The Journal Gazette
Sunday, March 21, 2021 1:00 am

Rokita to defend law he dislikes in Bluffton lawsuit

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

Attorney General Todd Rokita might be defending Gov. Eric Holcomb's emergency powers in a lawsuit with a Bluffton restaurant – but only because he has to.

That is the gist of five tweets the Republican sent Thursday explaining that he is obligated to defend the governor.

“It is my statutory duty as the Attorney General and the state's chief legal officer to vigorously defend the State of Indiana, its officials and its laws – even the laws that personally I may not like,” Rokita said.

“This is no different from the vigorous defense you would expect from your lawyer regardless of the circumstance.”

Rokita last year criticized the scope of the orders.

The tweets came after his office filed a response in a lawsuit brought by Yergy's State Road BBQ in Bluffton, which was shut down by the Wells County Health Department for not following the governor's mask order.

Rokita went on to say the Yergy's case “is about current state law, which I have always said needs to be updated – now more than ever. I also said I would work with the General Assembly to improve the law. This is exactly what the legislature is doing now and it's what I have been doing, given my many discussions with lawmakers about their various ideas and questions.”

Rokita expects a better law with clearer direction for a governor in the future evaluating longer-duration emergencies.

“That is the real value of the Yergy lawsuit, regardless of the legal positioning being undertaken at this phase of it,” he said.

Doughnuts or guns?

A member of Moms Demand Action came to the Statehouse last week with a gift for Fort Wayne GOP Sen. Liz Brown – doughnuts.

Becca McCracken brought the treat to remind Brown that many law enforcement groups oppose a bill to eliminate a gun carry permit in Indiana.

“There's more than one kind of madness this March in Indiana,” said a note included with the doughnuts that McCracken tweeted. “House Bill 1369 is nothing short of madness. It represents a threat to public safety in Indiana.”

She included a petition with 2,696 signatures against the bill, which has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee Brown chairs. She has not yet scheduled a hearing for the legislation.

McCracken included 27 doughnuts – one for every 100 signatures – and included a list of law enforcement who have spoken against the proposal.

Killing 'em

Local restaurateur Ben Hall dodged a bullet. At least, he seemed to think so.

During a monthly meeting of the Downtown Improvement District, Hall asked Stephen J. Bailey, a consultant for the organization, about his T-shirt.

“Who do you plan to kill?” Hall said Tuesday, referring to the shirt that read “Kill them.”

Bailey, obviously surprised, moved so the rest of the saying “with kindness” was visible on the Zoom image. He thanked Hall for the comment, saying he would adjust his computer's camera in advance of his afternoon virtual meetings so other people wouldn't wonder the same thing.

“I wanted to make sure I wasn't on your list,” Hall said, laughing.

Next year

Wayne Township Trustee Austin Knox will seek reelection in 2022.

Knox, who was appointed to the position in January 2020 by a caucus of Democratic precinct committee members, formally launched his campaign during a Monday news conference. Knox replaced former Wayne Township Trustee Rick Stevenson, who retired.

A Fort Wayne native, he is a graduate of IPFW and Concordia High School. He has worked in the Wayne Township trustee's office since 2015.

122 school boards

By the Indiana School Boards Association's count, more than 100 school boards statewide oppose proposals that would divert money from public schools.

The organization – which provides training, policy resources, legal guidance and other services to help school board members govern – posted a list Monday on Facebook of 122 school boards that have adopted resolutions against education savings accounts and expansion of the school voucher program.

Its tally includes Fort Wayne Community Schools, East Allen County Schools, Fremont Community Schools, Garrett-Keyser-Butler Community Schools, Hamilton Community Schools, Smith-Green Community Schools, South Adams Schools, Warsaw Community Schools and Whitko Community School Corp.

“That's still only about 40% of the school boards in our state,” the association wrote.

“Is your school district on the list?”

Dave Gong, Sherry Slater and Ashley Sloboda of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Niki Kelly at Political Notebook can be found at

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