INDIANA COVID HOSPITALIZATIONS SURGE 31%: Statewide hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have risen more than 31% over the past two weeks amid a recent escalation in cases, according to the latest statistics from the Indiana State Department of Health (IBJ). Hospitalizations rose from 1,515 on Wednesday to 1,585 on Thursday, the highest number since Oct. 15. COVID patients occupy 17.9% of Indiana’s intensive care unit beds. The state health department on Friday reported 3,767 more cases of COVID-19, increasing the pandemic total to 1,069,450. The moving average of daily cases has climbed from 1,660 at the beginning of the month to 2,848, an increase of 71.6%. Another 26 deaths from COVID-19 were reported to the state on Thursday, raising the total to 16,673. An average of 16 deaths have occurred daily over the past seven days.

 

DRAFT OF PANDEMIC END LEGISLATION HEARD: State legislators met Tuesday to review draft legislation that would end the COVID-19 public health emergency and restrict employers from mandating vaccines. In an unusual move, Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, predicted that his bill could be passed in both chambers by Monday, Nov. 29 (Downard, CNHI). One observer remarked that he had never seen anything like that happen in all his years working for and with the General Assembly. “We ... frankly have a concern with the process that this is going under. January will be my 42nd legislative session, and I’ve never seen a hearing on a preliminary draft,” said Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Lehman said it was due time for the public health emergency to end but that the bill didn’t force Gov. Eric Holcomb to let his current executive order expire at the end of the month. “If this bill passes on the 29th (of November) and effectively says we’ve addressed the governor’s concerns on ending this, I would hope at that point that the governor would then not extend this emergency," Lehman said, noting the current order expires Dec. 1. On Saturday, legislators published the bill, which includes language that would continue enhanced Medicaid and SNAP (food assistance) benefits until March, pending federal action. But the state's requirements for businesses mandating vaccines attracted the most attention, as the federal vaccine mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees lingers in court. As written, the legislation lets businesses require vaccines for their employees but stipulates that businesses — including universities — must allow for religious and medical exemptions, can mandate testing just once a week and cannot pass the cost of testing onto the employee. If an employee complies with all of the above, that person cannot be fired for being unvaccinated.

 

BUSINESS OWNERS APPEAL TO REPUBLICANS: Business owners and representatives appealed to Republicans, saying businesses should be able to make decision for their own companies (Downard, CNHI). “We simply believe employers are in the best position to determine what’s best for their workforce,” said Patrick Tamm, president and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association. “Our main concern is testing requirements … (The state is) providing 12,000 to 17,000 tests daily. Our testing capacity is not what it was at one time.” Earlier this month, Brinegar called for the legislature to leave the choice to companies during the Chamber’s annual legislative preview. Democrats decried the speeded-up process, which bypasses the usual three full readings and hearings in multiple committees. “Why are we straying from the usual process that we engage in? There’s at least three standing committees that I can think this bill should be going through,” said Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson. “Will there be second reading amendment opportunities? We’re going to be coming back in a little over a month for our usual session. Why are we costing the taxpayers additional money to consider this?”

 

MEDICAL GROUPS TESTIFY AGAINST BILL: Numerous Indiana medical and business groups argued Tuesday against a Republican proposal aimed at ending the statewide COVID-19 public health emergency and forcing broad exemptions from workplace vaccination requirements (AP). The proposed changes to state law faced criticism during a legislative committee hearing that it wrongly sends a message that the coronavirus pandemic is over at a time when Indiana’s infections and hospitalizations are rising again. Republican House Majority Leader Matt Lehman presented the proposal as a step toward protecting individual rights by allowing workers to claim medical or religious exemptions if their employers required COVID-19 vaccinations. “I’ve had people that are saying “I’m on the chopping block,’” Lehman said. “This can’t wait until January. I think we need to take this action now.” Representatives of the Indiana Medical Association, Indiana Hospital Association and other medical groups argued the proposal would discourage attempts to increase the state’s COVID vaccination rate and limit hospitalizations and deaths. Indiana hospitals had about 1,760 COVID-19 patients admitted as of Monday — a roughly 45% increase from two weeks earlier after declines from a summer surge peak of nearly 2,700 patients in September, according to the state health department. Indiana has continued averaging about 20 deaths a day from COVID-19. Indiana State Medical Association representative Dr. Stephen Tharp, who is the Clinton County health officer, said the group believed the bill would hurt attempts to get more people vaccinated, prolonging harm to the economy and health care system. “We all want this pandemic to end,” Tharp said. “But we see patients every day who would have benefitted from vaccines.”

 

BIDEN SEEKS EMERGENCY MOTION ON VAX VAX/TEST: The Biden administration on Tuesday filed an emergency court motion that seeks the immediate reinstatement of its rules requiring many employers to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly for Covid-19 (Wall Street Journal). The Justice Department filed the request with the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which last week was designated as the court that would decide legal challenges filed around the country to the vaccine-or-testing rules. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration earlier this month formally issued the requirements, which apply to businesses with 100 or more employees. The rules cover roughly 84 million workers and are scheduled to take effect Jan. 4. The rules reflect “OSHA’s judgment that these measures are necessary to mitigate Covid-19 transmission in the workplace, and the grievous harms the virus inflicts on workers,” the Justice Department said in Tuesday’s court filing.

 

BIDEN TO TAP PETROLEUM RESERVES: The U.S. and other countries plan to tap their national strategic petroleum reserves in an attempt to bring down gasoline prices that have become a sore spot with motorists and a big contributor to inflation, President Biden said Tuesday (Wall Street Journal). Mr. Biden predicted that the added supply would lead to lower prices, but wholesale crude prices on financial markets rose after Tuesday’s announcement. Analysts questioned whether government releases are big enough to cover surging demand, and they said the release might have been aimed largely at showing the White House’s resolve to do everything it can to tame inflation, which is at its highest in more than three decades. Even if crude prices do fall, relief for consumers might be short-lived as demand is expected to keep rising into next year as the global economy continues its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

REP. BAIRD FINED $5K FOR VIOLATING HOUSE RULES: A Hoosier congressman who represents part of Northwest Indiana has been fined $5,000 for failing to go through a metal detector immediately prior to entering the U.S. House chamber, according to Capitol Police (Carden, NWI Times). Police said U.S. Rep. Jim Baird, R-Greencastle, whose House district includes Newton and Jasper counties, walked around the east lobby magnetometer and into the House chamber on Nov. 17, despite Baird being reminded by police he needed to go through the security screening. Records show at least three Capitol Police officers witnessed Baird enter the House floor after being told by police he first needed to go through the metal detector. Under House rules, a first violation of the House security screening policy incurs a $5,000 fine, as well as a referral to the House Ethics Committee and the speaker of the House, according to House Sergeant at Arms William Walker.

 

EVANSVILLE LEADERS SPEND 48 HOURS HOMELESS: Some city officials are trying to warm back up after spending 48 hours experiencing life as someone dealing with homelessness (WFIE-TV). Aurora, an organization focused on helping those dealing with homelessness find permanent housing, organized what they called the Homeless Experience Project to raise money and awareness for those in need. The clock started ticking on Thursday at noon, counting down 48 hours that community leaders would spend in the life of someone experiencing homelessness. “I can tell you it was humbling, it was mentally and physically exhausting,” said Zac Heronemus, a city councilman who participated in the event. Officials say Evansville has the highest amount of homelessness per capita in the state of Indiana, and the project gave leaders a chance to visit soup kitchens and see the healthcare and mental health services available to those in need.

 

SEC. PETE IS A MAN IN A HURRY: Pete Buttigieg has long been a man in a hurry. Since 2010, he has run for treasurer of Indiana, mayor of South Bend, chair of the Democratic National Committee, and president of the United States. At 39, he is one of the most omnipresent and newly-powerful members of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet. But he says he’s not thinking about what comes next, even as he’s buzzed about as a potential Biden heir (Politico). “I’d say the other thing that I'm really enjoying about this job, although it's very demanding and obviously requiring a lot, is that this is the least I have had to think about campaigns and elections in about a decade and that's a very good thing,” he told POLITICO on Friday, amidst people in hard hats and bright yellow safety vests in a construction zone near Terminal 4 at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. While Buttigieg says he’s not contemplating the race to be Biden’s successor, inside the West Wing, others are imagining it for him. His name is sometimes discussed by aides as a natural Democratic presidential nominee in 2028 — or 2024 if the president opts not to run. “Nobody in the West Wing shuts that down,” said one person with direct knowledge of the conversations. “It’s very open.”

 

THANKSGIVING MEAL COSTS SLIGHTLY MORE IN INDIANA: Hoosiers can expect to pay more for this year’s Thanksgiving meal. The Indiana Farm Bureau’s annual Thanksgiving market basket survey reflects the effects inflation and supply chain issues are having on food (Horton, Indiana Public Media). The survey found the per-person cost of a Thanksgiving meal for a group of 10 people was about $0.50 more than last year.  The price is comparable to the national average this year of $5.33 per person. The survey reported the price for a 16-pound turkey rose almost $4 in Indiana.

 

HPI PUBLISHING SCHEDULE: We will be taking Thanksgiving off. The next HPI Daily Wire will be published on Friday. The next weekly HPI will be published next Thursday. Have a happy and safe holiday. Thanks for reading.

 

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: There have been more COVID deaths in the United States this year than the horrible year of 2020. Think about that. We had universal access to vaccine and half of Hoosier adults and some 40% of Americans have rejected them. The impacts? Burned out medical personnel are quitting in droves as ICUs are filling up again. The General Assembly is now poised to pass mandate restrictions ... when the pandemic continues to rage along ideological lines. A wiser course of action would be to do all we can to turn this pandemic into an endemic, then study the impacts and come up with proper policy changes. - Brian A. Howey

 

Campaigns

 

COMPETITIVE HOUSE DISTRICTS BEING WIPED OFF THE MAP: From Texas to Oregon, competitive congressional districts are disappearing. As states finalize new borders ahead of the 2022 midterms, state legislatures are approving maps they hope will advantage one party in the coming struggle to control the narrowly held U.S. House (Washington Post). In the 15 states that approved new congressional district maps as of Monday morning, the number of districts where the 2020 presidential margin was within five percentage points has fallen from 23 to just 10, according to a Post analysis. The new maps in those states have already netted a double-digit increase in solidly Republican seats compared with previous maps there. The completion of maps in more states will provide a fuller picture in the coming months.

 

Polls

 

BUTTIGIEG NAME ID TOPS CABINET: The spotlight on Mayor Pete comes as a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows Buttigieg with the highest name ID (83%) of any member of the Biden administration (aside from Biden and Harris, of course) and a higher net favorability rating (+10) than not only every other Cabinet member, but both Biden (-6) and Harris (-12) as well. The next highest net favorability rating in the cabinet belonged to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin (+8).

 

62% BLAME BIDEN FOR SUPPLY CHAIN ISSUES: It may not surprise anyone, but today’s Morning Consult poll shows that a majority of voters (62%) blame Biden for the supply chain problem haunting Americans. But nearly as many blame Congress (61%) — and more actually blame large corporations (63%) and China (64%). But mostly, voters blame supply-chain problems on worker shortages (74%) and the Covid-19 pandemic (79%). Still, voters say they’re looking for candidates in 2022 who take the issue seriously. Over half of voters (52%) say a candidate’s position on supply chain and delivery issues will be a “major” factor in their vote in the midterm elections for Congress.

 

77% OF AMERICANS SAY INFLATION IMPACTING THEM: More than three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) say inflation is affecting their lives as the holiday season begins, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll — and a clear majority (57 percent) blame President Biden. The survey of 1,696 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Nov. 17 to 19, also found that more of them selected inflation as the “most important issue facing America” (17 percent) than any other issue, including COVID-19 (15 percent), which continues to kill more than 1,100 Americans each day, on average. And just 18 percent say Biden is doing enough to address it.

 

Congress

 

BANKS INTRODUCES 'TRUTH IN TESTIMONY' RULE: House Armed Services Committee member and Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Banks proposed a new rule in the House of Representatives that would strengthen the “Truth in Testimony” form required for nongovernment witnesses under House rules, requiring maximum transparency, so that Congress and the American public understand exactly how foreign agendas may be influencing the public policy discussion that takes place before House committees (Howey Politics Indiana). The new rule would mandate anyone appearing before Congress disclose whether they receive any foreign funding before providing any testimony. The U.S. China Security and Economic Commission has noted that a number of Washington D.C. think tanks and universities have received funding from the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). One study has found at least $174 million in foreign funding to D.C. think tanks from 2014-2018 alone,” said Banks.

 

State

 

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB SAYS AFGHAN RESETTLEMENT PROGRAM TO END SOON - Gov. Eric Holcomb expects Camp Atterbury’s Afghan resettlement efforts to come to an end by January (Indiana Public Media). The National Guard base has been a temporary home for some 7,200 people who fled Afghanistan after the collapse of Kabul. “We have never on Hoosier soil carried out something to this size and this scope,” Holcomb said. “I anticipate this winding down by the end of the year, but we’re gonna be here as long as we need to.” To meet the end of the year goal, the camp would need to approve roughly 600 people a week. About 4,100 evacuees are still waiting to begin their lives off base. Just over 700 were approved to leave last week; another 700 are expected to get ok’d next week.

 

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB MAKES APPOINTMENTS – Gov. Eric J. Holcomb announced several appointments to various state boards and commissions.

 

Behavioral Health & Human Services Licensing Board: The governor made six reappointments to the board, who will serve until September 30, 2025: Elizabeth Cunningham (Carmel), psychiatrist with Community Health Network; Jackie Eitel (Greencastle), business development manager for the Indiana Health Information Exchange; Kelley Gardner (Indianapolis), director of operations with Eskenazi Health

Andrew Harner (Indianapolis), clinical manager for social work with Riley Hospital for Children; Kimble Richardson (Indianapolis), manager of business development at Community Health Network; Stephan Viehweg (Greenfield), associate director of the Riley Child Development Center and assistant research professor of pediatrics at the IU School of Medicine. The governor also made three new appointments to the board, who will serve until September 30, 2025: Dianna Cooper-Bolinskey (Terre Haute), partner and practitioner with Wabash Valley Therapy, LLC, and associate professor at Campbellsville University; Jon Ferguson (Carmel), behavioral health manager for Ascension St. Vincent, Carmel Clay Schools; Martin Justice (Vevay), division director for addiction services at Community Mental Health Center.

 

Board of Trustees of Ball State University: The governor made two reappointments to the board, who will serve until December 31, 2025: Renae Conley (Chicago, IL), CEO of ER Solutions, LLC; Mike McDaniel (Indianapolis), executive director of governmental affairs for Krieg DeVault. The governor also made one new appointment to the board, who will serve until December 31, 2025: Julie Griffith (Carmel), executive vice president for Strategy, Partnerships and Outreach for IN3 (Indiana Innovation Institute).

 

Judicial Nominating Commission for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals: The governor made one new appointment to the commission, who will serve until December 31, 2024: Danny Lopez (Carmel), vice president for External Affairs and Corporate Communications with Pacers Sports & Entertainment.

 

State Board of Dentistry: The governor made two reappointments to the board, who will serve until November 30, 2025: Ted Reese, DDS (Indianapolis), principal of Indianapolis Dentistry; Jeffrey Snoddy, DDS (Terre Haute), principal of Terre Haute Family Dental. The governor also made four new appointments to the board, who will serve until November 30, 2025: Tammera Glickman (Carmel), assistant general counsel of the Indiana Department of Administration; Matthew Kolkman, DDS (Fort Wayne), owner of Grabill Family Dentistry; Twyla Rader, LDH (Danville), dental hygienist with Brownsburg Dental Professionals and clinical assistant professor with the Indiana University School of Dentistry; Edward Sammons, DDS (West Lafayette), principal of Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics.

 

Underground Plant Protection Advisory Committee: The governor made five reappointments to the committee, who will serve until October 31, 2025: Angela DeKemper (Mt. Vernon), supervisor of land/legal and right of way with Countrymark Refining and Logistics, LLC; Rick Smith (DeMotte), gas operations compliance manager with NIPSCO; Scott Sontag (Plainfield), COO of JDH Contracting; Blaine Walters (Carmel), quality manager at USIC; Benjamin Warren (Greenfield), director of gas transmission and distribution at Citizens Energy Group. The governor also made two new appointments to the committee, who will serve until October 31, 2025: Bruce Dickie (Bremen), manager of safety and resources with Selge Construction; Justin Sell (Carmel), director of operations and technology with the Underground Safety Alliance.

 

Nation

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN TO NOMINATE YOUNG FOR OMB - The White House will on Wednesday nominate Shalanda Young to the position of budget director after months in which the key administration position has gone unfilled, according to three people who spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement (Washington Post). Young has served as the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget since this spring, but the White House will now tap her to officially lead the agency as the administration faces multiplying challenges in implementing its economic agenda, the people said. She must be confirmed by the Senate to serve in the role, but she was confirmed to her current role by a 63-to-37 vote in March with support from more than a dozen Republicans.

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN/HARRIS SCHEDULES - President Biden's schedule — The president is in Nantucket, and has nothing on his public schedule. VP Harris has nothing on her public schedule.

 

MEDIA: 5 MILLION WATCH RITTENHOUSE INTERVIEW - Tucker Carlson reached 5.05 million viewers for his Kyle Rittenhouse interview on Monday, the Fox News Channel opinion host's largest audience since the night of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol (AP). Rittenhouse, who was acquitted last week on charges stemming from killing two men and wounding another during August 2020 unrest in Kenosha, gave Carlson the chance for the post-trial interview because of the support he had shown Rittenhouse, according to the 18-year-old's family. Carlson has averaged 3.16 million viewers on a typical night this year, the Nielsen company said. Rittenhouse said in a wide-ranging interview that he's “not a racist person” and supports the Black Lives Matter movement.   “This case has nothing to do with race. It never had anything to do with race. It had to do with the right to self-defense,” Rittenhouse said. He is white, as were the men he shot.

 

ILLINOIS: FEUD SHAPING BILLIONAIRE GOV RACE - Two billionaires—one Democratic, one Republican—are facing off over the response to rising violence in Chicago and their broader running feud is raising the prospect of a new national spending record in a governor’s race (Wall Street Journal). Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, whose self-financing for his first campaign in 2018 helped set the current U.S. record, has found himself at odds with his state’s richest man. Citadel hedge fund founder Kenneth Griffin, a major donor to philanthropic causes and mostly GOP candidates, has said he would financially support a Republican seeking to defeat Mr. Pritzker next year in a state where Democrats now hold all statewide elected offices.

 

OHIO: DRUG STORE CHAINS FUELED OPIOID EPIDEMIC - A federal jury in Cleveland on Tuesday found that the companies owning CVS, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies were liable for contributing to the opioid epidemic in two Ohio counties—the first, potentially influential verdict among many lawsuits targeting pharmacy chains (Wall Street Journal). In the suit, attorneys for Lake and Trumbull counties in northeastern Ohio had argued that the chains failed to stop pain pills from flooding the counties and false prescriptions from being filled. The counties argued that by enabling the opioid crisis the pharmacy companies had created a public nuisance costing them each about $1 billion in law-enforcement, social-services and court expenses.

 

Local

 

FORT WAYNE: COUNCIL VOTES TO SUBPOENA RED RIVER – Fort Wayne City Council has approved issuing a subpoena to Red River Waste Management’s CEO James A. Smith (WANE-TV). In January 2018, Red River took over Fort Wayne’s trash and recycling contract which covers over 25,000 homes. Since then thousands of complaints have been filed against the Texas-based trash collection company. In October, Red River filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In the filing, the family-owned business, which services 310,000 households across five states, blamed the COVID-19 pandemic, a credit agreement, and “operational challenges” for its financial struggles.

 

FORT WAYNE: EXOTIC DANCERS SEEK END TO COVID RESTRICTIONS – Tuesday evening, Fort Wayne City Council voted to introduce a proposal that could loosen the current restrictions of adult businesses (WANE-TV). The Sexually Oriented Business Ordinance, passed back in 2019 and added restrictions such as: no employee, or any other person shall be in the state of nudity while in an establishment, that no employee should appear semi nude in a sexually oriented business, and workers must remain six feet away from patrons. Jessica Tompkins has been an exotic dancer for the past 18-years and has worked at Brandy’s Gentleman’s Club for 13 of those years. She told WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee that the current ordinance has been a major issue and is making it harder and harder to make money and make ends meet.

 

CARMEL: SCHOOL BOARD TO RETURN TO NORMAL FORMAT - The next meeting of the Carmel Clay School Board will be open to an in-person audience after two months of virtual-only attendance for the community (IndyStar). Board president Layla Spanenburg announced the change at the end of Monday's meeting and said the Dec. 13 meeting will be at Clay Middle School, 5150 E 126th Street in Carmel. The board typically meets at the district's educational services center, but the change in venue is to accommodate a larger crowd and attendees should expect metal detectors, said district spokesperson Emily Bauer. It is the board's only meeting next month.

 

SOUTH BEND: MAYOR MUELLER HIGHLIGHTS LEAF PROGRAM - South Bend Mayor James Mueller highlighted the city’s Fall ReLeaf program on Tuesday. Mueller was out collecting leaves in the Cross Creek subdivision on the city’s northwest side (WNDU-TV). “The leaves were on the trees longer, so the crews were able to go through the neighborhoods faster than anticipated,” Mueller says. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to come back at the scheduled time, and we will do that for the second pass as well. So, if you see crews in your neighborhood ahead of schedule, don’t worry. If you haven’t been able to rake your leaves yet, we will be come back to the scheduled date as well to make sure we’re getting the leaves.”

 

GOSHEN; FIRST FEMALE FIREFIGHTERS SERVING — Two recruits were sworn in Monday as the first women to serve on the Goshen Fire Department (Elkhart Truth). Megan Berry and Hannah Estes took their oaths as probationary firefighters after their hiring was approved by the Goshen Board of Works. Both come to Goshen with years of experience at other departments in the area.