Political Notebook


Ex-state GOP chair joins Coats team

It took only 48 hours to find out where departing GOP State Chairman Eric Holcomb would take his talents.

After announcing his resignation Wednesday, Holcomb will become the new chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, the Indiana Republican said Friday. Coats said Holcomb will oversee all operations in Indiana.

“Eric Holcomb is a well-respected, results-oriented leader in Indiana, and I am honored to have him join my team,” Coats said. “As a veteran, state party chairman and longtime aide to former Gov. Mitch Daniels, Eric has the experience and leadership skills to oversee my Indiana operations and assist me in working on behalf of Hoosiers.”

Holcomb will join Coats’ office July 10.

“I have long admired Sen. Dan Coats from afar and more recently up close. Watching him represent our state with a strong determination to bring the Indiana model of success to the federal level is a model in and of itself,” Holcomb said. “The opportunity to serve as a part of Sen. Coats’ team as he works to tackle the many challenges facing our nation on behalf of fellow Hoosiers is a great honor and natural next step.”

Mike McMains, who has been state director for Coats since January 2011, will remain on staff as senior counsel, and Dean Hingson will remain as chief of staff in Washington.

Role reversals

Cats and dogs aren’t living together yet, but the city of Fort Wayne’s budget crisis has created some uncommon situations.

The Democratic mayor’s administration recently pushed through major benefit cuts that the city’s unions opposed, and their biggest argument in favor of the income tax being contemplated is that the city needs to stop its cycle of borrowing and instead pay as it goes.

Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled City Council has endorsed millions of dollars in new spending on roads, parks and police and fire training, and a proposal pushed by Mitch Harper, R-4th, and Russ Jehl, R-2nd, calls for $6 million in new borrowing.

As Jehl himself points out, “When was the last time you saw Democrats crossing the unions and arguing for pay-as-you-go, and Republicans arguing for more borrowing so we can spend more?”

But what might be the strangest twist of all is what hasn’t been happening: Grandstanding, posturing and bickering.

All sides have repeatedly remarked on how cordial and well-meaning the debate and discussions have been, with everyone pointing out that all have the city’s best interest at heart and that there is no right or wrong answer, only differing policies to achieve the same goal.

Maybe cats and dogs can live together, after all.

On opposite sides

Sens. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., split their votes Tuesday on two amendments to the Senate immigration bill, both of which were defeated.

Coats supported a Republican proposal to complete a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border before immigrants can apply for permanent legal status, and he voted in favor of a GOP amendment to establish biometric tracking of immigrants with temporary visas. Donnelly voted against both measures, which were defeated 54-39 and 58-36 respectively.

Summer chores

House and Senate leaders doled out summer assignments to chamber members last week.

Area lawmakers will serve on a variety of Interim Study Committees.

In the Senate:

Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, will tackle the Regional Campuses panel; Indiana Veterans’ Affairs Commission; Commission on Education; and the Joint Study Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Assessment and Solutions.

Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, will chair the Child Custody and Support Advisory Committee and serve on the Judicial Technology Oversight Committee and the Water Resources Study Committee.

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, will chair the Interim Study Committee on Insurance and also serve on the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana.

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, will be busy. He starts by co-chairing three panels: the Commission on Education, the Regional Campuses Study Committee and the Interim Study Committee on Common Core Education Standards. He also will serve on the Education Commission of the States; Education Roundtable and Regulatory Flexibility Committee.

Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, will also have a busy summer. He will chair the Special Group Recognition License Plate Commission; and serve on the Counterterrorism and Security Council; the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission; the Indiana Homeland Security Foundation; the Integrated Public Safety Commission; the Joint Study Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Assessment and Solutions; and the Motorsports Commission.

In the House:

Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, will serve on the Commission on Military and Veterans Affairs.

Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, will serve on the Census Data Advisory Committee and the Regional Campuses Study Committee.

Rep. Kathy Heuer, R-Columbia City, will be on the State Workforce Innovation Council.

Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, R-Syracuse, has been added to the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana; the Child Custody and Support Advisory Committee; and the Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs.

Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, has three assignments: the Indiana Heritage Trust Committee, the Interim Study Committee on Driver Education, and vice chair on the Interim Study Committee on Insurance.

Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, will serve on the Native American Indian Affairs Commission and the Unemployment Insurance Oversight Committee.

Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, will be on the Environmental Adjudication Director Selection Panel, the Interim Study Committee on Driver Education and the Water Resources Study Committee.

Rep. Phyllis Pond, R-New Haven, was named to the Education Commission of the States, the State Fair Advisory Committee

Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, takes on the Joint Study Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Assessment Solutions.

Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, will be on the Compliance Advisory Panel and the Environmental Quality Service Council.

Rep. Dennis Zent, R-Angola, was tapped for the Health Finance Commission and the Indiana Veterans’ Affairs Commission.

Rep. Dave Ober, R-Albion, was named to the National Conference of State Legislatures to serve on the National Economic Development Committee.

Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this report.

To reach Political Notebook by e-mail, 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.