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How To Navigate Your State Government

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

indiana statehouse

How’s this for irony?   On the same day a State Senate panel overwhelmingly voted to keep the prohibition against the sale of cold beer in grocery and liquor stores, a House panel unanimously voted to create a summer study committee to look at legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.  And this all happened within a few hours of each other.

This is what makes government so interesting and entertaining at times.   The beautiful thing about what I do for a living is to get a front row seat of the significant issues of the day, which a lot of times seem contradictory.

On the one hand, there is talk of local control, but lawmakers are moving legislation that would allow Ball State University to take over the financial disaster that is Muncie schools.    Lawmakers efforts to deal with the opioid crisis means you will have a little less privacy when it comes to getting prescriptions filled.

But a the end of the day, while it might seem like a political hodgepodge, it’s how governments work.   You have 150 men and women who represent the interests of more than 6.2 million people, and since human beings by their very nature are contradictory creatures, it only fits that the laws we pass and rules we make seem inconsistent at times.

So how does an average person with a job and family follow and navigate this stuff, to be honest, you don’t.   That’s what people like me are for;  you read our work, watch us on TV, listen to our radio broadcasts and podcasts.  And don’t just follow one of us, try to read and follow as many of us as you can.  By doing so, you can get a complete picture of how your state government works.

And while there are some “sexy” issues such as Sunday retail alcohol sales and medical marijuana, there are a lot of what I call “broccoli and brussel sprout” issues.  These are the ones that really impact the lives of day to day Hoosiers, so the more you know, the better equipped you are to make an informed decision.

And if I may engage in a shameless plug here, one easy way to do it is to sign up for my daily email, “The Statewide Summary.”  I compile a list of about a dozen or so of the big political and government stories of the day.  It’s easy to read and tells you everything you need to know in under 10 minutes.  Give a try, because the more you know, the more you can appreciate the irony.

What’s Up for This Week?

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Here’s a quick early rundown on what’s we’re keeping an eye on this week in Indiana government and politics…

Monday, January 15

  • MLK Day, Government closed
Tuesday, January 16
  • Senate Corrections and Criminal Law hearing on CBD Oil (9:30 a.m.)
  • House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee on Township Government Reform (10:30 a.m.)
  • Hate Crime advocates rally at the Statehouse (11:30 a.m.)

Wednesday, January 17

  • House Roads & Transportation Committee on Autonomous Vehicles (10:00 a.m.)
  • Senate Public Policy Hearing on Cold Beer Sale (12:00 p.m.)
Thursday, January 18th
  • Libertarian Secretary of State Candidate Announcement (5:30 p.m.)
 And of course with daily filings for office, we plan to update our list of who’s filed to run on Wednesdays and Saturdays up until next month’s filing deadline.
And don’t forget you can keep track of all this by signing up for our Indy Politics statewide summary.  It’s a daily e-mail summary of political news from across Indiana.  And it’s free.  Click here for more.

Straw Victory

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Luke at Straw PollAlthough it’s the political equivalent of winning a pre-season fantasy football game, more than 350 Republican activists gathered in Indianapolis to give Congressman Luke Messer a victory in the party’s first straw poll.

Messer won with 147 votes or 45 percent of the vote.

Todd Rokita was second with 82 votes, and former State Representative and businessman Mike Braun got 36 votes.

Mark Hurt got 29 votes, Andrew Takomi got 20 votes, and Andrew Horning received 12.

The event was not without controversy. The Indianapolis Star reported complaints by the Todd Rokita U.S. Senate campaign that the poll was rigged because the Messer campaign paid for a group of college students to participate.

State Chairman Kyle Hupfer dismissed the criticism, saying it was more important to focus on defeating Democrat Joe Donnelly in the fall.


What’s Up at the Statehouse This Week?

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Here’s a quick rundown of some important events scheduled to take place over at the Indiana General Assembly this week.

January 8 – Senate Republicans Unveil Legislative Agenda.  (10:30 a.m.)

January 9 – Governor State of the State address.  (7 p.m.)

January 10 – Senate Public Policy Committee hears Sunday retail alcohol sales bill.  (Upon adjournment of the Senate)

January 11 – State of the Judiciary address ( 2 p.m.)

January 12 – Indiana Civil Rights Commission MLK Day Ceremony  (12:00)

January 13 –   Indiana GOP U.S. Candidate Straw Poll


My Top 10 for 2017

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Well, it’s that time of year again; it’s time for my top 10 state and local stories of 2017.   Yes, we know there were a lot of national events taking place, but we focus on local and politics here.

Number 10 –   A Road to Somewhere – Who would have thought that Indiana lawmakers would be thoughtful and responsible enough to not only come up with a multi-year, multi-billion road funding plan but also a way to pay for it using gas taxes and user fees?! The next thing you know they will figure out Sunday retail alcohol sales.

Number 9 –  The Rickers Revolution – You have to give credit to Indiana businessman Jay Ricker. He figured out a way to legally use the state’s byzantine alcohol laws and sell cold beer at a convenience store.  And by doing so, not only did he turn the liquor establishment on its ear, but it got everyone talking about how ridiculous the state’s alcohol laws were, and it looks like Sunday retail sales is a real possibility next session.8.

Number 8 – I Want my CBD – A legal opinion by the Indiana Attorney General regarding the legality of CBD oil has literally opened a hornet’s nest of CBD and medical marijuana advocacy. There are several bills being introduced that will not only legalized CBD oil but also expand who can use it.  The state prosecutors don’t want it, the veteran groups do.   And I won’t need marijuana to thoroughly enjoy the fight that’s coming.

Number 7 – Hoosiers Head to DC – With Mike Pence as Vice-President we saw a slew of Hoosiers head to D.C. to run the government. Seema Verma at the Center for Medicaid and Medicare, Marc Lotter a surrogate for the administration, Dan Coats at National Intelligence, just to name a few.

Number 6 – Murder by the Numbers –  The State of Indiana wasn’t the only entity taking things to the next level, the city of Indianapolis did too, at least when it came to its murder rate.  As I write this, Indy is at 152 murders, the most in its history.   And there are still a couple of days left to break that record.

Number 5 – Lawmakers Leaving – The only thing more strange about the number of state lawmakers either retiring or announcing they’re not running for re-election, is that it’s all been scandal free, at least for now.  State Senators Luke Kenley and Brandt Hershman, State Rep. Scott Pelath, Kathy Richardson and Linda Lawson are some of the more prominent names.  Also leaving were State Senators Doug Eckarty and Jim Smith, and State Representatives Charlie Brown, Jim Baird, Greg Beumer, Wes Culver, Steve Stimler and Thomas Wasburne.  Did I miss anybody?

Number 4 – Congressional Confusion – For a while, we had to ask if there was anyone not running for Congress in Indiana.  With Todd Rokita and Luke Messer both running for the Senate, the 4th and 6th CDs suddenly became open seats, and there are no shortages of candidates.  Also, keep in mind the Democrats running across the state, there’s a buzz out there that could turn into something similar to 2006, where the GOP lost three congressional seats.

Number 3 – Who Wants to be a U.S. Senator? – This will likely be our most significant story for 2018, but for now, it’s #3. It’s going to be interesting watching Luke Messer and Todd Rokita try to claim the outsider mantle since both went to an exclusive private school, are attorneys and spent much of their adult lives helping run the government either at the state or federal level.  And with so many GOP voters undecided, will that make an opening for Mike Braun, despite the fact he’s voted in a Democratic primary.

Number 2 – Holcomb’s First Year – Or I could call this one, the return of the Mitch.  Governor Eric Holcomb got through his first year in office in pretty good shape.  He got road funding under his watch, funding to fight the opioid addiction, the first steps were taken to modernize the state’s workforce efforts.  However, he did have a couple of curve balls thrown at him, i.e., the head of DCS leaving in a not so quiet manner, as well some confusion by the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission over CBD Oil and Rickers being allowed to sell cold beer at its convenience stores.

Number 1 – A Tale of Two Indianas’ – This wasn’t a story per se, but more of a narrative created by the news.  Indiana seemed to be a state where people were thriving (record job creation and investment, and growing populations) or it was dying on the vine (i.e., opioids, heroin, declining populations and school districts on the verge of bankruptcy).    Keep an eye on this one; we have a sneaky feeling this is also going to be a narrative for next year as well.

And the Horse He Rode In On

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Allow me to be brutally honest here; I am elated Roy Moore lost the U.S. Senate race in Alabama.

While there are plenty of reasons that, just like a school playground, Roy Moore should have never been allowed near an elected office, my primary one is that I have this thing about accused child molesters, like most sane people, I am not a big fan.

Luckily the majority of Alabama voters agreed.   To retweet Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, “decency wins”.

Roy Moore represented everything that is wrong with politics.  As a Supreme Court Justice, Moore ignored the rule of law and was removed from the court twice.   He was kicked off the bench in 2003 because he ignored a federal court order to remove the ten commandments from the Alabama Judicial building and he was removed again in 2016 for directing state judges to disregard an unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Most conservatives say they don’t like activist judges and Moore was the epitome of an activist who frequently mixed God with politics.

But we know what did Moore in, it was the allegations that he molested a 14-year old, among others.

I like a 14-year old too, but it’s in the form of a bottle of scotch.

So who gets the credit for the Moore defeat?   You have to give credit to the African-American community that came out in droves, and you have to give credit to those Republican voters who, while they could not bring themselves to vote for Democrat Doug Jones, but decided to write-in someone else.  Nearly 23,000 of them decided to go for decency than someone who had been kicked off the Supreme Court and banned from the food court.

See, Democrats and Republicans can work together for the greater good.

And at the end of the day, I think we can both take comfort in the fact that Roy Moore took it on the chin and the Alabama voters sent him a message, thanks, but no thanks..

I have two words for Roy Moore, but I can’t say them here, but I can tell you not only do they apply to Moore, but the horse he rode in on as well.


Our Survey Said…

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

While nearly half the participants in our latest Indy Politics informal survey this week said Democrat Joe Donnelly should not be re-elected to the U.S. Senate, a plurality wanted someone other the current three frontrunners.

More than 650 of our  readers responded to the Indy Politics Political Pulse (made possible in part with underwriting from Winner’s Circle, the Institute for Quality Education and Indianapolis Public Schools)

About 48 percent of respondents did not think Joe Donnelly should be re-elected to the U.S. Senate, but nearly 40 percent third thought someone other than Congressmen Todd Rokita, Luke Messer or Mike Braun would be a stronger challenger.

Respondents were split on how well President Donald Trump was doing regarding his first year in office, but they gave high marks to Governor Eric Holcomb.

Here are some of the highlights…

  • Forty-five percent of the respondents gave President Donald Trump’s performance a “D” or “F”. Eight percent gave him an “A”, 25 percent gave him a “B” and 17 percent gave him a “C”.
  • Nearly 68 percent gave Governor Eric Holcomb’s performance a grade of “B” or better.
  • More than 22 percent thought the state’s top priority in 2018 should be staying fiscally sound, and 65 percent thought the best way to improve Indiana’s workforce was through job training and education.
  • Nearly 77 percent supported cold beer sales at convenience and grocery stores as well as Sunday retail alcohol sales.
  • When asked which Republican would be best suited to take on Joe Donnelly in the fall, nearly 40 percent wanted someone other than the three leading candidates.   Nearly 25 percent said Luke Messer,  19 percent said Todd Rokita, and 16 percent said, Mike Braun.
  • A total of 80 percent thought marijuana should be legalized for either recreational or medicinal purposes.
  • Respondents were nearly split on whether Indiana needed a “hate crime” law, 43 percent said no, 39 percent said yes, 14 percent said they were not sure.

You can view the full details here, as well as comments made by the participants.  We will do another informal survey in the Spring.

Share Your Thoughts

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

We’re doing an informal political survey on my other website, Indy Politics.

If you get a few seconds, give it a try.  We’d love your opinions.



Ten Reasons to Be Thankful

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Although Thanksgiving has come and gone and we are in the shopping phase of the holiday season, I couldn’t let too much time go by without jotting down a few thoughts on being thankful.

  1. First and foremost, if you can read this, you should be thankful, that means you’re literate.
  2. You are likely reading this on your phone, tablet or computer which says you can afford a phone, tablet or computer.
  3. If you’re reading this at work, that means you have a job.  If you’re reading this at home that means you have a roof over your head.
  4. If you’re reading this in the car (Hopefully you aren’t driving), that means you have transportation.
  5. If you’re reading this after breakfast, lunch or dinner, that means you have food on the table.
  6. If you’re reading this while standing in line at the store, that means you have an income that you should be thankful for.
  7. Since this is online, that means you have internet access, which you should also be thankful.
  8. Most of my work is read by educated people, so be thankful you got a good education.
  9. A good chunk of the audience reading this tends to disagree with a lot of what I write, so they should be thankful that we live in a country where you can have a dissenting opinion.
  10. If you’re on social media, you should be thankful that things are going so well in your life you can whine about things that don’t matter, the people responsible for them, and that you have no control over.


What Women (And Men) Don’t Want

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Like a lot of you, I find allegations of sexual misconduct against Republican Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore alarming.  I find it even more disturbing that there are people who think molesting a child is fine as long as that individual isn’t running for public office as a Democrat.  And we are not going to play the “what about” game where you insert the name of someone whose politics you don’t agree with as justification for someone else’s bad behavior.    What will I entertain however is the question as to why didn’t Moore’s alleged victims come forward sooner?    To someone unfamiliar with the impact that sexual abuse and assault have on the victim, I can see how that’s a fair question.  And it’s a question I’ve been asking a lot of victims lately.

I recently put out a request in my social media circles asking if anyone had been on the receiving end of sexually inappropriate conduct and how they dealt with it.   I can honestly say the answers ran the entire spectrum and gender was not an issue.  I heard from women accosted by men, men accosted by women and there were even instances where both the victim and perpetrator were of the same sex.

I spoke with people in the service industry who’d been touched by patrons.  Some people were accosted by superiors either at work or work-related functions.  A close friend was smacked on the rear end by her boss in front of two other male employees.   And even one person was put in a very uncomfortable situation by an elected official while on an out of state trip back in the 1970s, and both were the same gender.  There also some examples that I can’t print without getting really graphic.

When asked how they dealt with the situations, I noticed a distinct pattern.   If it was a customer service relationship, the response was usually pretty quick and swift and involved a witty retort.  Most customers took the hint and backed off; the more aggressive ones were immediately escorted out of the building.  If it was a boss-employee relationship, it got a little more complicated.  Many of the victims were young or just starting their careers and perpetrators were usually people who were higher up in the company structure.

For example, one close friend back in the early 90s was grouped in an elevator by a company Vice-President.  Another colleague was “encouraged” to be more “cooperative” if she wanted to get ahead in the company structure.  And one male victim was invited to a company function, but it turned out he was the only one who got the invitation from his female boss.   So why not report the bad behavior?  The reasons are numerous.

One common thread was that many of the victims didn’t think anyone would believe them.  Think about this; a 24-year old new female employee accuses the company V.P. of sexual harassment in the 1980s or early 90s?  Who is seriously going to believe her?

Also, many victims at times will blame themselves for the behavior, and thinking had they done something different, the incident would not have occurred.  As an attorney, I helped a young lady a few years ago deal with a similar situation after being attacked while at school.    The hardest part of helping her was convincing her she did nothing wrong and her attacker was the bad actor.

And when it comes to children and teenagers, take these issues a multiply it by a thousand times.

It’s abundantly clear that Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken and Kevin Spacey have raised new awareness about sexual predators and misconduct.    The challenge now is where do we go from here?  A friend who had been on the receiving end of this behavior made a very salient point to me last week.  She says as more people come forward, it will raise more awareness about the issue and by doing so, more victims will come forward sooner and report inappropriate behavior and maybe, just maybe, it will encourage all of us to behave a little better because we know some things are just unacceptable.

That would be something both men and women want.