HOLCOMB STATE OF THE STATE TUESDAY: Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb will deliver his 2022 State of the State address on Tuesday, January 11, 2022, to a joint session of the Indiana General Assembly in the House of Representatives chamber (Howey Politics Indiana). The address will begin at 7 p.m. ET and is expected to fit in a 30-minute window.


9.9% OF INDIANA ICU CAPACITY AVAILABLE: The number of ICU beds available in Indiana continues to shrink as the increase in coronavirus cases continues to strain hospitals throughout the state (Ortiz, NWI Times). State health records show a total of 3,303 Hoosiers were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Friday,  according to the Indiana Department of Health. Currently 36.1% of ICU beds are in use by coronavirus patients with only 9.9% of ICU beds in the state available. In total, COVID-19 has killed 18,959 Hoosiers since the start of the pandemic, Friday data showed. This includes a total of 1,394 deaths in Lake County, 447 in Porter County, 296 in LaPorte County, 58 in Newton County and 108 in Jasper County, as of Friday. The color-coded classifications for Indiana's 92 counties has 48 counties in the worst-possible red rating and 44 in the orange designation, with none of the counties in the blue or yellow designations, showing a continuing increase of infections.


HOSPITALS DIVERTING AMBULANCES: Hospitals in central Indiana diverted ambulances for nearly 3,000 hours during a six-week period this fall, according to information IBJ received from the Indiana State Department of Health through an open-records request (IBJ). On some days during the covered period—which included the last two weeks of a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and the first four weeks of a decline—nearly every hospital in the region went on diversion status at once, as hospital emergency rooms were filled to capacity. That means the hospitals encouraged ambulances to take patients elsewhere. The situation has only worsened in recent weeks, as the latest surge has packed emergency rooms and strained hospitals nearly to the breaking point. “We’re seeing diversion unlike anything we’ve ever seen before,” said Dr. Dan O’Donnell, an emergency room physician at Eskenazi Health and chief of Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services, the largest provider of 911 ambulance services in the region.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY TAKING LITTLE COVID PRECAUTION: Indiana House and Senate leaders don’t appear to have many plans in place if there are significant COVID-19 outbreaks this session (Smith, Indiana Public Media). Last year, the House moved its entire chamber to a different government building, in order to spread out more. Many Senate committee hearings were changed to keep people testifying in separate rooms from lawmakers. Plexiglass dividers went up on both chamber floors. This session – amid a worse surge of the virus than at any time in 2021 – none of those precautions are in place. House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said it’s now about personal responsibility. “People should take the precautions they need, that they feel are necessary for them,” Huston said. If there is an outbreak of the virus among lawmakers or staff, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) said they’ll deal with it as it comes. “I don’t know that we have a specific contingency plan that we’ll employ but we’ll try to address it as best as we can when it presents itself,” Bray said.


SEN. BALDWIN SAYS SCHOOLS NEED TO BE 'IMPARTIAL' TEACHING NAZISM: An Indiana state senator who is facing criticism for saying teachers must be impartial when discussing Nazism is walking back his remarks. Indiana state Sen. Scott Baldwin said he wasn’t clear when he said a bill he filed at the Indiana Statehouse would require teachers to be impartial in their teaching of all subjects, including during lessons about Nazism, Marxism and fascism (Herron, IndyStar). During a committee hearing Wednesday about Senate Bill 167, a wide-ranging bill inspired by the national discourse over critical race theory, history teacher Matt Bockenfeld raised concerns about what the bill would require of teachers. He gave what he thought was an extreme example. “For example, it’s the second semester of U.S. history, so we're learning about the rise of fascism and the rise of Nazism right now,” Bockenfeld said. “And I'm just not neutral on the political ideology of fascism. We condemn it, and we condemn it in full, and I tell my students the purpose, in a democracy, of understanding the traits of fascism is so that we can recognize it and we can combat it.” Baldwin, a Republican from Noblesville, said that may be going too far. Baldwin said he doesn’t discredit Marxism, Nazism, fascism or “any of those isms out there.” “I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those isms,” he said. “I believe that we've gone too far when we take a position on those isms ...  We need to be impartial.” In an email to IndyStar Thursday, Baldwin said his intent with the bill was to ensure teachers are being impartial when discussing “legitimate political groups.”


SMALTZ PUSHES GUN BILL DESPITE OWN POLL: Lawmakers regularly poll their constituents on upcoming topics as they handle business at the Statehouse. But sometimes they don't actually listen to them (Kelly, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Second Amendment advocate Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, is pushing a bill this year to eliminate licenses to carry handguns in the state. The proposal is often referred to as constitutional carry. In 2019 his survey asked, “Do you believe Hoosiers who are legally permitted to possess a handgun should be able to carry a handgun in public without first applying for and obtaining a state issued license?” Smaltz's results showed 64% saying no, 31% yes, and 5% undecided.


U.S. ADDED MORE JOBS IN 2021 SINCE 1939: The U.S. added a whopping 6.4 million jobs last year, a record in data that goes back to 1939 (Axios). It follows the worst year ever for job losses. While the labor market began 2021 in a deep hole, huge numbers of Americans found work amid the pandemic, with a record-breaking 6.4 million jobs added over the course of last year, eclipsing all expectations (Washington Post). Rank-and-file workers’ hourly paychecks rose by $1.46 an hour, another record-breaking number. Gains were especially pronounced for those in lower-paying industries. It was, by these measures and many others, the best year in labor-market history, ignited in part by aggressive stimulus spending that pushed consumer spending to stratospheric levels. But the numbers on their own can be downright misleading. The 6.4 million jobs gained this year, while a record in absolute terms, represents only a 4.5 percent increase in the workforce. That’s smaller than the 5.0 percent growth seen in 1978, when a much smaller labor force added 4.3 million jobs. In fact, relative to the size of the workforce, it’s only the 11th best calendar year since record-keeping began in 1939.


JAN. 6 DIDN'T JUST IMPACT AMERICA: January 6, 2021, didn’t happen just to America. It also happened to the rest of the world (Serhan, The Atlantic). One year on, world leaders facing reelection are looking to Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” tactics as a playbook for how they too can sow doubt in the democratic process and, if necessary, subvert an election. U.S. diplomats, who were once tasked with promoting the virtues of American democracy, have lost credibility as liberal democracy’s defenders. In the past year, politicians in democracies as far afield as Israel, Peru, and Brazil have employed baseless claims of fraud in an apparent bid to forestall their own electoral defeat or, at the very least, to build up enough grievance to fuel a future political comeback. Trump is not the first world leader who has tried to subvert an election. But by doing so from the seat of American democracy, he has emboldened politicians elsewhere to brazenly do the same. “People will have learned that if you basically say from day one that the vote—if it goes against you—is by definition fraudulent, you can get away with a lot,” Ivo Daalder, the president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, told me. “All that stuff becomes easier when what used to be the exemplar, the city on a hill, is showing you the way.” Brett Bruen, a former U.S. diplomat and the former director of global engagement at the White House, added, “We have lost a lot of moral authority. We have lost the ability to say, ‘Look at us; follow us.’”


'BAMA, BULLDOGS ARRIVE IN INDY: Alabama and Georgia teams arrived Friday evening and both are focused on winning the National Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday (WRTV). More than 100,000 fans are expected to arrive this weekend. The City of Indianapolis has been preparing for months and several free events are in place for fans who want to be a part of the experience. The College Football Playoff Indianapolis Host Committee says tickets are sold out for the game. COVID-19 is a concern, but the committee says there is plenty of space for fans to have fun and be safe. Inside the Indiana Convention Center, you can see the Heisman trophy, have a photo op with massive football statues or play games.


HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Indy is doing another great job with a national sports championship game. The weather is not cooperating, with freezing rain expected later this afternoon and an inch of snow Monday afternoon as a prelude to the Alabama/Georgia title game. If you're inclined to bet, I'm predicting a blowout by the Crimson Tide. Call me Deacon Blues. - Brian A. Howey




REP. MRVAN TO SEEK SECOND TERM: U.S. Rep. Frank Mrvan has announced he will be seeking re-election to the House seat he won in 2020 after the retirement of long-time congressman Pete Visclosky (LaPorte Herald-Dispatch). Mrvan, a Lake County Democrat, said he is seeking re-election “to continue to address the pandemic health crisis, make investments to grow the Northwest Indiana economy with good-paying jobs, and bridge the division gripping our nation.”


WELLS KICKS OFF SofS CAMPAIGN: Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett introduced Destiny Scott Wells, an attorney and military combat veteran, as she formally announced that she is seeking the democratic nomination at June’s state party convention for Indiana Secretary of State (Howey Politics Indiana). Wells is currently the only Democratic candidate to announce in what appears to be a year of contentious Secretary of State races nationwide as the Republican Party continues to curtail voting rights. This includes an effort last year by Indiana Republicans to further restrict voting access across the state. Wells plans to immediately pressure Indiana’s Republican legislature on some of the country’s most restrictive voting laws, like Indiana’s 29-day voter registration deadline, and to advocate against the Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ practice of selling Hoosier’s personal information to third parties. As one of the first states to enact a voter ID law that has strict government-issued photo ID requirements, many Hoosiers rely on providing a driver license purchased through the BMV to exercise their right to vote. Wells believes this is leading to the commoditization of elections. “As a veteran who proudly served and defended the freedoms of our nation, I found last year’s attack on the Capitol deeply disturbing,” Wells said. “We must safeguard democracy on the home front—like free and fair elections. That is that is why I seek the privilege of becoming Indiana’s next Secretary of State.”


INDEMS COMMENT ON FIRST WEEK OF SESSION: The Indiana Democratic Party provided this wrap up to the first week of the 2022 Culture War Session at the statehouse – one that divides communities and does little to create a better future for Hoosier families. As we said at the start of this week, Indiana Republicans’ agenda this session will be about fulfilling a partisan wish list rooted in misinformation and cooked up by the national Republican Party, nothing else (Howey Politics Indiana).  “Indiana Republicans proved this week they view the 2022 session as their opportunity to pursue unnecessary and divisive culture wars no matter the issue - and it will diminish Hoosiers’ future,” said Lauren Ganapini, executive director of the Indiana Democratic Party. “After villainizing Hoosiers for collecting unemployment checks last year, Republicans now want to reward folks who abide by their effort to discredit the COVID-19 vaccine with the same cash. The INGOP proves each day that every Issue - including economic freedom and security - is a partisan issue for them, and this irrational behavior is why they look more like hypocrites than leaders.”


FORMER PENCE AIDE SAYS GOP IS 'DISREPAIR': Mike Pence’s former press secretary Alyssa Farah Griffin blasted the moral “disrepair” of the Republican Party on Friday after she’s received hate messages for reportedly cooperating with the House select committee investigating the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021 (Huffpo). “Getting a lot of hate for thinking 1/6 was a big deal,” Griffin tweeted. “There’s nothing less conservative [than] trying to overturn democratic process,” she snapped. “I watched a violent mob call for my boss & mentor, Mike Pence, to be hanged on the steps of the US Capitol,” she added. Axios reported on Thursday that Griffin is cooperating with congressional investigators. Pence’s former chief of staff Marc Short is also among those in Pence’s circle talking to the House select committee.


TRUMP STATEMENT: Statement by Donald J. Trump (Howey Politics Indiana): "What we witnessed yesterday was the last gasps of a corrupt and discredited left-wing political and media establishment that has, for decades, driven our country into the ground—shipping away our jobs, surrendering our strength, sacrificing our sovereignty, attacking our history and values, and trying to turn America into a country that our people can barely recognize. These radical leftists in Washington care NOTHING for American Democracy. All they care about is control over you, and wealth and riches for themselves. But they are failing. No one believes them anymore. And the day is quicky coming when they will be overwhelmingly voted out of power. Joe Biden’s voice is now the voice of desperation and despair. His handlers gave him that speech to read yesterday because they know the unprecedented failures of his presidency and the left-wing extremism of the Pelosi-Schumer Congress have destroyed the Democrat Party. Part of their panic is motivated by the realization that, just like the Russia Collusion Hoax, they cannot sustain the preposterous fabrications about January 6 much longer. The truth is coming out."


CANDIDATE FILINGS: Congress Democrat: Gary Snyder CD3. Republican: Ben Ruiz CD1.


Indiana Senate: Democrat: Andrea Hunley SD46; Kristin Jones SD46; Karla Lopez Owens SD46. Republican: Daniel E. Dernulc SD1; Tyler Johnson SD14.


Indiana House: Democrat: Maureen Bauer HD6; Patricia A. (Pat) Boy HD9; Chris Campbell HD26; Nan Polk HD54; Ross Thomas HD59; Keil L. Roark HD72; Reneé Pack HD92. Republican: Ed Soliday HD4; Kyle Pierce HD36; Todd Huston HD37; Jerry Torr HD39; Bob Heaton HD46; John Young HD47; Heather Carie HD54; David Welsh HD55; Brittany Carroll HD60; Karen Engleman HD70; Scott Hawkins HD71; Matthew Lehman HD79; Stan Jones HD85; Robert Behnining HD91; John Jacob HD93.




GOVERNOR: McGREW LEAVES WORKFORCE CABINET - Gov. Eric J. Holcomb today announced the executive director of the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet (GWC), Patrick (PJ) McGrew, is stepping down to take a position with Indianapolis-based non-profit INvestEd (Howey Politics Indiana). McGrew has been with the State of Indiana for over seven years in a variety of education and workforce roles. He transitioned to the GWC as policy director in 2018 when the Cabinet was formed and later became executive director. “PJ McGrew has been an invaluable resource, helping to ensure Hoosiers have the skills and training they need to prosper,” Gov. Holcomb said. “Workforce development has been a pillar of my administration from day one and PJ has been at the forefront, driving our progress on many key initiatives, including the Next Level Jobs program.”


SUPREME COURT: RUSH TO GIVE ANNUAL ADDRESS WEDNESDAY - Indiana Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush will address the Governor and a joint session of the Indiana General Assembly for the annual State of the Judiciary (Howey Politics Indiana). The formal update on the work of the judicial branch will be held Wednesday, January 12, 2022, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern in the chamber of the Indiana House of Representatives. The Chief Justice is required to provide lawmakers with an update on the “condition of the courts” according to Article 7, Section 3, of the Indiana Constitution. The 2022 address Indiana Courts: Fulfilling Our Constitutional Responsibilities will focus on critical work to increase public trust, strengthen Hoosier families, improve public safety, and modernize courts.


NBA: SABONIS SCORES 42 AS PACERS DEFEAT JAZZ 125-113 - Domantas Sabonis scored a career-high 42 points on 18-of-22 shooting to help the Indiana Pacers beat the Utah Jazz 125-113 on Saturday night. Lance Stephenson added 16 points, 14 assists and four steals off the bench. Duane Washington Jr. also had 16 points, and Justin Holiday 15 (AP). Donovan Mitchell led Utah with 36 points and nine assists. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 points. The Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak and completed a season sweep of the Jazz.


BIG TEN: PURDUE TOPS PENN STATE 74-67 -  Trevion Williams, coming off the bench for the first time in five games, scored 21 points including the final go-ahead basket, and No. 3 Purdue held off Penn State 74-67 on Saturday (ESPN). The 6-foot-11 Williams was 9-of-12 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds despite sitting out over eight minutes of the second half after picking up his third foul. “When you come in and out it’s really tough but, you know from a leadership standpoint, you have to understand that … whoever comes in is going to get the job done. And I think that’s how we practice, so any game is not a surprise,” Williams said.


General Assembly


CARBAUGH FILES BIDDING PROCESS BILL: As the City of Fort Wayne presses to change state rules regarding the contract bid process for solid waste collection services, a local lawmaker tells ABC21 he not only supports the change -- he’s introduced legislation to make it happen (WPTA-TV). State Rep. Martin Carbaugh has authored HB1286, which would allow municipalities statewide to “enter into a contract for the collection and disposal of solid waste through a request for proposals process instead of an invitation for bids process.” Under current code, only the City of Indianapolis is permitted to use the “RFP” approach; others, including Fort Wayne, must award trash collection contracts to the lowest qualified bidder. That, City officials say, has put residents in a messy bind, as trash piles up due to problems involving Red River Waste Solutions, the Texas-based company that took over collection when it offered to take the job at the lowest price. On Tuesday, the Fort Wayne City Council is expected to vote on a resolution asking Indiana lawmakers to make a change that would give cities more flexibility in awarding such contracts. “I’m supportive,” Carbaugh, a Republican, told ABC21 on Friday. “I’ve filed the bill in order to make that happen.”




JAN. 6 COMMITTEE EYES PENCE TESTIMONY: Former Vice President Mike Pence will likely be asked to voluntarily appear before the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol (WRTV). in an interview with NPR, Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the committee, said he expects the committee to make the request before the month is over. Pence was overseeing the Electoral College vote count when rioters stormed the Capitol.


MANCHIN SPENDING OFFER NO LONGER ON THE TABLE: U.S. Senator Joe Manchin's $1.8 trillion spending offer he proposed to the White House in late 2021 appears to be no longer on the table following a breakdown between the Democratic lawmaker from West Virginia and the White House, the Washington Post reported on Saturday (Reuters). Manchin told reporters this week that he is no longer involved in discussions with the White House and has signaled privately that he is not interested in approving any legislation like President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Package, the newspaper said, citing three people with knowledge of the matter.


SEN. THUNE TO RUN FOR 4TH TERM: Senate Minority Whip John Thune will run for reelection this year, ending months of speculation about his political future (Politico). In a statement released Saturday on Twitter, the South Dakota Republican and the No. 2 GOP leader said he would seek a fourth term in the Senate.




WHITE HOUSE: U.S. DETAILS COST OF RUSS INVASION - The Biden administration and its allies are assembling a punishing set of financial, technology and military sanctions against Russia that they say would go into effect within hours of an invasion of Ukraine, hoping to make clear to President Vladimir V. Putin the high cost he would pay if he sends troops across the border (New York Times). In interviews, officials described details of those plans for the first time, just ahead of a series of diplomatic negotiations to defuse the crisis with Moscow, one of the most perilous moments in Europe since the end of the Cold War. The talks begin on Monday in Geneva and then move across Europe. The plans the United States has discussed with allies in recent days include cutting off Russia’s largest financial institutions from global transactions, imposing an embargo on American-made or American-designed technology needed for defense-related and consumer industries, and arming insurgents in Ukraine who would conduct what would amount to a guerrilla war against a Russian military occupation, if it comes to that.


WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN TO SPEAK ON VOTING RIGHTS IN GEORGIA - Fresh off a high-profile speech in which he warned that a dagger had been placed at the throat of American democracy, President Joe Biden will travel to the state that White House officials view as “ground zero” for Republican-led election suppression efforts (Politico). Biden will speak in Georgia on Tuesday. In his remarks, he is expected to not only echo the themes of his address on the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection but to expand on his endorsement of a filibuster carveout to pass voting rights legislation in the Senate.


SCOTUS: BIDEN VAX TEST MANDATE IN TROUBLE - The Supreme Court on Friday weighed whether a pair of vaccine-related mandates from the Biden administration governing large businesses and health care facilities can move forward, putting on display the national divide over Covid-19 vaccination and highlighting the latest surge, driven by the Omicron variant (Politico). Most of the conservative justices sounded sympathetic to business interests and Republican-led states trying to block the broadest rule, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard covering firms with more than 100 employees, but liberal justices sounded flabbergasted at the arguments that the rules should be halted amid the latest, huge wave of infection. The impact of that wave was evident at Friday's hearing, which featured remote participation by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who a court spokesperson said was "not ill," as well as attorneys arguing against the vaccination mandates.


Sunday Talk


ADAMS CALLS FOR DEMS TO BECOME 'RADICALLY PRACTICAL': New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) on Sunday said the Democratic Party has to be “radically practical” if it wants to win November’s midterm elections. Asked by co-anchor Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” about comments Adams made in June critiquing the party's strategy, the New York City mayor said Democrats should focus on “kitchen table issues” that “everyday” individuals care about in the upcoming midterm races. “I think we can reset the message and we can put the ship on its right course. We have to be radically practical, radically practical. We need to deal with those kitchen table issues that are important to everyday Americans and New Yorkers,” Adams said.


BLINKEN DOESN'T SEE RUSS 'BREAKTHROUGH' THIS WEEK: Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said he does not think the U.S. and Russia will see any breakthroughs “in the coming week,” which is when representatives from Washington and Moscow are scheduled to sit for talks amid rising tensions centered on Ukraine. “I don't think we're gonna see any, any breakthroughs in the coming, in the coming week,” Blinken told co-anchor Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”


CLYBURN EYES ELECTORAL COUNT ACT: House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) weighed in on the debate over making changes to the Electoral Count Act on Sunday, saying that any modifications that are passed "must fit the times." While appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Clyburn was asked by guest host Bret Baier whether or not Congress was deciding against changing the Electoral Count Act despite appearing to have enough votes. Clyburn stated that while Congress was willing to change the law, there was more that needed to be done. "We'll take that but that's not all we need to do," Clyburn said. "I also know that what is true today was not true then. And therefore, the kind of changes that we need to make the kind of modifications that need we need to make must fit the times."


GRAHAM SAYS AMERICANS WON'T VOTE ON JAN. 6 ISSUE: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) predicted on Sunday that in 2022 Americans will vote "not based on what happened on January 6th, but based on this failed Democratic radical agenda," claiming that because of that agenda the nation has fallen into "the most dangerous times since the late '30s." Graham said in an interview with John Catsimatidis on WABC 770 AM that former President Trump would win his next election bid and the Republican party would make sweeping gains in the November mid-term elections because "liberal policies do not represent America." "We're not a socialist country," he said, criticizing talks of "packing" the U.S. Supreme Court or abolishing the electoral college. "What Democrats are trying to do is tear up the constitution. They are trying to change the balance of power in this country. ... This is the most radical approach to our constitutional checks and balances in my lifetime, and maybe ever. There's going to be a backlash in 2022."




EVANSVILLE: DEACONESS SLAMMED WITH 49 IN ICU - On Friday, Deaconess Health System reported 128 coronavirus patients have been hospitalized across all hospitals (WFIE-TV). Officials say 49 of those patients are in the ICU, as of Friday. Deaconess also reported 27 patients on ventilators. It is a similar story at Ascension St. Vincent. Officials there say 26 people are in the hospital with COVID-19. Eight of those patients in the ICU. Deaconess officials are asking people to keep themselves and their loved ones safe by wearing masks, watching your distance and washing your hands.


PORTAGE: FD HAMMERED BY COVID -  The fire department has been hit hard by COVID-19, with call volumes skyrocketing and ambulances having to wait at the hospital until a room becomes available (Maddux, NWI Times). “The ambulances are taking patients to the hospital, and the hospital really doesn’t have any place to put them, so they’re really delayed as far as taking the patients. That plus the decontamination is making our turnaround a bit slower,” Fire Chief Randy Wilkening told the City Council last week. “COVID is really taxing on us. We’re running a lot of calls,” he said.


SOUTH BEND: NO CHARGES IN FD HIDDEN CAMERA CASE - The St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s office announced Friday that no charges are being filed over the hidden camera found in a South Bend Fire Department women’s locker room last June (Lazzaro, WVPE). In a news release, county prosecutor Ken Cotter said “there are strong indications” that someone attempted to commit voyeurism, but an Indiana State Police investigation was unable to determine who placed the hidden camera or if recordings were actually made. Therefore, Cotter said the prosecutor’s office was not able to bring any criminal charges.


LaPORTE COUNTY: FRIEDMAN REAPPOINTED COUNTY ATTORNEY -— Shaw Friedman has been reappointed LaPorte County government attorney in a split decision Wednesday by the county commissioners (Maddux, NWI Times). The same commissioners who voted for and against Friedman last year did not change their positions. Friedman will work under a written contract at the same rate of $150 per hour. A written contract was called for last year by Commissioner Joe Haney and agreed to in a legal settlement last month with LaPorte County Auditor Tim Stabosz, who withheld payment to Friedman on more than $2,000 in work that he believed was not legitimate. Haney and Stabosz believed a contract with boundaries on the work performed by Friedman would eliminate future billing questions. They had no say in drafting the terms of the contract, which Haney called “extremely vague” with “absolutely no guard rails” to make sure Friedman doesn’t step outside the legal scope with his duties.


HOWARD COUNTY: COMMISSIONER WYMAN WON'T SEEK REELECTION - Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman announced Thursday he will not seek reelection this year after serving in local office for the past 16 years (Kokomo Tribune). Wyman was elected to the Howard County Council in 2016 for four years before running for a commissioner’s seat, which he has held now for three terms. During that time, he’s also worked closely with local nonprofits and operated his real estate company, The Wyman Group. He said the decision not to seek reelection this year was based on the time commitment required to serve another four years in office. “It’s really demanding, and to be running a real estate company, doing the commissioner job and being involved in nonprofits ... it’s really day and night a lot of times,” Wyman said in an interview.


ALLEN COUNTY: HUNTER FILES FOR SHERIFF - The widely anticipated race to succeed outgoing Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux is taking form in the early days of filing (WPTA-TV). On Friday, Fort Wayne police Capt. Kevin Hunter submitted paperwork formally launching his bid for the Democratic nomination. It follows a similar move this week by Chief Deputy Sheriff Troy Hershberger, who is vying for the Republican nomination. At least one other high-profile candidate -- Fort Wayne Police Deputy Chief Mitch McKinney -- is expected to file to run as a Republican. Hunter touts his experience in vice and narcotics division and 32 years overall on the local force in his effort to wrest back a position the Democratic Party has not held since the 1930s. He signaled his intentions to run for the office last August and has been organizing his campaign ever since.


ELKHART COUNTY: CLARK REPLACES WENGER ON COUNCIL - Steven Clark has been sworn in to replace county Councilwoman Tina Wenger, who died in December (Elkhart Truth). Clark took the oath of office ahead of the Elkhart County Council meeting early Saturday. He assumes the at-large seat of Wenger, who died Dec. 13 at age 67.