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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, December 31, 2017 1:00 am

Banks wades into pair of Twitter feuds

BRIAN FRANCISCO and NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, recently waded into a couple of Twitter battles with TV stars.

Jenna Fischer, the Fort Wayne-born actress best known for playing Pam on the NBC comedy series “The Office,” tweeted Dec. 23 to complain about the income tax overhaul plan the Republican Congress passed.

“I can't stop thinking about how school teachers can no longer deduct the cost of their classroom supplies on their taxes ... something they shouldn't have to pay for with their own money in the first place. I mean, imagine if nurses had to go buy their own syringes,” Fischer wrote.

The day after Christmas, Banks commented on Twitter: “Disappointing to see this inaccurate tweet shared so many times. The truth is tax reform retains important tax benefits and deductions many Americans count on, including relief for high medical bills, mortgage interest, and education expenses.”

The northeast Indiana lawmaker's remark caused a flurry of reactions.

For the record, tax-code legislation passed by the House would have eliminated the $250 tax deduction teachers can claim for spending their own money on school supplies, but a Senate-passed bill would have doubled it.

The final version that was approved by Congress kept the deduction at $250.

Fischer later deleted her remark and tweeted an apology, saying she “did not mean to spread misinformation. I was well-intentioned, but I was behind on my research.”

In another apparent tax-bill dust-up, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., tweeted Dec. 23: “At the end of each year, no matter how short – or long – it may feel, there is always Christmas. Waiting for us is that sense of wonder the shepherds felt when the angels appeared in the night sky to herald the birth of a Savior.”

On Christmas Day, comedian-actress-TV personality Rosie O'Donnell tweeted: “paul ryan - don't talk about Jesus after what u just did to our nation - u will go straight to hell u screwed up fake altar boy.”

Banks told Political Notebook that O'Donnell's tweet “was beyond the pale.” Yet Banks – using his personal Twitter account and not the one identifying him as a member of the House – weighed in with “Merry Christmas, @Rosie.”

To which O'Donnell replied: “thank u jim and to u.” He later called it “a kind response.”

A couple other people joined the thread to write tweets describing Banks as “evil” and “truly a big piece of” excrement.

Redistricting talk

Redistricting state and federal legislative seats will be the topic of an educational presentation by Allen County AARP Chapter 187.

The free public presentation will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Community Foundation, 555 E. Wayne St., Fort Wayne.

Lucy Hess and Barbara Duch of the Northeast Indiana League of Women Voters will discuss the history of redistricting, current legislative districts and the practice known as gerrymandering, where district boundaries are altered to favor candidates of a particular political party.

Decennial redistricting will be conducted by the Indiana General Assembly after the 2020 census.

Governor to speak

The Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce has announced that Gov. Eric Holcomb will be keynote speaker at the business advocacy organization's 106th annual awards dinner.

The dinner will be Jan. 18 at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center, 610 Wooster Road, Winona Lake. Networking will be at 5 p.m., and the dinner and awards program at 6 p.m. Information is available at 574-267-6311.

Students invited

Republican state lawmakers from the Fort Wayne area have invited students to apply for the House of Representatives Page Program for the 2018 session.

Student pages assist legislators and their staffs and will have the opportunity to tour state government offices.

The House is generally in session Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and occasionally on Wednesdays. The upcoming session will begin Wednesday and must conclude by March 14.

Applicants should be between the ages of 13 and 18. Pages will receive an excused absence from school, and groups of pages can sign up to participate together.

Students interested in being pages for Reps. Martin Carbaugh and Bob Morris of Fort Wayne and Dave Heine of New Haven should apply online at www.indianahouserepublicans.com/pageprogram or call 800-382-9841.

Holdman named committee chair

Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, on Thursday named State Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, chairman of the Senate Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy.

Holdman replaces State Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, who is retiring on Tuesday. Holdman will also replace Hershman as a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

“I'm very grateful and humbled to be named chairman of the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee,” Holdman said in a statement. “I will approach both of my new appointments with a focused and measured approach, and will work hard to ensure that Indiana's tax policies continue to serve our state efficiently and effectively.”

Long said Holdman's experience in the Senate prepared him for the responsibility.

“Sen. Travis Holdman is more than ready for his new role as the chair of the Senate Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy,” Long said. “He has consistently shown the keen acumen and strong leadership skills required to take on this most important committee chairmanship. Sen. Holdman is also a man of unquestioned integrity and character, and I know he will handle this new job as expertly and effectively as he has every other important task assigned to him in the Senate.”

Dave Gong contributed to this report.

To reach Political Notebook, email Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.