By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. Road bill in 11th hour smackdown

Our Republican sources and assorted Statehouse spies are telling me that HB1002 is in full-throttle smackdown mode between Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley. Key point of contention is the House version that wants all gasoline tax funding roads and more money for municipalities. That reflects a man-on-the-street sentiment we’ve heard repeatedly: “I don’t mind paying a little extra gas tax, as long as it goes to roads.” Body language from key players like House Transportation Chairman Ed Soliday was grim at the end of business on Tuesday. House is due back in session at 11, and will then caucus.

While the roadsters looked and acted chagrined, the fiscal leaders seem to have a bounce in their step, indicating HB1001 has been mostly sorted out. And all key players – President David Long, Gov. Eric Holcomb and Bosma – ended a three-decade odyssey when concurrence was reached on HB1005, the appointed-superintendent bill. Bosma reacted, saying, “For over 30 years, legislators on both sides of the aisle have supported the move to an appointed superintendent and for the first time, the measure successfully passed both chambers.” So we await the final wrangling on HB1002, which if sorted out, gets Holcomb and the super majorities their session trifecta.

2. Pence’s sword, Vinson strike group in different directions

Vice President Mike Pence kept up the strong rhetoric aimed at the North Koreans. Pence said on the USS Ronald Reagan Tuesday, “The United States of America will always seek peace but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready.” Last week President Trump said, “We’re sending an armada” as reports were that the USS Carl Vinson strike group was heading into the Sea of Japan. It was Trump’s big stick appearing to motivate China President Xi to pressure Kim Jong-Un. But now we learn the Vinson strike group is sailing in the opposite direction to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean. Asked this morning during an interview with CNN if the misstatements from White House and Pentagon officials had been intentional, Pence replied “Oh, I think not.” Pence did not offer an explanation as to why government officials had said the Carl Vinson was steaming for the Sea of Japan when it was not.

3. Rokita Senate decision coming soon

Howey Politics Indiana sat down with U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita this morning and asked him about his potential 2018 Senate bid. “We’re seriously looking at it,” Rokita said. “We won’t have a decision tomorrow or the next day, but a decision is coming.” Timeline? “It’s a balancing act depending on how some of the fundraising is going from different parts of the country. There are bylaws in place that with an announcement make me an immediate challenger. So no final decision has to be made. It won’t be long, we’re not going to drag it out. If we get in, we’re in it to win.” Asked about giving up a potential House Budget Committee chairmanship to run for the Senate, Rokita quickly turned the tables on potential primary rival, U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, suggesting that he could be House majority leader or speaker. “He’s on the leadership track and I’m not,” Rokita said. Watch for more on Rokita in Thursday’s weekly HPI.

4. Indiana sheds 481k voters

During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump alleged thousands of ghost voters, while Secretary of State Connie Lawson vouched for the integrity of the Indiana election system. But on Tuesday, she announced that 481,235 voters who have not voted since 2014 have been purged from 92 county voters lists. Lawson explained, “While this federal law requires a slow process that has taken over four years, our state is finally in the rhythm of doing regular voter list maintenance and Hoosiers are starting to see the results. Updating these records will help us create a more accurate picture of voter turnout for the state, which has been reported as inaccurately low due to the large number of outdated registrations, while protecting the integrity of our elections.”

5. Rep. Bucshon to seek fifth term

U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon tells the Evansville Courier & Press that he will seek a fifth term in 2018.  "I want to be somewhere that continues to have some input on health care-related issues, whether that's the private sector,  in hospitals or with the insurance industry or with other industries related to health care," he said. "I want to continue to have some impact on the national dialogue in health care. Other than that, I haven't really thought about it."

Enjoy your hump day. It’s The Atomic!