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Indiana Legislative Update: Issue Update – What’s going on (nod to Marvin Gaye)

We’re weeks away from election day where Mayors and other city/town officials will be elected across Indiana. When most Hoosiers start thinking about the holidays, some of us turn our attention to the next Legislative Session. The Legislature will meet for the annual Organization Day on November 21st where we’ll get more details on the schedule and agenda for the Session expected to convene on Monday, January 8th. 

Between now and “Org Day,” as it is called, your Rideout Public Affairs team will share issue-focused updates diving into the details about interim committee work, regulatory updates, and what we expect to see during the upcoming session. 

Napoleon Bonaparte, the military genius and political leader who rose to power during the French Revolution said, “The battlefield is the scene of constant chaos.  The winner will be the one who controls the chaos, both his own and his enemy’s.” For the political junkie, Christmas has come early, with upheaval at both the state and national level.

Five candidates have entered the crowded 2024 GOP Gubernatorial Primary making it the most competitive in decades: US Senator Mike Braun, Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, recent President of the IEDC Brad Chambers, another former IEDC leader Eric Doden, and former Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill. The candidates and their staff have been traversing the state, visiting county fairs and Republican bean dinners in pursuit of getting the necessary signatures required to appear on the ballot, and it’s unclear whether all the candidates will meet that initial hurdle in the race to the Governor’s seat. Jennifer McCormick, the former Republican state superintendent of public instruction who switched to political parties in 2021, is running as a Democrat along with perennial candidate Bob Kern. Donald Rainwater, who earned 11% of the vote in 2020, is again running as a Libertarian. The wide open GOP primary will surely impact the upcoming legislative session with Republicans hoping to “first, do no harm” to their chosen candidates by avoiding controversial social issues or other policies. We anticipate a late start (January 8) and early end (March 8?) to the 2024 session.

Wednesday evening, Republican Cindy Carrasco, the unsuccessful 2022 candidate for Marion County Prosecutor, was caucused into the Senate seat of the late Senator Jack Sandlin with a landslide 53-5 vote of confidence from precinct committee members against the controversial one-term state representative, John Jacobs. 

Carrasco is the 5th new member of the Indiana General Assembly elected by precinct committee leaders in private caucus meetings since the legislature adjourned in April. Other new legislators are:

  • Lori Goss-Reaves: replaced Ann Vermillion (R-Marion) who announced her resignation just hours after the Legislative Session adjourned for the year in April. 
  • Rep. J. Alex Zimmerman: replaced Randy Frye (R-Greensburg) in July after Frye left due to health issues. Zimmerman, an attorney, knows the Statehouse well after serving six years on Senate GOP staff. 
  • Senator Randy Maxwell: replaced Chip Perfect (R-Lawrenceville) at the end of September. Perfect left to devote more time to his business, Perfect North Slopes. 
  • Senator Greg Goode: will be sworn in November 1st replacing Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute) who resigned to pursue a job in private industry (Ford will lead Reliable Energy and serve as the Vigo County representative to the Wabash Valley Regional Development Authority)

Two other legislators – Senator Eddie Melton (D-Gary) and Representative Ed Clere (R-New Albany) – are on the ballot for Mayor this fall, which could create 2 more vacancies that would be filled in a private caucus. All these new legislators will add an additional level of intrigue during the upcoming, very short Session. 

Indiana will also soon have a new Comptroller (formerly known as State Treasurer) after Tera Klutz announced that she will resign Nov. 30th after 7 years on the job. Without much elaboration about her decision, she said in a statement that, “I am excited about my next chapter – spending more time with family and friends, and returning to a career in the private sector.” Governor Holcomb will name her replacement. 

Political watchers across the state will be eyeing Hamilton County on November 7, when voters will decide who will replace 7-term Republican Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard. Once considered a strong GOP community, the area continues to turn more “purple” with a strong independent voter contingent. If Democrat Miles Nelson defeats Republican Sue Finkham, it becomes more plausible that Democrats could win 3 State Representative seats that will not have an incumbent due to 2 retirements (Jerry Torr and Donna Schaibley) and another running for Congress (Chuck Goodrich). Anyone hoping for a boring year is going to be disappointed.  

And, finally, with reports of shouting behind closed doors, the U.S. House of Representatives remains without a Speaker this week following Matt Gaetz’ (R-Florida) successful Motion to Vacate, removing Kevin McCarthy from his role as Speaker. The divided GOP not only paralyzes the House and its ability to do their job, but potentially jeopardizes Republicans as swing voters make decisions in less than a month.  

All this, while conflicts half a world away heat up as Putin and Hamas attack our democratic allies with ruthless terrorist tactics and increasing concerns for the safety of US citizens at home and abroad. In response, President Biden addressed the country Thursday night from The Oval Office seeking support for $100B in aid to assist these allies and help defend the US border with Mexico. All eyes will continue to be on the US House until they can elect a leader and get back to real work.