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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, June 18, 2017 1:00 am

Chamber of Commerce likes local lawmakers

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Northeast Indiana's lawmakers scored highly on the Indiana Chamber of Commerce's annual Legislative Vote Analysis.

The report holds state lawmakers accountable for their voting records on pro-jobs, pro-economy legislation. The 2017 results show scores ranging from 29 percent to 100 percent.

“We want employers and citizens to take note of this report because it makes it very clear which legislators were supportive of bettering Indiana's economic climate and which were not,” states Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

Bills included for examination included topics such as expanding prekindergarten, long-term road funding, support of a data hub in state government and various business tax provisions.

Separately, the Indiana Chamber acknowledged 11 legislators who made a difference in the 2017 session. Five legislators were named Indiana Chamber Legislative Champions for “taking on tough assignments and working diligently to see much-needed policy cross the finish line or at least meaningful debate started,” Brinegar said.

One of those five was Rep. David Ober, R-Albion.

Appreciation was noted to six others in leadership positions, including Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne and Senate Education and Career Development Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn.

Here is how area lawmakers fared:

• Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne – 100 percent.

• Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne – 66 percent.

• Rep. Dave Heine, R-New Haven – 100 percent.

• Rep. Chris Judy, R-Fort Wayne – 78 percent.

• Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne – 97 percent.

• Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington – 100 percent.

• Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne – 79 percent.

• Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen – 63 percent.

• Rep. Rep. Dave Ober, R-Albion – 95 percent.

• Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn – 94 percent.

• Rep. David Wolkins, R-Warsaw – 89 percent.

• Rep. Dennis Zent, R-Angola – 100 percent.

• Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne – 100 percent.

• Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange – 81 percent.

• Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle – 97 percent.

• Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn – 91 percent.

• Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne – 100 percent.

• Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington – 91 percent.

Donnelly targeted on tax reform

Americans for Prosperity has launched a digital ad effort targeting 10 senators – including Joe Donnelly – on tax reform.

The “heavy six-figure” investment on digital platforms is the start of a comprehensive effort to push for broad, “pro-growth” tax reform all summer. AFP will follow the buy with more investments, direct mail, door-to-door visits and other grassroots action around the country.

The money will be split among 10 states.

“Hoosiers have an appetite for a new tax system that is fair, honest, and grows the economy, not one that raises taxes on hardworking Americans to pay for bloated government,” said Indiana Director Justin Stevens. “Hoosiers deserve and understand the benefits of tax reform based on AFP's 5 Principles – simplicity, efficiency, equitability, predictability, and no new burden on taxpayers. Special interests prefer the status quo because they benefit from a confusing and complex tax code. We call on Senator Donnelly to stand with the people of Indiana and against the special interests by working in a bipartisan manner to pass tax reform.”

The message says “Tell Senator Donnelly it's time to fix our broken tax code.” Then it clicks through to a petition people can sign to show these senators there's a real appetite for tax reform and that they should really be a part of the solution that their constituents demand.

Donnelly's team said Hoosiers know he is behind them – despite out-of-state special interest groups spending on cookie-cutter ads.

“Hoosiers know how hard Joe has worked to reach across the aisle to fight for a fair tax code that helps working families in Indiana, supports more good-paying jobs, and grows the economy,” said Peter Hanscom, campaign manager for Donnelly for Indiana.

Banks walking a tightrope

Freshman Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, and his northeast Indiana constituency are the subjects of a story in the Atlantic.

The headline of the piece – “Y'all Sent Me to Washington at an Interesting Time” – is from a remark that Banks made to John Sutton, owner of Sutton's Deli in Angola.

Atlantic national political writer Molly Ball shadowed Banks on his recent visits to Angola and Auburn. The gist of her story is that Banks is a traditional “movement conservative” governing at the same time Republicans have cast their lot with the unconventional and unpredictable President Donald Trump.

“ … Banks voted for Trump 'with reservations.' He disagrees with Trump on issues like foreign policy, trade, and fiscal policy, to name a few, but he voted for the president's health-care bill, describing it as a step in the right direction,” Ball writes about Banks.

“He is, in other words, a fairly ordinary Republican congressman, trying to find his way in Washington in not-so-ordinary times,” she writes.

Banks recalls an Allen County Republican Party meeting where he stressed his independence from the White House. Some people thought he was being disloyal, while others supported his position.

“I'm trying to figure out how to navigate that tightrope,” Banks says in the story.

Along the way, Ball makes some observations about the first-term federal lawmaker who grew up in a trailer park in Columbia City.

“Quiet and thoughtful, Banks is not a man blessed with a surfeit of personality, and he describes himself as an introvert,” she writes.

Then there is this: “It occurred to me that the formality with which Banks carries himself was the posture of a man not born into the world he occupies, still warily feeling out its customs. Surrounded by local poo-bahs at civic events, he kept being asked whether he played golf, and kept having to politely demur.”

And this: “I could see why Trump supporters might be displeased with Banks. In our day together, he had expressed more criticism – albeit measured and cautious – than praise of the president.” Banks goes on to tell Ball that Trump's “unnecessary distractions” have kept the GOP Congress from advancing its agenda.

If Banks is walking a tightrope, so are many of Trump's backers, according to Ball.

“Banks heard over and over again from constituents who supported Trump in theory – but were counting on him to preserve the federal grant that keeps them afloat, protect the military base that supplies local jobs, bolster the drug-treatment program for local opioid addicts, secure more funding for local roads and bridges,” she writes.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at or Niki Kelly at An expanded Political Notebook can also be found as a daily blog at