The Journal Gazette
Sunday, June 14, 2020 1:00 am

Banks' proposal draws ire of challenger

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

The general election battle for northeast Indiana's seat in the U.S. House got underway Thursday, a week after primary election results were known.

Democratic challenger Chip Coldiron reacted quickly to an announcement that Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, had introduced legislation to end federal funding to schools that fail to reopen for in-person instruction by Sept. 8 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Coldiron is a science teacher at Norwell High School.

“I want nothing more than to teach my students in the classroom this fall, but schools should not have to choose between public health and their own bottom line,” Coldiron said in a news release. “Coming from the representative who voted against an early emergency response to COVID-19 that could have helped us prepare for this, it is unacceptable to hand down this mandate from Washington that schools must disregard expert warnings or face further cuts.”

Coldiron also said, “If he was really interested in helping Hoosier schools prepare for the fall, he would propose emergency legislation to ensure every school system has the resources they need to make the best decision for their own communities.”

Banks introduced the Reopen Our Schools Act with Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Wis.

“We need to change the subject from 'our schools might not reopen in the fall' to 'our schools will reopen in the fall and here's what we need to do it,'” Banks said in a statement. “America is the land of opportunity where education is guaranteed to all children. We're not living up that guarantee at the moment.”

School districts began closing buildings to classroom instruction in March as the coronavirus spread in the United States. In Indiana, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an executive order March 19 that shut schools until at least May 1; two weeks later, he closed them for the rest of the 2019-20 school year.

Although the pandemic has subsided in some parts of the country, including New York, COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise in other parts, especially the South and the West.

“Reopening our schools is the lynchpin to reopening our economy,” Banks said in his written statement. “Many parents rely on their kids going to school so they can go to work. To get our society up and running again, we need our children back in school.”

The Banks-Tiffany bill would require schools to “provide a plan to reopen *safely* per their normal operations pre-coronavirus,” Banks' office said in a news release. The legislation also would let Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos create a waiver process at her discretion, his office said.

Holcomb and his hobbies

The moment Gov. Eric Holcomb let slip last week that he had been to JoAnn Fabrics recently Hoosiers on Twitter wanted to know what he was up to. 

Making jewelry? Sewing masks? Making a wreath? 

Political Notebook posed that very question during a Friday briefing – which made Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, laugh and say, “we asked the same thing.”

Holcomb fessed up to buying framing supplies for a project and said he had hoped to blend in but his bright blue mask emblazoned with the state flag emblem might have given him away. 

“Great question ... we all want to know,” one Hoosier said.

P.S. The framing project was an honorary degree he received from Ivy Tech Community College. 

Trump tweet displeases Braun

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun said Wednesday that he disapproved of President Donald Trump's tweet about a 75-year-old racial injustice protester who suffered a serious head injury in Buffalo, New York, when police officers shoved him to the ground.

Trump tried Tuesday without evidence to connect Martin Gugino to Antifa, a militant anti-fascist movement the president has called a terrorist organization.

“There were many of us that probably thought that wasn't the place to tweet or to maybe make that point,” Braun, R-Ind., said in a media conference call.

Trump tweeted that Gugino “could be an ANTIFA provocateur” and “was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment.” Trump wrote that Gugino “fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”

Braun said Trump's frequent tweeting is “part of his way of communicating. I think many of us, Republican senators as well, would think that you ought to maybe measure those more so, and in this case I didn't agree with that particular tweet.”

Braun said Gugino “very well could have lost his life if he had hit his head wrong. Thank goodness he's recovering.”

Other Republican senators who reportedly have expressed dismay at Trump's claim include John Thune of South Dakota, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah, who said the tweet “was a shocking thing to say,” according to Politico.

Bar Foundation to aid Y program

The Allen County Bar Foundation and the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne on Friday announced plans to increase the number of Fort Wayne delegates attending the Indiana Youth and Government Model Government Conference in Indianapolis. 

The Bar Foundation will donate $3,000 per year for the next three years to support the YMCA Indiana Youth and Government program. The funding will allow the YMCA to provide scholarships to Greater Fort Wayne-area teens, the majority of whom come from economically disadvantaged homes. 

“The opportunity to financially support the local INYaG program allows the Allen County Bar Foundation to further its mission of civic education and knowledge of the law,” said Rachel Blakeman, the foundation's board president. “The need for civic engagement has never been greater so this program reaches the next generation of civic leaders.” 

The Indiana Youth and Government program provides Hoosier children grades seven through 12 an opportunity to experience the process of Indiana government firsthand, develop leadership and social skills and foster self-confidence. 

“At the Y, we focus on youth development and work hard to provide youth with opportunities to reach their full potential. I've seen tremendous growth among our youth as a result of this program and look forward to continue working with the ACBF so we can keep advancing civic engagement among the teens in our community,” said Francisco Townsend, director of community and global engagement for the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne.

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

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