By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. Maps finalized today

The Indiana Senate went to work at 9 this morning to finalize congressional and General Assembly maps for the next decade, voting 36-12 to approve them, with retiring Republican Sen. Ron Grooms joining the 11 Democrats. The House concurred, voting 64-25 to pass the maps with minor tweaks passed earlier this week.

While Bill Moreau of The Indiana Citizen tried this reasoning - just because you can doesn't mean you should - the Republican super majorities will pass maps that will make it hard for Democrats to chip away at the GOP's 7-2 dominance in congressional seats, along with its 71-29 and 39-11 super majorities in the Indians House and Senate. The Indiana Citizen was formed in November 2019, designed improve lagging civic engagement and low voter turnout and that included redistricting reform, coming after the window closed for a needed constitutional amendment to create an independent redistricting commission. While former Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma had sponsored legislation to do just that, the GOP's Senate majority remained a roadblock. Thus, we are where we are today, which is lop-sided maps favoring Hoosier Republicans for the next decade.

The GOP's call for "compactness" and maintaining "communities of interest" were cited by the map drawers as their achievement this year, but Democrats pointed to Fort Wayne being split into four Senate districts, and other splits in Evansville and Lafayette/West Lafayette that the real intent was to maintain overwhelming majorities. State Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, made this clear on Monday when he said, "We were striving to follow legal requirements. Compactness and communities of interests were goals. Competitiveness is not a legal requirement.” 

Moving forward, Hoosier Democrats will need to pitch great ideas that will resonate with independents, and do a much better job of getting Black and Latino voters to the polls. They will need a charismatic young leader. Paging Beau Bayh.

2. Sen. Tallian quits

Indiana Democratic Chairman Mike Schmuhl took the reins of his beleaguered party knowing he had to take the message to all 92 counties while recruiting new blood candidates. While Democrats have showed up at dozens of Hoosier counties, both blue and red, those efforts took a hit Thursday when State Sen. Karen Tallian said she will resign. "After 16 years I've had enough," Tallian told the NWI Times  reporter Dan Carden. "I'm at a point in my life where I want to use my remaining energy to produce more immediate results. The composition of the Senate majority moved further right and it became increasingly more difficult to work." 

3. Cannabis reform hit

Sen. Tallian's resignation is a hit to efforts to reform Indiana's draconian marijuana laws at a time when more than 30 states have legalized it in some form. Her conservative cannabis advocate counterpart - Republican State Rep. Jim Lucas - is expecting a primary challenge in 2022. Indiana has lacked an organized, professional cannabis reform lobbying movement to date, leaving it in the hands of gadflies like Bill Levine.

4. Biden's overreach

President Biden signed legislation last night that keeps the federal government open until later this fall while avoiding a debt ceiling crisis, while his infrastructure and budget reconciliation bills are stalled in Congress. It conjures up the old Will Rogers quote: "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." Biden is attempting to forge wide New Deal and Great Society type reforms with tiny majorities. Biden defeated Donald Trump 51.3% to 46.9% and has a 50/50 split Senate and a House majority by just a handful. President Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 landslide was huge — 61% to Barry Goldwater’s 38.5%. LBJ had 68 Democratic senators and a 295-140 House majority. In 1933, FDR had more than 60% of the Senate and more than 70% in the House. President Obama enjoyed a filibuster-proof 60 Democratic seats in the Senate and a House margin in the dozens when he signed the ACA in 2010.

5. Justice Alito defends SCOTUS at Notre Dame

Associate Justice Samuel Alito came to Notre Dame on Thursday and in animated fashion defended the U.S. Supreme Court's use of the "shadow docket" that sparked controversy when it allowed the recent Texas abortion law to proceed. Alito: “The catchy and sinister term ‘shadow docket’ has been used to portray the court as having been captured by a dangerous cabal that resorts to sneaky and improper methods to get its ways. And this portrayal feeds unprecedented efforts to intimidate the court or damage it as an independent institution. Put aside the false and inflammatory claim that we nullified Roe v. Wade. We did no such thing. And we said that expressly in our order. The real complaint of these critics is that we have granted relief when they think it should have been denied, and we have denied relief when they think it should have been granted. If they want to criticize us on those grounds, fine, let them make their case. But attempting to disguise their real complaint with a lot of talk about the sinister, secretive shadow docket is unworthy.”

Have a great weekend, folks. Here's hoping the Colts and Bears can get back on track. It's The Atomic!