Political Notebook

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Bill didn’t pass, but did it fail?

The Fort Wayne City Council on Tuesday couldn’t quite decide what a tie means.

The council voted 4-2-2 on a tax abatement issue with two members opposing and two abstaining. Council rules require five supporting votes to approve a bill. That means it did not pass, but the question was whether it meant it failed.

Councilman Mitch Harper, R-4th, chaired the committee where the bill was discussed and argued that because the council hadn’t voted successfully to move the bill from his committee to the full council, it should remain there for discussion in future weeks.

Harper abstained from the vote over concerns with the abatement.

Several members, plus attorney Jim Howard, questioned whether it was appropriate not to have a final vote on the bill – the council typically takes final votes on all bills not specifically delayed by a separate vote.

To end the debate, Council President Tom Smith, R-1st, ordered a final vote to be taken on the abatement, saying closure was needed on the issue.

Harper tried to make a point that keeping the bill in his committee would allow Councilman John Shoaff, D-at large, who was absent, to cast a potentially deciding vote on the issue at an upcoming meeting.

But the final vote occurred and the votes remained the same, and Smith, who opposed the abatement, declared the bill dead.

Smith noted the vote showed the importance of showing up to every council meeting.

Making GOP inroads

Two months after the formation of Republicans for Donnelly, membership has grown from six to about 60, according to a campaign official for Joe Donnelly, the Democratic candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from Indiana.

The group was begun by supporters of Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who was defeated by state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in the May 8 GOP primary.

Elizabeth Shappell, communications director for Donnelly’s campaign, said more than 50 people had signed up online to join Republicans for Donnelly.

“We encouraged people to sign up for the group online as a grass-roots organizing tool – not a fundraising tool,” Shappell said in an email.

Mourdock campaign spokesman Christopher Conner said in an email about Republicans for Donnelly: “Several of the individuals they originally list as Republicans actually had voted in several Democratic primaries. I am sure some of that is still the case.”

Asked whether Mourdock is receiving support from Democrats, Conner pointed out that Mourdock lives in Vanderburgh County, which has “a very strong Democratic tradition, and where he was a two-term commissioner and carried twice as treasurer.”

Politico reported Tuesday that Lugar financial backer Doug Rose hosted a dinner party the previous evening in his Carmel home to raise money for Donnelly, who represents Indiana’s 2nd District in the U.S. House. Guests were asked to contribute up to $1,000 to Donnelly’s campaign.

Politico described Rose, the head of an Indianapolis real estate firm, as “an Indiana businessman who has donated to both political parties.”

‘Joe come lately’

Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, said Tuesday he favors extending by one year the income-tax cuts that are scheduled to expire at year’s end.

His Republican opponent for a Senate seat from Indiana contends that Donnelly is tardy in his support of extending the temporary tax reductions that were passed under President George W. Bush.

State Treasurer Richard Mourdock said in a statement that Donnelly had been “silent” for months on the demands by President Obama and top congressional Democrats to increase taxes for households earning more than $250,000 a year as a way of reducing the federal budget deficit.

“Sorry, Congressman Donnelly, no one is buying your ‘Joe come lately’ routine,” Mourdock said.

Mourdock said the tax cuts should be made permanent, and he challenged Donnelly to take the same position.

Donnelly said in an earlier statement: “Given our continued economic challenges, now is the time to keep tax rates low. The last thing our economy can afford is more uncertainty as the fiscal cliff approaches. That’s why I support a one-year extension of all of the tax rates.”

“Fiscal cliff” is the term being applied to a potential economic crisis if the tax cuts expire at the same time that $1 trillion in federal spending cuts are scheduled to begin.

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.