GOP BILL STYMIES WORKPLACE VAX MANDATE: Indiana’s governor held back Monday from supporting a proposal by fellow Republicans that would force businesses to grant COVID-19 vaccination requirement exemptions without any questions and block similar immunization rules set by state universities (AP). The proposal, first released Saturday by leaders of the Republican-dominated Legislature, would reject an appeal from the state’s largest business organization to leave such decisions up to employers and strike against Indiana University’s student vaccine mandate that a U.S. Supreme Court justice let go into effect. That proposal includes three administrative actions sought last week by Gov. Eric Holcomb that he said would allow him to end the statewide COVID-19 public health emergency order that’s been in place since March 2020, even amid a recent rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Indiana and other Midwestern states. But it goes further by including provisions that would give workers broad exemptions from employer vaccine mandates amid a national conservative pushback against President Joe Biden’s mandates.

 

COVID CASES RISE IN INDIANA SCHOOLS: Cases of COVID-19 among K-12 students are on the rise again this last week, after nearly two months of falling case numbers in Indiana's schools (IndyStar). There were 3,113 new cases reported among students in the state last week, up from roughly 2,400 the week before, but still far below the peak in early September. Schools also reported 197 new cases in teachers and 284 cases among other staff members. Most of the newly reported cases occurred last week, though some did date back to previous weeks.

 

DR. ADAMS SAYS IT'S NOT 'IF' BUT 'HOW BAD' NEXT COVID SURGE WILL BE: Former U.S. Surgeon General and Indiana state health commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams says a winter COVID-19 surge in Indiana isn’t a matter of “if” but “how bad” (Thorp, Indiana Public Media) Adams advised Hoosiers to get vaccinated if they are unvaccinated, and receive booster shots if they are eligible -- especially ahead of the holiday season. But according to Adams, the state -- and country -- will have to learn to live with COVID. “It’s not going away anytime soon, when you look at over 40 percent of the United States population not vaccinated and a much greater percentage of the rest of the world not fully vaccinated,” he said. But Adams said the country isn’t yet moving towards the virus becoming “endemic”, which means it will be regularly found in the population for the foreseeable future. For that to happen, Adams said COVID transmission has to first be more tightly controlled. “We are not in an endemic state yet by definition. Endemic means you settle down in a low and acceptable rate,” he said. “We still have 1,000 people dying every day from COVID. We’ve got new cases that are as high as they’ve been at any point during the pandemic. We are not there yet.”

 

ALDEN SEEKS TO BY NWI INDIANA TIMES PARENT COMPANY: New York hedge fund and U.S. newspaper consolidator Alden Global Capital LLC has made a proposal to take Lee Enterprises Inc. private in a deal that values the company at around $141 million (Wall Street Journal). Lee owns the Northwest Indiana Times. On Monday, Alden Global offered to purchase the Davenport, Iowa-based media company, which has news operations in 77 U.S. markets, for $24 a share in cash. Lee’s shares closed Friday at $18.49 and were up 46% so far for the year. On Monday, shares in Lee jumped 27% to $23.40. In a statement later Monday, Lee Enterprises said it had received Alden’s bid and would review it. The bid to buy Lee Enterprises marks the third major acquisition effort by Alden in the past two years, following a failed bid to acquire USA Today owner Gannett Inc. in 2019 and a successful move to purchase Baltimore Sun owner Tribune Publishing this year. Alden Global has been criticized by its employees and industry experts for aggressive cost-cutting, but its executives say the reductions help preserve newspapers. Lee, whose publications include the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, expanded last year when it bought Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s BRK.B 1.78% media-group newspaper business for $140 million. At the time, Lee was already managing dozens of newspapers for the company.

 

BMV SELLS CUSTOMER DATA: Records show the Bureau of Motor Vehicles is selling people’s personal information and has been for years. CBS4 dug through public records and found the agency has made $43 million off of the practice since 2018. It has sold “enhanced access” to more than 1,400 businesses including tow companies, automotive dealers, police agencies, lawyers, private investigators, and security firms. CBS4 asked the BMV for an on-camera interview but a spokesperson declined. Instead, she emailed the following: “The Indiana BMV is permitted under Indiana law to authorize the permissible use of personal information by verified entities who qualify under Indiana statutory standards. (see Ind. Code 9-14-12 and 9-14-13). Any information available is based upon the requestor and the intended use of the data.

 

BIKING ADVOCATES LAMENT 7 INDY DEATHS: Indianapolis biking advocates reeling from the deaths of seven people this year in collisions between vehicles and cyclists are calling for the city to do more to try to prevent such crashes (AP). About two dozen cyclists held a moment of silence for seven minutes — one for each crash victim — at a downtown plaza Sunday evening to mark World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. The candlelight vigil was organized by Bike Indianapolis, a nonprofit group which says that, by its count, seven cyclists have received a fatal blow from a vehicle in Indianapolis since mid-July. “This was too many deaths,” said Sylva Zhang, Bike Indianapolis’ marketing director. In each of the previous six years, the city recorded between one and five fatal crashes with cyclists, according to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization’s crash dashboard, The Indianapolis Star reported.

 

STATE DONATES 200K POUNDS OF POULTRY: Gov. Eric Holcomb, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler recognized the generosity of Indiana’s poultry producers at the 74th annual Indiana state poultry recognition event hosted at the Indiana Statehouse (Howey Politics Indiana). Over the past year, Indiana poultry farmers have donated nearly 100 tons or 200,000 pounds of poultry products to Hoosiers in need (Howey Politics Indiana). “Indiana’s agriculture industry is making strong economic impacts across the state, nationally and across the globe and that is due in part to Hoosier poultry producers,” said Gov. Eric J. Holcomb. “As we enter the holiday season, let us all recognize the contributions Hoosier farmers make in ensuring our plates are full of a variety of nutritious foods, and, of course, all of our favorite seasonal treats.” For decades, Indiana’s poultry producers have been working to address food insecurity in their local communities by providing protein to food banks across the state. Some of the main products that were donated over the course of this year include eggs, chicken, duck and turkey.

 

INDIANA INCREASING LAW ENFORCEMENT LEVELS DURING HOLIDAY: This Thanksgiving, travel is expected to rebound to nearly pre-pandemic levels. According to AAA, it’s predicted that 48.3 million people will be taking to the roads for the holiday, an 8 percent increase from last year. Unfortunately, heavier traffic, combined with declining seat belt use and the prevalence of impaired driving, makes this travel period particularly dangerous for road users (Howey Politics Indiana). In response, state and local law enforcement agencies are gearing up for the Safe Family Travel campaign. Over the next six weeks, officers will be out in greater numbers to discourage impaired driving and ensure drivers and passengers are properly buckled. The high-visibility patrols are funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and will concentrate around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. “Whether you’re driving for 10 minutes or 10 hours, we’re asking everyone to plan ahead and make safety their top priority,” said Devon McDonald, ICJI Executive Director. “Don’t be the reason there’s an empty seat at your table or someone else’s this Thanksgiving.”

 

JAN. 6 COMMITTEE SUBPOENAS STONE, JONES: A committee investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection has issued subpoenas to five more individuals, including former President Donald Trump’s ally Roger Stone and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, as lawmakers deepened their probe of the rallies that preceded the deadly attack (AP). The subpoenas issued Monday include demands for documents and testimony from Stone and Jones as well as three people accused of organizing and promoting the two rallies that took place on Jan. 6. “The Select Committee is seeking information about the rallies and subsequent march to the Capitol that escalated into a violent mob attacking the Capitol and threatening our democracy,” said Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chairman of the panel. “We need to know who organized, planned, paid for, and received funds related to those events, as well as what communications organizers had with officials in the White House and Congress.”

 

INDIANA POWER GRID UNPREPARED FOR EXTREME WINTER WEATHER: The latest report released last week by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) says Indiana’s electrical grid is prepared for a normal winter season, but when it comes to unexpected extreme weather, it’s an entirely different playing field (WISH-TV). “It’s that extreme weather we need to be concerned about and not take our not take our supply of electricity for granted,” NERC Manager of Reliability Assessments Mark Olson said. Olson tells I-Team 8 it is imperative the state prepares so it avoids the massive power outages seen in Texas this past February. “Texas really bore the brunt of the catastrophe earlier this year. I think it was a wake up call for the electric industry,” he said.

 

CVS WON'T SAY HOW MANY INDIANA STORES WILL CLOSE: CVS plans to shutter 900 stores nationwide as it pivots to offering more primary care and minute-clinic services, as well as prescription delivery (Pete, NWI Times). The Rhode Island-based pharmacy chain, the nation's largest, won't say how many stores it may close in Northwest Indiana, where it has an extensive footprint and recently took over the homegrown Fagan Pharmacy chain. "It’s important to note these changes to our store footprint won’t begin until the end of Q1 2022 — we’ll provide more details, including specific locations, when available," spokesman Charlie Rice-Minoso said.

 

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: The Indiana General Assembly is poised to end the COVID-19 public health emergency during a special session next Monday. But is the pandemic really over? Overall, 3,388,095 Hoosiers or 50.33% of Indiana's population have been fully vaccinated, while 59.1 of all Americans have been vaxed. Monroe County officials were alarmed at how few wore masks at Assembly Hall last week for IU basketball games.  Monroe County officials were alarmed at how few wore masks at Assembly Hall last week for IU basketball games. - Brian A. Howey

 

Campaigns

 

BIDEN PLANS TO SEEK REELECTION IN 2024: President Biden intends to run for reelection in 2024, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Monday, following a flurry of reports on discussions among Democrats about whether he would follow through on a bid for a second term (The Hill). “That’s his intention,” Psaki told reporters, confirming reports that Biden has been telling advisers and staff he plans to run again in 2024.

 

INDEMS PANDEMIC SESSION STATEMENT: A statement from INDems’ executive director Lauren Ganapini after Indiana Republicans and Governor Eric Holcomb announced their intent to hold session next week (Howey Politics Indiana): “Indiana and Hoosiers need every tool possible to protect their families and put the pandemic behind us. Eliminating certain tools - like vaccine recommendations and emergency powers - puts the state in a weaker position to achieve this goal just as another wave is hitting Indiana and putting more lives at risk. Unfortunately, it appears Indiana Republicans want to rebrand President Joe Biden’s testing requirements as their own for nothing but partisan purposes and at the expense of businesses across the state. Indiana Democrats continue to urge Hoosiers to get vaccinated and help the state put COVID-19 in the rearview mirror.” – Lauren Ganapini, executive director of the Indiana Democratic Party

 

INDEMS CRITICIZE GOP OVER DATA SALE: The Indiana Democratic Party, the organization that advocates for the future of Indiana and its families, today criticized the Indiana Republican Party for selling Hoosiers’ personal information to third-party vendors without their consent (Howey Politics Indiana). According to a bombshell report by CBS4 Indy, the Holcomb Administration has sold $43 million worth of personal data and public records since 2018, providing this information to “tow companies, automotive dealers, police agencies, lawyers, private investigators, and security firms”. “There is absolutely no reason why Hoosiers are having their personal information and public records sold off to third-party vendors without their consent, and Governor Eric Holcomb owes Hoosiers across Indiana an apology for betraying their trust in our state government,” said Lauren Ganapini, executive director of the Indiana Democratic Party. “It’s without a doubt that had the shoe been on the other foot and a Democratic administration was found to infringe on Hoosiers’ personal freedoms, Indiana Republicans would treat this like an assault on the Constitution. Accountability must happen, or Republicans will prove their crusade against so-called ‘big government’ is nothing but an extreme partisan stunt.”

 

COHEN RELEASED; GOHMERT TO RUN FOR AG; HOGAN RESPONDS TO TRUMP: Michael Cohen was released after three years of house arrest. In an interview with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota, Cohen predicted, “Donald will not run” in 2024 (Politico Playbook). “His fragile ego cannot stand to be considered a two-time loser.” Louie Gohmert announced on Newsmax that he’s running for A.G. of Texas. Larry Hogan shot back at Donald Trump after the former president endorsed a Republican state legislator to challenge Hogan for reelection: “Personally, I’d prefer endorsements from people who didn’t lose Maryland by 33 points.” Sean Parnell has dropped out of the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race after losing a child custody battle.

 

General Assembly

 

REP. FLEMING TO FILE MATERNAL MORTALITY BILL: Maternal mortality has long been a top-of-mind issue for Rep. Rita Fleming, a retired obstetrician first elected to the Indiana General Assembly in 2018. But when the Jeffersonville Democrat read “Joy in Jeopardy,” the IndyStar series on maternal mortality that published earlier this month, she grew even more certain that the legislature needs to act – soon (IndyStar). “I just think it’s more urgent than ever,” she said. This legislative session Fleming plans to propose a bill along the lines of one passed four years ago in Ohio. That law requires hospitals to ensure that women who have just given birth are offered the option of long-term contraception before they leave the hospital.

 

State

 

INDOT: ANNOUNCES I-465/I-69 REVAMP - The Indiana Department of Transportation announced new details on a major project to ease congestion and improve safety around Interstate 465 and Interstate 69 on the northeast side of Indianapolis (WTHR-TV). The interchange itself is considered one of the state's busiest — with nearly 100,000 drivers traveling through every day. "The commute is getting pretty nasty in the mornings and at night," said INDOT spokesperson Mallory Duncan. "So we're working to fix that and improve safety in the area." The project, called Clear Path 465, has been in the works for nearly a decade. In June, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a $70 million grant to help pay for the improvements which will include the following improvements:

 

ISDH: 211 CALL CAN GET YOU MONOCLONAL INFO - Hoosiers interested in treating their COVID-19 infection with monoclonal antibodies now can call 211 for more information about the service (Carden, NWI Times). The Indiana Department of Health announced Monday that 211 callers seeking information on monoclonal antibodies will be connected to Crush COVID, a support center managed by KPMG LLP, that provides information about the treatment on behalf of participating providers. The service uses a caller's ZIP code to help locate the nearest of 100 infusion centers across the state.

 

ISDH: ANNOUNCES PARTNERSHIP WITH PURDUE - The Indiana Department of Health has partnered with Purdue University on a new initiative that aims to ensure Hoosiers have better access to the resources they need to improve their health (Howey Politics Indiana). The two-year Indiana Healthy Opportunities for People Everywhere (I-HOPE) initiative will deploy teams across the state to facilitate community-level conversations, resulting in strategies to address the factors that prevent people from living their healthiest lives. The work will examine longstanding risk factors, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Hoosiers’ health. The effort is being funded by a $34.8 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Chronic disease, food insecurity, opioids, obesity and smoking were challenges for Indiana before the pandemic, and the last two years of isolation and treatment delays have only made them worse,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG. “As we amplify pandemic recovery efforts, it’s more important than ever to understand and respond to the factors that make it difficult for people to get healthy and stay healthy, such as limited access to healthcare, affordable housing, transportation, childcare, and safe and secure employment. I-HOPE will help us do that.”

 

DWD: STATE SEEKS JOBS FOR 700 AFGHANS - The Indiana Department of Workforce Development said it is working to connect roughly 700 Afghan refugees at Camp Atterbury with jobs in the state and employers are eager to hire them (WVPE). The department has opened a special WorkOne employment services center, open three days a week. It’s staffed by WorkOne employees donated from various workforce boards across the state. There, refugees get general information about what employment is like in the United States. For those looking to stay in Indiana, DWD has career skills and language assessments along with adult education programs to prepare them for local jobs.

 

BMV USING 1 STAFF FOR 2 BUREAUS - Two east-central Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch offices will change schedules after Thanksgiving to keep two locations open by sharing one staff.  This comes after the short-staffed state agency closed several offices this fall (Indiana Public Media). To share one staff, the Alexandria BMV branch will be open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the Tipton office will be open Tuesday and Thursday.  The changes begin on Monday, November 29. In a statement, the BMV says using the same team “supports effective use of state resources and enables the great government service the agency strives to provide.”

 

IEDC: $5.6M GRANT RECEIVED - The Indiana Destination Development Corporation (IDDC) has received a $5.6 million grant from the U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration (EDA). The EDA awarded $314 million in grants to 34 states and the District of Columbia to revitalize travel, tourism and outdoor recreation.  "These funds allow IDDC to help enhance the quality of life here in our great state," said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch. "By investing in marketing, we can boost the Leisure and Travel- Related industry, which is crucial to our economy." The U.S. Economic Development Administration allocated money based on employment loss and share of the state's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the Leisure and Hospitality sectors. Indiana was one of 34 states and the District of Columbia to be awarded funding in the first round. "This grant money will further IDDC's mission is to drive more consumers to the Leisure and Travel-Related entities within our state, which will help those entities recover from the pandemic," said Elaine Bedel, IDDC's Secretary and CEO. "We also anticipate that our initiatives will raise the perception of Indiana." The funding for this grant program was allocated in the American Rescue Plan.

 

EDUCATION: PRIME GRANTS ANNOUNCED - The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) today awarded 22 schools across the state with grants to support the launch of the Indiana Postsecondary Ready Investigative Mathematics Experience (PRIME) math transitions course. Schools will leverage these funds to support students as they develop and retain math skills necessary for success after high school.

 

FBI: INDY CHIEF TO RETIRE - Paul Keenan, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Indianapolis Division, will retire from the agency at the end of the month (IndyStar). He led the local office during federal law enforcement's investigation into the FedEx shooting, when a gunman fatally shot eight people before shooting himself at a FedEx logistics facility in southwest Indianapolis on April 15. It was the highest profile event to occur during Keenan's time in Indianapolis, which began in June 2020. It also was the deadliest mass shooting in the city's history.

 

NBA: PACERS ROUT BULLS 109-77 - Domantas Sabonis scored 21 points, Malcolm Brogdon added 16 more, and the Indiana Pacers routed the Chicago Bulls 109-77 on Monday night. Myles Turner also scored 12 points and hauled in 10 rebounds in Indiana’s second straight win (AP). “It feels like we’re getting our footing,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’re a team that’s not going to get any free lunch from anybody. We’ve got to embrace that fact, and it’s got to be something that brings us closer and closer together.” DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls with 18 points, while Zach LaVine scored 17 — just the second time this season he was held to fewer than 20 points.

 

Nation

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN REAPPOINTS POWELL TO THE FED - President Joe Biden said he will reappoint Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell as head of the U.S. central bank, opting for continuity in the government’s most powerful economic post as the specter of rising inflation looms in an election year (Politico). Powell — a Republican and a Trump appointee — is expected to easily win confirmation with bipartisan backing, driven by his record in heading off a financial crisis at the onset of the pandemic and steering the economy through the crippling recession that followed. But he’ll face intense scrutiny from some Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren for overseeing a rollback in Wall Street rules, an issue that has sharply divided progressives over whether he deserves a second term, and over a trading scandal that forced two top Fed officials to resign.

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN SCHEDULE - President Biden's schedule — 10 a.m.: The president and VP Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief. — 2 p.m.: Biden will speak about the economy and lowering prices. — 4 p.m.: Biden, Harris, first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will take part in a service project at DC Central Kitchen. — 5:55 p.m.: The Bidens will depart for Nantucket, arriving at 7:10 p.m. Press secretary Jen Psaki will brief at 3:15 p.m.

 

Local

 

HAMMOND: McDERMOTT WILL REQUIRE EMPLOYEE VAX — All newly hired city employees will have to show proof of vaccination before their first day of work and all current employees must show proof of vaccination before being considered for a transfer or promotion within city departments, according to two executive orders signed by Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. (Devore, NWI Times). “I don’t want to add to the problem of unvaccinated employees any more than I already have," McDermott said. "Over 770,000 Americans have died from this disease so far, and these vaccines are FDA approved." Executive Order 21-45 mandates that, effective immediately, anyone hired by the city of Hammond will have to report their vaccination status and provide proof of vaccination with a signed affidavit stating their statement is true. Similarly, Executive Order 21-47 requires all employees who apply for a transfer or promotion within a city department provide proof of vaccination with a signed affidavit.

 

EVANSVILLE: DOWNTOWN TOWER IMPLODED — Hundreds of onlookers gathered in Evansville to watch as a series of blasts brought down an 18-story office tower that had been the southwest Indiana city’s tallest building for than a half-century (AP). Crowds watching from a safe distance cheered Sunday morning as a cloud of smoke enveloped part of downtown Evansville after a rapid series of blasts collapsed the 420 Main Building in less than a half-minute, the Evansville Courier & Press reported. The office tower had housed Old National Bank’s headquarters from 1970 to 2004. But after the bank moved out, the tower’s occupancy dropped, its condition deteriorated, and efforts to rehabilitate it failed.

 

LAFAYETTE: PD CHIEF TO RETIRE -The Lafayette Police Department will soon have a new police chief. Chief Patrick Flannelly will be retiring in March of 2022. Chief Flannelly has been with the department for 26 years and was appointed Chief in November of 2012 (WFLI-TV). According to information sent out by Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski, Chief Flannelly announced his retirement in October 2021. Mayor Roswarski conducted in-depth interviews with five applicants who expressed interest in the position. He ultimately selected LPD Captain Scott Galloway. Captain Galloway has been with LPD since 1998.