Political Notebook


State ed board lifts comments limit

The question seemed simple: Should Hoosiers be able to speak on any education topic they choose during the public comment period at State Board of Education meetings?

But the board on Wednesday spent a puzzling 20 minutes discussing the issue. At one point, it seemed everyone supported more public comment, but no one actually wanted to vote on it.

For years, the public comment policy was open to all subjects. Sometimes citizens would come up and discuss inappropriate literature in schools, or groups would assail daylight saving time as dangerous for kids.

But the policy was changed during a recent revamp of board operating procedures to allow comment only on items on that day’s agenda.

The problem is that sometimes, the board adds an item during the meeting, meaning the public wouldn’t have notice to talk on that topic. And what if a citizen wants to criticize the performance of the board itself? It’s not likely that would ever be an agenda item.

In March, board member Andrea Neal proposed reinstating the open general comments. Members expressed concern, and the issue was assigned to an ad hoc committee. That committee didn’t meet, however, until the morning of the Wednesday meeting.

Only Neal and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz attended. A draft was circulated on members’ desks minutes before the meeting started, and the topic was brought for a vote.

Board member Gordon Hendry strongly questioned waiting until the last minute, and he said the discussion should include more ways to include the public in the education process. He was a member of the ad hoc committee but didn’t attend the meeting.

He and other members asked to delay the vote several times. Many of them prefaced their comments by saying they support public comment but didn’t like the way the issue was handled.

Ritz bristled, saying she had done nothing wrong and her calendar simply didn’t allow the ad hoc meeting to be scheduled beforehand. She said the question at hand was simple and that a delay unnecessary.

Neal said she didn’t want to wait another minute to give the public back its voice.

And board member Tony Walker said the right to comment is so fundamental that it far outweighs any procedural concerns.

After minutes of hedging, a vote was taken – and it passed 7-3.

Donnelly in France

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., was part of a large bipartisan congressional delegation that traveled to Normandy, France, to observe Friday’s 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, a turning point in World War II.

The Washington Post reported that nine senators and as many as 25 House members made the trip, including Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, one of two World War II veterans serving in the House.

Donnelly, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement: “We continue to honor those who are still with us today, and those we have lost. It is a great privilege to bring the prayers and good wishes of the people of Indiana to Normandy as we commemorate D-Day on the behalf of World War II veterans everywhere.”

Stutzman turnover

More turnover looms among the inner circle of U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman.

Joe Knepper said Saturday that he has resigned as Stutzman’s campaign manager to become communications coordinator for St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church and School in Fort Wayne.

Knepper has worked for Stutzman in his 3rd District office or for his campaign since Stutzman was first elected in 2010.

Stutzman recently lost his chief of staff, Matt Lloyd, who resigned and was replaced by his deputy, John Hammond IV. Later, James Wegmann resigned as Stutzman’s communications director to work for the campaign of Ben Sasse, the Republican candidate for a U.S. Senate seat representing Nebraska.

Stutzman is up for re-election in November in the heavily Republican northeast Indiana district. The LaGrange County farmer is challenged by Democrat Justin Kuhnle, a social services worker from Kendallville.

Lugar applications

The Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series has begun accepting applications for its historic 2014-15 Class – the 25th since the program’s inception.

Inspired by the leadership of former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, the series has sought to provide a first-class leadership training experience that encourages, mentors and prepares selected women from across Indiana to seek new levels of personal achievement and public involvement. The program gives participants unique access to public officials and an effective and diverse statewide political network.

Founded in 1990, a total of 441 women from around the state have completed the program to date.

Lugar Series applicants must have demonstrated leadership skills in their fields of work or community service and will be evaluated on the basis of written and oral presentations.

“My commitment to encourage women to enter government and political service continues through my association with members of the 24 classes,” Lugar said. “They have set a high standard for future classes and I look forward to working with them as they advance in the public sector.”

Judy Singleton and Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers, the co-founders of the program, said its “mission is to increase the number of Hoosier Republican women in key elected and appointed governmental and political positions, including advisory and regulatory commissions at the local, state and federal levels.”

Applications are due Aug. 1 and are available by visiting www.lugarseries.com or by calling 317-536-6900.

Women’s conference

Hoosiers can now register for the 2014 Indiana Governor’s Conference for Women.

The daylong high-value event for women of all ages and backgrounds will take place Oct. 21 at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. As it did in 2013, the conference will provide attendees with life-changing educational opportunities and exposure to experts in various fields as well as inspirational advice and practical tools to use on the pathway to success.

Among those experts will be best-selling authors and journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, who together recently published “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance.” Other confirmed speakers include Rose Park Advisors co-founder and author Whitney Johnson, Stiletto Network author Pamela Ryckman and New York Times best-selling author Gail Sheehy. Other speakers, including the featured keynote, will be announced later.

“Joining forces with Gov. Mike Pence to host the Indiana Governor’s Conference for Women again is a thrill,” conference co-founders Deborah Collins Stephens and Billie Dragoo said in a statement. “Indiana will continue, through this conference, to be recognized nationally as a pioneer and benchmark for economic and social awareness of women-owned businesses and leadership. Together we can make a difference for Hoosier women. Together we can transform lives.”

Early bird registration tickets may be bought by visiting www.IndianaGovernorsConference.com.

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