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  • By Niki Kelly House Speaker Brian Bosma meets Rep. Mara Candalaria Reardon's puppy.

  • Courtesy photo Gov. Eric Holcomb snuggles with Ruby the puppy in his Statehouse office.

  • Courtesy photo Henry Holcomb - the First Dog of the state of Indiana. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017 1:00 am

Legislative session really hits dog days

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

It seems the Statehouse is going to the dogs.

Furry, lovable canines have been all over the building – starting with Gov. Eric Holcomb's schnauzer Henry.

He has his own Statehouse ID tag and Twitter feed, @FirstDogHenry.

But he's not the only dog in town. Rep. Kathy Richardson, R-Noblesville, recently brought her new puppy Ruby for a visit, and Holcomb fell in love with the gal, as evidenced by photos posted on his Twitter account.

Then on Thursday, Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, brought her dog to the House floor, and House Speaker Brian Bosma got a little canine therapy.

So when is cat day?

Tall order

Eric Holcomb on Thursday became the third governor in recent years to speak to the Allen County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

Mitch Daniels delivered keynote speeches at the fundraising dinner in 2007 and 2010, and Mike Pence did likewise in 2014 and 2016. Pence, the nation's vice president, also keynoted in 2009 and 2011, when he was a member of the U.S. House and his district extended into southern Allen County.

Holcomb was Pence's lieutenant governor last year and had been an adviser to Daniels, now the president of Purdue University.

“I've been around the office, so I know what the job description entails and demands,” Holcomb said Thursday at the Ramada Plaza.

“Obviously, when you go from being the guy behind the guy, you become a bigger target, which is fine,” he said.

Rather than give a prepared speech, Holcomb sat in a chair on the stage at the hotel ballroom and took questions from local GOP Chairman Steve Shine.

“Would you say you are more like Mitch or Mike?” Shine asked Holcomb about his predecessors.

“With Mike's brother staring at me right now,” Holcomb quipped. Pence's brother, Gregory Pence, was in the audience. “I would say I'm a hundred percent Eric. I'm neither Mitch nor Mike,” Holcomb said to applause from the crowd.

“It is true that I'm taller than both of them,” added Holcomb, who reportedly is 6 foot 4.

“They're both taller than me,” Shine injected. “And that hurts when I say Mitch Daniels.”

Pence released a doctor's letter last year that put his height at 5 foot 10. Daniels has said he is 5 foot 7, a height that The Atlantic reported in 2010 “is listed generously.”

Little opinion on local politicians

Polling suggests that Indiana politicians don't draw much attention to their work.

Nonpartisan pollster Morning Consult has ranked the popularity of the nation's governors and U.S. senators, based on first-quarter surveys of 85,000 registered voters.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb finished first in the category “most unknown” as 27 percent of Hoosiers either did not know about his job performance or had no opinion about it.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., ranked third and Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., ranked sixth as the “most unknown” senators. Morning Consult found that 28 percent of Indiana voters didn't know Donnelly's work and 27 percent didn't know Young's. Michigan Democrat Gary Peters had the highest such rate, 34 percent, followed by 30 percent for North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis.

Young, a former House member, is in his first year in office. Holcomb, a former appointed lieutenant governor, is in his second year in statewide office. Donnelly is in his fifth year and stands for re-election in 2018.

Most voters who are paying attention seem to approve of Holcomb's job performance but not Donnelly's and Young's. Holcomb was approved by 54 percent, Young by 48 percent and Donnelly by 46 percent, Morning Consult reported Tuesday. Disapproval figures were 19 percent for Holcomb, 25 percent for Young and 26 percent for Donnelly.

Among governors, Massachusetts Republican Charlie Baker posted the highest approval rating, 75 percent, and New Jersey Republican Chris Christie had the highest disapproval rating, 71 percent.

Among senators, the highest approval rating was 71 percent for Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, followed by 70 percent for Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had the highest disapproval rating, 47 percent.

Zay license snafu

The expired-looking license plate of a state legislator got the attention of a reporter last week.

Dan Carden, of the Times of Northwest Indiana, tweeted a photo of Sen. Andy Zay's license plate, musing about whether the Indiana State Police would ticket it.

In the usual spot for the expiration date it said 2-28 – or Feb. 28. And 2017 was the year on the plate.

Quickly after the tweet, Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, came to the Huntington lawmakers' defense, pointing out that legislator plates expire in December.

Zay didn't even become a senator until late December when he was chosen in a caucus to fill an open seat.

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles quickly took the blame for the confusion, sending Carden an explanation.

“The Indiana BMV annually issues plates to members of the General Assembly, and in this case we coded the plate as a rental vehicle, which expire February 28. We should have coded this plate as a vehicle for a General Assembly member; these plates expire December 14,” the BMV spokesman said. “We apologize for the confusion and have confirmed this is an isolated case. Our team has spoken directly with the Senator's office and is taking appropriate steps to expedite a corrected plate with a December 14, 2017, expiration date.”

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact 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.