Indiana

The culture wars are always percolating beneath the surface in presidential politics — until something or someone pushes them to the surface.

Indiana Governor: New Law 'Not About' Exclusion

Mar 30, 2015

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence defended the new state law that's garnered widespread criticism over concerns it could foster discrimination against gays and lesbians and said Sunday it wasn't a mistake to have enacted it.

Pence appeared on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" to discuss the measure he signed last week prohibiting state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Since the Republican governor signed the bill into law Thursday, Indiana has been widely criticized by businesses and organizations around the nation, as well as on social media with the hashtag #boycottindiana. Already, consumer review service Angie's List has said it will suspend a planned expansion in Indianapolis because of the new law.

Pence did not answer directly when asked at least six times whether under the law it would be legal for a merchant to refuse to serve gay customers. "This is not about discrimination, this is about empowering people to confront government overreach," he said. Asked again, he said, "Look, the issue here is still is tolerance a two-way street or not."

Sexual orientation is not covered under Indiana's civil rights law. Pence has said he "won't be pursuing that."

Senate Republican Dan Coats of Indiana announced Tuesday — probably surprising no one — that he would not seek another term in 2016. Although he has been a stalwart Republican through a turbulent generation in Washington, Coats seems less at home in the hyper-partisan world of Congress today.

While Coats, 71, said his decision was strictly personal and age-related, he did refer to the "terribly dysfunctional Senate" in an interview with the Howey Politics Indiana newsletter.

Ditching The Common Core Brings A Big Test For Indiana

Mar 12, 2015

Every eldest child knows all too well: Going first can be tough.

There's no one to help you pick the good teachers at school or give you advice on how to tell Mom and Dad about that fender bender.

Right now, Indiana is the firstborn, feeling its way through some thorny — and consequential — education decisions with little precedent to lean on.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence is ditching a plan to create a state-run news site.

Pence told state agencies Thursday he was backing off plans to launch a website that was to be called Just IN.

The Indianapolis Star obtained planning documents this week about the proposed website.

The plan was to have Indiana’s governmental press secretaries write so-called “stories” and have the state-run “news service” compete with independent news agencies across the region.

The plan came under fire, with critics saying it amounted to passing off pro-government propaganda as news.

Indiana journalists objected to the idea of taxpayer dollars being used to support pro-Pence stories.

In a memo to staff Thursday, Pence said he had made the decision to pull the plug on the Just IN website idea.

Indiana has gained approval from the federal government to use an updated version of the state’s Health Indiana Plan, or HIP, instead of Medicaid.

The updated version will be called HIP 2.0, and it will provide health care to 350,000 uninsured Indiana residents.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the expansion Tuesday.

The pool of high-profile Indiana Democrats running for Governor in 2016 has shrunk by one. Former Governor and Senator Evan Bayh says he won’t seek a return to the office he held from 1989 to 1997.

Bayh is a moderate Democrat who strongly considered a presidential run in 2008, before deciding not to run and endorsing Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He served two terms in the U.S. Senate but didn’t seek re-election in 2010.

Indiana Asks Supreme Court To Settle Gay Marriage

Sep 9, 2014

Indiana is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether gay marriage should be legal in all 50 states.

The state attorney general's office on Tuesday asked the high court to reverse a ruling last week by the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which declared Indiana and Wisconsin's bans against same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

Indiana says its case offers a perfect opportunity to settle the national debate once and for all.

Attorneys for gay rights group Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana say they will file separate responses within 24 hours.

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals last Thursday upheld a federal district judge's decision that found Indiana's same-sex marriage ban violated the constitution.

A U.S. appeals court in Chicago has ruled that gay marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana are unconstitutional.

Thursday's decision by a three-judge panel at the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals bumps the number of states where gay marriage will be legal from 19 to 21. The decision was unanimous.

The Wisconsin and Indiana cases shifted to Chicago after their attorneys general appealed separate lower court rulings in June tossing the bans. The 7th Circuit stayed those rulings pending its own decision.

Hundreds of volunteers are assisting in the effort to find a missing Warrick County, Indiana, woman.

Twenty-seven-year-old Kristy Kelley of Boonville was last seen at the local VFW post on the morning of Friday, Aug. 15. She was later reported missing after she didn’t show up for work.

Volunteers have searched the area where Kelley was last scene, looking for any clues related to her disappearance.

Kelley is white, with a petite build, blue eyes and long, brown hair.

Investigators have also not been able to locate Kelley’s car, a silver 2003 Nissan Xterra.

Anyone with information on Kelly's whereabouts is encouraged to call the Warrick County Sheriff's Department at 812-897-6180.

Warrick County Sheriff Brett Bruse told the Evansville Courier and Press that investigators have no evidence that foul play was involved. Kruse is asking area businesses that use video surveillance cameras to check their footage from early Friday morning to see if they captured any images of Kelley or her vehicle.

A candlelight vigil for Kelley is being held tonight on the Boonville square.

ACT

ACT test scores for high school graduates in Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana all saw improvement this year.

The company that administers the test is calling the gains in Kentucky and Tennessee particularly promising.

Every high school graduate in Kentucky and Tennessee and nine other states takes the ACT as part of statewide assessment.  This year, both Tennessee and Kentucky saw a 0.3 percent gain in composite score as compared to 2013.

The composite score in Kentucky was 19.9, while Tennessee students scored a 19.8. 

Meantime, Indiana’s average composite score was 21.7, but only 40 percent of Indiana students took the test.

State of Indiana

For the first time in state history, Indiana has a female Supreme Court chief justice. 

Loretta Rush, who was appointed to the high court in 2012 by Governor Mike Pence, was sworn in as chief justice Monday. The Evansville Courier and Press reports the ceremony took place inside the Supreme Court law library at the Indiana Statehouse.

Rush takes over for chief justice Brent Dickson, who will remain as an associate justice.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

A federal appeals court is upholding the dismissal of a lawsuit related to the Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges project.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled unanimously that the organization that brought the lawsuit failed to prove that Kentucky and Indiana violated federal law. The group Coalition for Advancement of Regional Transportation—or CART—filed suit against the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the Indiana Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration.

The group claimed the $2.6 billion dollar bridges project would cause environmental damage by clearing trees and harming wildlife and water quality along the two spans' proposed routes. The suit also said the project violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act by negatively impacting minority communities where construction would occur.  

CART’s lawsuit had been previously dismissed by U.S District Judge John G. Heyburn. The group appealed, setting up the showdown at the federal appeals court level.

The Ohio River bridges project includes the creation of a new bridge for I-65 north, the renovation of the Kennedy Memorial bridge that carries I-65 south, and a new bridge that will connect the Gene Snyder Freeway with the Lee Hamilton Highway in southern Indiana.

Another judge has ruled against Indiana’s two-year-old right-to-work law.

Lake County Judge George Paras ruled this week the law forcing unions to provide services for workers who don’t pay dues, is against the constitution. The Evansville Courier & Press reports that led Indiana’s attorney general to request a stay of that ruling until the State Supreme Court takes up another judge’s ruling at a September 4th hearing. 

The right-to-work legislation was passed in 2012 by a Republican-dominated legislature.

Vanderburgh County has been chosen as one of five counties in Indiana that will take part in the Pre-K pilot program beginning early next year. 

Gov. Mike Pence’s office announced the selections Tuesday from among 18 finalists. This year’s Indiana General Assembly established the pilot program, which is intended to prepare low-income four-year-olds for kindergarten.

“Every Indiana child deserves to start kindergarten ready to learn and to begin a lifetime of learning,” said Governor Pence in a written statement. “Today, I am pleased to accept the recommendations of our working group. The state looks forward to partnering with these counties and working to ensure that these resources are made available to assist some of our most vulnerable children early next year.”

The governor’s office says the selections were based on need and ability of each county to meet that need.

The four other Indiana counties include Allen, Jackson, Lake and Marion.

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