By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. Gov signs wetlands bill

When Eric Holcomb was deputy chief of staff to Gov. Mitch Daniels, he took part in what was "Healthy Rivers Initiative," launched in 2010. It expanded the protection of 70,000 acres of Hoosier wetlands. On Thursday with one signature on SEA389, Gov. Holcomb wiped out protections for up to 600,000 of the state's 800,000 acres of wetlands. “I felt compelled to carefully and deliberately weigh the bill’s intent to protect property rights against its new limitations on land protections,” Holcomb said in a statement Thursday. “Under this new regulatory scheme, I believe Hoosier farmers and landowners will continue to be careful stewards of the land.” The bill passed by wide margins in the House and Senate, and a veto could have been overridden by a simple majority.

AP: Retroactive as of Jan. 1, it eliminates a 2003 law that requires the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to issue permits for construction and development in state-regulated wetlands and end enforcement proceedings against landowners accused of violating current law. Holcomb’s signature followed his own reservations earlier in the Legislative session, when he said that the wetlands repeal was a cause for “concern.” He further allowed staff at the DNR and IDEM to oppose the bill in hearings in January, where state regulatory officials argued that the wetlands must be protected because they purify water, provide habitat for wildlife and reduce flood risks. 

Environmental groups and the Indiana Chamber were aghast at the legislation and Holcomb signature. “I am extremely disappointed,” Jeff Stant, executive director of the Indiana Forest Alliance, told the IBJ. “We, essentially overnight, have thrown out all legal protection for 550,000 to 600,000 of the 800,000 acres of wetlands that were remaining in the state. That’s a shocking level of reduction.” Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar: “It’s surprising and very disappointing that the Governor signed a bill that is likely to have negative impacts on Indiana’s water quality, flood control and quality of place factors that the state needs to attract and retain a skilled workforce.”

2. Gov signs dubious 'abortion reversal' bill

When it comes to the pandemic and marijuana reform, Gov. Holcomb has been adamant about "following the science" and research. But on Thursday, he signed the dubious "abortion reversal" bill. "Claims regarding abortion 'reversal' treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards," says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). It ranks its recommendations on the strength of the evidence, and "does not support prescribing progesterone to stop a medical abortion." AP: Doctors in Indiana would be required to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions about a disputed treatment for potentially stopping the abortion process under the new law.

3. One more controversial bill left

There is one bill left on Gov. Holcomb's desk: SEA5, which would require county commissioners to approve public health orders that are stricter than the state's. It came in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Holcomb must sign or veto the bill by next Wednesday.

4. Former veep Pence returns

Former vice president Mike Pence made his first speech since leaving office to a South Carolina conservative Christian, Palmetto Family Council, Thursday night, leaving little doubt he will seek the presidency in 2024. “We’ve got to guard our values ... by offering a positive agenda to the American people, grounded in our highest ideals,” Pence said. “Now, over the coming months, I’ll have more to say about all of that. We will stand with the right of every American, of every faith, to live, to work, to speak and to worship according to the dictates of their conscience. We have the winning agenda and now it’s incumbent upon us to take that winning agenda to the American people.”

5. MAGA coming to Hammond

The Young Conservatives of Southern Indiana are planning a caravan rally in front of Hammond City Hall and the home of Mayor Tom McDermott and his wife, Lake County Circuit Court Judge Marissa McDermott, on Saturday. They are protesting the mayor's call for a "F--- Biden" flag to be removed from a home adjacent to Riverside Park. "I have a feeling there’s going to be people concerned for our safety,” the mayor told the NWI Times. “They’re not going to let people ransack my house; that’s not happening.” HPI  suggested that with COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy rampant in the MAGA crowd, the mayor should set up a mobile vaccine clinic in front of his house.

Have a great weekend, folks. It's The Atomic!