BIDEN, SANDERS LEAD IN IOWA POLL; BUTTIGIEG AT 1%: The field of Democrats seeking the party's nomination for president in 2020 is one of the largest the party has seen, but for Iowa's most likely caucus attendees, two names stand above the rest: former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The latest CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll finds Biden and Sanders near even at 27% and 25% respectively, with no other candidate earning even 10% support. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg comes in at 1%, with another 1% listing him as a second choice. It's the first time he's registered in a poll, coming on the eve of his 9 p.m. CNN town hall tonight. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (9%) and Sen. Kamala Harris of California (7%) come closest, and of the rest of the 20-person field tested in the poll, just former US Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas (5%), Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota (3% each) rise above 1% support.

MAYOR PETE CALLS FOR EXPANDED SCOTUS, ELECTORAL COLLEGE REPEAL: While he lacks the name recognition or fundraising skills of many of his Democratic presidential rivals, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., spent his Friday visit to the Granite State using a bold set of reforms to set himself apart from the growing pack of 2020 contenders (Union-Leader). Buttigieg, who made headlines last month for appearing to entertain the idea of packing the Supreme Court, doubled down on his call for adding additional members to the high court by publicly endorsing a plan that would grow the nine-member body by six additional justices. Signaling his preference for a plan he says originates from the Yale Law Review, Buttigieg described his ideal Supreme Court as a 15-member body composed of five justices appointed by a Republican President, five justices appointed by a Democratic President and the remaining five appointed from the appellate courts by the unanimous approval of the other 10 justices. “It takes politics out of it a little bit,” said Buttigieg of the proposal. “We can’t go on like this where every time there’s a vacancy, there are these games being played and then an apocalyptic ideological battle over who the appointee is going to be.” Describing the Electoral College as part of a system that has “overruled the American people” twice in his lifetime, Buttigieg also repeated his call for the election of the President by popular vote. “It doesn’t matter most years what we think because our state is too conservative to matter in the Electoral College,” said Buttigieg of his native Indiana. “And if you live in California, it doesn’t really matter what you think because your state’s too liberal to matter in the Electoral College. I just believe that we’d be better served if we had a system where the person who wins the most votes actually wins the election.”

HOOSIER FARMERS FEELING THE FINANCIAL SQUEEZE: It’s a daily ritual. A group of farmers gather around 8 a.m. each day at Frick Services in Wyatt to talk about the weather, news of the day and issues facing farmers. It’s a scene that plays out in agricultural communities across the country. They know crop farmers who are struggling. They know dairy farmers who have folded in recent years as agriculture has been battered by low commodity prices, tariffs that have withered their markets and even changing consumer preferences (Semmler, South Bend Tribune). Some have been forced to take jobs outside of farming in the worst down cycles, coming home at night to work the fields. “That’s why the equipment has lights,” one quipped. The sums, which only include the cost of seed, fertilizer, crop insurance, herbicides and fuel, are staggering — $196,000 to plant 500 acres of corn and $141,000 to plant soybean — and the costs to borrow have gone up thanks to higher interest rates. Though it might be possible to squeak by, even modest profit margins disappear when the cost of land, labor and machinery is included in the equation, said Michael Langemeier, an agricultural economist at Purdue University. The fact is that more farms are starting to show stress as a result of commodity prices, which have been sliding since 2014, said Langemeier, adding that farm liquidity has been declining “rather dramatically” over the past few years. “It seems high only compared to the historical lows in 2013 to 2014,” Brady Brewer of Purdue said. But after a few years of lower commodity prices and other issues, it’s clear that farms are starting to feel the effects. If the trade war doesn’t come to an end, there could be dire consequences for years to come. “It could create an incentive for other countries to put more soybean into acreage,” Brewer said. “If that happens we could lose market share that’s difficult to get back.”

TEACHERS TELL HOLCOMB, LEGISLATURE 'COME CLOSER': Sandy Heath held a handwritten sign inside the Indiana Statehouse on Saturday that described her frustration with funding for teachers (Miley, CNHI). Her daughter, who is a teacher in Lafayette, makes about $36,000 a year. The daughter's student loan totals $50,000. Heath's sign noted that the combined figures "equal no money to live." "Our kids are suffering," she said. "They want to have a family and they can't." Heath was among more than 1,000 educators, retired teachers and school board members who filled one end of the Statehouse in a sea of red shirts worn to show support for increasing school funding and pay for Indiana teachers. The afternoon rally, held despite the weekend absence of the Indiana General Assembly, was hosted by the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA). Gov. Eric Holcomb has recommended a 2.1 percent funding increase for next year but teacher groups say they need at least 3 percent increase to cover inflation. "The governor has said that he is walking toward us, that the Legislature's working on this and they hope we don't walk out on them, but I would say to the governor, 'Come closer,'" ISTA President Teresa Meredith said. "We get it that they can't fix it overnight, but we know they can fix it if they're willing to sit down and talk with us and build a long-term plan."

LEGISLATORS FIND ANGRY CROWD IN KOKOMO: Local Statehouse lawmakers and event organizers clashed with area teachers at a public forum Friday, with much of the anger aimed at education funding and teacher pay (Myers, Kokomo Tribune). Included in the frustration was the disrespect felt by some teachers over how the event was managed and the actions of one state senator.  On the stage were state Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo; Rep. Heath VanNatter, R-Kokomo; Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo; and Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero. Teachers shouted at lawmakers multiple times through the event as they attempted to discuss education issues — teacher pay comments sparked the most anger —causing a Chamber leader to tell teachers their behavior caused the Third House’s premature end. Kimberly Pinkerton, manager of the Greater Kokomo Chamber of Commerce, told the crowd that “it’s just like in a classroom, when the kids become disruptive” its time to end. Her comments, prompted by someone shouting the time, were in large part drowned out by sarcastic laughter and hollering from frustrated teachers and their supporters.

REGION DRUG OVERDOSE DEATHS DECLINE IN 2018: After a record-setting 2017, drug overdose deaths were down last year in Northwest Indiana, and local officials are cautiously optimistic that the opioid epidemic is slowing down (Bruce, NWI Times). "I would like to hope — I think that would probably be the best word — that we have reached the peak," said former Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris, who in 2019 became that county's recorder. "It's been a long, hard-fought battle," he said. In 2018, Lake County had 152 overdose deaths, Porter County had 46 and LaPorte had 17, compared to 196, 50 and 26 the year before, according to their county coroners. Northwest Indiana had its most drug deaths in 2017 — 268 vs. 215 last year. Experts attribute the decline to the widespread use of the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, an increase in treatment availability and more awareness about the crisis, among other reasons. Deaths involving heroin in the Region were down in 2018, but local experts say cocaine and methamphetamine use are both on the rise. "We have an opioid epidemic going on, but truly overall we have a drug and alcohol epidemic," said Megan Fisher, director of medication-assisted treatment for Porter-Starke Services.

GAMING COMMISSION APPROVES GARY CASINO PURCHASE: The Indiana Gaming Commission voted on Friday afternoon to approve Spectacle Entertainment’s acquisition of both casinos in Gary (Erdody, IBJ). The acquisition will give Spectacle control over Majestic Holdco LLC, which owns the Majestic Star Casino and the Majestic Star Casino II, both located on Lake Michigan's Buffington Harbor in Gary. Spectacle is a relatively new company led by some of the same individuals who controlled Centaur Gaming before Centaur was bought by Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp. Rod Ratcliff, former chairman and CEO of Centaur Gaming, is the chairman and CEO of Spectacle, and John Keeler, the former general counsel for Centaur, is general counsel for Spectacle. Ratcliff and Greg Gibson, an entrepreneur from Terre Haute who will serve as vice chairman of Spectacle, are the principal investors. Spectacle hopes to close the gambling boats on the harbor and use the licenses attached to the casinos to open two new venues—one along the Interstate 80/Interstate 94 corridor in Gary and one in Terre Haute—as a way to generate more revenue from the licenses.  Majestic Star and Majestic Star II are among the smallest casinos in the state. In fiscal 2018, Majestic Star ranked third lowest in total “win,” which is gambling revenue after payouts, with $92.2 million. Majestic Star II ranked second lowest with $59.8 million.

NEW CASINO VENUES PLANNED: John Keeler has told lawmakers that they expect the new Gary casino to be a $300 million development with a 200-room hotel (IBJ). The new casino would hire an additional 400 employees—on top of the existing 800 employees now working at Majestic Star I and Majestic Star II.  Gary officials have been supportive of the project, as they see an opportunity to develop Buffington Harbor into a logistics and transportation hub if the casinos are relocated.Terre Haute Casino rendering. The Terre Haute casino could cost between $100 million and $150 million and create 300 to 400 jobs.

DEFICITS BALOON (AND NOBODY CARES): The federal budget deficit is ballooning on President Donald Trump's watch, and few in Washington seem to care (AP). And even if they did, the political dynamics that enabled bipartisan deficit-cutting deals decades ago has disappeared, replaced by bitter partisanship and chronic dysfunction. That's the reality that will greet Trump's latest budget, which will promptly be shelved after landing with a thud on Monday. Like previous spending blueprints, Trump's plan for the 2020 budget year will propose cuts to many domestic programs favored by lawmakers in both parties but leave alone politically popular retirement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Washington probably will devote months to wrestling over erasing the last remnants of a failed 2011 budget deal that would otherwise cut core Pentagon operations by $71 billion and domestic agencies and foreign aid by $55 billion. Top lawmakers are pushing for a reprise of three prior deals to use spending cuts or new revenues and prop up additional spending rather than defray deficits that are again approaching $1 trillion. It's put deficit hawks in a gloomy mood. "The president doesn't care. The leadership of the Democratic Party doesn't care," said former Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. "And social media is in stampede mode." Trump's budget arrives as the latest Treasury Department figures show a 77 percent spike in the deficit over the first four months of the budget year, driven by falling revenues and steady growth in spending.

TRUMP CALLS COLTER 'WACKY NUT JOB': President Donald Trump on Saturday branded former ally Ann Coulter a “Wacky Nut Job” — less than a month after insisting he did not follow the conservative commentator and blamed journalists for exaggerating her influence over White House decision-making (Politico). “Wacky Nut Job @AnnCoulter, who still hasn’t figured out that, despite all odds and an entire Democrat Party of Far Left Radicals against me (not to mention certain Republicans who are sadly unwilling to fight), I am winning on the Border,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has now surfaced in a poll, at 1% in a Des Moines Register/CNN Poll. It comes on the eve of his 9 p.m. CNN town hall tonight. The opening for Mayor Pete is that NBC/Wall Street Journal polling shows little appetite among Democrats for candidates older than 75, a trait of both shared by pack leaders Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Democrats tend to nominate young presidential nominees (i.e. JFK, Clinton, Obama), so we're at an early and fluid stage. Mayor Pete faces a huge hill to climb and if he begins such as ascent, it would be at an event like tonight. - Brian A. Howey


BUTTIGIEG, BENNET WON'T EMPHASIZE TRUMP: Two Democratic White House hopefuls took very different tacts in dealing with Republican President Donald Trump as they campaigned in New Hampshire on Friday (Concord Monitor). Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg argued that the 2020 election shouldn’t be about Trump, emphasizing that “of course we’ll confront him, we’ll call him out. We’ll beat him. But at the end of the day, it’s not about him, it’s about us.” Potential White House candidate Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado had no problem targeting Trump, calling his presidency “a sorry chapter.” Buttigieg – the South Bend, Indiana mayor who launched a presidential exploratory committee in January – took questions from reporters after headlining ‘Politics and Eggs’ at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. Asked by the Monitor why he never mentioned Trump’s name during his address and question and answer session with the audience, Buttigieg said “the biggest message I have to the current president is ‘it’s not about you.’”

MAYOR PETE EMPHASIZES CLIMATE CHANGE: Peter Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, made another stop in New Hampshire Friday as he contemplates a 2020 presidential campaign (New Hampshire Public Radio). He told the crowd at St. Anselm College’s Politics and Eggs that issues like climate change are personal for him as a millennial. At 37, he's possibly the youngest candidate in a crowded field of Democrats.  "And so, too, is the economic question of whether we are on track to be the first generation in American history to earn less than our parents if nothing is done to change the trajectory of this economy,” Buttigieg said. College freshman Mallory Warner drove up from Massachusetts and says Buttigieg's message of a better future for younger Americans resonates. "There's this sense of disillusionment among us in that what we say and what we do doesn't matter,” Warner said. “And I think now, when you see a 37-year-old in office, it means something."

BUTTIGIEG SEEN AS A 'MODERATE': Eliminating the Electoral College and packing the Supreme Court are two big-ticket ideas. Both would require re-writing the U.S. Constitution and would result in a radical change in how America governs itself. And yet Buttigieg presented them as casually as if he were proposing a minor amendment in the tax code. And, just as noteworthy, the crowd barely reacted (NH Journal). Even more interesting is the fact that Mayor Buttigieg is widely viewed as a moderate.  And with Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the race, perhaps he is.

SXSW CONFERENCE A TRENDY STOP FOR CANDIDATES: The annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, is known for launching cutting-edge tech companies like Twitter and Foursquare, and introducing new music and critically acclaimed films. In its 33-year tenure, the festival has also become a mecca for Democratic politicians seeking to appeal to left-leaning millennials in a key primary state (CBS News). As the 2020 presidential race kicks into gear, Democratic candidates are flocking to SXSW, hoping the festival will serve as a launchpad for their campaigns. Republicans, as well as former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is considering an independent bid for president, will also be there.  "The weekend appearances by a collection of Democrats, Republicans and independent Howard Schultz at what was once known as a modest music festival amounts to the largest gathering of declared or potential presidential candidates of the year," said CBS News political correspondent Ed O'Keefe. "Much of what is discussed this weekend could end up being fine-tuned for voters in the early primary states," he added. Declared Democratic candidates Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg will speaking at the conference Saturday. Trump primary challenger Bill Weld, a Republican, is also speaking, as is Republican John Kasich, who is publicly mulling a 2020 primary bid. Rising Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is also set to appear at the festival on Saturday. And on Sunday, Democratic candidates Jay Inslee, Julián Castro and John Hickenlooper are speaking. Ed O'Keefe said the SXSW events are opportunities for presidential hopefuls.

Sunday Talk

CARSON CALLS COHEN 'COOPERATIVE': Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) appeared on this week's edition of IN Focus to discuss several issues in the news, including the second round of closed-door hearings with former Trump attorney Michael Cohen. Carson sits on the House Intelligence committee, which questioned Cohen for the second time in two weeks on Wednesday (Fox59). “I think that Michael Cohen has been very cooperative with the committee, which we appreciate," said Carson.  “He’s cooperative. I didn’t say credible, but I think he’s being cooperative... I think that he’s been cooperative to the degree that the various committees have been able to issue subpoenas to bring other witnesses in. Of course, we’re going to bring other witnesses in ourselves as an intel committee to really get to the bottom of this and corroborate stories, that’s what this investigation is all about." Carson also said he was surprised by the sentence former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort received, a more lenient 47 months compared to the twenty plus years prosecutors had suggested. “There seems to be inequity at play but also a lot of people are saying this is just a slap on the wrist, and it’s unfortunate," said Carson. "The Trump Administration has acted like a mafia of sorts, and kind of this mob mentality is something that the American people don’t want."

INSLEE SAYS 'WORLD IS ON FIRE': Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), a 2020 presidential candidate, on Sunday called for climate change to be the "primary" issue for the next administration, saying "the world’s on fire and we’ve got to act." “We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change and we are the last generation that can do something about it. And we’ve got one shot and that’s the next administration," he said during an interview on CNN's "State of the Union." "We have to have this be the primary, first, foremost and paramount duty of the next administration because the world’s on fire and we’ve got to act and we’ve got a climate denier in the White House," Inslee added.

KUDLOW BULLISH ON CHINA TRADE DEAL: Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Sunday that he's "bullish" on the prospects of a U.S.-Chinese trade deal being finalized by April, but acknowledged that a final agreement is up to President Trump. "I think we’re making great progress," Kudlow said on "Fox News Sunday." "Across the board, the deal has to be good for the United States, and for our workers, and our farmers and our manufacturing. It's got to be good. It's got to be fair and reciprocal and it's got to be enforceable." "I don’t want to predict, it’s up to the president and not to me, but I think the headway has been good," Kudlow said.

KUDLOW SAYS TRUMP WILL SEEK SPENDING CUTS: Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Sunday that President Trump will call for an across-the-board domestic spending cut of 5 percent in his budget proposal, even as he asks for an increase in funding for a wall along the southern border. Kudlow  on "Fox News Sunday" laid out the administration's budget strategy ahead of the submission of the fiscal 2020 proposal on Monday. He said it will pair policies like the 2017 tax cut bill with the roughly 5 percent domestic spending cut in an effort to spur growth and deal with deficits. "It will be a tough budget," he said, calling it "exactly the right prescription."

BOLTON WON'T SPECULATE ON NORTH KOREA: National security adviser John Bolton on Sunday that North Korea's Kim Jong Un "has a very clear idea" where President Trump stands on missile tests. “I’d rather not get into specifics on that,” Bolton on ABC’s “This Week," when asked about new images that show activity at a North Korean missile site. “There’s a lot of activity all the time in North Korea, but I’m not going to speculate on what that particular commercial satellite picture shows," he said.

BOLTON TALKS OF ISIS DEFEAT: White House national security adviser John Bolton told "This Week" Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz Sunday that President Donald Trump is "as clear as can be" when discussing the defeat of the Islamic State. "The president has been, I think, as clear as clear can be when he talks about the defeat of the ISIS territorial caliphate," Bolton said. "He has never said that the elimination of the territorial caliphate means the end of ISIS in total. We know that's not the case. We know right now that there are ISIS fighters scattered still around Syria and Iraq. And that ISIS itself is growing in other parts of the world. The ISIS threat will remain."

CASTRO HITS SANDERS OVER REPARTIONS: Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro on Sunday hit Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) over his 2020 rival's position on reparations. "What he said ... the other day was he didn’t think the best way to address this was for the United States to write a check." Castro said during an interview on CNN's "State of the Union." "However, it’s interesting to me that when it comes to 'Medicare for all,' health care, you know, the response there has been, ‘We need to write a big check.’ That when it comes to tuition-free or debt-free college, the answer has been that we need to write a big check," the former Housing and Urban Development secretary added.

AOC SLAMS 'MODERATES': U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed political moderates at the South by Southwest Conference & Festivals in Austin, Texas, calling their views “misplaced” as she defended her progressive politics in a room full of supporters (Fox News). “Moderate is not a stance. It's just an attitude towards life of, like, ‘meh,’” the New York Democrat said Saturday during an interview with Briahna Gray, senior politics editor for the Intercept. “We’ve become so cynical, that we view ‘meh,’ or ‘eh’ — we view cynicism as an intellectually superior attitude, and we view ambition as youthful naivete when ... the greatest things we have ever accomplished as a society have been ambitious acts of visions, and the ‘meh’ is just worshipped now, for what?”

General Assembly

HATE CRIMES BILL HITS SNAG:  Republicans looking for an easy out on hate crimes got some bad news last week (Kelly, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Passing a bias crime law without an explicit list of designated characteristics is not going to get Indiana off the so-called naughty list. The stated goal by Gov. Eric Holcomb and others this year is to pass a law that makes Indiana the 46th state with a bias crime law. But the Anti-Defamation League – the keepers of a state map that tracks these laws – says the path Indiana is heading down won't suffice. That's because Senate Republicans stripped the bill of a list of protected classes such as race, religion, sexual orientation and more. Instead, it simply says a judge can consider bias of any kind. Anti-Defamation League Midwest Regional Director Lonnie Nasatir said the organization modeled the first hate crimes statute and has a long history of advocating nationally on the issue. “These types of crimes are very unique and can have negative effects not just on the victim but on the community that is targeted,” he said.

CEOs PUSH FOR HATE CRIME LAW:  Several CEOs from Indiana technology companies are calling for Indiana lawmakers to pass a hate crimes bill that specifically lists protected groups, comparing the discussion to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act controversy of 2015 (Fox59). Members of the Indiana Technology & Innovation Association held a Wednesday news conference in the Statehouse atrium and argued that Indiana’s lack of a hate crime law is hurting their efforts to recruit talent from out of state. “Technology is Indiana’s fastest growing sector, but we are in a death match for talent with other places and other states,” said John McDonald, CEO of Fishers-based ClearObject. “There are not enough skilled workers to fill the jobs that we’re creating every day. And so we can’t afford to have anything be a barrier to that talent and recruitment.” “Passing a watered down unenforceable bias crimes law just simply reaffirms the reputation of Indiana as being socially regressive and essentially not inclusive,” said John Gilman, CEO of Zionsville-based Clear Software. “It really makes it difficult to run a technology company when we have this reputation because talent is our number one need.”

TIME RUNNING OUT FOR REDISTRICTING REFORM: Time is running out for Indiana to enact comprehensive redistricting reform before state lawmakers are due to redraw legislative districts in 2021 (Smith, Indiana Public Media). Such reform is essentially dead this session – and even modest changes are unlikely. The Senate narrowly approved a bill to create redistricting standards for lawmakers. That includes keeping communities together whenever possible and ignoring incumbent legislators’ addresses. But House Elections Committee Chair Tim Wesco (R-Osceola) isn’t a fan of the bill. He says much of it is already required by federal law. And he points to a provision that says lawmakers can ignore the standards, as long as they explain why. “It really leaves me asking, what’s the point?” Wesco says. Redistricting reform advocates support the bill. But they also want a lot more – an independent commission that draws Indiana’s legislative maps. Leading advocate Julia Vaughn acknowledges such a change might require an outside push. “We’re all looking towards the Supreme Court to hopefully provide us with an assist but that’s certainly not guaranteed,” Vaughn says.

BOSMA PREFERS SUPT WITH EDUCATION EXPERIENCE: As lawmakers push forward a measure for the governor to appoint the state’s next schools chief starting in 2021, some question the requirements for the job (Lindsay, Indiana Public Media). Lawmakers changed state law in 2017 to move the position that oversees the State Department of Education from an elected one to an appointment from the governor, starting in 2025. The 2025 deadline was, in part, to allow current Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick to run for a second term. But she announced last fall she won’t run for re-election, and lawmakers want the governor to appoint her successor. House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) is backing the bill that would move up the timeline for Indiana’s governor to appoint a secretary of education after McCormick’s current term ends. He says it’s the only cabinet position with experience criteria in state law, and lawmakers discussed those requirements in 2017 when they passed the appointment legislation. “We debated and negotiated those quite extensively two years ago to give preference to someone who is an educator,” he says.

REP. WRIGHT WORKING ON TRAFFICKING ISSUES: A local representative is one of the Indiana legislators working on trafficking laws (Arwood, Anderson Herald-Bulletin). Rep. Melanie Wright, D-Yorktown, authored two bills regarding sex trafficking of minors for the 2019 general session. When the issue of sex trafficking of minors was brought to her attention six years ago, it became a key issue to her, as she teaches music for kindergarten through sixth grade at Daleville Community Schools. "A lot of people think it isn't happening here," she said. "As a full-time teacher, it really haunted me." The first bill is House Bill 1598. The bill proposes appropriation from the state general fund to aid the prevention of human trafficking. "Local law enforcement definitely needs training so they have formal plans in place," Wright said. "We should offer rehabilitation for survivors and really protect children in the foster system, as they're most at risk." Wright's second bill is House Bill 1603. The bill proposes raising knowingly soliciting sex from a minor to a Level 6 felony. "My colleagues in crime say that punishment doesn't deter it from happening, but there needs to be a stiffer penalty for sure," she said. "Just in the sheer protection our children." Sitting on the House Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee, Wright said she is steadfastly motivated to make change. "Some of the testimony, the witnessing we've heard is terrible. It stays with you, it's horrendous, and we're sitting there," she said. "To imagine living through it is terrible. "This is a reality in our community. It's a really sobering thought."


YOUNG LAUDS USDA LIFTING SALMON REGS: U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) applauded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s announcement that it will deactivate an import alert on genetically engineered (GE) salmon and salmon eggs from entering the U.S. (Howey Politics Indiana). This is welcome news in Albany, Indiana, where AquaBounty made a $14 million investment – purchasing a defunct fish facility for cultivating GE salmon. The FDA had previously approved the facility and the product for human consumption, but production could not begin due to a provision in the 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Act that resulted in FDA issuing an import ban.  This important investment could create up to 100 jobs and help revive the local economy. Cultivating other sources of seafood will also provide consumers with healthier options, which helps improve the health of Indiana’s population. “This announcement is good news for Albany and Delaware County, where this emerging industry has the potential to create jobs and spark economic activity,” said Senator Young. “I have been vocal with the FDA and my Senate colleagues about this issue, and am pleased that the FDA has acted.”

CARSON TO PUSH FOR SUMMER JOBS: U.S. Rep. André Carson is encouraging residents of Indiana’s seventh congressional district to attend his sixth annual Youth Opportunities Fair, which is being held at the Central Library (40 East Saint Clair Street) in Indianapolis this upcoming Monday, March 11, from Noon to 7 p.m. (Howey Politics Indiana). The annual event presents students, parents and guardians with a variety of year-round and summer options for youth of all ages. In addition to featuring job opportunities for teens and young adults, it also helps students with interviewing skills, resume review, and post-fair tips to follow up with employers. “That first summer job, summer camp or volunteer experience can make a big difference in a young person’s life, helping to ignite goals and passions that last a lifetime,” Rep. Carson said. “However, many folks in our community in years past told me that they had trouble finding these opportunities. That’s what inspired me to launch the Youth Opportunities Fair – to put a variety of these resources in one place. I’m pleased it has lived up to its promise, helping to change many young Hoosiers’ lives.”

REP. PENCE CALLS ELECTION BILL 'BAD NEWS': U.S. Rep. Greg Pence is calling the latest "election reform" bill passed by the House is "nothing but bad news" (Howey Politics Indiana). "My colleagues across the aisle want you to think this will change the whole political game, but the truth is that this is nothing but a political power grab designed to push an ultra-left political agenda. This crooked legislation doesn't reform anything, it mandates a huge federal takeover of elections. It takes away state’s rights to regulate voter ID, empowers corporate interests, and sticks the American taxpayer with the bill for every politician’s expensive campaign. Under H.R. 1, Congressional candidates could potentially receive $4.3 MILLION of taxpayer dollars to fund their campaigns! Now, you can you see why so many liberals lined up to support the bill!"


GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB VISITS OMAHA BEACH - Gov. Eric Holcomb is in Europe and he paid tribute to fallen Hoosiers and Americans at Omaha Beach in France (Howey Politics Indiana). "Visiting Omaha Beach reminds one of the painful cost of war and freedom," Holcomb tweeted. "On behalf of all Hoosiers, I was honored to lay a wreath at the Normandy American Cemetery." Earlier he tweeted, "We’re at the Normandy American Cemetery to pay respect to the 274 Hoosiers, and all allied service members, that gave the last full measure of devotion during the Battle of Normandy." Holcomb is on a trade mission to France, Germany and Belgium this week. Holcomb enjoyed a "royale with cheese" at a French McDonald's, a reference to a famous line in "Pulp Fiction" describing a McDonald's Quarter Pounder. Arriving in Belgium, Holcomb and the IEDC tweeted, "Nous nous rendons en Belgique aujourd’hui afin de rencontrer les dirigeants gouvernementaux et discuter des possibilités de renforcer les liens et les relations économiques, invitant les entreprises belges à découvrir pourquoi l’Indiana est un État qui fonctionne!" (Editor's Note: Bonus points for any subscriber willing to translate).

GOVERNOR: BUDGET DIRECTOR DUDICH DEPARTS FOR UINDY - Gov. Eric J. Holcomb today announced that State Budget Director Jason Dudich will leave his post in May to serve as the vice president, chief financial officer, and treasurer of the University of Indianapolis (Howey Politics Indiana). “Jason is an enthusiastic problem-solver who has served the state with great skill and integrity,” Gov. Holcomb said. “I wish him continued success in his new role at the University of Indianapolis and thank him for helping us take Indiana to the next level.” Dudich has served as the state budget director since 2017 after being appointed by Gov. Holcomb. During his tenure, Dudich developed, presented and managed one balanced budget and is diligently working on a second. He has helped manage the fiscal operations of the state ensuring integrity as well as maintaining strong reserves and the state’s AAA credit rating. “I want to thank Gov. Holcomb for giving me the opportunity to serve in his administration. I am proud that the State Budget Agency is in a position that the next director will have a strong team in place,” Dudich said. “I am confident that the relationship we’ve built between the budget agency and the state agencies will continue into the future and ensure collaboration to meet the needs of Hoosiers.” Dudich will continue in his current role through the conclusion of the legislative session and depart the administration in mid-May. Gov. Holcomb will appoint a replacement in the near future.

GOVERNOR: STATE BANKING ON HARDWOODS - Hardwoods are big business in southern Indiana. In Daviess County alone, more than an estimated 100 businesses are converting hardwoods to viable products that are sold throughout the country and throughout the world. But the state believes hardwoods offer even more potential and has unveiled a plan to try and capture more money tied to the business as well as the Indiana Hardwoods Strategy (Grant, Washington Herald-Times). “Indiana is renowned for producing high quality hardwood timber, yet more than $230 million of sawmill products are coming from outside the state,” said Indiana Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch. “With demand there and our robust, sustainable forest resource base, we want to provide that supply chain link and help capture some of that economic activity in Indiana.” The state estimates that the hardwoods industry contributes more than $10 billion to the state’s economy and supports over 70,000 high wage jobs. Officials also estimate that for every 10 jobs created directly by hardwoods there are another eight supporting the industry.

GOVERNOR: STATE REVENUE FALLS SHORT - Indiana revenue fell short of the most recent projections for the second consecutive month. The Indiana State Budget Agency says General Fund revenues totaled more than $786 million in February, 2.3 percent below the December revenue forecast and more than 3 percent lower than the same month last year (Brown, Inside Indiana Business). Sales tax collections, individual income tax collections, and riverboat wagering collections were all below the monthly estimate. However, corporate tax collections and racino wagering collections were both above projections. "Overall, for the month of February, the combination of higher corporate tax refunds and lower than expected collections from sales and use taxes and individual income taxes weighed on net General Fund revenues," the agency says. "Significant monthly fluctuations are expected and revenues are better interpreted within the context of the longer term trend for fiscal year 2019 as April and June are by far the months with the most revenue activity." Year-to-date, the state has collected more than $9.8 billion, which is only three-tenths of a percent below the revenue forecast and 3 percent higher than totals through the same period in the previous fiscal year. The revenue forecast was most recently revised in December.

GAMING: REVENUE STABLE IN FEBRUARY - Northwest Indiana's casinos recorded a small increase in gaming revenue in February, taking a significant bite out of January's cold start to the year (NWI Times). Casinos along the Lake Michigan shore had $72.1 million in gaming win, according to the Indiana Gaming Commission, up 1.5 percent from February 2018. February's gain left the casinos down about 4.7 percent on the year. The Region's smaller casinos had particularly strong months, with Blue Chip in Michigan City taking in $11.9 million, an 8.4 percent increase, and the two Majestic Star casinos in Gary growing revenue 7.4 percent, to $12.7 million. East Chicago's Ameristar casino had a win just over $17 million, down 2 percent from last year, while Horseshoe Hammond took in $30.6 million, off 1.3 percent from last February. Play at Horseshoe was up at both its table games and slot machines, but the casino's table win was down considerably from a year ago. "We did have a lot of players play lucky," Horseshoe Vice President and Assistant General Manager Noah Hirsch said. Statewide, casinos and racetracks brought in $172.2 million in February, 1.2 percent more than February 2018. Chicago-area casinos on the Illinois side of the state line saw a decline of 4.7 percent, Hirsch said.

HEALTH: 53 HOOSIERS DIE OF FLU - Although it hasn't seemed quite as severe as the past few years, the Indiana State Department of Health says they have still recorded just over four dozen deaths from flu-related illness so far during the 2018-19 season. The number of deaths is at 53 (WRTV). Flu activity remains widespread throughout the state, according to the latest flu activity report released on Friday, March 8. Flu deaths this season have varied some, but most have been adults aged 65 and over. Eight deaths recorded by the state health department were in patients younger than 50.

INDOT: WORK ON I-69 SECTION 6 BEGINS IN MARTINSVILLE - Crews will get to work on the final leg of the I-69 extension in Morgan County next week (WTHR-TV). INDOT said in a release Friday the warmer weather in the forecast will allow contractors to get to work on I-69 Section 6 work in Martinsville. Workers will be clearing brush, placing erosion control and working on right-of-way for bridge and roadway construction in the future. The department said work will be limited to the area around South Street and Home Avenue, Grand Valley Boulevard east of SR 37 and on Cramertown Loop south of Florida Avenue.

EDUCATION: IU DEAN HEADED TO TEXAS - The dean of Indiana University’s College of Arts and Sciences is headed to Texas (Bloomington Herald-Times). Larry Singell, an economics professor who was named executive dean of the largest and oldest division at IU in 2011, has been appointed senior vice provost for resource management at the University of Texas at Austin starting July 1. He will succeed Dan Slesnick, who has served in this role since 2010.

EDUCATION: IU SLOWS DOWN HOUSING EXPANSION -  Indiana University has hit the pause button on a plan to add beds and dining space after bids were higher than anticipated (AP). A school vice president, Tom Morrison, says the new completion date is fall 2021, not 2020. He tells The Herald-Times that a bid for the housing portion of the project came in at $64 million in February, a few months after an earlier round with low bids of $72 million. There's been no bidding yet on the dining hall portion of the project. Indiana University trustees approved the project a year ago. Provost Lauren Robel says students are turned away from campus housing each year because of tight supply.

ENERGY: NIPSCO PLANNING $660M IN UPGRADES - Construction season will be ramping up soon and for Northern Indiana Public Service Co., it promises to be a busy one (Michigan City News-Dispatch). NIPSCO will be continuing to upgrade its electric and gas infrastructure across northern Indiana, with nearly $660 million in planned investments this year, according to spokesman Nick Meyer. Several of those projects will be in La Porte County. "This reinvestment is part of NIPSCO’s overall ongoing modernization plan to ensure long-term safety and reliability for customers," he said.

MEDIA: PETE THE PLANNER COMING TO IBJ - IBJ has added comedian-turned-money man Peter Dunn’s Pete the Planner column to its roster, starting March 15, when it will appear in the paper’s print edition and at Dunn will focus on helping readers build wealth and keep it and will write for IBJ every other week. “We’re thrilled to have Pete join our lineup of writers,” said IBJ Editor Greg Andrews. “He’s developed a strong following not just locally but nationally, with financial guidance that’s indispensable for everyone from young professionals to longtime CEOs.” Dunn, 41, is the author of 10 books, including a series called “Your Money Life,” to guide readers through decades of financial decision making. Dunn is host of “The Pete the Planner Show” on WIBC-FM 93.1 and has appeared regularly on CNN Headline News, Fox News, Fox Business and a number of nationally syndicated radio programs. Dunn wrote his Pete the Planner column for The Indianapolis Star for six years before the paper eliminated it as part of a cost-cutting move in January. Dunn still writes a column for USA Today.

MEDIA: MAUREEN McFADDEN WINDS UP WNDU CAREER - Forty years in one job doesn’t happen often anymore. However, Maureen McFadden did that at WNDU. “I was blessed to do this job for nearly 40 years,” she said. “I have to thank the viewers” (South Bend Tribune). Friday is the start of the next phase of life for her when she anchors her final evening news show at 6 p.m. and begins retirement. “Yes, it is the Ides of March. Lots of people are reminding me of that,” she said. Emotional day? Maybe? Probably. There was some emotion already when she received a Sagamore of the Wabash from Gov. Eric Holcomb. Later, brother and co-anchor Terry McFadden announced that she would be inducted in the Indiana AP Hall of Fame.

SPORTS: PURDUE WINS 24TH BIG 10 TITLE - Carsen Edwards scored 21 points and No. 11 Purdue clinched a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship with a 70-57 victory over Northwestern on Saturday. It is Purdue's 24th Big Ten title (AP). The Boilermakers (23-8, 16-4) secured the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament in Chicago and a share of their second regular-season title in three years. They came in tied with Michigan State and Michigan, who played each other on Saturday night. Edwards, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, made just 6 of 18 shots. Nojel Eastern scored a career-high 15 points, and the Boilermakers bounced back from a loss at Minnesota on Tuesday to win for the 14th time in 16 games.


WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP BUDGET BANKS ON HIGH GROWTH - The White House’s budget proposal assumes the U.S. economy will keep expanding as briskly as it did last year, when a tax cut and government spending increase boosted growth, according to a preview of the materials to be released Monday (Wall Street Journal). The fiscal year 2020 budget projects much stronger growth than many independent forecasters, who see the economy slowing this year as the effects of those fiscal stimulus measures wane. But the Trump administration, which hit its forecasts for 2018, expects that deregulation and changes to the tax code will keep the expansion humming again this year. The White House forecasts the economy will grow about 3% annually over the next decade, though it expects a bigger near-term boost, with output rising 3.2% this year before declining to 3.1% in 2020, 3.0% in 2021 and 2.8% in 2026, according to projections viewed by The Wall Street Journal. The economy grew 3.1% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, its highest rate in nearly four years and in line with the projection made in President Trump’s budget proposal last year. “Basically the modeling that we did [for] last year nailed last year,” said Kevin Hassett, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. “So we think those models are still the best indicator of what should happen going forward.”

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP TO NOMINATE BERNHARDT FOR INTERIOR - President Donald Trump intends to nominate David Bernhardt of Virginia to be Secretary of Interior, according to a statement from the White House Friday afternoon (ABC News). Bernhardt currently serves as Acting Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Interior a position he took on after the departure of Secretary Ryan Zinke. During his tenure in office, Zinke generated headlines about ethics investigations and criticism of his actions favoring industry.

WHITE HOUSE: BILL SHINE EXITS TO CAMPAIGN - Bill Shine, the former Fox News executive who joined the White House staff last summer to manage President Trump’s communications operation, has resigned and will move to the president’s re-election campaign, the White House announced Friday (New York Times). Mr. Shine’s abrupt departure came as a surprise to many in the White House and was revealed, as such personnel moves often are in this administration, as the president was on Air Force One leaving Washington. While described by admiring White House colleagues as a rare adult in the room, Mr. Shine has sometimes been absent during key moments, including the president’s trip last week to Vietnam. Colleagues said he had developed little chemistry with Mr. Trump, and critics increasingly focused on Mr. Shine’s ties to Fox, where he was forced out for his handling of sexual harassment claims.

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP SIGNS BIBLES IN ALABAMA - President Donald Trump was just doing what he could to raise spirits when he signed Bibles at an Alabama church for survivors of a deadly tornado outbreak, many religious leaders say, though some are offended and others say he could have handled it differently (AP). Hershael York, dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary School of Theology in Louisville, Kentucky, said he didn’t have a problem with Trump signing Bibles, like former presidents have, because he was asked and because it was important to the people who were asking. “Though we don’t have a national faith, there is faith in our nation, and so it’s not at all surprising that people would have politicians sign their Bibles,” he said. “Those Bibles are meaningful to them and apparently these politicians are, too.”

WHITE HOUSE: U.S., CHINA NEAR CURRENCY DEAL - China’s top central banker signaled that Beijing and Washington are getting close to reaching a currency deal as part of their continuing negotiations to settle a yearlong trade battle (Wall Street Journal). “Both sides have reached consensus on many crucial and important issues,” People’s Bank of China Gov. Yi Gang said at a news conference Sunday, held on the sidelines of the nation’s annual legislative session. As part of the accord, Mr. Yi said, China won’t engage in competitive devaluation to give Chinese exporters a leg up in foreign markets—a commitment Chinese officials have also made in multilateral agreements such as those among the Group of 20 industrial nations. “This is what we promised,” he emphasized. “Absolutely we won’t do this.”


CITIES: LEBANON PD CHIEF DEMOTED FOR OFFENSIVE POST - The Lebanon chief of police has been removed from office and will serve the department in the patrol division after a comment he made on Facebook in 2017 resurfaced, the department said Friday via social media (WIBC). Tyson Warmoth became chief of Lebanon Police Department in 2016 after 20 years at the department in a variety of roles. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, according to the Lebanon Police Department website. According to a statement from Warmoth on the department's Facebook page, he "made a crude and offensive comment in jest" on his adult son's personal Facebook page in February 2017, which was recently posted as an image on someone else's personal Facebook page. The statement includes an apology from Warmoth to the people of Lebanon and the mayor and explains that he accepted the decision to be removed from office and "will continue to do my best to protect and serve as I return to the Patrol Division." Deputy Chief Brad Bailey will serve as interim police chief as the city considers candidates for chief, Mayor Matt Gentry said Friday.

CITIES: BEDFORD WRAPPING UP STELLAR PROJECTS - It’s been five years, but the City of Bedford is nearly finished with a major downtown revitalization project. The city worked with community members to prioritize the things they thought would improve the quality of life in Bedford (Ceylan, Indiana Public Media). Bedford was awarded a Stellar Communities grant in 2013. But Mayor Shawna Girgis says preparations actually started long before that, when the city published its first comprehensive plan in 25 years in 2010. Girgis says the initial comprehensive plan for Bedford’s renovations was too broad for the Stellar Communities project. “So after getting that first year’s feedback, of course we went back to the drawing board and said ‘okay, what can we do different, how should we approach that?’ So we really narrowed our scope just to the downtown area,” Girgis says. As part of the Stellar Communities project, the city relocated the historic train depot, renovated downtown building facades and moved Stonegate Arts & Education Center into its new location at the Girgis Building on the town square. The city also worked with the county government to beautify the courthouse square.

COUNTIES: VIGO ISSUES HEP A ADVISORY - Indiana is one of several states experiencing a hepatitis A outbreak, according to a news release from the Vigo County Health Department (Terre Haute Tribune0-Star).  Hepatitis A is usually spread person-to-person when someone accidentally consumes stool (feces) of someone with hepatitis A or by consuming food or water contaminated with the virus. During this outbreak, the hepatitis A virus has been spread person-to-person; no contaminated food or water has been identified. The Vigo County Health Department is urging individuals who have close contact with someone who has hepatitis A get vaccinated. Close contact includes living in the same household, sexual contact, and/or sharing needles.

COUNTIES: HOWARD HEALTH OFFICIALS WARY OF MEASLES - Cases of the measles have been reported so far this year in 11 states, including Illinois and Kentucky. The Howard County Health Department is asking residents to be on the lookout and take precautions to avoid catching the highly contagious infection (Kokomo Tribune). Six outbreaks have been reported so far this year in parts of New York, Washington, Texas and Illinois, according to the Center for Disease Control. An outbreak is defined as three or more measles cases. No cases have been reported in Indiana, and officials hope to keep it that way, said Karen Long, a registered nurse with the Howard County Health Department. “If one person has measles, it’s considered a public health emergency, because it’s that contagious,” she said. “If that happens, it’s all hands on deck.”