Wednesday, June 28, 2017

AP Study Shows Democrats Underrepresented in Indiana House, Indiana U.S. House Delegation

The Associated Press confirmed what Democrats have known for several years and what Republicans have been afraid to admit they know: Indiana's General Assembly districts are gerrymandered.

The AP did a study showing that the vote totals from the 2016 election should have resulted in about five more Indiana House seats and one more U.S. House seat for the Democrats.

The Indiana Senate seats were not analyzed, but a simple look at the map of Central Indiana shows that they are perhaps even more gerrymandered than the Indiana House seats.  Several of the Indiana Senate seats appear to be mostly in Marion County only to have parts jog outward into one of the surrounding counties or vice versa.

Take Senate District 28 for example.  The district consists of mostly Hancock and Shelby Counties, but a long finger of the district knifes into Marion County taking in a narrow swath between roughly I-70 and Washington Street going west to Emerson Avenue.  Senate District 36 on the southside encompasses parts of Center and Perry Townships in Marion County, but it runs a narrow leg into Johnson County.  In fact, all seats not held by Democrats in Marion County are just like this (District 32 excluded), and three of them are some of the closest races in the Indiana Senate.

Back in 2010, I wrote a blog post talking about that election cycle.  It was so critical.  At that time, the Indiana House had a 52-48 majority for the Democrats and the Senate was 33-17.  Democrats also held four of the state's nine House seats.

Republicans won in 2010.  It's now 70 seats in the Indiana House, 41 in the Indiana Senate, and seven U.S. House seats for the GOP.  Elections, they have consequences.

Let's hope as time goes on that those consequences are lessened.  The push can continue for fair redistricting done in a non-partisan manner.

It looked like redistricting was going to change in this state this past General Assembly session, but the bill was shut down by the GOP in the committee hearing process.  It's time to force a vote and to let your legislators know what you want.  Be vocal.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

CBO Releases Report on "Better Care Act" from Senate

When the GOP and the Democrats gather to vote in the U.S. Senate on health care this week, there should be a ton of interested parties.

We knew that millions of people would be adversely affected by the passage of the Senate's health care bill.  The Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan group, put some human numbers on the bill's effects.

The CBO estimates 22 million Americans will eventually be thrown off insurance.  Deductibles will skyrocket.  Premiums will go up.  Medicaid will be cut.  It's not good, and the outcomes aren't forecast to be good either.

Those in the know have already been on this.  Since the Republicans rolled out the ironically titled Better Care Reconciliation Act, There have been protests.  Just yesterday, protesters were carried away from Todd Young's Indianapolis office.

One protester left in an ambulance.

The way this secret process has gone, it seems that Republicans don't want to hear the truth.  They don't want to look Americans in the eye on health care.  Senator Young is non-committal on the bill, but he is "hoping to get to a yes," according to the Fox 59.

Keep speaking out.  Keep making phone calls.  Susan Collins of Maine is the latest Republican to say she will vote no on the bill.  Keep putting pressure on Senator Young to vote no.  Contact him but please be respectful.

Let's look at what we have and fix it where it needs to be tweaked.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Carmel, Fishers Spend Like They Have It (Because They Do)

Questions are being asked about spending in two Hamilton County cities.

First comes the news that Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard's new Ford Fusion has been damaged.  Brainard says he'll pay out of pocket for the repairs.  So kind, Jim.  After all, on his behalf, the City of Carmel is paying $600 a month for that Fusion in a lease agreement.  To put this in perspective, I drive a Chevy Malibu, and I pay much less than $600 a month.  The Indy Star has all the details in this report.  Writers Vic Rykart and Chris Sikich report that Brainard could have negotiated a purchase straight up and saved the city $4,000.

Second is the matter of Fishers and what that city is paying Jennifer Messer, the wife of Congressman Luke Messer.  After an investigation into the records, Bryan Slodysko of the Associated Press found that Messer gets a check for $20K per month from the City of Fishers and does about 26 hours of legal work a week for that cash from Washington.  That's a $240,000 job.

Now, let me caveat this by saying in both cases that Mayor Brainard and Jenniifer Messer have every right to negotiate whatever deals they can get out of the cities they serve.  It just seems like these two Hamilton County municipalities must have stacks of cash laying around if they can simply give it away like this.  

With Indy still struggling to fill its budget hole, maybe the Circle City can ask these two Hamilton County cities for a loan.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Health Care Debate Should Be About People Not Politics

President Donald Trump
The Republicans seem hell bent on attempting to roll back Obamacare prior to the July 4 recess, and it leaves Americans feeling helpless.

High hopes for the Senate at least turning the bill passed from the House side into something remotely palatable have been replaced by concerns that the normally-deliberative upper house of Congress is getting ready to do nearly the same thing. That’s left the future of the Affordable Care Act in peril.

Just yesterday, Anthem announced it was pulling out of the ACA Marketplace with its plans, and who can blame them? The President and Congress have created an uncertainty that any business would be unsure about. Donald Trump is causing health care in this country to collapse…not Barack Obama.

It’s amazing how often Trump wants to blame his predecessor. When Barack Obama rightly pointed out that the failed policies of the Bush Administration were often to blame for what became of the economy he inherited, he was lambasted. Trump seems to get a free pass on things when he whines on Twitter. Still, he seems determined to roll back every single thing President Obama did in his time in office. As Trevor Noah put it on the Daily Show, Trump keeps metaphorically hitting “Control-Z” on everything Obama.

At this point, all we can hope is that enough Republicans refuse to be sheep. There are definite hopes. John McCain sounded frustrated over the way the GOP was trying to ram this bill up the rear of Americans. He rightly noted that Republicans complained about the process Democrats took to hammer out the Affordable Care Act, and that, frankly, was much more of a normal process with hearings, amendments, and votes. Republicans just decided to be the party of no back then.

You can also hope that others out there that have shown a little resistance such as Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins or Jeff Flake understand exactly what this means. Perhaps even Todd Young can be persuaded not to let a hastily negotiated bill by a homogeneous small group of Republican Senators to go through.  Details of which are just leaking out as this posts.

This is NOT about politics folks. People’s lives are at stake. People like me with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. My late mother with her Parkinson’s Disease and arthritis would have been sorely effected by whatever is decided. And there are tons more people out there worse off than we were or are.

Obamacare was never perfect, but it was a good start.  The Affordable Care Act should have been tweaked and fixed but Republicans didn't want that.  They wanted whole hog repeal and replace.  That's why we are where we are.  They may get their repeal, but they were never ready to replace.

Again, for God sakes, this is not about politics. Hit the brakes a bit and let’s work this out for the American people, Mitch McConnell. But, if Mitch doesn’t come to his senses, Republicans, don’t be sheep.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Republicans Scramble to Hold On to Two Republican Seats in Special Elections

Republicans are practically giddy that Karen Handel defeated Jon Ossoff in the special election runoff in Georgia's 6th Congressional District.

I want to congratulate Handel. A win is a win is a win, and she won.  Democrats put a lot of chips on this one, and Republicans mobilized and got it done.

Still, there are some signs out here that are not so bad for Democrats.  First of all, this isn't just any seat.  This is Newt Gingrich's old seat.  In 2004, George W. Bush won the district by 41 points over John Kerry.  Just this November, Tom Price, now a member of the Trump cabinet, won the district by over 20 points.  In Georgia's 6th, it's hard to overturn over 40 years of Republican rule...only Watergate did that.

Ossoff also raised a lot of money. Much of it was from outside the district, but he also outraised Handel inside the district, and Handel relied on outside donors for almost all her campaign cash.  She even got some late PAC help. A real effort by Republicans this week mobilized the troops and tried to suppress the Democratic vote with a pro-GOP PAC taking out of context a story from Barack Obama's autobiography.  Those are all tactics now.

This is really the beginning for Handel, who will face a lot of scrutiny as a new member of Congress over the next year and a half or so.  She'll probably face a crowded primary and perhaps even Ossoff again in November of next year.

A footnote to all of this is that Democrats also lost a race in South Carolina last night.  Ralph Norman defeated Archie Parnell by three percentage points in a race that was much tighter than expected.  Democrats paid little attention to this race in comparison to the Georgia race.  Mick Mulvaney, now a member of the Trump Administration, won the district by 20 points in November. Cook Political rates the district as a +9 Republican district.  That's a baseline of nearly 60 percent for the GOP.

So, in short, the Republicans spent a lot of money simply to hold on to two seats they already comfortably had won in November.  If there's any such thing as a moral victory, I think the Democrats can claim it.

Still, elections have consequences and the tape reads that the GOP held both seats on Tuesday.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Spotlight Back on Indiana Senate DIstrict 29 for 2018

Sen. Mike Delph
Indiana Senate District 29 will be back on the ballot in 2018, so that means the referendum on Mike Delph will be back on the ballot as well.

Delph has been a little more quiet than normal since having his wings clipped by his own caucus after he revealed information that happened in caucus back in 2014.

Taking you back, Delph revealed that the discriminatory House Joint Resolution 3 that would have amended the Indiana Constitution to make same-gender marriages illegal was dead via Twitter.  For that, Delph was banished to sitting with the Democrats by Senate President Pro-Tempore David Long and was removed from his leadership roles in the caucus.

Delph also is getting primaried...or at least will have a primary opponent.  According to Abdul-Hakim Shabazz's Indy Politics website, Carmel-based city planner and architect, Corrie Meyer, is running on the Republican ticket.

Democrats are running J.D. Ford again.  Ford ran a teriffic campaign in 2014 pulling in 46 percent of the vote in the district that includes a large part of Hamilton County, part of Boone County, and parts of Washington, Pike, and Wayne Townships in Marion County.

Any way you slice it, Delph will have to work hard again to stay in office.  You would have to think that the blue parts ot the district have become more blue, and I can't imagine Delph is any more liked now than he was in his district four years ago.

If the Democrats are ever going to make any progress in the Senate, this is one of those seats they have to have because it is winable...especially with Delph in the seat.  We'll see how this one plays out in both the primary and the general.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Honest to Goodness, Indiana Now Pence's Fast Cash ATM Button?

That cha-ching sound you heard was Mike Pence hitting the cash register before returning to Washington.

That's right, Pence did a quick run home to raise some money for his own PAC at a max $5,000-a-person fundraiser at the Mariott downtown Friday.  As has been well pointed out by both Lawrence O'Donnell and Rachel Maddow, it's highly unusual for a VEEP to have his own PAC when he is not running for anything.

Of course the other news is that Pence has lawyered-up to represent him in the many messes the Trump Administration has made so far.  Again, as the Vice President, Pence cannot use government funds to pay for his personal lawyer.  So, as Lawrence O'Donnell and Rachel Maddow have pointed out, he had to create this PAC in part to pay for one, his attorney and two, a possible run at the top of the ticket in 2020.

When he needed a quick hit on the ATM, Pence returned home to Indiana to get that quick cash.  Congratulations, Hoosiers, we're now the "fast cash" button on Pence's ATM settings.

Actually, when I heard $5K was the top of the line, I was sort of shocked.  He's kind of low balling it.  Eric Holcomb will be part of a 10K a plate dinner at Forrest Lucas's abode on June 27.  For that $10K, you get to sit down for likely a piece of dry chicken and some sort of asparagus or something (hopefully they go for steak) at a roundtable dinner with Holcomb.  The Star report is here.

Maybe Lucas tried to organize something for Pence, but Karen Pence couldn't attend and there would be other ladies present?  I don't know.

Anyway, I'm sure Pence took some cash back with him.

By the way, our friends over at Indy Republican also took a good look at the issue.

UPDATE:
The Wall Street Journal reports that Pence will not use PAC funds to pay legal fees.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Politics Doesn't Have To Be Nasty

I had not been to a political fundraiser in a while, so I attended Marion County Surveyor Debbie Jenkins's fundraiser earlier tonight at the Carpenter's Union Hall in Beech Grove.

It was a great event.  I love catching up with people at these events.  I caught Mayor Joe Hogsett as he was leaving, and he did not deck me for my blog post last week.  I didn't think he would.  In fact, he was his normal jovial self.

The fun part of the night came as I was leaving.  Edwards Drive-In's food truck catered the event, and I was going to get a pork tenderloin for the road.  About six or seven of us, including Democratic candidate for Sheriff Kerry Forestal and former City-County Councillor Doris Minton-McNeil got caught underneath an awning waiting for our food as a thunderstorm hit.

It poured.  Being the largest person around, I tried to help keep people dry hoping not to blow away.  Still, after the day, it was kind of a refreshing way to end it.

Not all politics has to be nasty, and there wasn't a nasty word spoken at the fundraiser.  In fact, everybody seemed very concerned about Congressman Steve Scalise and those injured in the shooting earlier today.  Here we were though...six or seven Democrats stuck under an awning getting soaking wet while waiting for food.

I was wet to the skin by the time I got in my car, but I didn't care.  We laughed, joked, had fun, and enjoyed the company of others.

It's really the small things in life that bring a smile to your face.  For me, politics brings me together with my friends, and it doesn't have to just be Democrats.  Last week, I had a blast talking to the Republicans at the Decatur Central Lions Club 4-H Fair.  After some good-natured ribbing, the conversation turned to families and life.

Politics aside, we're humans first.

I continue to send my thoughts and best wishes for a speedy recovery to those injured in the shooting at the Republican Congressional Baseball Team practice this morning.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

In Memoriam: Phil Denton (1956-2017)

Let me start this off by saying that I didn't personally know Phil Denton.  I had heard of him, and I knew of his value to the Indy gay community.  Still, I don't ever recall shaking his hand and meeting him.

Still, I want to thank him.

Denton, a longtime activist in the Indy LGBTQ+ community, passed away this past week at the age of 60 just as the annual Indy Pride celebration kicked up.  He was the owner of Greg's, one of Indy's oldest establishments catering to the LGBTQ+ community.  Having purchased the bar 25 years ago, Denton changed the name to Greg's from Our Place in 2002 to celebrate the life of his friend, Greg Powers.

If you're not gay, you have no idea what it's like to have a safe environment where you can be yourself. Since 1980's opening, Greg's or OP's or whatever it's been called, has been one of Indy's safest places for gay people to be, well, gay.  It's Indy's oldest gay bar.  Besides all of that, Greg's has always been at the forefront of activism for LGBTQ+ individuals as well as all those charitable causes they helped support in Indy, and Phil has been that driving force.

Hopefully, the wonderful bar on 16th Street where a person of any orientation or gender identity can go to be himself or herself will continue.  With the loss of a couple of other establishments in town, we can't afford to lose this historic cultural hub.

Again, I didn't know Phil, but I think his heart was on display if you've ever been in his establishment.  It is a place of welcomeness and open arms and minds and hearts.

Thanks for being there for the community, Phil. You have served us well.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Is Joe Hogsett Looking at 2020 in 2017?

Mayor Joe Hogsett
Joe Hogsett's position on the Paris Accords could actually give us a window into what the Mayor of Indianapolis might be thinking about three or more years down the road.

Hogsett gave good lip service and said the right things about Indianapolis adopting the right kinds of policies to help prevent climate change, but he stopped short of the more hard language to say how we'd get there.  He refused to sign the Climate Mayors Agreement.  As one of my friends put it, "Caution over leadership."

That could be a good way to describe Hogsett's position on not only this but also some other more liberal ideas such as raising the minimum wage for full-time city employees.  The Democratic leadership of the City-County Council is backing it, but Hogsett says he'd rather balance the city budget before looking at raising the city employees up closer to a living wage.

He said the right things but didn't push the sanctuary city thing too far.

Clearly, Hogsett is balancing things out.  Why this cautious approach on seemingly slam dunk proposals for Democrats?  After all, these proposals would largely be popular measures in Marion County where the political pool gets more and more deeply blue.  There are no countywide Republican officeholders, and it's getting harder and harder to find candidates for the elephant party each election cycle.

Liberals can be elected in Marion County, but can they be elected statewide?  Few have tested the waters. Now let me be clear, Hogsett has shown leadership in many areas, but the more controversial the subject might be...the more he seems to dance that line.   Better to be CAUTIOUS, right?

Hogsett has to be looking down the road and keeping his political options open for 2020.  All indications the 60-year-old well-known statewide Democrat will run for a second term in 2019.  With all but the crime issue, he has done a spectacular job.  I'd say the chances are very good he would win that second term.  The next year, however, that Governor's Office may be calling his name.  He could run for that office and not leave his current job.

Eric Holcomb, despite what many believe to be a good start to his tenure, is only at 54 percent approval in two different polls since election day.  An unpopular incumbent could be at the top of the ticket for President if Donald Trump doesn't get himself impeached.

I'd continue watch these more left-leaning issues to get a barometer of what Hogsett might do in the future.  Then again, I could be way off base and Hogsett is just trying to be a strong executive, but I believe that he still might have a desire to make one more statewide run.

Now that the Mayor is probably mad at me...

Donnelly Running Ads for Reelection Campaign

Sen. Joe Donnelly
It appears that in the early going of the 2018 campaign that Joe Donnelly is not leaving anything to chance.

Having already been the subject of ads against him, Donnelly, who does not even know his opponent yet, is out with some early ads to try to define himself in these months before the Republicans began to truly mobilize against him. It's smart politics. Donnelly's advertising hits hard on his record and talks about the Senator's accomplishments in office.  

From the beginning, the Indiana Senator has been accessible and has been talking about more than just the issues that dominate the national news cycles. Donnelly has been trying to improve things for veterans since taking office. He's also been engaged in Indiana's problems with drugs such as heroin and opioid abuse.

Donnelly's problems electorally are going to come from the fringes of both parties. Right wingers will call him a liberal and try to tie him to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Those on the far left attack Donnelly for things like his positions on abortion, his slow conversion to supporting same sex marriage, and his vote to confirm Neil Gorsuch.

The point of all this is Donnelly is starting early, and for a seat the Democrats must hold on to to capture the Senate in 2018, it's a good thing. The earlier the better, I say.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tallian Takes on Hill on Legalization of Marijuana in Indiana

Senator Karen Tallian
Former gubernatorial candidate and Indiana state Senator Karen Tallian went after Attorney General Curtis Hill's positions on the legalization of marijuana in an op-ed released by the Indiana Senate Democrats.

Hill detailed his positions in an Indianapolis Star piece published on June 1 begging presumably the Indiana General Assembly to not legalize marijuana.  In the process, he runs through a myriad of greatest hits (no pun intended) of those opposed to legalization...you know...it's a gateway drug that warps your mind.

Well, Tallian is having none of it. She writes...
I was dismayed by the recent inflammatory Op-Ed from Indiana’s new Attorney General regarding marijuana reform laws. His portrait of “money-hungry profiteers…with dollar signs in their eyes” lining up at the doors of the Indiana legislature sounds like a firebrand sermon preaching hell-fire and brimstone.

Having submitted marijuana reform legislation, and monitored every proposal that has been filed, I have some experience in what is in the legislature. Although there is a lot of citizen interest, most of the lobbyists roll their eyes at the thought of marijuana legalization in Indiana.

But that is not the end of the story. The AG’s editorial cautions us against “flirting” with any reforms. Indiana’s prosecutors have most vehemently opposed any reform actions, sometimes resorting to what can only be described as self-serving deceit.

Marijuana Reform is simple, even if one does not support legalization.

We should stop putting our kids in jail, or giving them criminal records, for possession of a substance that is legal in many other places. Current laws make it impossible for someone convicted of a drug crime as a teenager to find a job once they have completed school. We penalize our youth for their lifetime for being busted in high school.

The “gateway” drug theory is simply not even a valid argument. Marijuana is not heroin. Mr. Hill’s “citations” regarding addiction, impaired driving, and crime are misleading at best, and totally fail to give the real conclusions of those studies.

It is true, we have an opioid problem in our society. A huge part of it is attributable to prescription drugs, and the situation is not relevant to marijuana reform. Further, and to the contrary, much research shows that marijuana may be used to help addicts “come down” from more serious drugs.

Now that some states have allowed for it, medical research is blossoming and supporting the cause for medicinal marijuana. Double-blind laboratory studies have proven positive effects in epilepsy, and more research is being done all the time. Research should be encouraged at our state medical institutions, but that too is illegal. Something that could be alleviated through reform laws.

Finally, and we know this as a nation, prohibition of a substance that is accepted by such a huge portion of society has never worked. I could have written an entire Op-Ed on this subject alone.

This year the General Assembly took a step forward in medical options for Hoosiers by legalizing cannabidiol oil for certain epileptic children. I hope the members of the General Assembly continue down the path of options, and not the fear mongering coming from our Attorney General.
To be continued in the General Assembly.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Recent Poll: Hoosiers Cautiously Approving of Holcomb

Governor Holcomb
A majority of Hoosiers think Governor Eric Holcomb is doing a good job according to a recent poll by the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, and I think Holcomb has largely earned the accolade.

The Indianapolis Republican stands at a 54 percent approval by Hoosiers to go with with the General Assembly's 49 percent approval rating.  Another 56 percent of Hoosiers think the state is on the right track in the poll conducted by Fabrizio Lee & Associates.  All of this was more secondary to the headline of the poll showing that over 70 percent of Hoosiers believe cold beer sales should be expanded and 65 percent support Sunday sales.

The overarching headline of the poll is more good news for Holcomb.  As you may remember, he signed the Indiana General Assembly's Ricker's Convenience Store loop hole fix bill reluctantly asking the General Assembly to look at Indiana's antiquated liquor laws.

Back to the Governor's approval rating.  I am really surprised the number is just 54 percent.  It would seem Hoosiers like their Governor but just aren't sure to make of him quite yet.  That should be some decent news for Indiana Democrats as they look ahead.  There must be something holding Holcomb's numbers back, and that very well could be Donald Trump.

Eric Holcomb did a far better than average job marshaling the state through his first Indiana General Assembly session. Obviously, I have my ideological differences with the man, but he made it clear that he's not as ideological as many thought he would be. He also showed that he has some backbone of his own and won't necessarily be a pushover for Brian Bosma and David Long as many thought he might.

Let's face it though, Holcomb hasn't really be truly tested yet. Mike Pence didn't get tested until the entire RFRA thing hit, and he failed the test. Liquor laws, government transparency and a couple other areas seem to be where Holcomb differs from his General Assembly majority. Given the opportunity, he caved on the liquor laws, on solar power, and on expanding restrictions on abortions. He also moved forward to make the Superintendent of Public Instruction position an appointed rather than elected position. None of these were particularly big moments.

His highlights of his first few months in office were the way he moved swiftly to help East Chicago residents affected by lead in their water. He also pardoned Keith Cooper for a crime he clearly didn't commit over the objections of Attorney General Curtis Hill.

Time will tell what Holcomb does from here, but, as I've written before, his start has been promising. There's a long way to go to 2020 and the next time he'll face the voters.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Trump Eager to Erase Obama Legacy

"Thanks Obama" is not just a meme any more.
It's all about being vindictive.  That's the Republican logic in Washington, and it's hurting America and Americans.

Donald Trump's presidency so far has been erasing President Barack Obama's eight years from office out of the record books.  Trump has tried to kill the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a rushed piece of legislation that will hurt Americans in their pocketbooks and at the doctors office.  Today, we saw further evidence as Trump announced the country's withdraw from the Paris Accords on climate change.

Trump's rolled back Obama executive orders aimed at reducing carbon in the atmosphere.  He's rolled back efficiency standards for cars.  He's taken steps to make Americans more unhealthy with what they order at restaurants by rolling back the Obama-era plan to post caloric content on menus.

It's much more than that as well.

Trump's new budget (complete with befuddling math errors) amps up the defense spending while attempting to balance the budget with deep cuts in social programs such as food stamps and medicaid.

This is besides the embarrassment that President Trump is on a near daily basis to the country.  His manner as well as some of the things he's posted on social media are beneath the office he holds.

So, let's be really clear about Trump's aim.  He's trying to take America back to before the Obama Administration to the failed policies of Republicans like George W. Bush whose policies nearly brought the country's economy to a full stop.  Tax cutting for the richest Americans while we have so many things and so much debt going on against us is simply dangerous because we've seen this movie before.

Trump, however, and the coalition that elected him somehow believe America was greater before Obama was our President.  We simply know that's not true.  Obama wasn't perfect, but he was a great President whose accomplishments just keep looking better each day.