people close to the transition. Sherman previously served as under secretary of State for political affairs in the Obama administration and was a lead negotiator for the Iran deal. Sherman is currently a senior counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group, the same firm where Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Biden’s pick to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, also worked as a senior counselor. Another veteran diplomat, Victoria Nuland, will be nominated for the role of under secretary of State for political affairs, one of the people said. Nuland also previously served in the Obama administration, as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs.

 

BUSH TO ATTEND BIDEN INAUGURAL: George W. Bush — the only living Republican former president — will attend Joe Biden's inauguration, Bloomberg News reported Tuesday.

 

CARTERS WON'T ATTEND INAUGURAL: Former President Jimmy Carter will not attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, the first time he will miss the ceremonies in more than four decades (Politico). The former president and former first lady Rosalynn Carter are both in their 90s, and the pair have attended every inauguration since Carter himself took the oath of office in 1977. At the time, Biden, who is now 78, was serving his first term as a U.S. senator for Delaware. A spokeswoman for the Carter Center, the nonprofit that oversees the former president’s humanitarian endeavors, confirmed that the Carters would not travel to Washington for the event. “President and Mrs. Carter will not travel to Washington for the inauguration but have sent their best wishes to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris and look forward to a successful administration,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.

 

General Assembly

 

BRAY OP-ED ON REDUCING HEALTH CARE COSTS: Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville), wrote this op-ed article on reducing health care costs, excerpted here (Howey Politics Indiana): Though Indiana is usually considered a tradition-minded state, we Hoosiers have made a name for ourselves as national leaders for innovative public policies in the 21st century. On issues from job training to school choice to road funding, Indiana has enacted policies that became blueprints for other states. At the end of 2020, Indiana put another notch in our belt as we saw the federal government follow our lead in enacting a slate of health-care price transparency policies that our state had already enacted earlier in the year. The goal of these laws is to drive down the cost of care through the power of supply and demand, which has been sorely lacking in the health care industry. Previously, most of us found it nearly impossible to figure out how much a medical procedure was going to cost us ahead of time. If we as patients can find out the cost of a procedure in advance, it gives us the power to shop around and force doctors to compete with each other based on price.

 

SENATE DEMS ANNOUNCE AGENDA: Senate Democratic Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) and members of the Senate Democratic Caucus announced their 2021 legislative priorities (Howey Politics Indiana). "This budget session, like always, will be about priorities," Sen. Taylor said. "For Senate Democrats, our priorities will be about focusing directly on the issues that directly affect the daily lives of individual Hoosiers and their families. We have to stand for the needs of every single resident in this state." The Democratic Caucus agenda will consist of four main tenets: Raise the minimum wage so that all Hoosiers can earn a living wage; Boost workers' compensation benefits that haven't increased in over five years; Support the IBLC justice reform agenda, especially banning no-knock warrants and chokehold maneuvers; Expand access to voting by allowing no-excuse absentee voting and ballot drop boxes. "These priorities that we shared today have always been important to the lives of Hoosiers and should be the priorities of all members of the General Assembly," Sen. Taylor said. "However, this pandemic quickly and overwhelmingly showed how our public policy is lacking in many ways.

 

PRYOR OPPOSES IMPD OVERSIGHT BILL: State Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) today issued the following statement in response to a proposal by State Sens. Jack Sandlin (R-Indianapolis) and Scott Baldwin (R-Noblesville) on a state takeover of IMPD (Howey Politics Indiana): “The city of Indianapolis and its community should retain control of its local police department,” Pryor said. While I appreciate the concerns of Senator Sandlin and Senator Baldwin regarding the number of homicides this year, as we all are and should be, dictating who provides oversight will not change civilian behavior. We need to instead address the root causes of the problems. There is and has been for a long time an issue of trust between IMPD and the Black community. State Senator Sandlin claims giving the state control of the local police department will instill trust; I fail to see the logic of this claim. This past October, IMPD listened to community leaders and put more civilians than officers on their Use of Force Task."

 

REP. PACK ANNOUNCES LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES: State Rep. Renee Pack (D-Indianapolis) announced her 2021 legislative agenda. Pack plans to focus on veterans' affairs, human services, education and economic development in her first term (Howey Politics Indiana). "In these unprecedented times, Hoosiers are facing unprecedented challenges," Pack said. "It is my goal, as the newly elected representative to Indiana House District 92, to reach out to communities and help them recover from these challenges perpetuated by the COVID-19 pandemic." Pack is the ranking Democratic member on the Veterans Affairs and Public Safety Committee. She also serves on the Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee and the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee. "My role on the Veterans Affairs and Public Safety Committee is a perfect fit for me," Pack said. "As a veteran, I have the skills and experience needed to build safer communities and uplift some of our most vulnerable Hoosiers, all across the state of Indiana.

 

GROOMS BILL WOULD RESTRICTS E-LIQUIDS: An Indiana senator is hoping to ban the sale and use of flavored e-liquid, also known as vape juice, for all ages (WTHR-TV). Sen. Ronald Grooms, a Republican who represents Indiana's 46th District, authored the bill. If passed, it would ban the manufacture, distribute or market flavored e-liquid in Indiana. The bill defines "flavored e-liquid" as liquid used in an electronic cigarette that "contains a constituent ingredient, agent, or other compound or concentrate that is added for the purpose of imparting a characterizing flavor."

 

Congress

 

McCONNELL TO ADDRESS SENATE FUTURE TODAY: Before senators begin debating an expected challenge tomorrow to Arizona's Electoral College results, Mitch McConnell will deliver a weighty speech trying to save the Senate from itself, people familiar with his plans tell Axios. The majority leader had hoped to keep his fellow Republicans from challenging the 2020 election results. Now that a dozen senators will object, the history-lover aims to keep his party from even deeper self-inflicted wounds.

What we’re hearing: Lawmakers plan to object first to Arizona's results, which come up early in the alphabetical roll call of states. McConnell is expected to be the first senator to speak after he and his colleagues return to their chamber. McConnell will draw on the same principles he laid out during a call with the Republican conference last week. He said Wednesday's vote certifying Joe Biden's victory would be "the most consequential I have ever cast.” McConnell fears the vote will put Republicans up for re-election in 2022 in a horrible position — forcing them to choose between defying the most popular politician in the party, Donald Trump, and fueling Democratic charges they are undermining democracy.

 

BANKS DOESN'T EXPECT PRESIDENTIAL RACE TO BE OVERTURNED: U.S. Rep. Jim Banks says he doesn't expect the presidential election to be overturned but wants to debate the constitutionality of how some states conducted their voting process (WPTA-TV). Banks plans to protest some of the election results when a joint session of Congress gathers Wednesday to count the Electoral College votes. Banks claims states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia violated the Constitution by changing their election rules before Election Day without approval from their states' lawmakers. "America will move on when this process is over, and we'll move on and focus on other issues at hand. But one issue that we do need to focus on is to restore integrity to our elections process. I'm going to be on the front lines of that debate," said Banks.

 

TRUMP PHONE CALL MAKES BANKS 'CRINGE': President Trump’s phone call to Georgia’s secretary of state made Indiana’s Rep. Jim Banks (R) cringe (Davis, WIBC). But, he said it shows why Congress should talk about reforming federal elections, and make states adhere to the Constitution and their own rules. “I haven’t listened to it fully. I will admit the conversation made me cringe, the bottom line of the conversation of trying to influence the actions at the state level. As a Republican I wish that conversation hadn’t happened,” he said.

 

WALORSKI RANKING MEMBER OF ETHICS COMMITTEE: U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) was selected to serve as the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Ethics for the 117th Congress (Howey Politics Indiana). “As elected representatives, we are duty-bound to put the interests of the American people first and work to restore their trust in Congress,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “These principles will continue to guide me in fighting for the hardworking Hoosiers of Indiana’s 2nd District and serving as the Ranking Member of the House Ethics Committee. I’m honored to take on the important responsibility of holding members of the House to the highest standards of transparency, accountability, and ethical conduct.” “Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, born and raised in Indiana, has been fighting for the Hoosier State her entire life,” Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said. “Eight years ago she brought that warrior spirit to the halls of Congress where she has continued to stand up for her community and Americans across the country, and we have all been better for it. During her tenure she has displayed both an unmatched work ethic and devotion to upholding her values. I have no doubt that as the Ranking Member of the Ethics Committee, she will hold Congress accountable to acting with the integrity not only rightfully expected of them, but that their constituents deserve.”

 

State

 

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB AVOIDS ELECTORAL COLLEGE STANCE - Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb declined to say Tuesday whether he supported efforts by some fellow Republicans in Congress to challenge Joe Biden’s election victory over President Donald Trump (AP). Holcomb, who was Vice President Mike Pence’s hand-picked successor as Indiana governor, said he wasn’t taking a stance on the challenge that’s picked up support from Indiana Sen. Mike Braun and at least two of the state’s seven Republican U.S. House members. “It’s up to them what they do,” Holcomb said during an interview with The Associated Press and other news outlets. “I spend very little time thinking about other people’s jobs but my own these days, and I’ve never been happier to be serving Hoosiers in the state of Indiana and not in D.C.” Indiana Republican Sen. Todd Young has not announced a position on the challenge and his office didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

 

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB DESCRIBES 'METHODICAL' VACCINE STRATEGY - Indiana's Republican governor insists that the Hoosier state has the infrastructure in place to ensure a "methodical" distribution of coronavirus vaccines to people who want them. The governor spoke about a wide range of topics during a virtual interview Tuesday with a small group of television news reporters, including ABC 21's Jeff Neumeyer. Holcomb says more details will be released Wednesday on how Indiana will be able to get COVID vaccines to where they need to go. "We will balance the supply and demand, so the volume that we get, the inventory that we get, we want to make sure that we get that not just out the door, but in the arms (of people) and then once we hit a certain saturation rate in that grouping, then we move on to the next and the next and the next," Holcomb said.

 

GOVERNOR: 20 PROTEST PANDEMIC ORDERS - A group of about 20 protesters rallied outside the Statehouse Tuesday against Gov. Eric Holcomb’s public health emergency orders (Smith, Indiana Public Media). The protesters are backing a resolution in the House that would immediately terminate Holcomb’s emergency declaration, in place since March. State law gives the governor broad powers under a declared state of emergency. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Holcomb has used that authority to, for instance, issue the “Stay-At-Home” order, temporarily close or limit businesses and impose gathering restrictions.

 

COVID: HOSPITALIZATIONS, DEATHS INCREASING -  Indiana health officials reported 3,477 new coronavirus infections and 142 additional COVID-19 deaths Tuesday as the state began to see a slow increase of coronavirus-related hospitalizations following a previous series of spikes in December (AP). The newly recorded coronavirus deaths, of which more than 100 occurred since the start of the new year, raised Indiana’s toll to 8,663, including victims with both confirmed and presumed infections, according to the Indiana Department of Health’s daily update. The state agency also reported that Indiana hospitals had 2,907 coronavirus patients as of Monday, 71 more than Sunday and the most since Dec. 29. The COVID-19 hospitalizations have declined about 16% since peaking Nov. 30 but remain more than three times higher than in September.

 

ISDH: TUESDAY COVID STATS - The Indiana Department of Health Tuesday announced that 3,477 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 533,083 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard. A total of 8,292 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 142 from the previous day. Another 371 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record. Deaths are reported based on when data are received by the state and occurred over multiple days. To date, 2,681,739 unique individuals have been tested in Indiana, up from 2,675,056 on Monday. A total of 5,845,344 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to the state Department of Health since Feb. 26.

 

INDOT: McGUINESS STATEMENT ON NEXT LEVEL - “Opening this next call for projects just a few weeks after awarding more than $100 million for local projects in our final 2020 round of grants further demonstrates our historic commitment to taking care of our roads in Indiana,” INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness said. “INDOT and local governments are improving existing roads at a record pace and this next round of Community Crossings positions our local partners to deliver even more progress in the coming months.”

 

INDOT: BRINE SOLUTION EXPLAINED - In addition to the Indiana Department of Transportation's snow and ice removal operations during winter storm events, the agency also pre-treats roadways with brine solution prior to winter weather if conditions allow (Howey Politics Indiana). This typically occurs 24 to 48 hours before precipitation begins to give time for crews to apply brine solution and time for it to dry and adhere to the surface of the road. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about pre-treatment of state roadways. Salt brine is an anti-icing solution made up of water and 23.3 percent salt that is used to prevent snow and ice from bonding to pavement. Brine is effective at temperatures as low as -5 degrees Fahrenheit and can be mixed with other chemicals to lower the freezing point if necessary. Compared to salt, brine is fairly inexpensive at just pennies on the dollar.

 

REVENUE: HIGHLIGHTS 12 AGENCIES - For the second consecutive year, the Indiana Department of Revenue (DOR) will be highlighting the work of 12 state government agencies in its Indiana’s Tax Dollars at Work campaign (Howey Politics Indiana). “DOR is frequently asked how the state spends Hoosier tax dollars,” stated DOR Commissioner Bob Grennes. “Which provides us the opportunity to highlight the next-level services state agencies provide throughout the year to help our fellow Hoosiers.”

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL: 19% INCREASE IN HUMAN TRAFFICKING - A new report from the Office of the Attorney General and Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking shows that, while human trafficking remains a pervasive problem in Indiana, the state has improved its strategies to reduce human trafficking and assist trafficking survivors (Howey Politics Indiana). Human trafficking is the use or threat of force, fraud or coercion to compel an individual to engage in commercial sex, marriage, labor or services. In 2019, 157 Indiana human trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline – a 19% increase from 2018. Of the 157 cases reported in 2019 in Indiana, 40 of those involved minors, according to the report.

 

LABOR: STEEL MILL FINED $21K FOR WORKER'S DEATH - The state is fining the Indiana Harbor steel mill in East Chicago $21,000 for serious safety violations uncovered after a worker's death in July (Pete, NWI Times). George Salinas, a 71-year-old man from Gary, was killed when he was struck by a coil tractor at the ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor steel mill in East Chicago on July 21. ArcelorMittal has since sold the steel mill on Lake Michigan, along with most of its U.S. operations, to Cleveland-Cliffs, Inc. "The safety order was launched in regard to a workplace fatality the employer reported on July 21, 2020," said Stephanie McFarland, a senior public affairs consultant who represents the Indiana Department of Labor. "As for the penalty, that generally becomes the responsibility of the successor company."

 

TREASURER: HAUER NAMED COMM DIRECTOR - Indiana Treasurer of State Kelly Mitchell is pleased to announce that Ian Hauer has been hired as the office's Communications Director (Howey Politics Indiana). In this role, Hauer will oversee all internal and external communications related to the Treasurer's Office, including press releases, speeches, constituent outreach, and social media. Prior to joining the Treasurer's Office, he served four years as Deputy Communications Director for Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, assisting with communications for the Indiana Election Division, Business Services Division, Securities Division, and Auto Dealer Services Division.

 

ABORTION: NEW LAW GOES INTO EFFECT - A new abortion law is now in effect in Indiana after several years of court battles (WSBT-TV). After years of court battles, that went as high as the US Supreme Court, an Indiana law signed by then Governor Mike Pence in 2016 is now in effect. The law requires that women getting an abortion have an ultrasound at least 18 hours before. "When women see that there is a human being living and growing inside of them, they do indeed choose life,” said Melanie Garcia, Right to Life Michiana. The law was challenged by Planned Parenthood, but the organization dropped the suit after it got an ultrasound machine at its Fort Wayne facility which will allow them to keep doing abortions. Pro-life advocates see this law as a win. "It gives women a fully-informed decision and spares children from the violence of abortion,” said Garcia.

 

GREAT LAKES: LAKE MICHIGAN LEVELS REMAIN HIGH - Lake Michigan property owners could be in for another rough winter, according to federal officials, who report that while the water level is declining, it remains near the record high set last year (LaPorte Herald-Dispatch). Lake Superior and Lake Michigan-Huron water levels continue to decline, but are still well above average and the risk of high-water impacts remains, according to Charles Sidick of the Great Lakes Hydraulics & Hydrology Office at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit.

 

SPORTS: MANNING, WAYNE NFL HALL OF FAME FINALISTS - Peyton Manning took another step toward the inevitable Tuesday when he was named one of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One of his favorite targets has a chance to join him in Canton (IndyStar). The Indianapolis Colts legend and receiver Reggie Wayne will be voted on by the selection committee on Super Bowl weekend. The Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla. Other modern-day finalists: WRs Calvin Johnson and Torry Holt; DBs LeRoy Butler, Charles Woodson, Ronde Barber and John Lynch; pass rushers Jared Allen, Richard Seymour; LBs Zach Thomas, Sam Mills and Clay Matthews, and OLs Alan Faneca and Tony Boselli.

 

Nation

 

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP ON MEDAL OF FREEDOM SPREE - The president will award three athletes the Medal of Freedom on Thursday, including a posthumous award to two-time Olympic gold medalist Babe Zaharias (Axios). The ceremony is part of Trump's final awards spree in the remaining days of his presidency. On Monday, he awarded the Medal of Freedom to House Republican Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). He's scheduled to dole out the same honor to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) next week. On Thursday, Trump will also award the Medal of Freedom to golfers Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player. They were previously announced as recipients in March, but the ceremony was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP, PENCE, BIDEN SCHEDULES - President Trump schedule will head to the Ellipse to address the Save America Rally at 11 a.m. two hours before Congress begins debating certification of the 2020 election. Vice President Mike Pence will preside over a joint session of Congress to officially count and certify Electoral College votes at 1 p.m. in the U.S. Senate. President-elect Joe Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief and be briefed by experts on their economic team. Biden will deliver remarks in Wilmington.

 

DISTRICT: JUDGE BANS PROUD BOYS LEADER FROM WASHINGTON - A judge has banned the leader of the Proud Boys from the nation’s capital after he was accused of vandalizing a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic black church and found with high-capacity firearm magazines when he was arrested (Politico). The order bans Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, 36, from entering the District of Columbia, with very limited exceptions to meet with his attorney or appear in court. It comes a day after he was arrested arriving in Washington ahead of protests planned by supporters of President Donald Trump to coincide with the congressional vote expected Wednesday to affirm Joe Biden’s election victory.

 

MEDIA: NEIL YOUNG SELLS HALF HIS SONG CATALOGUE - Neil Young has become the latest musician to strike gold with his song catalogue, selling a 50 percent stake in his music to a British investment company in a deal announced on Wednesday (AP). The Hipgnosis Songs Fund said it had acquired half of the copyright and income interests in some 1,180 songs written by the 75-year-old rock star, composer of “Heart of Gold,” “Rockin' in the Free World” and “Cinnamon Girl.” Terms were not disclosed.

 

WISCONSIN: KENOSHA OFFICER WON'T FACE CHARGES - Rusten Sheskey will not face charges in the shooting of Jacob Blake, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced Tuesday (CBS News). Sheskey, a White officer, shot Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, seven times in the back while responding to a domestic incident on August 23, 2020. Blake survived the shooting but was left paralyzed from the waist down. "It is my decision now that no Kenosha law enforcement officer will be charged with any criminal offense based on the facts and laws," Graveley said Tuesday.

 

Local

 

KOKOMO: FIRE EXTENSIVELY DAMAGES TRIBUNE — The building from which many Kokomo residents get their news was in the news Tuesday (WRTV). An early-morning fire left extensive damage at the downtown offices of the Kokomo Tribune. "I would say it is major, because they had to put a lot of water on it," Kokomo Fire Department Inspector Glenda Myers said of the damage. According to the newspaper, firefighters did not initially see the source of the flames and used an excavator to tear down an eastern wall.

 

EVANSVILLE: EXCISE SHUTS DOWN 3 BARS - Three bars have been closed by the health department and a fourth has a warning (WFIE-TV). Health officials say Chasers, Bud’s, and Xcess Nightclub were closed and Franklin Street Tavern received a cease and desist order. They say they’ll be re-inspected soon. We spoke with the management at Bud’s Rockin’ Country Bar and Grill. A letter from the health department to Bud’s says the closure is due to violations of face covering, social distancing, and other sanitation rules. Bud’s says they feel like they are being discriminated against.

 

HAMMOND: SCHOOLS TO REMAIN IN E-LEARNING THROUGH FEB. 16 — The Region's largest school district will continue full time e-learning for at least the next four weeks in the coronavirus pandemic (Lanich, NWI Times). Board members for the School City of Hammond voted in a virtual meeting Tuesday night to extend e-learning through at least Feb. 16, with plans to reconsider a potential in-person return on Feb. 2. The school city is one of the few Northwest Indiana districts to have completed its entire fall semester remotely with only designated programs, such at the Hammond Area Career Center or in select special education classes, operating in person.

 

ELKHART: 1K STILL WITHOUT POWER - Over 1,000 customers were still experiencing power outages in Elkhart on Monday afternoon following a winter ice storm that hit the area early Saturday (Elkhart Truth). The weekend storm disrupted power service to more than 34,000 Indiana Michigan Power customers, 90 percent of which were in the South Bend/Elkhart area, according to I&M.

 

FISHERS: CITY PREPARES FOR VACCINES - The Fishers Health Department has launched a survey for residents regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. They’re expecting to receive a shipment of the vaccine on Thursday (WRTV). Those first few doses will go toward members of the “phase one” population identified by the state. That group includes healthcare workers and first responders. The state has not yet identified which groups will be next, so leaders with the Fishers Health Department are trying to be proactive.

 

WESTFIELD: LONG-TIME CITY ATTORNEY RESIGNS - Westfield’s longtime city attorney resigned Monday, stating in a letter he could “no longer discharge my duties” in the way he had for decades — but the exact reason was not disclosed (Tuohy, IndyStar). Brian Zaiger, a lawyer at Krieg DeVault, said in an email to Mayor Andy Cook and other city employees that he was “sorry things are ending this way.” “As it appears I will no longer be able to discharge my duties with the integrity and professional responsibility I have maintained for nearly 30 years in representing the Town/City of Westfield,” Zaiger said in his resignation letter to Cook, "I am happy to submit my resignation rather than accept the alternatives presented." Zaiger did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The city paid Krieg DeVault $250,000 a year for legal services.

 

NOBLESVILLE: PETERSON ELECTED COUNCIL PRESIDENT - Darren Peterson will serve as the new president of the Noblesville Common Council following a vote during a reorganization meeting held Monday evening. Megan Wiles was elected as vice president (Howey Politics Indiana). “I look forward to working with Darren in his new leader position, along with the entire common council in 2021, as we continue to make the community better, safer and more prosperous,” said Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen. Peterson was elected to serve the remainder of a term on the Noblesville Common Council in October 2018 and was elected to his first full term in 2020. As an At Large official, Peterson represents all of Noblesville and its voters in city limits and Noblesville Township.

 

RICHMOND: MAYOR SNOW HAS COVID - Richmond mayor Dave Snow has tested positive for coronavirus (CBS4). Snow made the news public in a tweet, saying he plans to quarantine and work virtually. The Mayor tweeted, "Despite my best efforts, today I received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Though quarantined, I plan to keep working virtually. This pandemic has touched so many people & I'm grateful that my symptoms are manageable. Please take care of each other and stay healthy."

 

RICHMOND: PARKER TO HEAD COUNCIL — During the second year of his return, Larry Parker will lead Richmond Common Council (Richmond Palladium-Item). Parker, a Republican, was elected council's president for 2021 when councilors met for the first time this year Monday inside the Richmond Municipal Building. With Monday's meeting, Parker began his second year in the at-large seat to which he was elected in November 2019; however, he has 36 previous years of council experience. Parker served as council's District 6 representative from 1980 through 2015.

 

MUNCIE: GOP DIVIDED ON COUNCIL PRESIDENT - Monday night's Muncie City Council meeting might have shown that the current council is anything but a 5-4 Republican majority, after two party members split from the others when electing officers for the 2021 session (Ohlenkamp, Muncie Star Press). The local Republican Party lost control of the council Monday night, theoretically, when council members elected two Democrats and a Republican Party outsider as the new executive team for the governing body. Republican Ro Selvey, the newest member of city council — elected to the council during a party caucus on Dec. 30 — nominated fellow Republican Brad Polk for a second year as council president. Republican Ralph Smith, however, nominated Democrat Jeff Robinson to lead council. “I said it all along, even throughout the campaign, that I will always put people before politics,” Smith told The Star Press after the meeting. “I felt over the last year that Robinson was the right person to represent the council and more importantly the people.” Two Republicans, Troy Ingram and Smith, broke ranks with the party to vote for Robinson along with all four of the Democrats on council: Jerry Dishman, Anitra Davis, Robinson and Ray Dudley.

 

EDINBURGH: COP ARRESTED FOR CHILD MOLESTATION - An Edinburgh police officer is facing two counts of child molestation after prosecutors say he sexually abused a juvenile male relative over a six-year time period (Andrea, IndyStar). Michael David Nunez, a 33-year-old officer with the Edinburgh Police Department, was arrested Tuesday and charged with allegedly sexually abusing a male relative in incidents that date back to July 2014, according to documents filed in Johnson County Superior Court.

 

ALLEN COUNTY: NO TIMELINE FOR TEACHER VACCINES - Superintendent Mark Daniel didn't have an encouraging answer Tuesday for a Facebook user wanting to know whether there is a plan for Fort Wayne Community Schools teachers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus (Sloboda, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). He said he and other superintendents asked about the same topic during a meeting Monday with Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter. The state is driving decisions about vaccination priorities, and teachers aren't at the top of the list, Daniel said during his monthly Facebook Live update. “I would have loved to have our teachers be immunized because, to me, they're essential workers,” Daniel said.

 

ALLEN COUNTY: 500 DEATHS FROM COVID - Allen County surpassed the 500 mark in deaths from COVID-19 with 15 additional deaths today, bringing the total number of deaths in the county to 508 (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Another 191 Allen County residents have tested positive with 53 confirmed and 138 probable, bringing the total number of cases to 29,111, the Allen County Department of Health reported. The total Allen County case count includes a total of 8,997 probable cases from antigen tests reported since July 28.

 

CLARK COUNTY: 8.5K VACCINATED - Roughly 8,500 people — mainly frontline health-care workers — have been vaccinated for COVID-19 at two Southern Indiana hospitals since the rollout began three weeks ago. Health officials say the next phases will become clearer through state guidance and as more of the vaccines become available (Rickert, News & Tribune). Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel estimated that by the end of Tuesday, there would be about 5,000 vaccinations done at Clark Memorial Health since it began immunizations Dec. 14. In Floyd County, Health Officer Dr. Tom Harris expected about 3,500 by the end of the day at Baptist Health Floyd, which began giving the initial shots Dec. 17.

 

ELKHART COUNTY: NEW COMMISSIONERS DON'T EASE RESTRICTIONS - A move by a newly elected official to lift restrictions on county office buildings didn’t get any traction Monday (Elkhart Truth). Elkhart County Board of Commissioners member Brad Rogers made a motion to reopen the offices and even allow public attendance at meetings for the first time in weeks. The motion died for lack of a second from other board members, and Rogers instead got a little pushback after saying that COVID-19 cases didn’t surge after Thanksgiving.

 

MADISON COUNTY: COMMISSIONERS RESCIND HAZARD PAY - In the first official actions by the newly comprised Madison County Board of County Commissioners, the proposed hazard pay for county employees was rescinded (de la Bastide, Anderson Herald-Bulletin). The commissioners Tuesday also passed through one of two required readings of an ordinance to rescind the gift ordinance passed in December. Following the November election, Darlene Likens replaced Mike Phipps as a commissioner. On Tuesday, she voted with commissioner John Richwine on the two actions taken by the former board alignment last year. Commissioner Kelly Gaskill voted no on both measures. Gaskill and Phipps in December passed a resolution to provide all full-time county employees with a $2,000 bonus and part-time employees a $500 bonus for working during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

STEUBEN COUNTY: VACCINATION CLINIC PLANNED - The Steuben County Health Department is preparing for the day that it will take over the COVID-19 vaccination clinic that’s being operated by Cameron Memorial Community Hospital (KPC News). Cameron is running the site at the Steuben County Event Center at the Steuben County Park at Crooked Lake as a volunteer host to vaccinate people in grouping 1A, which is health care workers and others on the front lines battling the pandemic. The site covers health care workers from the four-county area of northeast Indiana. When that phase ends, the Health Department is expected to transition into running the clinic.

 

GIBSON COUNTY: DOJ SETTLES SUIT WITH SCHOOL DISTRICT - The U.S. Justice Department has announced a settlement agreement with the North Gibson School Corp. in Princeton to address the discriminatory secluding and restraining of students with disabilities (Inside Indiana Business). The department says the investigation confirmed that students as young as five years old were improperly restrained, resulting in lost instructional time. The agreement follows an investigation conducted under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act into a complaint that the school district inappropriately secluded and restrained students with emotional and behavioral disabilities in the district’s self-contained classrooms.

 

HOWARD COUNTY: COMMISSIONERS EXTEND RED COVID STATUS - Howard County’s “red” COVID-19 status has been extended through January (Juranovich, Kokomo Tribune). The Howard County Commissioners announced the extension at their regular meeting Monday. Board President Paul Wyman said officials will reassess the designation every two weeks. The state’s county metric system has Howard County still in “orange,” second highest designation behind red. In early December, though, local officials decided to move the county into the red designation voluntarily, feeling that the county’s COVID numbers - average daily positive cases, positivity rate and hospitalization numbers - warranted the change. At that time, Howard County was averaging about 110 new cases of COVID-19, more than 50 hospitalizations due to the virus and a 24% positivity rate for those receiving a COVID test for the first time.

 

VIGO COUNTY: MORRIS TO HEAD COMMISSIONERS - Mike Morris will serve as president of the Vigo County Board of Commissioners in 2021, following a reorganizational meeting Tuesday (Terre Haute Tribune-Star). He had served as president of the Vigo County Council in 2020. Commissioner Brendan Kearns asked for clarification on the duties of the titles, saying unlike on the County Council, which under its council rules gives more duties to the president, “commissioners have the same power,” Kearns said. “We can give more power (if the board adopted such rules) but now it is more a ceremonial title,” he said.