Reporters have a groovy term for follow-up stories when they go back after attending a meeting and find other tidbits to write about. They call it “emptying the notebook.” The Third House meeting on Wednesday — featuring State Sen. Ryan Mishler and State Rep. Dave Wolkins — included lots of interesting items in addition to my wrap about the state budget and plans for constructing a new US 30.
So here are a few more aspects worth noting:
- Wolkins was successful in pushing through a bill that will change the threshold needed to establish some conservancy districts in Indiana. Traditionally, it only took a petition with 15 percent of the property owners to establish a district. Wolkins sought lawmakers to push that up to 30 percent. He ran into opposition by some in Indianapolis and settled for a compromise in which smaller districts would require the support of 30 percent of property owners, but bigger districts would
need a smaller percentage. The law does not affect plans for the proposed Tippecanoe-Chapman district northeast of Warsaw. That plan will have a state hearing on June 26 at the North Webster Community Center.
- Wolkins applauded a new tougher law for drivers who disregard school buses stopped to pick up children. He likes that drivers can face a 90-day suspension of a driver’s license if caught, but added that he thinks motorists should be treated the same way speeding tickets are handed out via cameras on the Toll Road (regardless of who is driving).
- Wolkins and Mishler differed on legislation that expands gambling in Indiana. The legislation will allow for the shifting of two casino operations that had been based on boats moored in a harbor off the shores of Lake Michigan in Gary. One license will be moved to a more prominent area of Gary, while the other will be moved to Terre Haute. Mishler said he supported it because of the potential to revive part of Gary. Wolkins has regularly opposed gambling bills during his 30 years in the General Assembly. One key point in the legislation is the opening up of sports betting in Indiana.
- Going forward, Mishler said his biggest legislative concern is the growth of entitlement programs at the state level and that there is only one source to counter that trend. “What that’s going to do is take away from K-12 education because K-12 education is half of our budget and that’s the only place to go,” Mishler said.
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FAIR FACT UPDATE — On Thursday, InkFreeNews posted a story about the new group that is questioning how the Kosciusko County Fair Board is banking on the importance of restoring motorized racing and fighting efforts to enforce a 29-year-old agreement to halt racing at the fairgrounds. On Friday, the fair board responded by criticizing the group for its anonymity. The group is running an ad campaign on InkFreeeNews and has established a website and a Facebook page arguing the board is overstating the financial impact racing could have on the fairgrounds. As for the anonymity issue, I was told Friday the people behind Fair Facts plan to issue a statement (letter to the editor) next week that will include numerous names of folks behind the effort. Stay tuned …
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STEELY WATCHDOG — U.S. Rep. Jackie WalorskI is taking credit (rightfully so) for leading the efforts in seeing President Donald Trump’s administration agree to remove the tariffs against Canada and Mexico involving steel and aluminum.
With a large amount of manufacturing in the 2nd Congressional district that involves “end users” of steel — makers of RVs, boats and trailers — Walorski asserted herself as a Congressional leader and watchdog in trying to get the tariffs removed. Last week, she and others celebrated after the Trump administration relented with a change in position.
Those end users, among the many which stood to benefit from changes in tax code a year ago, had been forced to look for other sources of steel and aluminum in other countries after the tariffs kicked in. “We put X amount of money into their pockets and tariffs took it right out of the other pocket so there was no win and this totally changes this conversation,” Walorski said in an interview with IndyPolitics last week (you can hear the entire interview here).
The move could help in other ways with legislation in the House, Walorski predicted. “It’s a win that will literally drive the new NAFTA bill … (USMCA) … to the floor for passage. These tariffs were the biggest issue we had with leverage and we won,” she said. (To clarify, this quote came several days before the Trump administration announced on Thursday night new tariffs against Mexican products coming into the United States — a move that will likely throw a wrench into USMCA approval).
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FIRST TO VISIT — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, running for the Democratic nomination to run for president in 2020, will visit Elkhart and Fort Wayne on Wednesday, June 5. Warren will host a public gathering at Southgate Crossing’s Harvest Hall, 27751 C.R. 26, beginning at 11:15 a.m. before heading to a town hall meeting in Fort Wayne that will be broadcast on MSNBC. The Fort Wayne event maxed out on invites within hours, but the Elkhart event is expected to have much more room for attendees. Doors open at 10:15 a.m., for the Elkhart event, according to Warren’s website.
Warren will be the first non-Hoosier Democrat seeking the party’s nomination to host a campaign event in northern Indiana in this election cycle (South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg held a rally a few weeks ago in South Bend announcing his run). Meanwhile, Buttigieg, who continues to poll well in Iowa and New Hampshire, will be the subject of a town hall broadcast on MSNBC with Chris Matthews at 7 p.m. Monday night.
Dan Spalding covers city government and politics for InkFreeNews.
He can be reached at [email protected] or at (574) 855-7612.