ROKITA TAKES AIM AT HOLCOMB LAWSUIT: Indiana’s attorney general took aim Friday at Gov. Eric Holcomb’s attempt to block a new law giving state legislators more authority to intervene during public emergencies declared by the governor (Davies, AP). A lawsuit filed by the Republican governor on Tuesday challenged the law enacted over his veto two weeks ago giving legislative leaders the power to call the General Assembly into what it calls an “emergency session.” The governor’s lawsuit argues that the GOP-dominated Legislature is “usurping a power given exclusively to the governor” under the Indiana Constitution to call lawmakers into a special session. Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita said in a court filing that his office alone had the authority to allow any state agency — including the governor — to file such a lawsuit and that he had not given his approval. Rokita said in a statement that he believed the Legislature’s action was constitutional. “This new law leaves untouched the Governor’s constitutional authority to call the General Assembly into special session, merely carrying out the General Assembly’s own constitutional authority to ‘appoint by law’ the day for ‘commencing’ its sessions and to ‘fix by law’ ‘the length and frequency of (its) sessions,’” Rokita said.

 

SECOND SUIT FILED CHALLENGING HEA1123: A similar lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the emergency session law was filed Friday by John Whitaker, a retired attorney in Indianapolis who served as special counsel to Republican former Gov. Robert Orr during the 1980s (Carden, NWI Times). Whitaker said his interest, as a taxpayer and a citizen, is "to redress the unconstitutional usurpation of the executive powers of the governor of the state of Indiana by the Indiana General Assembly and the resulting costs to taxpayers of unconstitutional legislative sessions." "The Indiana Constitution sets limits that the General Assembly cannot cross. One of those limits is in Article 4, Section 9 which grants the governor the exclusive power to convene a special session when, and only when, in his opinion, the public welfare requires it. Any attempt by the General Assembly to call a special session itself is a prohibited exercise by one department of a function of another department," Whitaker said.

 

BANKS TURNS ON CHENEY: Top Republicans are turning on Rep. Liz Cheney, the party’s highest-ranking woman in Congress, with one conservative leader suggesting she could be ousted from her GOP post within a month (Axios). The comments by Reps. Steve Scalise, the minority whip, and Jim Banks, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, carry weight because of their close relationship with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — who is openly feuding with Cheney. Banks (R-Ind.), leader of the largest conservative caucus in the House, told Axios Friday that Cheney's continued criticisms are "an unwelcome distraction," and he questioned whether she would retain her leadership role in a month. Banks' comments were echoed more diplomatically by Scalise (R-La.), the No. 2 Republican in the House. During an interview with Axios on Friday, Banks said of Cheney: "This idea that you just disregard President Trump is not where we are, and, frankly, he has a lot to offer still.” Cheney characterized a memo Banks wrote about how the party could retain working-class voters as "neo-Marxist." Banks said such comments detracted from a unified focus about how to beat the Democrats in the 2022 midterms. "That’s what we got out of Liz Cheney, which doesn’t help us remain focused on that single goal," the congressman said during an interview he offered to Axios.

 

HOLCOMB AWARDS $100M IN LOCAL ROAD GRANTS: Indiana has awarded $100.2 million in state matching funds that will go toward local road and bridge projects in more than 200 Indiana cities, towns and counties (AP). The grants announced Thursday by Gov. Eric Holcomb and Joe McGuinness, the commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation, benefit 218 government entities chosen after they submitted applications in January for a call for projects. “Superior transportation infrastructure — from interstates to local roads and everything connecting in between — make our communities safer attractive places to do business and create jobs,” Holcomb said in a statement. The money comes through Community Crossings, a component of Holcomb’s “Next Level Roads” program. That initiative has provided more than $931 million in state matching funds for local construction projects since 2016.

 

DR. BUCSHON DONS LAB COAT, STETHOSCOPE TO URGE VACCINE: When a group of Republican doctors in Congress released a video selling the safety of the coronavirus vaccine, their message wasn't explicitly aimed at their conservative constituents, but nonetheless had a clear political bent. Getting the shot is the best way to “end the government's restrictions on our freedoms," Rep. Larry Bucshon, an Indiana Republican and heart surgeon who donned a white lab coat and stethoscope when he spoke into the camera (AP). The public service announcement was the latest effort from GOP leaders to shrink the vaccination gap between their party and Democrats. With vaccination rates lagging in red states, Republican leaders have stepped up efforts to persuade their supporters to get the shot, at times combating misinformation spread by some of their own. “Medicine and science and illness, that should not be political,” said Dr. Brad Wenstrup, a Republican congressman from Ohio and a podiatrist who has personally administered coronavirus vaccine shots both as an Army Reserve officer and as an ordinary doctor. “But it was an election year and it really was.”

 

VACCINE FALLOFF AT IMS: The first mass vaccination clinic at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in March was a roaring success, with about 16,600 people vaccinated with the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (IndyStar). Encouraged by the success, state health officials kicked off 16 additional clinic days at the Speedway in April with high hopes to vaccinate another 96,000 people. Instead, as the state has seen demand for the vaccine steadily decrease along with a temporary halt to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the clinic wound up vaccinating closer to half that number — nearly 52,000 people, state health officials said Friday as the month ended.

 

COLUMBUS OFFICIALS TO SHIFT GEARS ON VACCINE STRATEGY: Local health officials are preparing to shift to a more targeted vaccine rollout in the coming weeks as demand continues to decline for COVID-19 vaccines in Bartholomew County and around the U.S. (East, Columbus Republic). The local COVID-19 Community Task Force is working on some combined efforts to encourage people to get vaccinated and debunk misinformation about the shots, said spokeswoman Kelsey DeClue. Local officials also are working to identify some advocates and well-known people in the community to advocate for the vaccine, though no details are currently available on who those people would be or how they would promote the vaccinations. “(We’re) making sure that we get the word out and make connections to all various task force member organizations so that they can reach their audiences,” DeClue said. “We’re also working on pushing information from (Columbus Regional Health) and the CDC, (state health department), etc. with more vaccine information and guidance, some of which aims to debunk and/or correct myths and misunderstandings.”

 

MAGA CARAVAN IN HAMMOND WAS PEACEFUL: A caravan of Trump supporters traveled hours from Evansville to Hammond to drive by Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.’s house Saturday afternoon in response to a spat over a flag being flown outside a resident's home (Ortiz, NWI Times). The group, Young Conservatives of Southern Indiana, had made the trip from southern Indiana to the mayor’s home in response to McDermott’s condemnation of an anti-Joe Biden flag containing an expletive. McDermott had threatened to send code enforcement officers to go after the resident, Roy Steffan, for any potential violations. The mayor has since met with and apologized to Steffan, and noted he has not been cited by code enforcement for anything. McDermott said he estimates there were about 50 people who had gathered. He said they waved and welcomed the group into Hammond, and the caravan drove by without incident. There were no issues or confrontations between either of the groups. Hammond police facilitated the caravan for traffic safety. “It was like having a parade coming right to my neighborhood,” McDermott said. “It was bigger than I thought, more cars, but everyone was nice and my supporters who were in my driveway were really nice.”

 

GOV SIGNS BILL TO HELP VOLUNTEER FD RECRUITMENT: Gov. Eric Holcomb recently signed into law State Rep. Randy Frye's (R-Greensburg) legislation making it easier for police and fire departments across the state to hire more Hoosiers (Howey Politics Indiana). Frye's bill eliminates a requirement for members of police and fire departments to live within a 50-mile radius of where they serve. "Local departments are struggling with recruiting and finding applicants to keep our communities safe," said Frye, chair of the House Veterans Affairs and Public Safety Committee. "This change will help combat the staffing shortages we've been seeing and provide our smaller, rural communities more flexibility in hiring qualified individuals." House Enrolled Act 1033 goes into effect July 1, 2021.

 

TAX STICKER SHOCK AFTER SCHOOL REFERENDUMS PASS: Anthony Gianoli doesn’t remember if he voted for the South Bend School Corp.’s $220 million referendum last year, but he said school officials led him to believe the measure would have little impact on his property taxes (Sheckler, South Bend Tribune). So Gianoli, 69, was shocked when he opened a letter from the county treasurer’s office this spring and found the referendum tacked on $324, helping drive a 35% spike in his overall property tax bill. “They said it will be a minimal increase, maybe $10 or $15,” Gianoli said. “I think we were misled on this thing.” Staffers at the St. Joseph County Auditor’s office have been taking non-stop phone calls from taxpayers demanding to know why they owe hundreds more dollars this year, office manager Kathy Gregorich said, with most of the calls focusing on the impact of the ballot measure that raised money for the school district. “A lot of people felt they were well-informed when they voted on it last year, and no one thought it was going to make a very significant impact on their taxes,” Gregorich said. “And once they got their tax bill, that was not the case. It was significantly larger than they expected.”

 

MLB IN A HITTING SLUMP: It’s the Season of the Slump in Major League Baseball, even for All-Stars like Marcell Ozuna (.202), Charlie Blackmon (.184) and Francisco Lindor (.189). Miguel Cabrera, the only Triple Crown winner in a half-century, is batting .140 (AP). Major league batters are hitting just .232 overall through April, down from .252 two years ago and under the record low of .237 set in the infamous 1968 season that resulted in a lower pitcher’s mound. Strikeouts have averaged 9.06 per team per game, on pace to set a record for the 13th consecutive full season — up from 8.81 two years ago and nearly double the 4.77 in 1979. Strikeouts already are 1,092 ahead of hits, just three years after exceeding hits for the first time over a full season. Hits are averaging a record-low 7.63 after fluctuating from 8 to 10 from 1937 through last year, excepting 1968′s dip to a then-alarming 7.91.

 

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: In normal times, a governor holds paramount influence at the Statehouse, even more so within his own party. The hyper-ambitious Attorney General Rokita has turned that dynamic on its ear during a pandemic with the legal action he filed on Friday that seeks to block Holcomb's Tuesday lawsuit contesting the constitutional authority laid out in HEA1123. Holcomb believes that only a governor can call the General Assembly into a special session. In my four decades of watching Statehouse power, I cannot remember a challenge to a sitting governor in the manner Rokita has this past week. - Brian A. Howey

 

Congress

 

YOUNG, BRAUN RESOLUTION AGAINST 'HORRIFIC' FEDEX MASSACRE: U.S. Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) introduced a resolution condemning the horrific attack at the FedEx Ground Plainfield Operations Center in Indianapolis on April 15, 2021 (Howey Politics Indiana). This resolution honors the memory of the eight victims and expresses the U.S. Senate’s deepest sympathies to all of those affected by the shooting. It also recognizes the brave efforts by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the first responders who quickly reacted to the attack and cared for the injured. “The April 15th shooting at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis was an atrocious act of violence and a day Hoosiers will never forget. I stand with Indianapolis in condemning this senseless murder of eight innocent people,” said Young.

 

SPARTZ INTRODUCES ELDER ABUSE BILL: U.S. Reps. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) and  Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas) introduced the bipartisan Elder Abuse Protection Act today to shield American seniors from criminals and fraudsters (Howey Politics Indiana). The bill directs the Attorney General to establish an Elder Justice Initiative within the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. The initiative will focus on criminal enforcement and public engagement efforts to combat abuse, neglect, and financial fraud scams that target the elderly. “As we have seen during the pandemic, America’s seniors are among our most vulnerable population. As a former State Senator, I dealt with many issues our elderly Hoosiers are facing in their lives,” said Rep. Spartz. “Protecting and caring about the people who used to care for us is our responsibility. This legislation is an important step in the right direction.”

 

BANKS REINTRODUCES STUDENT LOAN ACT:  This week, U.S. Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN) and Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO), along with U.S. Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), reintroduced the Student Loan Disclosure Modernization Act to ensure student borrowers have a clearer understanding of terms and conditions before signing a loan agreement (Howey Politics Indiana). Specifically, the bipartisan legislation would simplify the Department of Education’s Plain Language Disclosure Form to place a greater emphasis on material terms of the loan. Said Rep. Banks: “Young students often just out of high school are expected to make financial decisions that will affect them for decades, and they deserve a simple explanation of their obligations when they do. I’m proud to join Rep. Cleaver in reintroducing this bipartisan, common-sense proposal that will increase transparency in our higher education system.”

 

State

 

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB SAYS STATE STILL REELING FROM MASSACRE - Indiana’s governor told members of the Sikh community and others who gathered at a downtown Indianapolis football stadium Saturday to remember the eight people killed in a mass shooting at a FedEx warehouse that he knows their anguish from the attack is far from over (AP). The three-hour event at Lucas Oil Stadium came two weeks after a former FedEx employee fatally shot the eight people, including four members of Indianapolis’ Sikh community, before killing himself. Authorities have not released a motive in the April 15 shooting. Under the stadium’s open roof, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said in his opening remarks that the capital city “is still reeling from the impact of that dark night.” “Never in my wildest imagination did I see this day or this cause of gathering as a reason for our unification,” Holcomb told the hundreds of people in attendance at the stadium where the Indianapolis Colts play. “Why must any day be that dark? Why must tragedy strike and tear a community, tear humanity apart? This pain will for sure persist as we continue to live with the loss in all of our days to come.”

 

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB TO BESTOW SACHEM AWARD TO JIM MORRIS - Gov. Eric J. Holcomb will honor civic leader James T. Morris of Indianapolis with the 2021 Sachem Award, the state's highest honor, at a ceremony Friday, June 25 (Howey Politics Indiana). “Jim Morris has lived an extraordinary life with a constant focus on serving mankind at home and abroad. While his efforts began in Indianapolis by transforming our state’s capital city profile to advance sports, citizenship and public service, his deep devotion to servant leadership later called him around the world,” Gov. Holcomb said.

 

ISDH: STATE SEEKS TO END VACCINE WASTE - As more Hoosiers get vaccinated against COVID-19, health officials expect increasing challenges in not wasting any doses: Vials of vaccine contain anywhere from five to 14 doses, and once you open one, it’s got to be used (Berman, WIBC). That means at the end of the day, vaccine clinics are looking for anyone who hasn’t gotten the shot yet. The Indiana State Department of Health says there’s going to be more waste as those people get harder to find. Chief medical officer Lindsay Weaver says some Hoosiers are insisting on getting their shot from their family doctor. That requires rethinking how Indiana distributes the vaccine. A doctor’s office may have a harder time using every dose from every vial it gets. And most doctors don’t have the ultracold storage some of the vaccines require. Weaver says the state is working with hospital networks to develop a hub-and-spoke system to get vaccine to doctor’s offices on demand. She expects doctors to have the shot available by the end of May.

 

ISDH: SATURDAY COVID STATS - The Indiana Department of Health announced Saturday that 1,191 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 721,577 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard. To date, 12,926 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of five from the previous day. Another 412 probable deaths have been reported to date based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record. A total of 3,387,503 unique individuals have been tested in Indiana, up from 3,381,943 on Friday. A total of 9,819,124 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to the state Department of Health since Feb. 26, 2020.

 

ISDH: FRIDAY COVID STATS - The Indiana Department of Health announced Friday that 1,494 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 720,425 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard. To date, 12,921 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of eight from the previous day. Another 411 probable deaths have been reported to date based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record.

 

 

HISTORY: $6M UPGRADE TO PRESIDENT HARRISON HOME - A $6 million upgrade is starting at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site in Indianapolis that leaders say is aimed at increasing its visibility and connections with the surrounding neighborhood (AP). The project’s plans include a new plaza and outdoor commons area for visitors to the home of the only Indiana resident elected president of the United States. New signs will be installed to highlight the site to those driving through the Old Northside and an 89-foot-tall flagpole visible from nearby Interstate 65/70 will fly both the U.S. and presidential flags. Interior work on the house built in 1874-75 will include updated display cases and a new research library on the third floor.

 

HISTORY: JUSTICE MINTON GRAVE MARKER RESTORED - The irony of the situation bothered Shawn Carruthers (Suddeath, News & Tribune). With millions of dollars slated to be spent to extend the life of the Sherman Minton Bridge, he found the grave marker for the span’s namesake in disrepair. Sherman Minton, a Floyd County native, was one of the U.S. Supreme Court justices who voted to end school segregation in the historic 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case, which Carruthers said changed the country. “This was a ruling that set in motion the Civil Rights movement, and a lot of the freedoms we enjoy as African Americans today are a result of what Justice Minton did on the Supreme Court,” Carruthers said.

 

Nation

 

NASA: SPACEX RETURNS 4 ASTRONAUTS - SpaceX safely returned four astronauts from the International Space Station on Sunday, making the first U.S. crew splashdown in darkness since the Apollo 8 moonshot (AP). The Dragon capsule parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, just before 3 a.m., ending the second astronaut flight for Elon Musk’s company. It was an express trip home, lasting just 6 1/2 hours. The astronauts, three American and one Japanese, flew back in the same capsule — named Resilience — in which they launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in November.

 

KENTUCKY: BAFFERT WINS 7TH DERBY WITH MEDINA SPIRIT - John Velazquez was in a familiar place, in the lead aboard Medina Spirit in the Kentucky Derby and holding off the stretch bid of three challengers. This time, Bob Baffert couldn't believe what he was seeing (AP). Medina Spirit won by a half-length on Saturday, giving Baffert his seventh victory, the most of any trainer in the race's 147-year history.

 

MICHIGAN: WHITMER PIPELINE CLOSURE STRESSES CANADA - For Michigan’s governor, the 645-mile pipeline jeopardizes the Great Lakes. For Canada’s natural resources minister, its continued operation is “nonnegotiable” (Washington Post) The clash over Calgary-based Enbridge’s Line 5, which carries up to 540,000 barrels of crude oil and natural gas liquids across Michigan and under the Great Lakes each day, is placing stress on U.S.-Canada ties — and raising questions about how the close allies, which have expressed a desire to work together to fight climate change, can balance energy security with the transition to a clean-energy economy. In a move applauded by environmentalists and Indigenous groups on both sides of the border, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in November ordered the firm to shut down the nearly 70-year-old lines by May 12. Canadian officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have appealed to their American counterparts, including President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm for help.

 

NBA: PACERS SET RECORD WITH DEFEAT OF OKC - Behind a franchise record 152 points, the Indiana Pacers handed the Oklahoma City Thunder the largest home loss in NBA history on Saturday, 152-95 (ESPN). The 57-point margin tops the previous mark of 56, set by the Celtics over the Bulls in 2018 and the SuperSonics over the Rockets in 1986. The Pacers led by as many as 67, the largest lead in a game in 25 seasons. The Pacers smashed the Thunder despite not having a number of rotation players including Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, Myles Turner and JaKarr Sampson. Domantas Sabonis, who made his return from a back injury, had a triple-double by halftime, finishing with 26 points, 19 rebounds and 14 assists in 30 minutes. He's the fourth player in the last 25 seasons to record a first half triple-double.

 

MLB: ANDERSON SLAM LEADS SOX OVER CLEVELAND 7-3 - Tim Anderson hit a grand slam, Leury García drove in three runs from the No. 9 spot in the lineup and the Chicago White Sox beat the Cleveland Indians 7-3 on Saturday (ESPN). Lance Lynn allowed three runs over five innings in his return from the injured list for the White Sox, who have won seven of nine. Austin Hedges homered and Josh Naylor had two hits for the Indians, who have dropped eight of 13.

 

MLB: CUBS NIP REDS 3-2 - Nick Hoerner hit a go-ahead single in the sixth inning and the Chicago Cubs' bullpen shut down the Cincinnati Reds in a testy 3-2 win on Saturday (ESPN). Hoerner drove in Javier Báez with one of his three hits, a two-out single to center field off reliever Sean Doolittle to complete Chicago's rally from a 2-0 deficit and boost a team that had lost six of seven.

 

NFL: COLTS DRAFT HAUL - Here's the breakdown of who the Colts picked in the 2021 draft: No. 21 Kwity Paye, DE No. 54 Dayo Odeyingbo, DE No. 127 Kylen Granson, TE No. 165 Shawn Davis, S No. 218 Sam Ehlinger, QB No. 229 Mike Strachan, WR No. 248 Will Fries, OG (ESPN).

 

NFL: BEARS DRAFT HAUL - Here are the Chicago Bears' 2021 draft picks: QB Justin Fields (1); OL Teven Jenkins (2); OL Larry Borom (5); RB Khalil Herbert (6); WR Dazz Newsome (6); CB Thomas Graham Jr. (6); NT Khyiris Tonga (ESPN).

 

 

Sunday Talk

 

CINDY McCAIN CALLS AZ RECOUNT 'LUDICROUS': Cindy McCain on Sunday called the GOP-backed election audit in Arizona "ludicrous." McCain, a prominent Arizona Republican and wife of late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), appeared on CNN's "State of the Union" and was asked by host Jake Tapper about the audit. "Listen, this whole thing is ludicrous, quite frankly, it's ludicrous. And this also comes from a state party in Arizona that refused to be audited themselves on votes that were cast within their own party communications," Cindy McCain said. "The election is over. [President] Biden won," Cindy McCain added.

 

COLLINS WON'T SUPPORT 28% CORPORATE TAX RATE: Moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) said on Sunday that she would not support the proposed 28 percent corporate tax rate in President Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan, saying jobs would be lost. On CNN's "State of the Union," host Jake Tapper asked Collins how much she would be willing to compromise on Biden's plan. "Well, at this point, I think now that the Republicans have put forth a reasonable offer, it's up to the president to do a counteroffer to us," Collins said, noting that the cost of Biden's recent proposals totaled more than $4 billion.

 

SEN. CASSIDY SAYS SIDE 'FAR APART' ON INFRASTRUCTURE - Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said Sunday that Republicans and Democrats remain "far apart" on infrastructure reform, adding that Democrats are insisting on using billions of dollars to support unions and other organizations aligned with the party's causes as part of the legislation. Cassidy, the Republican leading a GOP Senate group's efforts to reach a compromise with Democrats on the issue, told host Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" that the two sides remain at odds over billions of dollars in spending for various projects he contends are unrelated to repairing critical physical infrastructure around the U.S. "The amount of spending for roads and bridges is so slow and split over 50 states over five years. You’re not getting your bridge," Cassidy said he tells supporters of the plan who believe that it focuses spending on local infrastructure projects.

 

BIDEN ECONOMIC ADVISER DEFENDS INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN - The chair of President Biden's Council of Economic Advisers, Cecilia Rouse, defended the administration's planned $2 trillion infrastructure package as a necessary investment for growth amid a historic recession. During an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Rouse pushed back against criticism from GOP lawmakers, who have argued that the spending is too much for a package that they say does not focus only on infrastructure. Speaking with host Chris Wallace, Rouse called on viewers to remind themselves "that we are still 7 or 8 million jobs down from last year," and that the pandemic was still forcing many to remain at home due to a lack of childcare or other issues.