Political Notebook

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Secret backers push bill

Group buys ads in support of right-to-work

Last year, Republicans decried when “special interests” – i.e. unions – got in the middle of a legislative duel over right-to-work that spurred a five-week walkout.

This year, they have their own special interests pushing the GOP agenda.

The Indiana Opportunity Fund is running radio and television ads featuring Gov. Mitch Daniels stumping for right-to-work.

Paperwork to set up the group was filed recently by Republican attorney Jim Bopp, but he won’t disclose who is providing the money to pay for the ads.

He told the Indianapolis Star that the fund is considered a “social welfare” organization under IRS rules and donors are confidential.

The group also isn’t required to file lobbyist or campaign finance documentation.

Daniels said Wednesday he would not encourage the group to release the names of those funding the ads.

“It’s up to them,” he said.

And House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said he was thrilled folks are stepping forward to support Indiana’s efforts to bring more jobs to Indiana. When told the fund’s benefactors are remaining mum, he remained mum himself.

Evolving opposition

Apparently Mayor Tom Henry does have some feelings on the state legislature’s right-to-work proposal.

Henry participated in a protest rally against the bill last week, standing with union members who oppose the bill. The stance for the Democrat wouldn’t normally seem odd, but Henry previously told Political Notebook he saw both sides of the issue and didn’t believe either was completely in the right.

So what changed in a few weeks for the mayor to take a stronger stance on the issue?

A spokesman for the mayor said Henry was particularly upset about the Statehouse protest rules that have since been rescinded.

“The mayor simply does not believe that we need right-to-work to make our community more attractive to good jobs,” spokesman Frank Suarez said in an email. “In fact, he thinks that right-to-work could cut against our region’s primary goal to increase wages and boost the economic potential for our area.”

Suarez said the mayor believes there are more important issues for the legislature to address this session, such as strengthening Indiana’s workforce and improving schools. He said Henry also questions the benefit of the legislation and said the mayor has repeatedly asked supporters to prove the need for the law.

“He sees right-to-work as unnecessary and divisive,” Suarez said.

House 52 race

Longtime DeKalb County activist and small-business owner Ben Smaltz officially announced he will seek the Indiana House District 52 seat.

The Republican describes himself as a conservative and pro-constitutionalist.

Since 2002, he has served on the DeKalb County Council, and in 2006 he was elected to his current role as president of the council. Under his leadership, the council consolidated three 911 call centers into a central dispatch system and helped lure a Family Dollar distribution center to Ashley.

“Government can create an environment that jobs can be created in, however, government can also get in the way unnecessarily,” Smaltz said. “Bringing businesses into the community creates jobs. Jobs bring payrolls. As payrolls increase, tax rates can be lowered and still produce the same amount of revenues for services.”

House District 52 covers DeKalb County and Hamilton and Perry townships in Allen County.

Current Rep. David Yarde, R-Garrett, has decided to seek a Senate seat rather than re-election in the House.

Allen County Councilman Paul Moss, R-at large, is also seeking the House seat. Moss lives outside Huntertown.

Meeting battle lines

The new City Council term started cordially enough, but it appears at least one issue is brewing among the members – how often to meet.

The council typically meets the first four Tuesdays of each month, meaning there are a handful of fifth Tuesdays each year members get to spend at home. The council unanimously selected Tom Smith, R-1st, as president last week.

Smith has previously tried to use these extra Tuesdays to hold big-issue discussions, but they were unpopular with some members. In fact, one member previously said Smith’s selection to lead was based on leaving those extra Tuesdays free.

But during the council’s organizational meeting, Smith said (after he was elected president) he would like to use some of the fifth Tuesdays for larger discussions, possibly on how to use the money from the lease and sale of the city’s electric utility.

Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, called fifth Tuesdays a “wonderful opportunity” to explore larger topics.

The first such Tuesday comes this month.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Benjamin Lanka at blanka@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.

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