LEGISLATIVE LEADERS EXPECT INTENSE SESSION: Speaker Todd Huston warned the upcoming biennial budget General Assembly session “is going to be completely different … of which none of us have ever experienced” (Howey Politics Indiana). Appearing at the Indiana Chamber’s virtual preview session Monday, Huston added, “There’s going to be a whole series of challenges and hiccups. It’s going to be imperfect. We’re going to be making things up as we go.” Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray announced that senators would be limited to 10 bills. There seemed to be general consensus among Bray and Huston with Democrat Leaders Phil GiaQuinta and Greg Taylor on using federal CARES Act funds to plug billions of dollars the state owes the federal government on the depleted Unemployment Insurance fund, as well as passing a cigarette tax. “On the budget side, to clarify, I think the concern is how do those dollars get used?” Huston said. “It’s been shown to reduce rates, but it will be a declining revenue source.” Bray added, “I agree with the speaker. We want to be very thoughtful on how the money will be spent on the front end,” adding that he wants it to be directed to “improve health standards.” Huston was reflective, at one point saying, “One of the big take-aways is what do we learn from the pandemic? Great companies have adapted to the pandemic. Government has to be the same way. What are the things we should and should not do?”


LEADERS SUPPORT COVID LIABILITY PROTECTIONS: The top legislative priority for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce next year—protecting businesses, not-for-profits and schools from COVID-19 related lawsuits—already has strong support from top lawmakers (Erdody, IBJ). Legal liability protection, which would shield employers from lawsuits involving customers or employees who have been exposed to or caught COVID-19 at their place of business, is at the top of the list. “It’s going to be a high priority for both sides of the building,” Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said. “The quicker we can get that done, the better off we’ll be.” House Speaker Todd Huston said lawmakers have heard “loud and clear” not just from businesses wanting such protection, but also not-for-profits, K-12 schools and higher education institutions. He said the legislation will be careful not to put employees or customers in unsafe environments. “We need to be thoughtful,” Huston said. “We need to get this done.” Democratic leaders—House Minority Leader Rep. Phil GiaQuinta and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Greg Taylor—also expressed general support for the concept.


38% INCREASE IN K-12 SCHOOL COVID CASES: Indiana K-12 schools reported a 38% increase in COVID-19 cases in the past week, and LaGrange County is leading the state in positivity, according to Monday's updated state coronavirus numbers (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). More than 3,300 new COVID-19 cases hit Indiana schools – bringing the total to 11,873. Of that, 8,217 are students and the rest are teachers and staff. The state's school dashboard updates on Mondays. East Allen County Schools announced Monday an influx of confirmed COVID-19 cases is prompting a switch to virtual learning for grades seven through 12 beginning Wednesday. Except for New Haven Primary, cases are affecting every EACS school. There are at least 49 student cases district-wide, including 23 at Leo Junior-Senior High School, along with at least 25 teacher and staff cases, according to the state's school virus dashboard.


NCAA IN TALKS WITH INDY TO HOST ENTIRE MARCH MADNESS: The NCAA announced Monday it plans to hold the entire 2021 men's college basketball tournament in one geographic location to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 and is in talks with Indianapolis to be the host city (AP). The Final Four is already set to be held in Indianapolis next April and the NCAA has its headquarters in the Indiana capital. Early-round games had been scheduled at 13 predetermined sites across the country. Moving those to one location would allow a safe and controlled environment with venues, practice facilities, lodging and medical resources all within proximity of one another. No decision on how to handle the women's NCAA Tournament has been decided yet.


MACER TO RUN FOR INDEM CHAIR: Former Indiana State Rep. Karlee Macer is officially running to become the next chair of the Indiana Democratic Party. Macer, 49, who represented Speedway and the west side of Indianapolis from 2012 until Nov. 4, announced on Twitter on Monday that she would seek the position (Erdody, IBJ). John Zody, who has been party chair since 2013, announced earlier this month that he would retire when his term expires in March. Macer told IBJ on Friday that she was “certainly investigating the idea” of running for party chair. “There is so much work that needs to be done,” Macer told IBJ. “It seems insurmountable but it isn’t.” Macer told IBJ she wasn’t blaming any one in particular for the losses. “I believe we are all responsible for where we are today,” Macer said. In a statement on Twitter, Macer said the chair should lead the party “forward with energy, hard work and, most importantly, a solid plan for success.”


OWENS SEEKS TO FILL INDEM VOID: Indy tech executive Josh Owens was a brief Democratic governor candidate in 2020. He becomes the first to begin to fill the void, issuing an "open letter to fellow Democrats" for a party barely clinging to major party status (Howey Politics Indiana). He writes, "I believe the future of a winning Indiana Democratic Party will have these four areas of near-term focus: "First, intense county-level candidate recruitment efforts and staunch support of candidates running. Second, centralized digital and organizing clearinghouse efforts that are run year-round by state party on behalf of upcoming campaigns. Third, message focus that strikes at the heart of both individual and community needs. Finally, fierce and data-driven grassroots fundraising that continues beyond election cycles." Owens finishes: "We must find consensus on a chair that will help us take that first step towards these goals. I am of the belief there is not a perfect person for this job, so we should instead be focused on who can help us get started in building this foundation today. Our success will depend upon how carefully we lift each other up in this transition, for it is certain that standing together is our only path to sharing our values with a larger Hoosier audience."


SPARTZ SHARES HER SOCIALIST EXPERIENCE: Congresswoman-elect Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., appeared on "Fox & Friends" to share her personal experiences living under socialism. “I grew up in a socialistic country, the Socialist Republic of Ukraine. I saw what happens when it runs out of money and it is not pretty,” Spartz said (Fox News). “And now, I came to America 20 years ago with a suitcase after meeting my husband on a train in Europe. He’s a raised and born Hoosier. And now we’re building socialism. I’m kind of going full circles. I can tell you what is going to be next. It’s very sad for me to see that." Spartz went on to say, “This system creates a lot of destruction and misery so we have to be smarter than that. You know, we're not going to change. There are only two systems: you have freedom and free enterprise and you have a system where the government decides and political elites on top [decide] how we’re going to lead, what we’re going to do.”


ATLAS URGES MICHIGANDERS TO 'RISE UP' V. COVID RESTRICTIONS: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Monday that she was stunned by a call from one of President Donald Trump’s top coronavirus advisers for people in her state to “rise up” against new restrictions aimed at slowing the disease’s deadly surge (Politico). “It actually took my breath away, to tell you the truth,” Whitmer told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” referring to a tweet posted over the weekend by Scott Atlas, whose skepticism toward Covid-19 mitigation strategies has been the subject of widespread criticism. After Whitmer announced Sunday a three-week pause on indoor dining, in-person learning and several other activities, Atlas wrote: “The only way this stops is if people rise up. You get what you accept. #FreedomMatters #StepUp.” In another tweet later Sunday night, Atlas wrote that he “NEVER was talking at all about violence. People vote, people peacefully protest. NEVER would I endorse or incite violence. NEVER!!”


MODERNA'S VACCINE 95% EFFECTIVE: Moderna announced this morning that its coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective against the virus, making it the second vaccine in the United States to have a stunningly high success rate (CNN). Last week, Pfizer announced that early data show its vaccine is more than 90% effective against the disease. While the two vaccines appear to have very similar safety and efficacy profiles, Moderna's vaccine has a significant practical advantage over Pfizer's. Pfizer's vaccine has to be kept at minus 75 degrees Celsius — or about minus 103 degrees Fahrenheit. No other vaccine in the US needs to be kept that cold, and doctors' offices and pharmacies do not have freezers that go that low. Moderna's vaccine can be kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius, which is about minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit. Other vaccines, such as the one against chickenpox, need to be kept at that temperature.


BIDEN WARNS 'MORE PEOPLE MAY DIE': President-elect Joe Biden warned of dire consequences if President Donald Trump and his administration continue to refuse to coordinate with his transition team on the coronavirus pandemic and block briefings on national security, policy issues and vaccine plans (AP). The remarks marked Biden’s toughest to date on Trump’s failure to acknowledge his election loss and cooperate with the incoming administration for a peaceful transfer of power. “More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Biden told reporters during a news conference Monday in Wilmington, Delaware.


PENCE FACES NEW TEST AFTER 4 YEARS TO FEALTY TO TRUMP: For four years, Vice President Mike Pence has faced one sweeping loyalty test after another. This time, allies are questioning whether there should be a limit to his fealty (Politico). As President Donald Trump pushes to overturn the election outcome and pressures Republicans not to recognize President-elect Joe Biden as the next commander in chief, Pence is facing pressure from allies to put country and party first — even if they collide with the inclinations of his boss. The head of the White House’s coronavirus task force since the early weeks of the pandemic, Pence could be warning the public about an explosion of coronavirus cases and steering administration officials toward a more robust response to the pandemic — something Trump does not want his government dwelling on. It’s an unusual bind for a vice president who has always been known for coming to Trump’s aid. “At some point, he will have to prioritize his own interests,” said a Republican close to Pence.


HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Memo to the Indiana Congressional Delegation: Your silence is deafening – and defining. For nearly five years, we’ve witnessed Donald Trump perform his "reality TV” presidency while smashing our civic norms with all the finesse of the proverbial bull in a china shop. The American people spoke clearly on Nov. 3 and have rendered a 306-232 Electoral College verdict (by more than 5 million popular votes) in what Secretary Lawson and all 49 of her colleagues have determined to be a free and fair election. That President Trump refuses to acknowledge this reality – to the degree that he tweeted "I won the election!" yesterday as his legal challenges crumble – is an affront not only to the American people, but to his 44 predecessors, many of whom since George Washington in 1797 have engaged in the peaceful transfer of power. Indeed, Trump’s actions are an affront to our very democracy. They should be an affront to you as well, and to your oaths of office. Your silence and inaction is lending an implicit imprimatur to this president that his lack of participation in the transition to President-elect Biden is simply “politics as usual.” It is not, and your stewardship of the Republic and to the Constitution you swore to uphold is now urgently required. - Brian A. Howey




QUAYLE JOINS ROVE FOR GA SENATE RACES FUNDRAISING: Senate Republicans have tapped Karl Rove to oversee their fundraising program for the Georgia runoff elections, according to a person familiar with the effort (Politico). An array of high-profile Republicans are joining Rove in the fundraising effort. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Dan Quayle and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley will serve as honorary co-chairs. Haley is also seen as a likely 2024 presidential contender. Nick Ayers, a veteran of Georgia politics who formerly served as Pence’s chief of staff, and longtime Republican fundraisers Jeff Miller and Jack Oliver will be national co-chairs. The list of national co-chairs also includes former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former Georgia GOP chair Alec Poitevint.


BLUE WAVE NEVER CAME FOR INDEMS: Indiana Democrats prepared for a blue wave during the Nov. 3 election that never came. "I thought it was going to be a lot different on Tuesday," said former Democratic Speaker of the House John Gregg. "I was surprised and I'm trying to understand. There was no blue wave. There wasn't even a blue ripple" (Sikich, IndyStar). Democrats thought they could win the attorney general seat but lost in a landslide.  A Congressional district the party was sure was turning blue, or at least purple, looked awfully red. Democrats tried to knock off the Speaker of the Indiana House and put serious dents into Republican supermajorities at the Statehouse. Instead, Republican Todd Huston won fairly easily and the GOP gained seats. "I think that's a conversation I'm tired of having after eight years," lamented State Sen. Eddie Melton of Gary. "But it's a very good question and I think I'm seeing signs of great candidates across the state that have a great message and have a sincere desire to serve the populace."


Presidential 2020


TRUMP TWEETS 'I WON THE ELECTION': President Trump falsely and flat-out claimed in an all-caps tweet late Sunday night that he won the election. The tweet was quickly flagged by Twitter, which said, "Official sources called this election differently" (CBS News). The tweet culminated a day in which Mr. Trump worked to take back an apparent acknowledgement that Joe Biden had won the White House. Mr. Trump's earlier comments had given some critics and supporters hope that the White House was ready to begin working on a transition with Mr. Biden's team. Not so fast, Mr. Trump would soon make clear. Mr. Trump, without using Mr. Biden's name but referring to him, said "He won" as part of a tweet that made baseless claims about a "rigged" election. But as the president saw that his comments were being interpreted as his first public acknowledgment of a Biden victory, Mr. Trump quickly reversed course.


BIDEN CALLS FOR CONGRESS TO PASS RELIEF PACKAGE: President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. warned that a “very dark winter” is ahead and called on Congress to pass an economic stimulus package immediately to help workers struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic (New York Times). In his first economic address since winning the election this month, Mr. Biden said he supported a national mask mandate to help curb the rise of the virus and he called on Congress to provide trillions of dollars in fiscal support to workers, businesses and state and local governments. “For millions of Americans who’ve lost hours and wages or have lost jobs, we can deliver immediate relief and it needs be done quickly,” Mr. Biden said. “Congress should come together and pass a Covid relief package” along the lines of the $3 trillion bill that House Democrats passed earlier this year.


BIDEN HIRES REP. RICHMOND: Joe Biden's decision to hire Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) as a White House senior adviser charged with public engagement gives the 46th president a key link to a Congress and the new brand of Capitol Hill politics that has developed in his four years out of office (Politico Playbook). Campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon is coming aboard as White House deputy chief of staff, according to someone familiar with the decision. Longtime Biden adviser Steve Ricchetti is also expected to take a key administration role, according to a source familiar with the transition. The Biden team is expected to make a formal announcement on these positions and other senior hires on Tuesday.


TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITHDRAWS KEY PART OF PA LAWSUIT:  President Donald Trump’s campaign is withdrawing a central part of its lawsuit seeking to stop the certification of the election results in Pennsylvania, where Democrat Joe Biden beat Trump to capture the state and help win the White House (AP). Ahead of a Tuesday hearing in the case, Trump’s campaign dropped the allegation that hundreds of thousands of mail-in and absentee ballots — 682,479, to be precise — were illegally processed without its representatives watching. The campaign’s slimmed-down lawsuit, filed in federal court on Sunday, maintains the aim of blocking Pennsylvania from certifying a victory for Biden in the state, and it maintains its claim that Democratic voters were treated more favorably than Republican voters.


GEORGIA SEC OF STATE PRESSURED BY GRAHAM: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Monday that he has come under increasing pressure in recent days from fellow Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), who he said questioned the validity of legally cast absentee ballots, in an effort to reverse President Trump’s narrow loss in the state (Washington Post). In a wide-ranging interview about the election, Raffensperger expressed exasperation over a string of baseless allegations coming from Trump and his allies about the integrity of the Georgia results, including claims that Dominion Voting Systems, the Colorado-based manufacturer of Georgia’s voting machines, is a ‘leftist’ company with ties to Venezuela that engineered thousands of Trump votes to be left out of the count.


TRUMP FREEZES 2024 GOP FIELD: Kevin Cramer called Donald Trump last week to convey his support for the president’s efforts to contest the election results when Trump dropped a casual aside that snapped the North Dakota senator to attention. “If this doesn’t work out, I’ll just run again in four years,” Trump said (Politico). To the lineup of Republican hopefuls with their eyes on becoming the GOP’s post-Trump standard bearer, the president’s remark was no laughing matter. Those who’ve worked for Trump — Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley — are in perhaps the toughest spot of all. Each would have to maneuver around the soon-to-be-former president after spending the last four years aligning themselves with him.




BUCHSON LAUDS MODERNA VACCINE STRIDES: U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, M.D. (IN-08) released the following statement applauding Moderna in the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 with an efficacy rate of 94% and the leadership of President Trump through this health care crisis (Howey Politics Indiana): “Moderna’s data showing its vaccine has a 94% efficacy rate is great news in the fight against COVID-19! This vaccine is one of several vaccines and therapeutics being developed as part of Operation Warp Speed.  Thanks to this successful public/private partnership, which is an unprecedented effort created by the Trump Administration, we are on the verge of delivering a safe and effective vaccine in less than a year.  Operation Warp Speed will continue to show that success when it is time to distribute vaccines, ensuring that we can quickly distribute and administer a vaccine in record time. Until a vaccine is approved and widely available, it is important we keep up the fight against COVID-19 and follow CDC recommendations to wear masks, social distance, wash hands, and stay home if you are sick.”


SEN. YOUNG TESTS NEGATIVE TWICE; RETURNS: U.S. Sen. Todd Young has been cleared by his doctor to return to Washington, D.C., tomorrow and resume Senate business after testing negative for COVID-19 twice. Senator Young self-quarantined out of an abundance of caution after meeting with a staff member who later tested positive for COVID-19 (Howey Politics Indiana). “I appreciate all the kind messages I’ve received, and I look forward to returning to Washington to push for more relief for Hoosiers who are hurting as a result of this pandemic,” Senator Young said. “I encourage all Hoosiers to remain vigilant and continue to take this virus seriously.”


General Assembly


TASK FORCE WEIGHS FUTURE ENERGY NEEDS: Historically, Indiana is a state built on coal. It has been both one of the top producers and consumers of coal across the country — and is a state that still generates more than half of its energy from the fossil fuel today (Bowman, IndyStar). But where will Indiana’s energy come from in the future? That’s exactly what the state’s 21st Century Energy Task Force is trying to figure out. The General Assembly created the task force during the 2019 legislative session to explore the impact that emerging technologies and a transition away from fossil fuels might have on Indiana’s energy system. The task force chairmen declined to speak with IndyStar: Co-chair Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said he was not available for an interview, and co-chair Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, said he is “reserving comment until the report is issued.”


ISTA SEEKS RESTORED BARGAINING RIGHTS: At a time when educators’ jobs have become more difficult because of the pandemic, Indiana’s largest teachers union is calling on lawmakers to restore the right to bargain over working conditions, such as hours, prep time and class sizes (McCoy, NWI Times). The Indiana State Teachers Association, which represents nearly 40,000 educators, said that some districts are deciding how to respond to the coronavirus without substantive input from educators. If unions had the right to bargain for better working conditions, more teachers would have a voice in those decisions, ISTA said. “The right to come together to negotiate the terms of our work allows us to create better learning conditions for our students and better workplaces for ourselves and those who will follow us as educators in the future,” ISTA President Keith Gambill said at a union press conference Monday ahead of the start of the legislative session. The state stripped Indiana teachers unions of the right to bargain over most work conditions in 2011, as part of a controversial overhaul of collective bargaining.


CHAMBER'S 2020 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES: The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is asking the state General Assembly to take steps in 2021 to reinforce Indiana’s status as an economic leader in order to help businesses and their workers emerge from the prolonged pandemic (Howey Politics Indiana). “The pandemic was unforeseen and state funds have dwindled, but Indiana is in better position that most and can take charge of how it makes its way back,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. He cautions, however, that businesses should not be penalized for the pandemic in the form of paying more taxes or fees. “Too many companies have closed and more are barely hanging on. Instead, businesses and the workforce need as much certainty and targeted assistance in the form of incentives and opportunities. That’s how we can protect employers and employment, and start to get more back to normal.” At its virtual legislative preview, the organization unveiled the specific policy actions it believes will have the most impact on Indiana’s economic recovery:


Enhanced legal liability protections for Hoosier businesses if an employee, customer or other person contracts the COVID-19 virus after returning to work or visiting the business;


Raising the state’s cigarette tax to discourage smoking and vaping, plus shore up the state’s finances;


Establishing a work share program that will allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during economic downturns, like what has happened during the current pandemic;


Increasing incentives for attracting remote workers to Indiana to help mitigate the projected losses to its workforce over the next decade (due in large part to Baby Boomers retiring);


Additional state efforts to further prepare Indiana for the digital economy, including continuing to bring high speed broadband to all corners of the state.


LANANE QUESTIONS GOV'S COVID RESPONSE: With COVID-19 cases soaring to astronomical amounts compared to the state's first outbreak in April, State Senator Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) again questioned the governor's lack of a true statewide strategy to battle the outbreaks (Howey Politics Indiana). "Once again, there's a whole lot of talk coming from the governor's office, but I'm not seeing the actions necessary to really get a hold of this massive outbreak," Sen. Lanane said. "There seems to be a complete denial that the quick escalation in positive cases is a statewide problem. Governor Holcomb, even when announcing his new restrictions, claims that the state is looking at the response in individual counties. Unfortunately, this is clearly a statewide issue, requiring a comprehensive and serious statewide strategy."




GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB COMPARES MASKING TO WAR EFFORT - As Indiana’s COVID-19 cases, deaths, hospitalizations and positivity rates climb, the state’s governor has started pleading with Hoosiers to wear masks and distance from others (Darby, WANE-TV). On Monday, a day after new county-based restrictions went into effect, Governor Eric Holcomb compared the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19 to a war effort. “It is within us to make the difference,” Holcomb said. “So what we are doing when we act in an undisciplined manner is we the people are closing down businesses. We are having an adverse affect on our schools being able to safely be open for in class instruction. We have to view it and understand that the very few sacrifices that we’re asking Hoosiers to make will be worth it,” Holcomb added. “It won’t just save lives, which is all important, but it will also allow us to keep our businesses open.”


ISDH: MONDAY COVID STATS -  The Indiana Department of Health announced Monday that 5,218 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 256,744 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard. A total of 4,686 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 26 from the previous day. Another 250 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record. There are 26.2% of ICU bed available, and 75% of ventilators. There were 2,768 COVID hospitalizations on Sunday.


COVID: TABOR DENIES HOSPITALS INFLATING DEATHS - There are some who believe that the death count when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic is not accurate (Darling, WIBC). The rumor is that hospitals are inflating the number of people they report having died from coronavirus in order to get more money. For example, some believe that hospitals are attaching COVID-19 to the cause of death to a person killed in a car accident, when in fact the virus had nothing to do with their death whatsoever. Brian Tabor, the head of the Indiana Hospital Association, calls that whole notion “hogwash.” “It’s just not true,” he said to Indy Politics. “These are sophisticated tests that demonstrate that a person, whether or not the death was because of COVID or not, because of COVID. There’s a lab test that confirms it.”


COVID: PLASMA SHORTAGE -  Last week, Versiti Indiana distributed around five times more plasma to Indiana hospitals as they had in previous weeks. The more than 300 units was used to treat patients hospitalized with the virus (WRTV). Now, Versiti is running low in stock, just as more patients are hospitalized that could benefit from a plasma antibody treatment. “When we transfuse this plasma from a recovered individual to someone who is in the hospital clinically ill, it’s called passive antibody treatment and these antibodies help fight the infection,” said Dr. Dan Waxman, Senior Medical Director for Versiti Indiana.


CORRECTIONS: INMATE DIES AT MIAMI OF COVID- An inmate at the Miami Correctional Facility has died with COVID-19, according to the Indiana Department of Correction (WRTV). The total death toll from the novel coronavirus among offenders and staff members at Indiana prisons now stands at 34, according to numbers released by the IDOC. Three state prison staff members and 31 offenders statewide have died with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19.


VINCENNES: UNIVERSITY ENDS IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION - Vincennes University will be ending its fall semester in-person instruction earlier than planned. The university says because of a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, it will end face-to-face classes this Friday at both the Vincennes and Jasper campuses (Inside Indiana Business). VU says it will transition to virtual instruction for the remainder of the semester. In-person instruction was scheduled to end November 24. The school says some exceptions are being made for in-person teaching, including clinical labs and internships. “While VU has thus far managed to keep the number of COVID cases among employees and students on our campuses and sites relatively low, we are also experiencing increases among faculty, staff, and students who are positive cases, primary contacts, or awaiting test results,” said VU President Chuck Johnson.


ATTORNEY GENERAL: HILL TO HOST MENTAL HEALTH FORUM - Attorney General Curtis Hill will host and deliver opening remarks at a forum next week about the intersection of law enforcement and mental health. The forum will take place from 9 a.m. to noon EST Nov. 19 at the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis, and will be live-streamed on the Herozona Foundation’s Facebook page (Howey Politics Indiana). Joining Attorney General Hill at The Bridge Forum, titled “Beyond the Stigma,” will be U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who will deliver the forum’s keynote address. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, a longtime civil rights leader who was an assistant to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., will moderate a panel discussion about mental health amid the pandemic. The panelists are: Virginia A. Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department; Ryan Mears, Marion County prosecutor; David Certo, Marion County Superior Court judge; and Jim Bontrager, Elkhart Police Department senior chaplain.


ATTORNEY GENERA: HILL RESPONDS TO CRITICISM - Outgoing Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill fired back at those who criticized the state filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting President Donald Trump’s effort to challenge election results in Pennsylvania (CenterSquare.com). Last week, Hill joined other Republican attorneys general from around the country and the Republican Party to file an amicus brief to challenge absentee ballots in Pennsylvania, saying state legislatures, rather than courts, should set election law. Since then, according to reports in the Times of Northwestern Indiana, an attorney and former Indiana state senator claimed Hill broke the law by using public funds to back Trump’s lawsuit. “Since we filed our briefs, critics have alleged that our legal efforts are intended to serve purely political interests to benefit one candidate or one party,” Hill said. “To the contrary, our work to ensure that the U.S. Constitution is followed in election proceedings serves a far nobler purpose.”


SBOE: SEEKING K-12 FEEDBACK - The Indiana State Board of Education (Board) seeks broad public feedback on ideas for a future accountability model for Indiana’s K-12 schools. The draft framework was created based on stakeholder feedback received over the summer (Howey Politics Indiana). The Board is hosting three webinars this month. Each webinar will feature a panel with guests who will ask questions and interact with the framework.  The content of each webinar will be geared toward different audiences. November 18 at 5:30pm EST: Parents and Families; November 19 at 5:30pm EST: Educators; November 24 at 8:00am EST: Administrators. The webinars will livestream, but will also be available for viewing after the fact. Individuals are encouraged to watch the webinar the best suits their role and then share feedback via the survey located on the Board’s website or by email.


JUDICIARY: COURT UPHOLDS PROTECTIVE ORDER FOR CHICAGO NEWS ANCHOR – A former Chicago Fox 32 news anchor was unable to persuade the Indiana appellate court to toss out a permanent protective order against him from a Valparaiso woman in the wake of their sexual relationship gone bad (Kasarda, NWI Times). The court found that when the relationship, which also involved a second woman, soured in August and September of 2019, Rafer Weigel "left a threatening voicemail for J.W., which made J.W. feel threatened and terrified." Weigel also made several attempts to reach J.W.'s husband and intimate photographs of J.W. were shared that resulted in Virginia resident Kathy Browne being charged under Indiana's then-new revenge porn law, the court said.


SOUTH SHORE: MASKS REQUIRED - In keeping with last week's executive order from the governor, the South Shore Line is requiring face masks or coverings for anyone riding a train or visiting a station, the rail line has announced (NWI Times). "If a passenger is in need of a mask, the SSL will continue to provide masks free of charge," the train operator said. "Passengers are reminded to continue to maintain six feet of social distance from other individuals onboard all trains and at stations." "Passengers who do not comply with the order will be subject to removal from trains," according to SSL. The train line has done away with its "mask noncompliance" car as part of the new rules.




WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP ASKED ABOUT IRAN MILITARY STRIKES - President Trump asked his advisers during an Oval Office meeting Thursday about potential military options for striking an Iranian nuclear site after a United Nations agency disclosed that Tehran had expanded its supply of low enriched uranium, officials familiar with the meeting said (Wall Street Journal). Mr. Trump was dissuaded from pursuing those options by several senior advisers, who argued that a military action could lead to a broader conflict in the region just as the president is trying to end wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the officials said. “A conflict with Iran ends badly for everyone involved,” one U.S. official familiar with the meeting said this week.


WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP EXPECTED WITH WITHDRAW TROOPS - US military commanders are anticipating that a formal order will be given by President Donald Trump as soon as this week to begin a further withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq before Trump leaves office on January 20, according to two US officials familiar (CNN). The Pentagon has issued a notice to commanders known as a "warning order" to begin planning to drawdown the number of troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 troops and 2,500 in Iraq by Jan 15, the officials said. Currently there are approximately 4,500 US troops in Afghanistan and 3,000 troops in Iraq. The Pentagon and White House did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.


WHITE HOUSE: FAUCI URGES TRANSITION COOPERATION - Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's leading infectious disease expert, said Sunday that it is "obvious" that delaying the presidential transition is not good from a public health perspective as daily Covid-19 case numbers continue to soar and set records (NBC News). "I have been through multiple transitions now, having served six presidents for 36 years," Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN's "State of the Union." "And it's very clear that that transition process that we go through, that time period of measured in several weeks to months, is really important in a smooth handing over of the information." Comparing the transition process to "passing a baton in a race," he said, "It certainly would make things more smoothly if we could do that." Asked whether he thinks it would be a good idea if his team could work with President-elect Joe Biden's transition team now, Fauci said, "Of course." "That is obvious," he added. "Of course it would be better if we could start working with them."


WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP, PENCE, BIDEN SCHEDULES - President Trump has nothing on his public schedule. VP Mike Pence will lead a Coronavirus Task Force meeting at 3 p.m. in the Situation Room. Joe Biden will receive a national security briefing in Wilmington, Del.


MEDIA: CONSERVATIVES BOLTING FOX - A new class of conservative outlets and networks is racing to capture the attention of disgruntled Trump voters, who feel abandoned by traditional news companies and censored by social media (Allen, Axios).  Fox News, for years, has been criticized for polarizing coverage. Now, there’s a race unfolding among several conservative outlets who don’t think Fox is pro-Trump enough. Axios media trends expert Sara Fischer reports that in the days after the election, conservative favorites like Breitbart, Drudge Report and Real Clear Politics began to lose traffic share to Newsmax and Gateway Pundit, according to data from web analytics company SimilarWeb. Last week, Newsmax overtook Breitbart to become the most visited right-leaning news site. TV ratings for Newsmax have surged — marquee host Greg Kelly has recently drawn as many as 1 million viewers a night — as President Trump continues to urge followers to abandon Fox News.


IOWA: GOV. REYNOLDS IMPOSES MASK MANDATE - Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) announced a statewide mask mandate on Monday, months after dismissing such orders as “feel-good” measures with little impact. Coronavirus infections in the state have doubled over the past month, and the number of hospitalized patients reached a new high on Monday (Washington Post). Stricter public health orders are also being imposed in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Oklahoma and California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said the state needed to slam the “emergency brake” on reopening.


SOUTH DAKOTA: NURSE SAYS COVID VICTIMS STILL BELIEVE IT'S A HOAX -  A South Dakota nurse is encouraging state residents to wear masks and implement social distancing measures, even as the governor says she has no plans to issue a mask mandate (Gray News). Registered emergency room nurse Jodi Doering, who is on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in South Dakota, came to national attention due to a series of tweets she posted Saturday. In them, she talked about patients who “still don’t believe the virus is real,” even as they are suffering from it. “I can’t stop thinking about it. These people really think this isn’t going to happen to them,” Doering wrote. "They don’t want to believe that COVID is real,” Doering said. “When they should be spending time FaceTiming their families, they’re filled with anger and hatred, and it just made me really sad the other night. I just can’t believe that those are gonna be their last thoughts and words.” The nurse also says she is frustrated by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem’s approach to the pandemic, which she views as politically-motivated. She is specifically upset she has not implemented a mask mandate in the state.




COLUMBUS: COVID CASES TRIPLE IN FORTNIGHT - COVID-19 hospitalizations at Columbus Regional Hospital continued to surge to unprecedented levels over the weekend and have more than tripled over the past two weeks (Columbus Republic). On Sunday, there were 43 people hospitalized with COVID-19 at CRH — the highest number since the pandemic swept through Indiana and up from 12 on Nov. 1, according to the COVID-19 Community Task Force. It was the fifth time that coronavirus hospitalizations set a new record over the past week. The surge in hospitalizations at CRH comes as hospitalizations continue to skyrocket across the state, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.


CONNERSVILLE: CITY GRAPPLING WITH COVID, MASKS — One of the cities being hit the hardest in the state with COVID-19 cases continues to struggle to get people to wear their masks and follow CDC guidelines (WRTV). “You can go to our Walmart and no one is wearing a mask and I wear it because other people matter, and I wear it to protect other people. Jama Sullivan follows Governor Holcomb’s mask mandate. The problem is she says so many people in her hometown are choosing not to mask up, even though Connersville is in one of the red counties with an overwhelming number of COVID-19 cases popping up every day. “Our numbers did go down. Our positivity rate went from 25 to 12.5%, went from being first in the state for being bad. We are now 29th, which is still not good, but we are making progress in the right direction," said Mayor Chad Frank, who is focusing his energy on education Connersville residents about COVID dangers.


SOUTH BEND: TEACHERS TO GET PAY RAISE — South Bend schoolteachers will see increases of at least $2,000 to base salaries and other incentives, the school board on Monday night learned of the negotiated teacher contract with the local teachers' union (Swiercz, South Bend Tribune). The board learned that the starting base pay for teachers in the school corporation will go from $39,000 to $41,000. The salary range for the 2020-21 school year will be from $41,000 to $79,100.


CARMEL: COUNCIL CONSIDERS NEW LIQUOR LICENSES - Carmel might establish four new waterway districts along the White River and three local streams to help the city obtain new alcoholic beverage permits and incentivize development (Christian, IBJ). Four years ago, Carmel was one of several Hamilton and Boone county municipalities to pursue additional liquor licenses under a state law that offered growing cities and towns more licenses than what had been allowed under the state’s population-based quota. The city granted the last of its supply to Keystone Realty Group last December, but a proposal introduced during Monday’s Carmel City Council meeting could offer new opportunities for restauranteurs and bar owners. The council decided to send the proposal to its finance committee for further review. “All this does is draw boundaries around a riverfront district that would allow a petitioner from the district to apply for an alcoholic beverage permit,” council member Sue Finkam said. “I think that would be good for economic development.”


GARY: DEATH PENALTY FOE BILL PELKE DIES – A leading Northwest Indiana advocate for abolition of the death penalty, spurred to action following the 1985 murder of his grandmother by four teenage girls in her Gary home, died Thursday at his home in Anchorage, Alaska (Carden, NWI Times). Bill Pelke was 73. His death was confirmed by Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing, the organization Pelke founded to connect family members of murder victims. Pelke was expected to travel back to Indiana this week to protest Thursday's scheduled execution at the federal prison in Terre Haute, according to Abraham Bonowitz, founder of Death Penalty Action. The former Region steelworker made death penalty abolition his life's work after undergoing a spiritual transformation in 1986 while praying for love and compassion for Paula Cooper, the 15-year-old girl who repeatedly stabbed Pelke's 78-year-old grandmother to death. Cooper was sentenced to death for killing Ruth Pelke and was the youngest death row inmate in the United States at the time.


FORT WAYNE: CONEY ISLAND CLOSES FOR 1ST TIME DUE TO COVID — For more than a century, Coney Island has served hot dogs without fail (WANE-TV). Leave it to 2020 to disrupt things. Coney Island has temporarily closed its Main Street wiener stand “due to a Covid compromise.” The eatery “painfully decided” to close for a few days, starting Monday. The staff will spend the closure sanitizing and making minor repairs.


LAKE STATION: CITY HALL CLOSES DUE TO COVID — The city of Lake Station is closing City Hall to the public until further notice and canceling all public meetings in response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the Region (Carden, NWI Times). An executive order issued Monday by Mayor Bill Carroll, and affirmed in a resolution adopted by the common council, said the closings are essential to minimize the spread of the virus in Lake Station. "We have been a step ahead of other communities since the virus first took hold, and as it is once again rising in numbers, we need to keep that forward-thinking mindset," Carroll said.


BUTLER: MONSTER TRUCK MUSEUM COMING — Get ready to roll — the International Monster Truck Museum is coming to Butler (KPC News). Museum President Jeff Cook made the announcement Saturday during the organization’s 10th annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The museum, currently housed at Kruse Plaza on C.R. 11-A south of Auburn, is moving to the former Butler Eagles lodge at 541 W. Main St.


VIGO COUNTY: SCHOOLS TO GO REMOTE - Due to concerns about available staff and the spread of COVID-19 within Vigo County, all Vigo County School Corp. schools will move to remote learning on Thursday, Nov. 19 (Terre Haute Tribune-Star). The district will not consider a return to in-person school until Monday, Dec. 7. Title I pre-Kindergarten programs are also postponed until at least Dec. 7. Free grab-and-go meals will be available at the front door of each school from 11 a.m. to noon each remote learning day. The package will include a breakfast and a lunch.