REP. BANKS PUSHES FOR MUELLER REPORT DISCLOSURE: U.S. Rep. Jim Banks continues to push for a public airing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia collusion probe (Howey Politics Indiana). Banks, R-Columbia City, tweeted Thursday, "As rumors swirl on Capitol Hill that the release of the Mueller report is imminent, I renew my calls to have the complete report made public immediately for the American people to review." There has been rampant speculation that Mueller will issue his report in the coming days to Attorney General William Barr, who will then determine how much of the report to release to Congress and the public. A CNN poll in February revealed 87% want the report publicly released. In an unscientific online poll by the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, 86% of the 301 respondents favored release of the report. Mueller has had a tendency of release indictments and other actions on Fridays.

MANAFORT GETS 4 YEARS: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced Thursday to nearly four years in prison for tax and bank fraud related to his work advising Ukrainian politicians, much less than what was called for under sentencing guidelines (AP). Manafort had no visible reaction as he heard the 47-month sentence. While that was the longest sentence to date to come from special counsel Robert Mueller's probe, it could have been much worse for Manafort. Sentencing guidelines called for a 20-year-term, effectively a lifetime sentence for the 69-year-old. Before Judge T.S. Ellis III imposed the sentence, Manafort told him that “saying I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement.” But he offered no explicit apology, something Ellis noted before issuing his sentence.

BUTTIGIEG'S CNN TOWN HALL SUNDAY: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg will get an hour of national exposure when he appears at a CNN Town Hall at 9 p.m. Sunday (Howey Politics Indiana). Buttigieg has been featured on a number of talking head shows over the past two months since he kicked off his Democratic presidential exploration, but this appearance comes at primetime and will last an hour. It comes on the heels of a coast-to-coast book tour where he has discussed his life story in "Shortest Way Home." He has made forays to Iowa, New Hampshire and California, but has yet to register in any polls.

REDISTRICTING REFORMS WANT HOUSE TO SET RULES: Supporters of redistricting reform want the House to set rules for how those maps are drawn in two years. An attempt to set rules for redrawing Indiana's legislative districts has a month to get a hearing in the House (Berman, WIBC). Columbus Republican Greg Walker's bill passed the Senate two weeks ago with just one vote to spare. The bill would require new districts to follow city and county boundaries as much as possible without cracking or packing blocs of minority votes. It would also prohibit legislators from checking where the incumbent lives before drawing the lines. Julia Vaughn with Common Cause Indiana argues what's really needed is an independent commission to draw the lines. But she says Walker's bill would be a step forward. And she says voters who have issues they're passionate about are recognizing those issues can't make progress without redistricting changes to make legislators more responsive to their voters.

DCS FUNDING LEVEL STILL BEING DEBATED: The Department of Child Services again asked state lawmakers Thursday to increase its funding by nearly $300 million per year. But there isn’t consensus among legislative leaders as to whether DCS will get that much (Smith, Indiana Public Media). DCS officials have said for months the agency needs $286 million more per year than it got in the last budget. That figure matches what DCS is currently spending after state leaders shifted dollars over the last couple of years to meet a huge uptick in cases. But things are getting better. Caseloads are down about 15 perecent over the last year; case manager turnover decreased about 27 percent in that period. And that has Senate Appropriations Chair Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen) wondering if DCS needs as much as it’s asking for. “I mean, we have ‘til April to kind of figure out where they need to be," Mishler says. "So, I think $286 [million] is a starting point.” DCS Director Terry Stigdon stresses it’s too soon to say the agency’s problems are all solved. “The number of case managers, the number of children in care – we know that that’s changing every day,” Stigdon says.

HOLCOMB'S TRAIL PROGRAM COULD REQUIRE TAX REALLOCATION: Gov. Eric Holcomb's infusion of $90 million into improving Hoosier hiking, biking and riding trails could require the reallocation of current taxes or creating a new tax to maintain those routes or expand the program (Miley, CNHI). Reallocations could involve state revenues from fees imposed to dispose of old vehicle tires, designating sporting goods sales from the state sales tax or using a portion of the state gas tax. In all, there are seven funding sources that are expected to be proposed by the Indiana Bike Trails Task Force in a report that is to be finalized by mid-June. "Even though there's money proposed, there will need to be more from other places," Bike Trails Task Force Chair Kyle Hannon said. "It's the same with road projects — the federal government comes in or the state government comes but the local government puts in money also. I believe it would be that same kind of thing. I believe there's interest there." Among its proposals discussed in a meeting Thursday, the task force considered recommending the imposition of a real estate transfer tax on property transfers under the concept that bike trails would enhance the quality of life for residents and businesses. The task force anticipates opposition to a new tax. "I can't imagine a new tax for that purpose to be put on the table and be successful this year," House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said.

PURDUE'S AG BAROMETER REVEALS CONCERN: Purdue University’s monthly Ag Barometer shows farmers are worried about the current economic climate. Analysts say farmers who were interviewed for the poll in February indicated they would be less likely to expand their farms or make large capital expenditures such as investing in machinery or buildings (Turner, Indiana Public Media). Michael Langemeier is a Professor at Purdue University and one of the study authors.  He says the trade uncertainty is the greatest source for the index’s decline.  In open ended response questions, farmers mention trade more than any other topic. “The last few months trade has been by far and away the biggest word in the word cloud,” he says. “That just tells you that that’s weighing on people’s minds and is really creating a lot of uncertainty and therefore variability in the Ag Barometer index.” The index is released on the first Tuesday of every month.

HOGSETT UNVEILS NEW CRIME TRACKING WEBSITE:  Indianapolis residents have a new and improved way to track city crime online (WIBC). Mayor Joe Hogsett announced the launch of on Wednesday. CrimeReports includes an interactive map of crime data. You can zoom in on a specific area or use the search tool to filter reports by time, date, zip code, or type of crime. Mayor Joe Hogsett said CrimeReports will help make the city safer and improve communication between the community and Indy Metro Police. "In short, this online tool can and will dramatically improve transparency between community and police," Hogsett said Wednesday. CrimeReports is part of the city's $35 million investment into public safety technology investments announced last year.

PURDUE SEPARATES ITSELF FROM PHARMA COMPANY: Purdue University made it clear on Thursday that it has nothing to do with a pharmacy company that has been implicated in the opioid pandemic (Howey Politics Indiana). The university released a statement saying, "Purdue University is not and has never been affiliated in any way with Purdue Pharma. The pharmaceutical company was founded in Manhattan in 1892 by John Purdue Gray and George Frederick Bingham as the Purdue Frederick Company. Purdue University was founded in 1869 as Indiana's land-grant institution, named for benefactor John Purdue.

MILAN OBSERVES 65TH TITLE ANNIVERSARY WITH BOBBLEHEADS: The Milan High School boys’ basketball team won it all when the small-town team claimed the Indiana state basketball championship in 1954 (AP). The team’s famous story was chronicled in the 1986 film “Hoosiers.” Now, 65 years after the victory, there are bobblehead dolls to commemorate the occasion. Limited Edition bobblehead dolls commemorating the Milan team's 1954 championship have been released by the Milwaukee-based National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum and the Milan '54 Museum in Milan, Ind. March 20 will mark the 65th anniversary of Milan’s state championship. All 12 of the Milan players have been created in bobblehead form: Bobby Plump, Ray Craft, Bill Jordan, Gene White, Bob Wichman, Ron Truitt, Glen Butte, Bob Engel, Rollin Cutter, Roger Schroder, Kenny Delap and Kenny Wendelman. The bobbleheads are $25 each, with a flat shipping rate of $8. Order them by clicking here.

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: The Washington Post is reporting the White House is ramping up pressure on undecided senators on the coming vote on President Trump's emergency declaration aimed at enhancing southern border security. Indiana Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun have expressed skepticism of the declaration and relinquishing the congressional power of the purse, though both support more stringent border security. Both are undecided. Senator, Vice President Pence is on the line .... - Brian A. Howey


CRAWFORD, SMITH LAY OUT FORT WAYNE VISIONS: For about an hour Thursday night, two Republican Fort Wayne mayoral candidates went back and forth on issues of safety, health, job creation and infrastructure (Gong, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). The debate, hosted by Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana, aimed to give the candidates – City Councilman John Crawford and MedPro executive Tim Smith – a platform to discuss their ideas and strategies for how to achieve their goals. The event was the first mayoral debate of the 2019 election season.  While Fort Wayne has neglected neighborhoods and safety, Smith said the biggest thing the city has lost is 40,000 jobs over 35 years. Smith added that his business acumen makes him a good choice for mayor.  “Imagine if we had those 40,000 jobs still. What we need is a mayor who travels around the country and sells the Fort Wayne value proposition, ... ” Smith said, “not a mayor who sits on the laurels and is happy and proud solely with what we've done.” Smith said businesses will move to Fort Wayne “when they believe their money will multiply faster and their people will be happier.” “If those two things aren't true, no businesses are moving to Fort Wayne,” Smith said. When it comes to safety, both candidates acknowledged an increase in violent crime. Crawford said he wants to increase both police officer salaries and use of high-tech policing methods such as surveillance cameras in high-crime areas. “We cannot accept where we are right now,” Crawford said. “I think we need to do something new, the high-tech is where I would go.”

ALLEN COUNTY GOP HAD RECORD FUNDRAISING: The Allen County Republican Party raised and spent three times as much money as county Democrats did last year, according to the parties' annual campaign finance reports (Francisco, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Republicans raised more than $225,000 in 2018 and spent more than $173,000. They ended the year with nearly $52,000 in cash on hand. Democrats raised almost $74,000 and spent about $53,000, ending the year with nearly $21,000 in cash. Republicans won 21 county and state legislative seats in the Nov. 6 general election. Democrats won a state legislative seat and a County Council seat. Republican candidates seeking four statewide offices, including a U.S. Senate seat, carried Allen County in the election, as did the GOP candidate for northeast Indiana's congressional seat. Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine said in an email that 2018 "was a phenomenal year for us." Shine said fundraising easily topped the party's previous best financial showing, in 2016.

ZODY COMMENTS ON DCS FUNDING: Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody criticized Statehouse Republicans for driving up the eventual cost of intervention by refusing to invest in abused children earlier (Howey Politics Indiana). “What was a small crack in the foundation, left unaddressed, mushroomed into a partial collapse and required a much costlier intervention,” said Zody. “By spending less, Republicans cost taxpayers much more. It’s not fiscally responsible. It’s not conservative. It’s cruel.”

SEN. BROWN WON'T RUN FOR PRESIDENT: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said he won't run for president after making an exploratory swing through early voting states (AP). The Ohio Democrat announced his 2020 decision to a group of home-state reporters. Brown said he feels his "dignity of work" tour succeeded in its mission of putting the struggles of working people on the Democrats' 2020 radar. He said his most effective role is in the Senate.

FOX'S WALLACE CRITICAL OF DNC DEBATE DECISION: Some members of Democratic Party suffer from “Fox derangement syndrome,” Fox News journalist Chris Wallace said Thursday when asked about the Democratic National Committee’s decision to bar the network from hosting its presidential primary debates (Fox News). DNC Chairman Thomas Perez made the announcement a day earlier, citing a one-sided New Yorker magazine article that claimed Fox News is aligned with the Trump administration. "You know how we talk about 'Trump derangement syndrome,' or [similar obsession with] Obama? I think that, in the left wing of the Democratic Party, there is 'Fox derangement syndrome,'” Wallace told Brian Kilmeade on Fox News Radio.

General Assembly

ABORTION BILL CLEARS HOUSE COMMITTEE: State lawmakers are one step closer to allowing pharmacists to deny women access to abortion-inducing drugs (Smith, Indiana Public Media). Current law lets doctors and hospital employees refuse to provide or participate in abortion services. Proposed legislation would extend that to nurses, physician assistants, and pharmacists. Pharmacist John Voliva says health care providers shouldn’t have to check their morality at the door. “Why then should we require health care providers to participate in procedures they feel are ethically or morally reprehensible?” Voliva says. But pharmacist Ashley Meredith says the bill provides no protection for patients. “There’s no exception for a woman with serious or immediate health risks," Meredith says. "No provisions are included for ensuring that the patient gets the needed care or even a referral to an unbiased provider in a timely manner.” The House Public Health Committee advanced the bill 9-4, along party lines.

CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS WEIGH IN ON SB12: Thirty civil rights groups say the hate crime bill passed by the Indiana Senate isn't a hate crime bill at all (Berman, WIBC). The Anti-Defamation League and the Human Rights Campaign keep track of hate crime laws in all 50 states. Indiana and the four other states without a law make up what Governor Holcomb has labeled "the naughty list," and much of the debate at the statehouse has centered on whether a law which didn't specify targeted victim groups would be enough to get the state off the list. Until now, the ADL hadn't weighed in directly. But a letter to Holcomb, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray makes clear the groups would still list Indiana as not having a hate crime law if it passes a Senate bill with just a general reference to "bias. The groups say that version "could actually cause harm." They say the lack of a list would "marginalize communities of color" and minority religions.

2 BILLS DEAL WITH LAKE MICHIGAN SHORELINE: Two very different bills have passed the Indiana Senate, now working their way through the House. One is cheered by city leaders along Lake Michigan’s coast and advocates who want to ensure free use of the lake’s beaches, even along private homes (Dits, South Bend Tribune). The other bill is drawing criticism from those same advocates, saying it strips rights beachgoers have held for decades. Critics say Senate Bill 581 would undo the rights granted by both the Indiana and the U.S. Supreme Court, but the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Goshen, responded Wednesday that it won’t. Doriot doesn’t deny another key point in his bill that has also raised opposition: It would allow the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to govern sea walls and other barriers and beach grooming by private landowners, overruling the ordinances that coastal cities have set to protect the dunes. “I believe the DNR is the best agency equipped to do this,” he said, calling for “uniform regulations” rather than several local variations. He also noted the agency has biologists, botanists, staff and law enforcement to carry them out. But the director of the group Save the Dunes, Natalie Johnson, said, “When you have local municipalities who are willing to go even further, why remove an extra safeguard?” Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer argues it’s critical to keep beaches open and accessible to the public as they are such a magnet for visitors, growing the city’s population of 32,000 to almost 50,000 on a summer weekend. “A lot of our economy is activated because of our access to Lake Michigan,” he said. “And it’s a nice natural resource.”

TALLIAN BILL SEEKS TO CODIFY PUBLIC ACCESS: Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, authored the advocates’ favored Senate Bill 553 to codify the public access the Indiana Supreme Court had affirmed last year. It sets the public’s access as the space along the beach between the water’s edge and the ordinary high water mark (South Bend Tribune). It also specifies a wide range of activities the public could do in that space: fish, boat, swim, walk, run, sit, recline, picnic, sunbathe, bird watch, toss a ball or disc, play sports or engage in any similar or related shore activities. “We have 40 miles of shoreline,” Tallian told the Times of Northwest Indiana newspaper. “Half of it is in my district. So I thought I better step up. This language needs to apply to everyone and to guarantee that people have a right to use this beach, and yeah, we actually have to legislate this.”

ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO END FORCED ANNEXATIONS: Another year, another attempt to end forced annexation (Kelly, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). The House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee heard testimony Wednesday on a bill that would ban involuntary annexation in the state. The practice of annexing large swaths of land – and the related property tax revenue – has been controversial for decades. And lawmakers have slowly cracked down on the practice – most recently in 2015. But Senate Bill 94 doesn't nibble around the edges anymore – it would require cities or towns to get the signatures of 51 percent of the owners of land or the owners of more than 75 percent in assessed valuation of the land to annex it. It would eliminate the entire remonstrance process in which citizens sign a petition to stop an annexation because no forced annexations would be allowed. It also would void all waivers in which people who bought land agreed not to contest future annexation. “What this represents is democracy,” said Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville. “If you are impacted by a decision by some board, ... you get to have a voice.” He noted that some citizens have successfully fought annexations but at their own personal cost in legal fees. Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City, chaired the committee and heard the bill but mentioned repeatedly that the 2015 law hasn't had enough time to work.

DETAILS OF ANNEXATION BILL: Under current law it takes 51 percent of landowners signing a petition to send it to court for review. But as long as a fiscal plan is valid it can still be approved. If 65 percent of the landowners remonstrate, it automatically kills the proposed annexation (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Mahan reviewed all the changes from back then with the committee, which has several newer members. “We tried to thread the needle,” Mahan said. Stephanie Crandall, director of intergovernmental affairs for Fort Wayne, told the committee about an attempted 2016 annexation that was killed “in the court of public opinion” before even going to court. She opposed the bill and said the 2015 law struck a reasonable balance between property rights and the ability of cities to plan and grow. “How can cities grow when the tax revenue pie is preset and it becomes a zero sum game?” Crandall said. “Annexation is an important growth tool.”

STOOPS TRANSIT TAX BILL PASSES SENATE: A bill being considered by the General Assembly could allow officials to raise nearly $9 million in taxes to expand public transportation in Monroe County — if that is what voters choose (Bloomington Herald-Times). Indiana Senate Bill 285 would allow counties to implement a transit tax to grow public transportation options if voters approve a local public question on the matter before the county’s fiscal body adopts it. It passed the Senate.

LEGISLATORS PUSHING BLEED KITS: Some lawmakers want to require all Indiana public schools to have first aid trauma kits and train staff to use them. The bill’s author Rep. Randy Frye (R-Greensburg) says these “Stop the Bleed” kits and training could save lives (Barrett, Indiana Public Media). "In the event of the worst case scenario, those on site can address the bleeding immediately," Frye says. "We know that someone could in case of an active shooter, for instance, bleed to death before their first responder can arrive." The 45-minute training course would teach people to stop someone from bleeding to death, which doctors say can happen within three to five minutes. The Indiana Hospital Association already agreed to donate three kits to every Indiana public school, and two Indiana firefighters associations agreed to provide free training. "Of more importance really is the training that goes with this because you can use a necktie, a belt, a T-shirt, anything to put pressure compress and apply a tourniquet to stop bleeding," the bill's co-author and surgeon Rep. Brad Barrett (R-Richmond) says.


HOUSE PASSES HATE RESOLUTION: Divided in debate but mostly united in a final vote, the House passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other bigotry. Democrats are trying to push past a dispute that has overwhelmed their agenda and exposed fault lines that could shadow them through next year’s elections (AP). The one-sided 407-23 vote Thursday belied the emotional infighting over how to respond to freshman Rep. lIhan Omar’s recent comments suggesting House supporters of Israel have dual allegiances. For days, Democrats wrestled with whether or how to punish the Minnesota Democratic lawmaker, arguing over whether Omar, one of two Muslim women in Congress, should be singled out, what other types of bias should be decried in the text and whether the party would tolerate dissenting views on Israel. House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, who was among the dissenters, called the resolution "a sham put forward by Democrats to avoid condemning one of their own and denouncing vile anti-Semitism."

YOUNG, MURPHY ADDRESS NON-COMPETES: U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), led a bipartisan letter calling for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation into the use and abuse of non-compete agreements (Howey Politics Indiana). Non-compete agreements were intended to protect companies’ trade secrets, but too many workers are now subjected to arbitrary limitations. Non-compete agreements keep workers trapped in their jobs. This hinders innovation and limits workers’ ability to negotiate with their employer for higher wages or leave for a better opportunity, like starting a small business. Research shows that nearly 40 percent of American workers have been constrained by non-compete agreements at some point in their careers, and that they are common even among low-wage workers. One recent study found that 12 percent of workers earning less than $20,000, and 15 percent of workers earning between $20,000 and $40,000, are subject to non-compete agreements. “We are concerned that the use of non-compete agreements on a large scale could slow economic and wage growth, reduce productivity and competition in labor markets, and create significant barriers to entrepreneurship and innovation,” the senators wrote. “In recent years, the wide use of non-competes has spread from highly technical fields into less technical and lower wage work, where they might reduce wage and benefit competition among employers and restrict employees’ upward mobility – for no good reason.”

DURBIN SAYS TRUMP WALL FUNDS COMING FROM MILITARY PAY: A top Senate Democrat says the Pentagon is planning to tap $1 billion in leftover funds from military pay and pensions accounts to help President Donald Trump pay for his long-sought border wall (AP). Sen. Dick Durbin told The Associated Press on Thursday: "It's coming out of military pay and pensions. $1 billion. That's the plan." Durbin says the funds are available because Army recruitment is down and a voluntary early military retirement program is being underutilized. The development comes as Pentagon officials are seeking to minimize the amount of wall money that would come from military construction projects that are so cherished by lawmakers. The Illinois Democrat says, "Imagine the Democrats making that proposal — that for whatever our project is, we're going to cut military pay and pensions."


GOVERNOR: 42 COUNTIES SEEK BIKE TRAIL FUNDS - Thirteen Northwest Indiana localities have submitted 16 of the 82 applications for state grants to construct or improve trails connecting communities throughout the state (Carden, NWI Times). Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb recently revealed that requests for Next Level Trails funding have come from 42 of Indiana's 92 counties, and altogether seek nearly $144 million to develop more than 240 miles of hiking, biking and riding trails. "The number of applications in the first round far surpassed our expectations and shows Indiana's enthusiasm for trails," Holcomb said. "This sends a big message that Hoosiers are invested in improving quality of life across the state."

STATEHOUSE: HILL URGES CLERGY ABUSE REPORTING - Attorney General Curtis Hill today announced that his office is providing an online form enabling individuals to more easily report instances involving alleged abuse by clergy. The form may be found at the Attorney General’s homepage at (Howey Politics Indiana). “Recent national and international reports of alleged abuse committed by clergy members have prompted widespread concerns,” Attorney General Hill said. “Hoosiers are understandably worried that this kind of criminal activity might go underreported even here in Indiana. As a result, we have decided to make sure citizens have an available means of reporting any potential abuse so that authorities at all levels of government can pursue justice for victims.”

SUPREMES: CELLPHONE CASE TO BE HEARD IN APRIL - The passcode to your cell phone may not be as private as you think. The Indiana Supreme Court will soon decide whether police can legally compel you to reveal that passcode, even if you don’t want to (Segall, WTHR-TV). Next month, Indiana’s five Supreme Court justices will hear oral arguments in Seo v. State of Indiana. The case involves clashing interests: the privacy and constitutional rights of individuals whose cell phones hold a treasure trove of personal information versus the needs of police and communities to solve crimes and hold criminals responsible. “There will be a lot of eyes on the case because it raises some questions that courts really haven’t grappled with,” said Stephen Creason, a deputy attorney general who will argue the case before the Indiana Supreme Court on behalf of the state and its law enforcement agencies. The case has garnered national attention because the outcome could have far-reaching implications for millions of people who use cell phones.

ENVIRONMENT: 2 COUNTIES HAD TOXIC RELEASES - The Environmental Protection Agency says two counties in northwest Indiana have seen the highest number of toxic releases in more than a decade, despite a national decline. The Post-Tribune reported a national analysis released Tuesday found Lake County had 378 toxic releases in 2017, while Porter County had 134. Those are the largest amounts of on-site releases of toxins the counties have seen since 2003. Information was collected on chemicals released into the air, water or soil from about 21,500 facilities, including 49 in Lake County and 28 in Porter County. The facilities with the highest number of releases in the two counties were BP Products in Whiting, Tradebe Treatment and Recycling in East Chicago, Arcelor Mittal in East Chicago, Arcelor Mittal in Burns Harbor and U.S. Steel Gary Works.

CRIME: FORMER STATE EMPLOYEE STOLE FROM HOSPITAL - A special investigation report released by the Indiana State Board of Accounts Thursday said a former Evansville State Hospital employee cashed agency checks for personal use (Stubbs, Evansville Courier & Press). The 15-page audit details former business administrator Jennifer Byam reportedly providing ledgers to the SBOA containing over $14,000 in discrepancies. Byam was charged in February with five counts of theft and one count of official misconduct.  The Evansville State Hospital presented their June 30, 2018, bank and ledger balances to SBOA at $169,081.02. The report said actual ledger balances were $177,629.75, a difference of $8,548.73. Investigators said disbursements, transfers out of a patient trust fund and deposits were not posted correctly to the agency's ledger.

EDUCATION: IU MEDICAL, PURDUE ENGINEERING ENTER PARTNERSHIP - The Indiana University School of Medicine is forming a new partnership with the Purdue College of Engineering to gain educational opportunities to improve medical technologies. The two institutions, which have worked together for years, say the new efforts formalize the relationship and represents a commitment to combine expertise (Parker, Inside Indiana Business). The collaboration already has over 50 research projects in development, including a new Type 1 diabetes therapy and a new imaging technique that offers a detailed 3D brain image in the study of Alzheimer's disease. The universities' collaborative work is also expected to boost the state's biomedical device industry. “The marriage of medicine and engineering is essential to developing the most advanced diagnostics and devices to treat patients,” said Jay L. Hess, dean of IU School of Medicine. “This partnership leverages existing expertise optimizes public resources and positions Indiana to be a leader in the development of technologies that transform health.”

EDUCATION: ISU STUDENTS APPROVE WELLNESS FEE - The results are in, and Indiana State University students approved a referendum for a new health and wellness fee, which now must go to the ISU board of trustees (Terre Haute Tribune-Star). "We won the referendum in a landslide," said Stephen Lamb, ISU Student Government Association president. The vote was 835 students in favor [68.2] and 243 students voting no [19.8] and another 146 students abstained [11.9 percent]. The new fee, if approved by the board of trustees, would fund increased mental health services and prevention programming. It would begin no earlier than fall 2020.

STEEL: ARCELORMITTAL EXPECTS GROWTH - ArcelorMittal USA was profitable in 2018 and the company is optimistic about continued growth this year (Pete, NWI Times). The Luxembourg-based steelmaker forecasts in its recently released annual report that demand for steel will grow by 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent in the United States this year. It would be a moderation of growth after 1.7 percent growth in steel consumption in the United States last year. Automotive demand is expected to remain broadly stable, and growth should continue with machinery and construction. ArcelorMittal grew sales by 10.7 percent to $76 billion worldwide last year, partly because of a 13.5 percent increase in average steel selling prices.


WHITE HOUSE: PRESSURE RAMPS UP FOR UNDECIDED SENATORS - The White House is privately ramping up pressure on undecided Republicans to limit defections ahead of the Senate vote on President Trump’s emergency declaration — even as the administration has yet to tell Congress which military projects would be tapped to pay for Trump’s border wall (Washington Post). The vote expected next week is on a resolution to nullify Trump’s Feb. 15 declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, which allows him to access $3.6 billion now designated for construction projects at military installations in numerous states and overseas. Trump wants to use that money for border barriers, after Congress refused to give him all the wall funding he sought. In recent days, the White House has increased its efforts to count votes and persuade fence-sitting GOP senators, according to two Senate Republicans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the administration’s efforts. Undecided senators have received calls from the White House, and the message, according to one of the senators, is clear: Trump is taking names and noticing who opposes him — particularly if you are running for reelection next year.

WHITE HOUSE: COHEN SUES TRUMP ORGANIZATION - President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen has filed a lawsuit claiming the Trump Organization failed to pay nearly $2 million toward his legal defense (AP). The lawsuit filed Thursday in New York state court claims the Trump Organization stopped paying Cohen's mounting legal fees after he began cooperating with federal prosecutors. It alleges breach of contract and seeks damages on Cohen's behalf. Messages seeking comment have been left with the Trump Organization. The lawsuit says the company stopped paying for his legal defense about two months after the FBI raided Cohen's home and office.

WHITE HOUSE: PENCE MAKES CASE FOR DECLARATION - Vice President Mike Pence called on the Senate Tuesday not to reject President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration freeing up money to build a wall on the southern border (AP). “Any vote against the president’s national emergency declaration is a vote against border security,” Pence said after touring a Drug Enforcement Administration facility in Phoenix.

WHITE HOUSE: KELLY CALLS THE WALL 'WASTE OF MONEY' - Donald Trump has made hard-line immigration policy a centerpiece of his political agenda, staking his legacy in part on a brutal border-wall fight with Congress. He emerged from that fight largely worse off, bested by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who called the wall “immoral, expensive, [and] unwise”—a characterization supported by economists. And apparently, she’s not the only one who thinks so (Vanity Fair). In an interview on stage at Duke University Wednesday, former White House chief of staff John Kelly, who left the administration in January, tore into his former boss’s immigration platform, calling the wall a “waste of money” and breaking with the president’s characterization of immigrants from Mexico and Central America as violent and dangerous to Americans. “They’re overwhelmingly not criminals,” Kelly said. “They’re people coming up here for economic purposes. I don’t blame them for that.” “We don’t need a wall from sea to shining sea,” the retired general added. Kelly not only bashed Trump’s signature issue, he also seemed to take a dig at Trump himself, calling his year and a half as chief of staff “the least enjoyable job” he’s ever had, and telling the crowd that he saw his role as a civic duty—one he would have likely carried out if Hillary Clinton, Trump’s mortal enemy, had won the 2016 election and asked him to fill it instead.

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP SCHEDULE - President Trump and first lady Melania Trump will leave the White House at 9:20 a.m. They are traveling to Alabama in the wake of the recent tornado for the afternoon before flying to Palm Beach. Trump will speak at a fundraiser at 7:30 p.m.

HHS: HOSPITAL INSURANCE RATES MAUY BE REVEALED - The Trump administration is sounding out the medical industry on requiring hospitals, doctors and other health care providers to publicly disclose the secretly negotiated prices they charge insurance companies for services, a move that would expose for the first time the actual cost of care (Wall Street Journal). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is seeking public comment on whether patients have a right to see the discounted prices in advance of obtaining care, federal officials said. The invitation for comment—outlined in a little noticed passage of a broader patient-data proposal released last month—is a major step toward a possible rule that could require providers to release such information, they said. Mandating public disclosure of the rates would upend industry control of price negotiations, and put more decision-making power in the hands of patients. Hospitals and insurers typically treat specific prices for medical services as closely held secrets, with contracts between the insurers and hospital systems generally bound by confidentiality agreements.

COMMERCE: JUDGE RULES SEC. ROSS BROKE LAW - Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acted in “bad faith,” broke several laws and violated the constitutional underpinning of representative democracy when he added a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, a federal judge ruled Wednesday (Washington Post). In finding a breach of the Constitution’s enumeration clause, which requires a census every 10 years to determine each state’s representation in Congress, the 126-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco went further than a similar decision on Jan. 15 by Judge Jesse Furman in New York.

MEDIA: SUNDAY TALK - CNN "State of the Union": Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas). Panel: Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Scott Jennings, Symone Sanders and Linda Chavez (live from SXSW in Austin). CNN "Inside Politics": Eliana Johnson, Michael Shear, Molly Ball and Seung-Min Kim. "Fox News Sunday": Panel: Newt Gingrich, Jonathan Swan, Shelby Holliday and Juan Williams. Power Player: Cal Ripken, Jr. NBC "Meet the Press": Panel: Bob Costa, Kasie Hunt, María Teresa Kumar and former Gov. Pat McCrory (R-N.C.). CBS "Face the Nation": Andrew McCabe, Bill Burns. Political panel: David Frum, Susan Glasser, Toluse Olorunnipa and Jerry Seib.

MICHIGAN: MED POT EXCEEDS $42M IN SALES - Sales of medical marijuana in Michigan have exceeded $42 million in four months, according to the State Department of Licensing and Regulation (AP). The sales come from 54 licensed dispensaries since the first one opened at the beginning of November. Nearly 8,700 pounds of medical marijuana have already been sold, meaning $3.5 million will be going to the state from a 6 percent sales tax.

ILLINOIS: GOV. PRITZKER UNVEILS TAX PLAN -  Gov. J.B. Pritzker took the first step Thursday in fulfilling his touchstone campaign pledge of making the wealthy pay more in income taxes as the billionaire proposed a graduated income-tax structure that would top out at 7.95 percent and he said would generate $3.4 billion in new revenue for the financially beleaguered state (AP). The Democrat, finishing his seventh week in office, suggested Illinois dump its 50-year-old flat-tax, now set at 4.95 percent, and join 35 other states with scaled-up rates for higher incomes. It would start at 4.75 percent for incomes up to $10,000 and levy the top rate on incomes of $1 million or more. Taxpayers earning $100,000 to $250,000 would pay the current flat rate of 4.95 percent. But Pritzker claims anyone making $250,000 or less — 97.3 percent of taxpayers — would pay less in income taxes because the rates are marginal.


CITIES: EVANSVILLE FIREFIGHTER'S WIDOW FACES ADDITIONAL CHARGE - Prosecutors have filed formal charges against the wife of an Evansville firefighter shot to death last week. Elizabeth Fox-Doerr has been charged with both obstruction of justice and false informing, though she was arrested for only one preliminary charge — obstruction of justice, according to court records (Fater, Evansville Courier & Press). Fox-Doerr, 47, of Evansville, was arrested Tuesday on the obstruction of justice charge. The additional charge was formally added Thursday. Her initial hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday in Vanderburgh Superior Court. Fox-Doerr is accused of deleting part of a call record from her cell phone the night her husband, Robbie Doerr, was killed. According to a probable cause affidavit, police checked records from Sprint against her seized cell phone and believe Fox-Doerr deleted a record of a phone call she received that night. She allegedly received the call just before calling 911 on Feb. 26, the night Doerr was fatally shot. The affidavit does not specify who the call came from or what Evansville Police believe it was about. Department spokesman Sgt. Jason Cullum said Fox-Doerr is only being investigated for obstruction of justice in connection with the events of Feb. 26.

CITIES: TAX CAPS REDUCE MUNICIPAL FUNDING - Local governments across Indiana are taking in less revenue than they did before 2007 (Turner, Indiana Public Media). That’s according to a new study from Indiana University’s O’Neil School of Public and Environmental Affairs. The study says the decline in revenue is a direct result of property tax caps championed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels. Property taxes are the primary source of revenue for local governments but the caps limit the amount of money they can receive.  Professor Justin Ross is one of the study’s authors. He says the full impact of the policy is just now being felt.  Ross says local governments in other states are seeing their revenues increase, while Indiana’s remained flat. “Every other state has largely rebounded from the Great Recession in terms of their local government,” he says. “Indiana has not because of the property tax caps.”

CITIES: HOOSIER CITIES ON LIVABILITY LIST -’s list of the 2019 Top 100 Places to Live includes three Indiana cities. The rankings were guided by a study in which 1,000 Millennials were surveyed about what matters most to them making relocation decisions (Brown, Inside Indiana Business). The cities are also measured on several criteria including economics, housing, amenities, infrastructure, demographics, social and civic capital, education, and healthcare. Bloomington is the highest-ranked Hoosier city at number 19, followed by Indianapolis at 75 and Fort Wayne at 93.

CITIES: MADISON COUNCIL APPROVES DEVELOPMENT PLANS - Tuesday’s Madison City Council meeting included another step toward making the city’s multi-million-dollar match to two developers planning major economic development projects. The small step was the second reading of a proposed bond ordinance and an opportunity for public comment and questions following a short presentation (Madison Courier). One project is a more than $21 million investment to transform the Cotton Mill property on Madison’s riverfront into an 85-room boutique hotel. The plans are being undertaken by Riverton LLC, in collaboration with the City of Madison and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. The plans, with an initial commitment from Marriott, feature a conference center, guest amenities, restaurant and enhanced outdoor spaces with views of the Ohio River. Construction is expected to be complete in summer 2020, the initial announcement said. The other project is with Armor Plastics, a new plastic coating company specializing in aftermarket ATV parts and other hard coating and plastic-related products. Armor Plastics said it plans to invest $13.4 million to purchase, redevelop and equip a more than 145,000-square-foot building at 1200 Clifty Drive along State Road 7 in Madison.

CITIES: LEBANON FOOD PANTRY PLEADS FOR DONATIONS - A food pantry in Boone County says they are in desperate need of donations (WTHR-TV). According to our partners at the Lebanon Reporter, The Caring Center food pantry said they go in cycles of feast or famine and right now, they say it's famine. Executive Director Theresa Hanners said donations dramatically drop during the spring and it gets even worse during the summer. That's why they're asking for help to feed the 400 families they serve every month. “We just like to throw a yell out so people can remember…and try to do something all year round,” Hanners said. If you would like to give you can drop donations off at their facility at 1230 Ransdell Court in Lebanon.