Political Notebook


Town halls set for small businesses

A bipartisan group of Indiana lawmakers formed to address the needs of small businesses will conduct a series of town halls across the state for the legislators to meet with business owners and discuss what government can do to help their operations grow.

The Indiana General Assembly’s Small Business Caucus was formed this year by legislators interested in ways to improve the climate for the types of businesses that represent more than 97 percent of all employers in the state, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. A small business is defined as one with fewer than 500 employees.

The co-chairs of the caucus are Reps. Terri J. Austin, D-Anderson, and Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, and Sens. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, and Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury.

“Establishing a small-business caucus has been long overdue and vitally important,” Austin said. “It sends a message that we understand their needs are different from those traditionally associated with economic development in our state, and that a fresh approach is required. One of the ways we can help is by sitting down with small-business owners across Indiana and work to see what we can do to build a better environment for them to grow and thrive.”

Yoder added, “We know small businesses are vital to Indiana’s economy and provide the most jobs to working Hoosiers. In the legislature, we continue to create and support initiatives that ensure Indiana remains a leader in job creation, economic development, and low business regulations. I look forward to listening and speaking with small-business owners so they can help guide us in pro-small- business legislation.”

As of 2010, there were more than 488,000 small businesses in the state of Indiana.

The town meetings in August and September are designed to look back on what has been accomplished in economic development for small businesses in recent years and consider the changes coming in the near future. Discussions will focus on the role government can play in helping small businesses run easier, with an emphasis on regulatory reform and education of the workforce.

The meetings will be in Valparaiso, LaPorte, Seymour, New Albany, Columbus, Greensburg, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Greenfield, Bloomington, Carmel, Lafayette, Muncie, Anderson, Terre Haute, Vincennes, Evansville, Washington, Kokomo, Rochester, South Bend and Elkhart.

The Fort Wayne meeting will be at noon Aug. 22 at the Georgetown Library Branch, 6600 E. State Blvd.

Extra, extra!

Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine had put the word out ahead of a fundraising barbecue and golf outing Monday but that didn’t stop him from teasing the GOP crowd at Chestnut Hills Golf Club.

Shine told the clubhouse audience there was “some very exciting news today.”

“How fortunate we are to be able to announce that Princess Kate had a baby,” he said, eliciting laughter from local Republicans decked out in polo shirts and baseball caps.

“And other than that, Allen County has been selected to host the 2014 state convention” for Republicans, Shine said, drawing applause and cheers.

He quipped that the earlier site-selection announcement by the GOP state committee “caused me to have a baby.”

Local Republicans had been working for months to attract the GOP state convention away from Indianapolis next June. It will be at Grand Wayne Center, where Indiana Democrats had their convention in 2012.

Double bookends?

With the departure of Deputy Mayor Mark Becker to head Greater Fort Wayne Inc. – the merged Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance – it’s unclear who will fill the city’s No. 2 position or when that will happen.

At last check, Mayor Tom Henry’s office said it was discussing the transition with Becker and hadn’t worked out the details.

But Becker’s departure creates an interesting possibility: Becker was in his second stint in the job, as several years before he had been the city’s second-ever deputy mayor. Then-Mayor Graham Richard created the position out of what had been the chief of staff.

The city’s first deputy mayor was Al Moll, who now heads the Parks Department. Since Becker served twice, might Moll be interested in coming back? We asked him about it Friday.

“Is this off the record?” he asked, laughing.

And then he changed the subject.

Crossing the aisle

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., says he is an exception to partisan rule.

Donnelly last week took note of a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll showing the public’s disapproval of Congress at 83 percent, a new high. The survey of 1,000 adults found that political partisanship is America’s top gripe against the federal government.

“I understand and share that frustration and am doing what I can to work with members of both parties to get things done for Hoosiers,” Donnelly said in a statement last week.

The freshman senator from Granger pointed out he has joined with Republican colleagues to introduce three bills:

•With Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, Donnelly filed legislation to better protect farmers against the disclosure of personal information.

•Donnelly, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, offered a bill to give military reservists preferential hiring status for federal jobs.

•And Donnelly and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, have proposed defining full-time employment as 40 hours of work a week, a response to the employer insurance mandate in the health care law that sets the number at 30 hours.

But partisanship prevailed during a recent series of floor votes. While Donnelly and Collins favored confirming President Barack Obama’s nominees to head the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Export-Import Bank, Cruz and Grassley voted against the nominations, and Collins joined them in opposing Obama’s Labor Department secretary.

Donnelly and Collins were on the same side in votes to advance the transportation and housing appropriations bill, which Cruz and Grassley disliked.

All four did support legislation to reduce interest rates on federal loans for college students and each backed Obama’s choice for associate attorney general.

Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

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