Political Notebook

  • Daniels' near-presidential run dissected
    In the end, it was the lure of playing the hallowed grounds of Augusta National Golf Club that brought then-Gov. Mitch Daniels and a tight-knit group of friends and supporters together in the fall of 2009 to discuss whether he should run for
  • 2 Hoosiers named to U.S. House Energy Committee
    Reps. Susan Brooks, R-5th, and Larry Bucshon, R-8th, have been named to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee for the 114th Congress.
  • Indiana House sets leaders for session
    The Indiana House has tapped leadership and committee chairs for the 2015 General Assembly.

What’s a few dollars between friends?

At last week’s Fort Wayne City Council meeting, City Utilities Committee Chairman Geoff Paddock had the pleasure of reading four ordinances for introduction, of which two stood out prominently: one for $63 million and one for $67 million.

Both deal with the city’s purchase of Aqua Indiana’s water utilities and, even for a council accustomed to spending millions of dollars at a time, were unusual enough to gain attention during a portion of the meeting that is usually best spent napping.

“Geoff, you just introduced $130 million worth of spending,” said Tom Smith, R-1st. “I think that’s a record.”

“Well,” Paddock said, laughing, “I’m a big spender.”

Of course, Smith was only off by $63 million: The first ordinance was to borrow $63 million to pay for the $67 million to buy the utilities and connect them to Fort Wayne’s water system.

So while Paddock may, in fact, be a big spender, he’s only half the spender Smith thinks he is.

No walk-ins

Gov. Mike Pence has an open-door policy for lawmakers – as long as they fill out a form first.

An email sent last week to legislative staff set up a new process for legislators to request a meeting with the governor.

“This will help us when processing meeting requests so that we can determine who else might need to be included in the meeting and keep everyone on the same page,” the email from Pence’s office said. “We will not be considering any legislator meetings without a completed form.”

The form itself has only a few small boxes: name of legislator; desired date; purpose of meeting; contact info; who is attending; and any special instructions.

‘Pair of pumps’

The Allen County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner turned into a send-off last week for state Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne.

Wyss did not seek re-election this year in Senate District 15. He has represented the district since 1985.

Gov. Mike Pence, Secretary of State Connie Lawson and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, each paid tribute to Wyss during speeches to an audience of 600 at Ceruti’s Summit Park on Tuesday.

“I don’t think there’s anybody that’s given more time back to his community” than Wyss, Long said. “He truly defines the word ‘public servant.’ ”

Pence thanked Wyss for “nearly four decades of great, principled Republican leadership.” Wyss was a member of the Allen County Council before joining the state legislature.

Liz Brown, Ken Fries, Jeff Snyder and Darren Vogt seek the GOP nomination in Wyss’ district in Tuesday’s primary election. The winner will face Democrat Jack Morris in the Nov. 4 general election.

During candidate introductions at the Lincoln Day Dinner, Brown said, “I know I can’t fill Sen. Wyss’ seat, but I wouldn’t mind putting a pair of pumps underneath his table if I have the opportunity in November.”

Layman’s terms

Andrew Conner, a fairly new appointee and president of the Huntertown Utilities Service Board, said he has investigated and found the town’s plan to pursue building its own wastewater sewer plant feasible and sound.

“This is a good thing and will help grow the town in a financially responsible way,” Conner said.

An application from the town for a state revolving fund in March estimates the cost of the proposed wastewater project at $18.3 million, more than $7 million over what the project was projected to cost three years ago.

The town has been embroiled in an ongoing battle for utility control with Fort Wayne City Utilities, which treats Huntertown’s wastewater.

The town’s wastewater treatment application was denied by the state two years ago and is now under appeal.

Town officials have been criticized by some taxpayers for spending too much money on attorneys, engineers and lobbying efforts.

Conner used the analogy of a young couple living in an apartment, having children and trying to decide whether to go into debt to buy their own home.

“Maybe the landlord keeps hiking the rent, maybe he won’t let them out of their lease, perhaps they need to move out in order to grow,” Conner said.

“It might be in their best interest to dive into a mortgage and debt, knowing that down the road, it will prove to be the right decision.”

Looking ahead

Neither of Indiana’s U.S. senators is up for re-election this year, but that doesn’t mean their campaigns are shut down.

Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., reported campaign contributions exceeding $83,000 for the first quarter of this year, bringing total donations since his 2010 election to $979,000. Coats, who stands for re-election in 2016, has nearly $562,000 in the bank, according to his latest report to the Federal Election Commission.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., raised more than $92,000 in the first quarter and close to $761,000 since his 2012 election. Donnelly, up for re-election in 2018, has $242,000 in the bank.

Their first-quarter numbers were a far cry from some posted by House members who are up for election this year, beginning with Tuesday’s primaries. Four incumbents – Reps. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd; Todd Rokita, R-4th; Susan Brooks, R-5th; and Todd Young, R-9th – had each topped $200,000 in contributions for January, February and March.

Vivian Sade and Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook, email Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can also be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.