BOMB CYCLONE HEADS TO INDIANA: The Indianapolis National Weather Service office is warning of sustained winds nearing hurricane force across the state this afternoon (Howey Politics Indiana). "Peak wind gusts of 45 to 55 MPH with locally higher amounts," the NWS said early this morning. Impacts include broken limbs and a few downed trees, which may bring down power lines and cause scattered power outages. High profile vehicles may find travel difficult, especially on east to west oriented roadways. In addition to high winds, the state faces a threat of tornadoes and hail this afternoon and early evening. Nearly 3,100 flights have been canceled over two days as a "bomb cyclone" makes its way across parts of the country, unleashing blizzard conditions and hurricane-force winds (CNN). More than 2,000 flights were canceled Wednesday and an additional 1,021 had been dropped by the early morning Thursday, according to data from Flightaware.com.

INDIANA OPIOID PRESCRIPTIONS FALL 13%: Indiana health systems are seeing a reduction in opioid prescriptions in response to the state’s epidemic (Sheridan, Indiana Public Media). New numbers show IU Health reduced prescriptions by 13 percent last year compared to 2017, and by 36 percent in emergency departments. Indiana University Health took measures to address opioid overprescribing at about the same time the state made moves.  By integrating the state’s prescription monitoring system with its own, IU Health now tracks every opioid prescription. It has also established guidelines for best practices when prescribing. IU Health Chief Medical Executive Jonathan Gottlieb says this has allowed prescribers to reassess their practices. "I think Brandeis said ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant.’ There is very little else we’ve needed to do so far, other than showing the data," says Gottlieb. 

TRUMP GROUNDS BOEING 737MAX: The Trump administration is grounding Boeing's 737 MAX 8 airliners, in a reversal that comes after dozens of other countries and foreign-owned airlines sidelined the jet following two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia (Politico). The action represents a rare case in which other countries — including allies such as Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany and the European Union — refused to follow the lead of the FAA in dealing with the safety of a U.S.-made aircraft. Even more strikingly, the U.S. bowed to the pressure. The groundings will affect domestic airlines such as Southwest and American, which include the 737 MAX as a significant part of their fleets.

DONNELLY JOINS DC LAW FIRM: Former U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly has joined the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP as a partner in its public law and policy practice (IBJ). Donnelly, a Democrat who lost his re-election bid to Republican Mike Braun in November, will advise clients in the financial services, defense and health care industries, among others. His first day will be April 1. “We have long been known as a go-to firm in the public policy space thanks to our deep bench of bipartisan talent with significant Capitol Hill experience, and Sen. Donnelly continues that tradition,” Akin Gump chairp Kim Koopersmith said in a written statement. “Joe is the latest in a long line of distinguished former members of Congress who have chosen to continue their careers at Akin Gump, and I couldn’t be happier that he is joining us.” “Akin Gump maintains a reputation of hosting a preeminent public policy practice and is home to a fantastic and deep bipartisan team, and joining the firm was an easy decision for me,” Donnelly said in written remarks. “I look forward to working with my many new colleagues and putting my legislative skills to work on behalf of many of Akin Gump’s clients.”

BUTTIGIEG CALLS FOR HATE CRIME LAW PASSAGE: In his final State of the City address Tuesday, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg expressed his conviction that the State of Indiana adopt what he calls meaningful hate crimes legislation (Indiana Public Media). Buttigieg was enthusiastically greeted by the crowd gathered at the Morris Performing Arts Center as the Democratic presidential hopeful returned to his day job to tout the city’s accomplishments during his eight years in office. "The South Bend Common Council has expressed its support, as has Governor Holcomb; and yet the state assembly has been unable to deliver," Buttigieg said. "Our community stands strong in the belief that this year should be Indiana’s last as one of just five states in the union without such a law at a time like this." Last month, the Republican led Senate passed a bill that stripped a list of characteristics from proposed hate crimes legislation. The bill now awaits action in the House.

MAYOR BENNETT SAYS CASINO MOVE NOT AN ‘EXPANSION’: Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett says moving a Gary casino to his city should not be deemed an "expansion of gaming" (Hren, Indiana Public Media). "The casino bill as we've been calling it here in Terre Haute keeps moving forward, it's passed the Senate and now in the House, but still a ways to go. But it's the farthest it's ever been? Bennett: Yes, last time we couldn't get it out of the Senate, but it was a different model because we were going to create a satellite gaming facility and what's changed now is that you're taking an existing license and just moving it somewhere. So there's not an expansion of gaming because in my opinion you'll have the same number of licenses in the state of Indiana. There's multiple bills here, there's a house bill and two senate bills that all had some form of gaming in it. The Gary thing is an economic development bill, but it includes the casino for Vigo County, so right now it's still unclear about which bill survives or do they split those bills, so I just don't know how it's going to play out."

INDY DESCRIBED AS EMERGING TECH HUB: More startup founders are forgoing Bay Area and its sky-high rents and intense competition for engineering talent. Instead, they're setting up shop in places like Austin, Seattle, Indianapolis and even New Mexico, Axios' Ina Fried writes from S.F. (Axios). Why it matters: As tech becomes a growing part of the economy, Silicon Valley doesn't have to be home to most new startups. Where to go: As for which cities will benefit, Bloomberg Beta partner Roy Bahat said to look at where Google, Apple and others are setting up shop. "If you want to see where founders of the future will go, look at where today's successful companies are opening new offices," he said. "Every hire in one of those offices could be tomorrow's extraordinary founder." That means cities like Seattle, Portland and Austin that already have their share of tech growth — but also emerging tech hubs like Atlanta, Northern Virginia and Indianapolis.

SENATE POISED TO REBUKE TRUMP EMERGENCY DECLARATION: The Senate prepared Wednesday to rebuke President Trump over his national emergency declaration at the U.S.-Mexico border, after Trump rejected a GOP compromise aimed at curtailing presidential emergency powers in the future (Washington Post). Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who was leading the compromise efforts, announced plans to defect and vote for a resolution to nullify Trump’s emergency declaration when it comes to the floor on Thursday. Lee made the announcement shortly after hearing directly from Trump that his legislation was not acceptable. “For decades, Congress has been giving far too much legislative power to the executive branch. While there was attention on the issue I had hoped the ARTICLE ONE Act could begin to take that power back,” Lee said in a statement, referring to his legislation giving Congress a greater say in national emergency declarations. U.S. Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun say they will back the president (Howey Politics Indiana).

GEORGE CONWAY SAYS TRUMP HAS 'PATHOLOGICAL LIAR' DISORDER: The husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway blasted President Trump on Wednesday, claiming Trump has a problem with "pathological” lying (Fox News). George Conway, an attorney who has become an outspoken critic of the president via Twitter messages, posted a thread that began when he called out Trump for claiming that Judge Amy Berman Jackson's sentencing of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort earlier in the day had exonerated the president from the Russian collusion narrative. “Have we ever seen this degree of brazen, pathological mendacity in American public life?" Conway asked in a tweet. "One day he makes a harmless slip of the tongue, something any mentally balanced person would laugh off. But instead he lies about it. He denies what the world can see on videotape. Even his donors and supporters wonder, what is wrong with him? Why would he feel compelled to tell such an absurd lie?"

COHN SAYS TRUMP 'DESPERATE' FOR CHINA TRADE DEAL: Gary Cohn, President Trump’s former top economic adviser, says the president is “desperate” to reach a trade deal with China and is being ill-served by protectionist advisers who have left the White House “living in chaos” on major decisions (Washington Post). “The president needs a win,” Cohn said in an interview with Freakonomics, a public radio show and podcast. Trump expects a China deal to boost the stock market, which has treaded water for the past year, the former aide said. Cohn cast doubt on the president’s ability to obtain fundamental changes in China’s state-led economic system, one of his core negotiating objectives. “I think market access, the Chinese will give because they’ve been close to giving it for a while. But how are we going to stop the Chinese from stealing intellectual property or not paying for it?” he said. “How are we going to stop them from copyright infringement? What is the enforcement mechanism, and what are the punitive damages if they don’t stop?” At the White House on Wednesday, the president told reporters he is “not in a hurry” to reach a deal with Beijing and said “there’s always a chance” the talks could fail. But he also has expressed an eagerness to host a signing summit at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida for Chinese President Xi Jinping.

IU HOOPS IS LUCRATIVE: Forbes rates the most valuable college basketball teams and we are in the epicenter of hoops fortune: 1. Louisville ($50 million plus revenue), No. 2. Kentucky ($49 million), No. 3 Indiana ($35 million), No. 4 Duke ($33 million), and No. 5. Kansas ($32 million). Ohio State is No. 6, Illinois No. 9, Wisconsin No. 10, Michigan State Nov. 12 and Michigan No. 15.

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett maintains that moving a Gary casino to his city isn't an "expansion of gaming." That's a well-worn phrase we've heard over the past two decades. Moving a casino from one city to another isn't an expansion. It's reshaping the markets. - Brian A. Howey



Campaigns

BUTTIGIEG HAS 55K DONORS: Mayor Pete Buttigieg's presidential exploratory effort is closing in on its donor goal (Howey Politics Indiana). "Earlier this week, we announced some fundraising statistics: In the 24 hours immediately following the CNN Town Hall, we raised $600,000 from over 22,200 donations," Buttigieg said in an email. "Here's what's more exciting: We are 85% of the way to the 65,000-donor metric required to be invited to the DNC debate. As of this morning, 55,359 people across the country have invested in this bold vision for our future."

BUTTIGIEG ENDORSES EQUALITY ACT: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg released the following statement on the federal Equality Act, which would protect LGBTQ+ Americans from discrimination in employment, housing, and public spaces. He also addressed the issue in his recent CNN Town Hall (Howey Politics Indiana). "Fifty years ago, courageous gay and transgender people stood up at Stonewall for the right to be recognized as equal Americans. It's time to finally implement a federal Equality Act that extends civil rights protections to all Americans, regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation. This bill is commonsense, bipartisan, and will ensure that LGBTQ+ Americans in the thirty states like Indiana where discrimination is effectively legal will have the same rights and protections as the rest of America. In this country, you should not be discriminated against because of who you are or who you love."

BETO ENTERS DEMOCRATIC RACE: Beto O’Rourke, the 46-year-old former Texas congressman whose near-miss Senate run last year propelled him to Democratic stardom, joined the presidential race on Thursday, betting that voters will prize his message of national unity and generational change in a 2020 primary teeming with committed progressives (New York Times). His decision jolts an early election season already stuffed with contenders, adding to the mix a relentless campaigner with a small-dollar fund-raising army, the performative instincts of a former punk rocker and a pro-immigrant vision to counteract President Trump’s. Yet Mr. O’Rourke also comes to the 2020 race with few notable legislative accomplishments after three terms in the House representing El Paso. And in a primary so far defined by big-ticket policy ideas, like the economic agendas of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Mr. O’Rourke enters without a signature proposal that might serve as the ideological anchor of his bid.

General Assembly

ADOPTION BILL PASSES HOUSE: If Hoosiers post online that they’re interested in adopting a child, they’re technically committing a crime in the state of Indiana (Smith, Indiana Public Media). Lawmakers aim to fix what they call an “unintended consequence” of state law. A 2007 Indiana law makes it illegal for anyone other than licensed adoption agencies and attorneys to advertise adoption services in the phone book. A 2017 update expanded that to any advertisements, including online. Adoption attorney Steve Kirsh says that created a problem. “They may advertise on Facebook: ‘We’ve been trying to adopt. If you know of a woman who is pregnant, let us know. We’d love to expand our family,’" Kirsh says. "Under current law, that’s a felony.” Proposed legislation loosens that restriction – it would allow people to advertise that they’re trying to adopt a child, on their own behalf. The bill cleared the House unanimously. And a Senate committee has now sent it to the floor without any objections.

BUS CAMERA BILL SPARKS TALK OF PROFITS: A plan to use camera enforcement for nabbing motorists who pass stopped school buses when children are boarding or departing has been revised in the hope of avoiding the appearance of policing for profit (Carden, NWI Times). On Wednesday, the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee amended Senate Bill 2 to bar school bus camera enforcement from becoming a source of profit or ongoing revenue for either schools or camera vendors. The legislation, which last month passed the Senate 49-0, originally permitted a camera company to receive, following the deduction of court costs, up to 25 percent of camera enforcement fines for however long a school agreed to share the money, even indefinitely. The revised measure states that schools can share civil penalties collected through camera enforcement only until the cost of installing the cameras is met. State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, the sponsor, said his goal is not for anyone to make money off camera enforcement, but to use it as a deterrent for Hoosiers who might be tempted to drive past a school bus while its stop-arm is extended. "I'm trying to make this so that any vendor who wishes to participate, and any school system that wishes to get this done, that they won't profit going forward," Head said. "We'll just get cameras in the hands of schools without an unfunded mandate."

HOUSE GOP SUGGESTS CUTTING LOW INCOME EDUCATION FUNDS: Indiana House Republicans want to cut more than $105 million from state funds earmarked for students from low-income families. While the updated budget proposal would free up money to boost the per-student dollars the state provides to all districts, many of the state’s wealthier districts stand to benefit more than their higher-need urban counterparts (Cavazos, Chalkbeat). The proposed cuts, if they make it into the final budget, would take place over the next two years. For Indianapolis Public Schools, that could mean $7 million less to meet the needs of its students from low-income families between now and 2021. Indiana’s state Senate is expected to unveil its budget proposal in the coming weeks. Although urban districts tend to get more money per student than their suburban counterparts, educators in city schools say that money is needed to support children who come to school with more trauma and challenges. “If we’re talking about our students who are living in poverty and trying to break that poverty cycle … those are the students that we really need to be investing in,” Jeff Butts, superintendent of Wayne Township, Marion County’s second-largest school district, said. “And, yet, we’re doing just the opposite.”

UTILITY BILL HEARING TODAY: The Senate Utilities committee will hear testimony today on a bill that would make it easier for utilities to raise rates with less scrutiny (IndyStar). Critics call House Bill 1470 a "blank check" for utilities. Supporters meanwhile say it would give utilities the flexibility to upgrade aging infrastructure.



Congress

YOUNG VIDEO ON GREEN NEW DEAL: U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the so-called “Green New Deal” and its potential harm to Hoosier farmers (Howey Politics Indiana). “Agriculture is a main driver of our state’s economy, and it is often said that Indiana feeds the world, so we need our ag community to continue thriving,” said Senator Young. “And yet, the sponsors of the Green New Deal have spoken about cutting back on the farming practices that employ Hoosiers and put food on the table.” “Imagine the crushing cost to Hoosiers farmers of changing out all farm equipment for electric vehicles. Or the cost of upgrading every single building on every farm in Indiana. This is on top of the sharp climb energy prices would take under the Green New Deal,”Senator Young added. “This bad deal would force the cost of doing business to skyrocket for Hoosier manufacturers and farmers, which would mean higher prices for consumers and less money in the pockets of hardworking Hoosiers.”

SENATE REBUKES TRUMP ON YEMEN: The Senate voted Wednesday to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, its latest rebuke of the Trump administration’s continued embrace of the Saudi monarchy despite growing frustration among lawmakers with its actions on the world stage (Washington Post). The 54-to-46 vote marks the second time in recent months that the Senate has rejected the United States’ continued participation in Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, waged in the name of holding back Iran’s expansion in the region. But the Saudi-led effort, which has at times targeted civilian facilities and prevented aid shipments from getting to Yemenis, has been faulted by human rights organizations for exacerbating what the United Nations has deemed the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe. “We should not be associated with a bombing campaign that the U.N. tells us is likely a gross violation of human rights,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

SENATE CONFIRMS RAO TO REPLACE KAVANAUGH: The Senate confirmed President Donald Trump’s judicial nominee Neomi Rao Wednesday to the nation’s second highest court despite initial concerns raised by a handful of Republicans over her prior writing on sexual assault and her position on abortion (Politico). In a 53-46 vote along party lines, the Senate approved Rao to replace Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) did not vote.

NADLER SAYS WHITAKER CHANGED STORY ON COHEN: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said former Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker contradicted previous testimony before the committee in a closed hearing on Tuesday. According to Nadler, Whitaker did not deny talking to President Trump about Michael Cohen (CBS News). "Unlike in the hearing room, Mr. Whitaker did not deny that the president called him to discuss Michael Cohen -- the Michael Cohen case, and personnel decisions in the Southern District," Nadler said Wednesday. Whitaker denied he had spoken to Mr. Trump about his former attorney, who is now cooperating with the special counsel's office, in testimony last month.

State

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB EMPHASIZES STATE TIES WITH GERMANY - Gov. Eric Holcomb's trade mission emphasized the state's ties to Germany (Howey Politics Indiana). “There’s no substitute for meeting prospects and partners face-to-face and on their home soil," Holcomb said. "We’ll go from Frankfort, Indiana to Frankfurt, Germany and all points in between in our mission to bring more jobs and investment to Indiana.” Holcomb visited CEOs and U.S. military troops while in Frankfurt. Holcomb also met with U.S. Amabassador Richard Grennell. The IEDC reported that Holcomb and the delegate wrapped up activities with a Friends of Indiana reception in Frankfurt, thanking our business leaders, government officials and academic partners for their contributions to the Hoosier state. In Stuttgart, Holcomb visited the headquarters of Coperion GmbH, a subsidiary of Indiana-based Hillenbrand Inc.

BMV: MAILING PROCESS UNDER REVIEW -  Another central Indiana driver has turned to RTV6 for help following a story the newsroom first told audiences on Sunday. For seven weeks Thomas Ballock has been waiting for his license plate. After emailing the BMV, he found the plate was returned as "undeliverable" on February 13. A month later, still nothing and now he's driving around with an expired plate. Ballock finally reached out to the Danville Post Office. "They had received something like 25 complaints during the past month alone about BMV mailings not being delivered," he said. After RTV6's original story about an Avon couple also waiting for weeks for their plates, the BMV said they weren't aware of a backlog of delivery issues. Further stating, all sealed envelopes are routed through a mail sorting center, with an address verification process.

HEALTH: INDIANA TO OPEN NEW PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL - he Family and Social Services Administration will dedicate and open Indiana's newest state psychiatric hospital on Friday (IBJ). The agency said the NeuroDiagnostic Institute on Indianapolis' east side is Indiana's first new psychiatric hospital in more than 50 years. It said the institute will deliver advanced treatment for patients with the most challenging neuropsychiatric illnesses and move them more efficiently into the most appropriate treatment settings within a community or the state mental health system.

HEALTH: INDIANA OBESITY RATE CLIMBS - Obesity has increased dramatically in Indiana during the past two decades, a scourge that is now costing the state $8.5 billion a year, a new study says (Russell, IBJ). More than one in three Hoosiers—34 percent—is obese, up from 20 percent in 1995, making Indiana the 12th highest state in the nation for obesity per capita, according to a report released Thursday morning by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. In Marion County, 39 percent of residents are obese, the 11th highest rate among large U.S. cities.

EDUCATION: OBERGFELL TO SPEAK AT NOTRE DAME - Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case that led to the landmark ruling that made same-sex marriage legal throughout the United States, will speak about marriage equality at 12:30 p.m. March 27 at the University of Notre Dame (South Bend Tribune). The event, which is free and open to the public, will be McCartan Courtroom at Notre Dame Law School. Greg Bourke, a 1982 Notre Dame graduate, and Michael DeLeon, two additional plaintiffs, also will speak, discussing their experiences with the case as lifelong Catholics. Notre Dame law professor Patricia Hackett, a constitutional scholar, will serve as the moderator.

ENVIRONMENT: GROUP THREATENS TO SUE EPA - Midwest environmental groups are threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for delaying action on polluted rivers and streams in Indiana (Thiele, Indiana Public Media). The Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and the Hoosier Environmental Council sent a letter Wednesday giving the EPA 60 days notice of their lawsuit.  They say the EPA was supposed to approve or deny the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s impaired waters list within 30 days of submission. ELPC’s Associate Attorney Alda Yuan says it’s been about six months. “So they really haven’t done their duty and we want them to do it so that Indiana can get moving on these impaired waters,” she says.



Nation

WHITE HOUSE: PENCE CONTINUES EMERGENCY PITCH - Vice President Mike Pence urged Republicans on Capitol Hill to back President Trump’s national emergency declaration at the southern border during an interview set to air on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning. There is has been recent chatter that there could be enough Senate Republican opposition to nix the measure, which was passed as part of a Trump strategy to fund his long-promised border wall. That, in turn, could lead to President Trump's first veto in office. For his part, Pence hopes it won’t come to a veto, and that Republicans will back the president. “A vote against the president's national emergency declaration is a vote to deny the humanitarian and security crisis that's happening at our southern border. So we're urging every member of the Senate set politics aside to recognize that we have a crisis,” he told "Fox & Friends’" Pete Hegseth.

WHITE HOUSE: PENCE VISITS CUSTOMS TRAINING CENTER - Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielson toured the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Advanced Training Facility Wednesday (Metro News). Vice President Pence spoke to a room full of agents. He expressed the Trump administration’s support of federal law enforcement and thanked them for their patience during the partial government shutdown. “The president and I are grateful for the men and women of CBP (Customs and Border Patrol), DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and all who enforce our laws. Especially I want to say thank you to all of you who stood tall and stayed on mission through those 35 days. You never wavered.”

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP SCHEDULE - President Trump will participate in the arrival of and then meet with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office at 10:50 a.m. Then they will participate in an expanded bilateral meeting before Trump participates in Varadkar's departure at 11:35 a.m. Trump will leave the White House at 11:50 a.m. en route to the Capitol for the Friends of Ireland luncheon. He will leave the Capitol at 1:30 p.m. for the White House. Trump and first lady Melania Trump will participate in the Shamrock Bowl presentation by Varadkar at 6 p.m. in the East Room.

MEDIA: CARLSON COMMENTS SIGNAL BRAWL - This week's controversy over statements made by Fox News Channel's Tucker Carlson is as much about a high-stakes battle over the network's financial future as it is over what he said on a radio show a decade ago (AP). The liberal advocacy group Media Matters for America this week released two batches of recordings Carlson made as a guest on radio's "Bubba the Love Sponge Show" between 2006 and 2011, before he worked at Fox. The release was timed to coincide with Fox's meeting with advertisers on Wednesday, the first time it has ever made a sales pitch that for most television networks is a rite of spring. In the tapes, Carlson made remarks minimizing statutory rape, used sexist slurs to refer to specific women and referred to Iraq as "a crappy place filled with a bunch of, you know, semiliterate primitive monkeys." Fox's prime-time host has responded by attacking Media Matters and vowing that "we will never bow to the mob."

MUELLER: A 1-2 PUNCH FOR MANAFORT - First, Donald Trump’s former campaign chair was sentenced to a total of 7.5 years in federal prison for a decade's worth of financial and lobbying crimes, conspiracy and obstruction of justice (Cillizza, CNN). If you’ll recall, these charges stem from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election, though they do not involve collusion or conspiracy related to the election. Manafort’s judge, Amy Berman Jackson, addressed the court today, saying Manafort "is not public enemy No. 1. He’s not a victim, either." While Manafort’s legal team -- and people such as President Donald Trump -- say the case proves there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Berman Jackson says that is "simply a non sequitur." And despite Manafort’s apologies to the courtroom in Washington, his lawyers' arguments about the absence of any charges directly linked to collusion were "just one more thing that's inconsistent with the notion of any genuine acceptance of responsibility," Berman Jackson said. Less than an HOUR later, Manafort got a one-two punch, of sorts, when the Manhattan district attorney announced state fraud charges against him.

NEW YORK: MANAFORT INDICTED ON MORTGAGE FRAUD - The Manhattan District Attorney on Wednesday indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in connection to a mortgage fraud scheme, announcing the charges within minutes of his sentencing in federal court in Washington, D.C. (The Hill). District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced 16 charges against Manafort, including residential mortgage fraud, attempted mortgage fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracy. Prosecutors said Manafort engaged in the scheme over the course of roughly a year, from December 2015 until January 2017. The 11-page indictment, filed in New York Supreme Court in New York City, alleges that Manafort falsified business records to obtain millions of dollars in mortgage loans. “No one is beyond the law in New York,” Vance said in a statement. "I thank our prosecutors for their meticulous investigation, which has yielded serious criminal charges for which the defendant has not been held accountable," he added.

NEW YORK: GAMBINO CRIME FAMILY LEADER GUNNED DOWN - A man said by federal prosecutors to have been a top leader of New York’s notorious Gambino crime family was shot and killed Wednesday on Staten Island (Wall Street Journal). Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali, 53, was found with multiple gunshot wounds to his body at his home in the borough’s Todt Hill section just after 9 p.m. Cali was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. There have been no arrests.

ILLINOIS: CHICAGO SKYLINE TO BE RESHAPED - Chicago’s skyline could extend all the way south to McCormick Place, under a multibillion-dollar development plan unveiled Wednesday that would create a row of gleaming skyscrapers atop a massive new transit center (Chicago Tribune). The preliminary plan envisions millions of square feet of high-rises constructed on a platform covering Metra tracks above the level of Lake Shore Drive. The site runs just west of Lake Shore Drive between the Field Museum and McCormick. The centerpiece of the development would be a transit center southwest of Soldier Field, across Lake Shore Drive that would link Metra, CTA and Amtrak trains.

SPORTS: CBS WILL UNVEIL FULL NCAA BRACKET AT 6 SUNDAY - CBS will kick off March Madness at 6 p.m. Sunday by revealing the bracket right away, rather than dragging it out region by region, per AP. "We're going back to basics," said Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports. "We're going to release the brackets as fast as we can."

Local

CITIES: TERRE HAUTE CONVENTION CENTER COSTS DETERMINED - A fourth agency has been added to fund a new downtown Terre Haute Convention Center, projected to cost about $32.5 million, including bond issue expenses and land acquisition costs (Greninger, Terre Haute Tribune-Star). The Vigo County Capital Improvement Board on Wednesday signed an interlocal joint financing agreement adding the Terre Haute Redevelopment Commission, which can utilize downtown tax increment financing (TIF) money for the project. The redevelopment commission is to pay $3 million from TIF funds, while the city of Terre Haute and Vigo County each will pay $10 million from Economic Development Income Taxes. The Terre Haute Convention & Visitors Bureau will pay $5 million, with that money coming from an increase in the county’s innkeeper tax. Additionally, the Terre Haute Redevelopment Commission will seek to issue a $4.5 million TIF bond “to facilitate the construction of the hotel parking garage, on the northwest (section) of the property,” CIB attorney Brian Bosma told the board. Bosma is also the Indiana House Speaker.

CITIES: NEESE TOUTS ELKHART PLAZA PROJECT - The mayor of Elkhart says the planned Civic Plaza and Central Park revitalization project will be a big economic boost for the city. Partial funding for the $5 million first phase of the project was approved this week by the Elkhart Redevelopment Commission (Brown, Inside Indiana Business). The funding paves the way for design work to begin and Mayor Tim Neese says the effort will provide a more streamlined approach to hosting public events in the city's downtown. In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Neese said the project adds to the importance of creating a vibrant downtown to attract visitors, businesses and potential residents. "I want Elkhart, as the mayor, to be very competitive," said Neese. "If all things are equal, it's possible that a business or individuals wanting to visit or reside here permanently just might do that based on our downtown."

CITIES: THEATER COMING TO SHIPSHEWANA - Blue Gate Theatre has announced plans for a new, 1,500-seat theater space at the Blue Gate Performing Arts Center in Shipshewana. The company says it plans to break ground on the $3 million space before May, with construction expected to be complete by January (Inside Indiana Business). Blue Gate says its concert schedule, limitations of the current space and improving customer experience played key roles in the decision to build the new theater. Phil Heyerly, vice president and co-owner of Blue Gate Theatre, says the new space will reduce the distance from the stage to the most distant seat by a third and increase the number of patrons able to attend each concert. President and co-owner Ryan Riegsecker adds the new space will also have an increased staging area to accommodate larger productions.

CITIES: DANVILLE PD CHIEF RESIGNS - The chief of the Danville Police Department has resigned from his position. The department confirmed to FOX59 on Wednesday that Chief Wendell Ray Raney has stepped down. Raney served as the town’s chief of police since being sworn in in July of 2016. Assistant Chief of Police Jim Hilton will serve as the department’s chief for the time being.

CITIES: PERU FIRM MOVING TO LOGANSPORT - A Logansport-based company is moving its Peru facility out of Miami County as part of a $3.2 million investment in Cass County that is expected to bring up to 32 jobs to Logansport (Kokomo Tribune). Bill Cuppy, president of the Cass-Logansport Economic Development Organization, says Logan Stampings Inc. (LSI) plans to purchase property in the Logansport Industrial Park, adding a second location in Logansport. Logan Stampings’ operations at the current location at 1100 E. Main St. in Logansport will move to the Logan/Cass Industrial Park. The company currently has 46 full-time and 28 part-time employees in Logansport.

COUNTIES: JAMAL WASHINGTON BONDS OUT OF JAIL - After six weeks in a Lake County Jail cell, a former county politician has bonded out (Dolan, NWI Times). Lake County Jail staff confirmed that Jamal Washington bonded out Wednesday night. Special Lake Criminal Court Judge Jeffrey Thode said Tuesday that Washington could walk free from the Lake County Jail if he could post a $5,000 cash bond over allegations he assaulted and confined Gary City Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade.

COUNTIES: VIGO MISSING $1.7M IN FUNDS - For years Vigo County officials knew there were inequities in assessments of real property (land and buildings). Though appeals are pending, a 2018 reassessment is believed to have addressed those concerns and is expected to help local governments recoup millions of dollars in revenue they've been missing out on (Terre Haute Tribune-Star). Now, County Assessor Kevin Gardner has set his sights on assessment of business personal property — such things as desks, equipment and machinery. It is less clear where things stand on that front. However, based on what has happened in other counties, there could be another $1.7 million to be collected, Gardner said this week.