COURTNEY APPROVED AS NEW MADISON MAYOR: Republican Madison Mayoral candiate Bob Courtney was unanimously approved to serve out the unexpired term of former Mayor Damon Welch at a Jefferson County Republican Caucus meeting Saturday morning at the Red Bicycle Hall (Madison Courier). The meeting, which was open to the public, took only minutes and Courtney was the only applicant for the position. Courtney will replace Acting Mayor Dan Dattilo, a Democrat councilman who stepped in as the city council's pro tem immediately after Welch’s unexpected death on Sept. 25. Courtney will serve out the unexpired term of Welch that ends on Dec. 31, 2019. Courtney, who is facing Democratic candidate Julie Berry in the November General Election, took the oath of office at 11 a.m. on Monday at Madison City Hall.

ANALYST CRUNCHES MARIJUANA NUMBERS FOR INDIANA:  Legal marijuana would create money and jobs, but maybe not as many as you think. Oregon economist Beau Whitney works with New Frontier Data, which focuses on bringing hard numbers to the cannabis debate. He told a Indiana Economic Development Association conference the cannabis industry has created a quarter-million jobs in the 33 states where it's legal, and predicts the rapid growth of the industry will nearly triple that number in seven years (Berman, WIBC). If cannabis were legalized nationally, he says, you could double that figure to 1.4 million jobs. But Whitney says the taxes on legal marijuana have typically accounted for just .3% of state revenue. In Indiana, that'd translate to about $50 million a year, less than a quarter of what the state collects in cigarette taxes. And Whitney warns not all the pot business will move aboveground. If states ratchet taxes too high or make regulations too expensive to comply with, he says many customers will keep buying from dealers.

BIGGEST DEM DEBATE STAGE TONIGHT: Tonight will be the biggest presidential primary debate in history (New York Times). Twelve Democratic candidates will be stuffed on stage with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts again at the center. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont will be scrutinized following his heart attack. Senator Kamala Harris of California will try to reverse her fortunes. And second-tier candidates will seek to do something, anything to ensure a November debate spot. But being the aggressor has yet to pay off in the primary debates. Ms. Harris’s June confrontation with Mr. Biden resulted in a temporary high. Former housing secretary Julián Castro’s September attack on Mr. Biden’s memory seemed to backfire. The question headed into the CNN/New York Times debate on Tuesday night: Can anyone make a splash without being the one who ends up soaked?

ASSAD'S FORCES SURGE BACK INTO SYRIAN VACUUM: Syrian government forces streamed into the country’s northeast on Monday, seizing towns where they had not set foot in years and filling a vacuum opened up by President Trump’s decision to abandon the United States’ Syrian Kurdish allies (New York Times). Less than a week after Turkey launched an incursion into northern Syria with Mr. Trump’s assent, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, considered a war criminal by the United States, has benefited handsomely, striking a deal with the United States’ former allies to take the northern border and rapidly gaining territory without a fight. In addition to Mr. al-Assad, Mr. Trump’s decision to pull American forces out of the way has also quickly redounded to the gain of Russia and Iran, as well as the Islamic State, as the retreat reconfigures battle lines and alliances in the eight-year war. “For the Syrian regime and Russia, the Americans are leaving, so that is a big achievement,” said Hassan Hassan, a Syria analyst at the Center for Global Policy. “In just one day, gone. They don’t have to worry about what this presence means for the future.”

TRUMP CALLS TO CHINESE, RUSS, ASSAD, 'NAPOLEON' TO PROTECT KURDS: President Trump on Monday said other countries — including China or Russia — should be responsible for protecting the U.S.-allied Kurds in northern Syria amid a groundswell of bipartisan criticism over his decision to pull American forces out of the region (The Hill). Trump took to Twitter to argue against a U.S. presence in the region, even as some of his staunchest allies in Congress assert that his strategy has opened the door for Turkey to slaughter the Kurds and for a resurgence of ISIS. "Let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land. I said to my Generals, why should we be fighting for Syria and Assad to protect the land of our enemy?" Trump tweeted. "Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!" he added. Trump is sending Vice President Mike Pence to the region in an attempt to begin negotiations. Pence said Trump spoke directly to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AP).

TRUMP, PENCE SCRAMBLE TO STOP TURKISH FIASCO: U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday demanded Turkey stop its military incursion in Syria and imposed new sanctions on the NATO ally as Trump scrambled to limit the damage from his much-criticized decision to clear U.S. troops from Turkey’s path. Vice President Mike Pence said Trump had told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call on Monday to agree to an immediate ceasefire (Reuters). He also said he would travel to the region soon to try to mediate the crisis. Pence said Trump had been firm with Erdogan on the phone. “The United States of America simply is not going to tolerate Turkey’s invasion in Syria any further. We are calling on Turkey to stand down, end the violence and come to the negotiating table,” Pence told reporters. Turkey launched a cross-border operation into northern Syria on Wednesday just days after Erdogan told Trump in a phone call that he planned to move ahead with a long-planned move against America’s Kurdish allies in the region. Trump abruptly announced a redeployment of 50 American troops from the conflict zone to get them out of harm’s way, dismissing criticism that this would leave the Kurds open to attack. This was widely seen as giving Erdogan a green light for his operation. With lawmakers in the U.S. Congress moving to impose sanctions of their own, Trump issued an executive order authorizing sanctions against current and former officials of the Turkish government for contributing to Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria. In a statement, Trump said he had increased tariffs on imports of Turkish steel back up to 50 percent, six months after they were reduced, and would immediately stop negotiations on what he called a $100 billion trade deal with Turkey. “Unfortunately, Turkey does not appear to be mitigating the humanitarian effects of its invasion,” said Trump.

PELOSI, GRAHAM VOW SANCTIONS ON TURKEY: Democrats in Congress are vowing to quickly slap new sanctions on Ankara and formally oppose President Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops from northern Syria following Turkey’s military offensive against Kurdish forces loyal to the United States (The Hill). Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke Monday with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an ally of Trump who is fiercely critical of his policy on Syria, about the need for bipartisan legislation. “As we find ourselves in a situation where the president gave a green light to the Turks to bomb and effectively unleashed ISIS, we must have a stronger sanctions package than what the White House is suggesting,” said Pelosi. Republicans have excoriated Trump for his decision, but it’s not clear how far they’ll go with legislation to explicitly rebuke him. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) didn’t tip his hand Monday on what he will support, but said he was “gravely concerned” and that talks would be ongoing in the Senate this week on how to respond. “Withdrawing American leadership from this pivotal region would not serve our nation’s short-, medium- or long-term interests. ... I look forward to discussing what the United States can do to avoid a strategic calamity with my Senate colleagues and with senior administration officials when the Senate returns to Washington this week,” he said.

HILL BECAME ALARMED AT UKRAINE PRESSURE: President Trump’s former top Russia adviser told House committees Monday that she and other White House officials grew so alarmed about the administration’s efforts to push Ukraine to open certain investigations that they raised their concerns with a White House lawyer, according to people familiar with the matter (Wall Street Journal). Fiona Hill, who served on the National Security Council and left the administration in August, testified for about nine hours before three House panels as part of the impeachment inquiry examining the president, his administration and his allies’ dealings with Ukraine, including a July call in which he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. In her testimony, she detailed a July 10 meeting she attended with senior Ukrainian officials, then-National Security Adviser John Bolton, and other U.S. officials in which the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, raised the issue of the investigations, the people said.

BOLTON BECAME CONCERNED ABOUT UKRAINE: The effort to pressure Ukraine for political help provoked a heated confrontation inside the White House last summer that so alarmed John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, that he told an aide to alert White House lawyers, House investigators were told on Monday (New York Times). Mr. Bolton got into a tense exchange on July 10 with Gordon D. Sondland, the Trump donor turned ambassador to the European Union, who was working with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats, according to three people who heard the testimony. The aide, Fiona Hill, testified that Mr. Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Mr. Sondland, Mr. Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the people familiar with the testimony. “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Ms. Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition. (Another person in the room initially said Mr. Bolton referred to Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mulvaney, but two others said he cited Mr. Sondland.)

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: President Trump is going to put The Onion out of business. He and Vice President Pence are becoming the gang who can't shoot straight. This is keystone cop diplomacy in a Chinese fire drill, with the Marx Brothers thrown in for good measure. - Brian A. Howey


MILLER FAINTS AT SECOND ELKHART DEBATE: Republican candidate for mayor Dave Miller vowed to press ahead with his campaign despite a fainting spell Monday that cut short a debate with his opponent (Elkhart Truth). It was the second occurrence of this type for Miller, who fainted during a previous debate at the Matterhorn restaurant on Sept. 10.

REPUBLICAN COUNCILWOMAN ENDORSES HOGSETT: Republican Susie Cordi, who was elected to the council in 2015 and is not seeking re-election this year, is featured in a radio ad released Monday by the campaign for Democratic incumbent Mayor Joe Hogsett (IBJ).

Presidential 2020

NEW BUTTIGIEG DIGITAL AD AHEAD OF DEBATE: Pete for America released a new digital spot, “Makes More Sense,” highlighting the difference between his health care plan, Medicare for All Who Want It, with Elizabeth Warren’s support of Medicare for All. The paid digital ad will run in Iowa on a variety of platforms (Howey Politics Indiana). The ad highlights Pete’s bold approach to health care would not kick millions of people off their private health care, and would give them the option to choose the plan that’s right for their them.


HILL TESTIFIES FOR 10 HOURS: President Trump’s former Russia adviser testified under subpoena for roughly 10 hours on Monday as Democrats try to dig into how allies of the president tried to circumvent official policy on Ukraine as part of the impeachment inquiry (The Hill). Fiona Hill, who served as Trump's top analyst on Russia on the National Security Council staff until this summer, is the third witness to appear for a closed-door session before the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry, following former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker and former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. While lawmakers largely declined to comment on the specifics of Hill’s testimony, Democrats asserted that Hill corroborated what they described as a concerted effort by Trump allies who were pushing for the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens to remove Yovanovitch from her post in May. At the center of that effort, they say, was the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

SAYS GUILUIANI RAN 'SHADOW' FOREIGN POLICY: Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top Russia adviser, told impeachment investigators on Monday that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, ran a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine that circumvented U.S. officials and career diplomats in order to personally benefit President Trump, according to people familiar with her testimony (Washington Post). Hill, who served as the senior official for Russia and Europe on the National Security Council, was the latest witness in a fast-moving impeachment inquiry focused on whether the president abused his office by using the promise of military aid and diplomatic support to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals.


WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP PRESSES SANCTIONS ON TURKEY - President Trump authorized sanctions and raised steel tariffs on Turkey, while threatening more-powerful financial penalties if Ankara continued a military offensive in northern Syria launched after Mr. Trump decided to withdraw U.S. troops from the region (Wall Street Journal). Mr. Trump also spoke separately with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Kurdish Commander Mazloum Abdi and urged them to negotiate an end to the violence, administration officials said. Mr. Trump, calling for an immediate cease-fire, tapped Vice President Mike Pence and White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien to lead a delegation to Turkey to seek a resolution to the conflict. The administration’s first punitive actions against Turkey and its effort to start talks came amid widespread criticism on Capitol Hill that Mr. Trump’s decision left Kurdish militias that had aided the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State open to attack. Meanwhile, Democratic and Republican lawmakers said they plan to speed through their own sanctions package starting on Tuesday. “I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” Mr. Trump said on Monday. “Unfortunately, Turkey does not appear to be mitigating the humanitarian effects of its invasion.”

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP/PENCE SCHEDULE - President Trump will have lunch with VP Mike Pence at 12:30 p.m. in the private dining room. He will welcome the 2019 Stanley Cup Champions, the St. Louis Blues, at 3:10 p.m. in the Rose Garden.

NASA: RESEARCHES SAYS LIFE WAS DISCOVERED ON MARS - We may have already discovered the essence of life on Mars 40 years ago, according to a former NASA scientist (CNN). Gilbert V. Levin, who was principal investigator on a NASA experiment that sent Viking landers to Mars in 1976, published an article in the Scientific American journal last Thursday, arguing the experiment's positive results were proof of life on the red planet. The experiment, called Labeled Release (LR), was designed to test Martian soil for organic matter. "It seemed we had answered that ultimate question," Levin wrote in the article. In the experiment, the Viking probes placed nutrients in Mars soil samples -- if life were present, it would consume the food and leave gaseous traces of its metabolism, which radioactive monitors would then detect. To make sure it was a biological reaction, the test was repeated after cooking the soil, which would prove lethal to known life. If there was a measurable reaction in the first and not the second sample, that would suggest biological forces at work -- and that's exactly what happened, according to Levin.

SPORTS: POPE ‘ENDORSES’ NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - The New Orleans Saints got an unexpected — and probably unintentional — backer for their game at Jacksonville (AP). Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, included the Saints' Twitter logo in a tweet Sunday morning — one New Orleans football fans took as a good omen for their team. "Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new #Saints. They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession," the Pope tweeted after canonizing five new saints at a mass at Vatican City. The hashtag and capitalization of Saints added the Fleur de Lis, the emblem associated with the Saints and worn on the team's helmets.


XI WARNS OF 'CRUSHED BODIES AND SHATTERED BONES': As street battles between protesters and police continue to escalate in Hong Kong, China's authoritarian leader warned Sunday any further attempt to divide the country will literally be crushed (Fox News). Chinese President Xi Jinping made the comments during a visit to Nepal, where he became the first Chinese president in more than two decades to visit the country. “Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones,” he told Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, China's state broadcaster CCTV reported. “And any external forces backing such attempts dividing China will be deemed by the Chinese people as pipe-dreaming!”


RICHMOND: MOTHER CHARGES IN SCHOOL SHOOTING - The mother of a teenager who killed himself at a Richmond school in 2018 has been charged. Mary York faces charges in Wayne County. On December 13, 2018, 14-year-old Brandon Clegg, brought a gun to Dennis Intermediate School, shot at police, then shot and killed himself. At the time, York was credited with calling 911 before the shooting, allowing officers to respond more quickly. York is now facing charges of dangerous control of a child, two counts of neglect of a dependent, and three counts of neglect of a dependent (WIBC). According to court documents, Clegg had made statements to the staff at Fayette Regional Hospital in Connersville on May 30, 2018, about wanting to go into a school and kill people who had bullied him. That same month, court documents state Clegg expressed suicidal thoughts to a counselor at Centerstone in Richmond. Clegg was prescribed medication while at Fayette Regional. He told York the medication made him feel weird, and she said she didn’t make him take it. York also took him out of the inpatient mental health treatment program because her insurance wouldn’t pay the costs and she couldn’t afford it, court documents say.

FORT WAYNE: TEACHERS GET 2.5% PAY RAISE - The Fort Wayne Community Schools board approved a contract Monday that includes raises for teachers (LeBlanc, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). The two-year agreement with the Fort Wayne Education Association – the union representing teachers – covers July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2021. Base salaries this year increased 2.5%, which brings the salary range for teachers to $40,078 to $70,891. The raises are retroactive. Next year, a 1.5% bump increases the range to $40,679 to $71,496. Board members also approved a 2.5% raise for non-union employees, which includes central office staff and district administrators. Superintendent Wendy Robinson lauded teachers, who she said have the best interests of the district at heart.  “Which is why we're able to get things done,” she said.

FORT WAYNE: COLISEUM TO HOST WOMEN'S NCAA TOURNEY - Collegiate women's basketball will bring a bit more March Madness to Fort Wayne's Memorial Coliseum. And Coliseum officials couldn't be happier (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette).  Public-admission tickets to the first-ever Division  I NCAA women's regional championship games in Fort Wayne go on sale at 10 a.m. today. The games will take place March 28 to 30, with regional winners moving on to the Sweet 16. “It's the highest-level college basketball tournament that Fort Wayne has ever hosted,” said Nathan Dennison, the venue's vice president of sales. “It's a big deal.”

INDIANAPOLIS: COUNCIL PASSES BUDGET 22-2 -  The Indianapolis City-County Council passed Mayor Joe Hogsett’s 2020 budget Monday night, but not without some discussion on a big topic on some councilors’ minds (WRTV). The $1.2 budget passed with a vote of 22-2. Michael McQuillen, R-District 4, and Brian Mowery, R-District 25, voted against it. Democrat Christine Scales was absent from the meeting due to an illness. A year ago, the 2019 budget passed unanimously among both Republican and Democratic councilors, a fact the mayor’s office frequently touts. But frequent unbudgeted financial requests throughout the year frustrated some Republicans on the council, leading to the two “no” votes. "We want this to be honest,” Councilor Jefferson Shreve, R-District 16, said before the vote. “We can say we have an honestly balanced budget. We just want an honestly balanced budget. We want the budget we pass tonight to be the one we live with from Jan. 1.” Shreve, who voted in favor of the budget, said councilors looked at the budget with more skepticism this year. One unbudgeted request came in March, when the Indianapolis Department of Business and Neighborhood Services requested $822,000 for 28 new vehicles. BNS requested buying the new cars because the department had $900,000 more than what was initially budgeted for 2018. BNS budgeted for $20.4 million, but actually made $21.3 million. BNS, unlike other city agencies, gets its self-funded budget through fees and permits.

INDIANAPOLIS: OSILI COMMENTS AS COUNCIL PASSES BUDGET - Following this evening’s passage of the 2020 Indianapolis-Marion County Budget, Council President Osili has released the following statement (Howey Politics Indiana): "I’m pleased with the outcome of the Council’s vote this evening on the 2020 budget for the City of Indianapolis and Marion County. Four years in a row, Mayor Hogsett has presented a fiscally responsible budget that invests strategically in our city’s infrastructure, public safety, and criminal justice reform. The 2020 budget adopted tonight by the Council includes significant increases in funding for IMPD, IFD, community crime prevention grants, and the arts. It does so without raising taxes."

EVANSVILLE: COUNCIL PASSES $431M BUDGET - Evansville City Council approved the 2020 city budget Monday night. The $431 million budget passed 8-1. The one abstaining vote came from Republican Justin Elpers (WFIE-TV). Elpers voted no, saying he was in favor of an amendment concerning upping insurance premiums for non-bargaining city employees, which did not pass. “Our city employees are not paid well. That issue with the city health insurance for non-bargaining employees was an issue for those employees that barely make minimum wage working for the city. We can look at that maybe in the future. It’s not cheap to run your city. 431 million dollars, for example, 35 million dollars to run the police department so none of this stuff is cheap.” The budget also included funding for an aerial ladder fire truck, new police vehicles, the penguin exhibit at the zoo, and a number of street projects as well as construction funding for the Deaconess Aquatic Center.

WANNATAH: FIRE KILLS 2,000 RACING PIGEONS - A structure housing nearly 2,000 racing pigeons from around the world burned to the ground late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, incinerating all the birds and prematurely ending the 2019 Hoosier Classic Million Dollar One Loft Race (NWI Times). Hoosier Loft owners and race organizers Jim and Kelly Ward, of Wanatah, said their family is "completely devastated" by the fire that also killed four of their dogs, according to friends of the family. "Our family has spent hundreds of hours working in this loft and it has become our life," the Wards said on the race website. "We are thankful that our children are safe, but we are devastated at the loss of something that we lived to do on a daily basis."

FULTON COUNTY: TRIAL FOR BUS STOP HOMICIDES STARTS TODAY - The jury trial for a woman accused of killing three kids and injuring a fourth when she disregarded the stop arm and lights on a school bus last year is set to begin on Tuesday (WRTV). Alyssa Shepherd is charged with three counts of reckless homicide and one count of disregarding the stop arms on a school bus causing injury. Police say she was driving a Toyota Tacoma on State Road 25 sometime after 7 a.m. when she allegedly "disregarded" the stop arm and lights on a stopped school bus in front of a mobile home park, striking four kids who were crossing the street to board the bus. Shepherd told police she saw the lights flashing, but she didn't realize it was a school bus until the kids were in front of her, according to court documents.

ALLEN COUNTY: RTL TO HONOR SWAYZE - A longtime policy advocate for Indiana Right to Life will receive the prestigious Daniel Award at tonight's Allen County Right to Life dinner in Fort Wayne (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Sue Swayze Liebel is from Indianapolis, where she has worked for more than 25 years in policy development, program design and implementation, lobbying and political strategy . Swayze currently serves as the state policy director for the Susan B. Anthony List in Washington, D.C. She is responsible for implementing the program’s mission of advancing women lawmakers who are dedicated to ending abortion by passing laws that save lives.