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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, February 11, 2017 10:01 pm

Statehouse sees spate of local business

Niki Kelly and Brian Francsico | The Journal Gazette

Everywhere you look there are people from northeast Indiana at the Statehouse.

A bevy of folks from Allen and surrounding counties have been making the trek to the state Capitol to help shape legislation – or even be honored.

There was Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control director Amy-Jo Sites talking about the number of calls her department gets about animals left in hot cars.

There was a Woodburn paramedic pushing a new evidentiary rule.

There was Allen County Commissioner Therese Brown testifying about annexation policy.

Then the county lobbyist pushing for a change in health board appointments.

There was Roanoke businessman Pete Eshelman, and a local neighbor, opposing confined animal feeding operations.

Eshelman was also down the week before with a group of Fort Wayne heavy hitters – SDI Chairman Keith Busse and auto dealer Tom Kelley –who opposed each other on a bill regarding Tesla’s selling model.

And then there were the resolutions. Hundreds of students from several schools came to be honored on the floor of the House and Senate for various state titles.

The Carroll High School boys cross country team; Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran High School football team and the Blackhawk Christian High School girls volleyball team.

Justice’s award lost in Vinatieri tribute

There was an awkward moment Monday when Gov. Eric Holcomb came to the House floor to honor In­di­anapo­lis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri.

The surprise Sagamore of the Wabash and resolution by the Indiana House was met with cheering, autograph-seeking and picture-taking as the chamber was near giddy about Vi­na­ti­eri’s presence.

Off to the side sat respected Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert Rucker, who has served 18 years on the bench and is retiring in March.

The other four members of the court also were there – waiting as the Vinatieri event went on.

A number of lawmakers praised the kicker for being clutch, giving back to the community and being a good family man.

Holcomb and Vinatieri also spoke during the event, which went on more than 20 minutes.

Then it was Rucker’s turn to be honored with a resolution and Holcomb and his security slipped out the back door.

Press Secretary Stephanie Wilson said Holcomb meant no disrespect to Rucker and it was just an unfortunate circumstance.

The governor was unaware of the Rucker resolution until he saw the jurist on the floor. Holcomb then planned to stay but the Vinatieri resolution went longer than expected and Holcomb had another meeting to attend.

Wilson promised that Rucker will be celebrated closer to his retirement.

Young pushes Russia toughness

Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., is among eight Republican senators who has sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to get tough with Russia.

The letter asks Trump "to pursue a results-oriented, but tough-minded and principled policy toward the Russian Federation."

Trump has rankled members of both political parties for advocating improved U.S.-Russian relations, expressing respect for Russian leader Vladimir Putin and dismissing allegations of Russian hacking in last year’s U.S. presidential election.

Led by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., the senators’ letter states that "while we should seek common ground with Russia in the areas of mutual interest, we must never pursue cooperation with Russia at the expense of our fundamental interests of defending our allies and promoting our values."

The senators cite among their concerns "continued Russian aggression in Ukraine"; Moscow’s support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad; Russian military operations in Syria "that have caused immense damage and human suffering"; and Russian cyber warfare, "including attempted interference in our democratic elections process."

"The United States must have a firm response to this belligerent behavior from Moscow," the senators said about Russia’s cyber operations, "which should include diplomatic actions, economic consequences, as well as a strengthened military posture in Europe."

The letter was also signed by GOP Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

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