Busted: Indiana's bankruptcy rate is one of the highest

Another day, another report that seems to contradict the rosy rhetoric of the My Man Mitch rebranding effort.

Bankruptcy filings jumped 38 percent last year compared with 2006, as many consumers struggled with higher mortgage payments and other debt loads, a nonprofit group said Tuesday.

Indiana placed fourth among the states with the most filings per capita.

The increase follows a significant drop in bankruptcy filings in 2006, after a new law made it more difficult for consumers to seek bankruptcy protection from creditors.

Total bankruptcy filings rose to 850,912 in 2007, from 617,660 the previous year, the American Bankruptcy Institute said, citing data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Posted by: Thomas

Triple the Trouble: Glenn Murphy trial moves forward

News out of Jeffersonville, where we find our old friend Glenn Murphy facing some new accusations. For those who need a refresher, the former county GOP chair and head of the Young Republicans is in hot water over his alleged sexual assault of a sleeping man last year.

Now, a judge is being asked to rule on whether the sworn statements of three additional men can be used against Murphy. All three claim that Murphy assaulted them in a similar fashion, with the oldest allegation dating back to Murphy's college days.

The alleged victim claimed to investigators that he spoke to other fraternity members and learned of three other victims. He further stated he spoke to Murphy about the incident in March 1997 and that Murphy admitted the assault, and said he was going to get help for his problem. Murphy soon left the fraternity and the university, according to the man’s statement.

A hearing was held Monday in Clark Superior Court No. 1, where Murphy and his attorney, James Voyles of Indianapolis, asked Judge Vicki L. Carmichael to strike the statements of the three men.

Carmichael gave Voyles until April 15 to formally file his motion to strike, and set the deadline for any state rebuttal for April 18. She will rule on April 21 whether the evidence will be admitted for Murphy’s June 10 jury trial.

If convicted of criminal deviate conduct, Murphy could go to prison for six to 20 years and pay a $10,000 fine. Levco was appointed as a special prosecutor because Clark County’s prosecutor, Steve Stewart, is a Democrat and was concerned if he prosecuted Murphy it could be viewed as politically motivated.

Think of the Children: Report shows lackluster school performance

Ol' Mitch just can't seem to make up his mind about schools. Put a camera in front of him, and he can't say enough great things about our system of schools. Put a budgetary or property tax crisis in front of him, and he'll stumble all over himself trying to find the words to describe -- and the ways to slash -- the dastardly spending habits of those wasteful teachers. It can get a bit confusing at times.

Yesterday brought word from the Indiana Department of Education on how state schools are progressing with attempts to boost student achievement, and the results weren't anything to get excited about.

Board member Jo Blacketor said she was happy for the 440 schools rated as "exemplary," but that the 127 schools in the lowest "probation" category must be the board's focus.

When a school is on "probation" for four years, the state must send in a team of experts to intervene. Blacketor pointed out the 39 schools that have been on probation for three years now as needing immediate attention.

"I'm begging . . . that we focus on the bottom," she said. "Next year we're not going to have any choice. I think it's appalling."

Overall, 389 schools improved their rating this year, while 429 got worse. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Suellen Reed called the results "improvement" because those 389 schools represent 21 percent of the state's schools, up from 17 percent improving last year.

Someone might want to explain that there is in fact a difference between "aiming higher" and "lowering the target so that you can hit it." At least there used to be.

Well, nothing will help our struggling schools like widespread funding cuts, don't you think?

Posted by: Thomas

Part One: Schellinger Releases Jobs Plan, Focuses On Worker Training

Schellinger_jim2 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Schellinger released his economic development plan, the first in a series of such announcements, today at the Statehouse. (You can read the plan in its entirety here.) The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:

Democratic candidate for governor Jim Schellinger wants to base economic development on a bottom-up style that includes work-force training, small-business advancement and pushing green jobs and buildings.

Schellinger, president of CSO Architects in Indianapolis, is scheduled to unveil his plans at an early afternoon news conference at the Statehouse. IBJ obtained an advance copy of Schellinger's 13-page "Pick Up Indiana Jobs" plan.

Earlier this month, his primary election challenger, Jill Long Thompson, called for focusing economic development policy on broad issues that include tax incentives, reforming health care and education policy.

The Democratic nominee who wins the May 6 primary will face incumbent Mitch Daniels in the November general election.

Schellinger's approach contrasts with Daniels, a Republican who has concentrated on aggressive efforts to contact corporate leaders and attract their expansions.

Schellinger's plan notes that Indiana has lost 27,700 manufacturing jobs since Daniels took office. Unemployment filings have become the third-highest in the nation, and the state still suffers from high rates of personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures, he said.

He proposes increasing educational opportunities for the disadvantaged by adding $1 million in state funding for advanced manufacturing training through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. He also would open unused space in state university, community college or technical classrooms for anyone receiving unemployment benefits and whose income is less than three times the federal poverty level.

Schellinger aims to address the shortage of nurses with a $1 million scholarship and student-loan-forgiveness fund. And he proposes spending up to $7 million more annually on state-administered adult education.

A new "Office of Small Business Advancement" would be staffed by professionals to help small-company owners find tax incentives, federal assistance and access to local business incubators. The office also would help create health care insurance pools that small businesses could join in order to lower their premiums.

Indiana's health care tax credit would be increased to $100 per employee to encourage employers to provide health coverage, the plan says. Companies would be eligible for up to $5,000 in credits.

Schellinger's third major emphasis is "green-collar" jobs.

Out Of Touch: Reality, Meet Guv. Guv, Meet Reality. Go Have A Chat.

Images There was a time when the Guv blamed Democrats for Indiana's economic woes. Now, he's all about blaming, um, the economy for our economic woes and promising, as he did with DST, that his burden-shifting property tax plan, which will cause local governments to raise taxes or cut services, and the long-term lease of the Indiana Toll Road, which was signed into law almost two years ago, will bring jobs here.

Heaven forbid he actually just admit that we rank 44th in the nation for job growth rate since he took office. Heaven forbid he actually reach out to the working men and women of this state and tell them that he understands things aren't easy for them, but he's doing his best to help them. Heaven forbid he stop making things up and accept a little responsibility for the current state of affairs. (Yes, responsibility. He was, after all, one of the yes-men who helped get us into this war that's now costing us, like, $5,000 a minute.)

But no. Here's what he's saying instead:

Gov. Mitch Daniels said he feels a recession wouldn't hit Indiana as hard as other states, citing recent state changes for his optimism.

Daniels spoke to the Valparaiso Rotary Club on Tuesday, and highlighted what he called the short-term benefits of his Major Moves project and the changes in property taxes.

The property tax caps that the state legislature recently approved will help encourage business growth during a period of possible economic crisis, Daniels told the audience.

"What business doesn't prize certainty for making its own investment?" he said.

He added that property-tax reform also comes at a good time for struggling homeowners, giving them more money to spend and help the economy keep going.

The same holds true for Major Moves, Daniels said, which will help pay for continued road work -- and the incomes of construction workers -- for the next year, when other states are struggling to find the money for infrastructure.

He also pointed to data showing that all of Indiana's neighbors are struggling with budget cuts and growing unemployment rates. Unlike them, though, Indiana has a surplus and a decreasing unemployment rate.

"There's a lot of evidence we'll be able to ride (a recession) out a little bit better," he said.

Step Right Up: Who Wants To Be The GOP Attorney General Nominee?

Ladyjustice The unexpected announcement over the weekend that two-term Attorney General Steve Carter will not seek re-election this year has set off something of a GOP gossipfest, with several names being tossed around as Republicans scramble to find someone -- preferably someone with name ID and funding -- to take Carter's place on the ballot:

"This caught most everybody flat-footed," said Wheeler, 45, who is with the Indianapolis law firm Locke Reynolds. "I had talked with Steve (Carter) about my interest in running in 2008, and he indicated to me he was going to run again."

Starting the work of putting together a campaign at the end of March is not ideal, Wheeler said, "but there is (still) plenty of time," because candidates can focus on convention delegates, rather than all state voters, and have until mid-June to make their cases.

In a statement issued by the spokesman for his county office, Brizzi said he, too, "was surprised by Attorney General Carter's announcement."

"Carl is flattered that he has been mentioned as a possible candidate, and it is something he is considering," Matthew Symons said.

Zoeller, the chief deputy, also sought the party's nomination for attorney general in 1996 but lost that bid to Carter. Carter, defeated in the 1996 general election by Democrat Jeff Modisett, was elected in 2000.

"I may be the only one who's worked in the office," said Zoeller, 52. "I'm pretty proud of what the attorney general has been able to do, and for people who think he's done a good job, I would be a known commodity and a continuation of what we have been doing."

Another Republican who was being mentioned as a possible candidate is Secretary of State Todd Rokita, but a call to Rokita's election committee was not returned Monday. Elected to his second term in office in 2006, Rokita is prohibited by Indiana law from running for another term as secretary of state in 2010.

Really Mattering: WashPo Writer Calls Indiana Race For Prez "A Fair Fight"

Presidentialseal It's pretty cool to matter in the presidential race, but Indiana is shaping up to be the next must-win state where neither candidate has the clear advantage. The Washington Post's Anne Kornblut reports from Evansville:

Something unusual appears to be developing in the Democratic presidential race in this state: a fair fight.

Wedged between Illinois, which is Sen. Barack Obama's home state, and Ohio, which Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton dominated on March 4, Indiana may be the one state remaining on the primary calendar where both candidates begin with a roughly equal chance of coming out ahead.

That fact alone makes it stand out from states such as Pennsylvania, where the playing field for the April 22 contest offers big advantages to Clinton (N.Y.), or the Oregon race a month later, which clearly tilts toward Obama.

In Indiana, Obama has a home-field advantage, while Clinton has the backing of the popular Sen. Evan Bayh and may have an edge on the kind of economic issues that are likely to dominate the discussion before the state's Democrats vote on May 6.

"If I had to pick -- and I'm not usually shy about saying who's going to win -- I couldn't tell you today," said Rep. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat who represents Indiana's 2nd District and has not committed to either candidate. Others entrenched in Indiana politics put Clinton ahead, if only slightly.

The state's Democrats have reacted to their sudden relevance with enthusiasm -- thousands waited in the cold to see Clinton at several stops last week -- and the campaigns have responded by pouring resources into the state. Obama arrived here first, making an appearance March 15 in Plainfield, and the Clinton campaign is launching an attempt to limit his following on campuses with its own blitz on the numerous colleges and universities around the state. On Monday, Chelsea Clinton is set to help kick off the effort, appearing with her father, former president Bill Clinton, in South Bend before traveling to Bloomington.

Let The Speechifying Begin: A Few Photos From The Dyngus Day Fun

Megaphone Dyngus Day is over, and TDW is tired, but not so tired that she doesn't have time to upload a few photos from the two venues -- the West Side Democratic Club and the Hoosier Tap -- where she joined with fellow Democrats to drink a few beers and chat about politics this morning and afternoon.

Both places were packed, especially the former one, where former President Bill Clinton and former First Kid Chelsea Clinton talked up wife/mom Hillary Clinton's campaign. Former Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend also heaped praise on Mrs. Clinton.

Former U.S. Rep. and 9/11 Commission member Tim Roemer spoke as a surrogate for presidential hopeful Barack Obama, and both gubernatorial candidates, South Bend native Jim Schellinger and former U.S. Rep. Jill Long Thompson, got their turn at the podium.

Schellinger and his wife, Laura, showed up a bit later at the Hoosier Tap to share in the festivities there. (For her part, that's where TDW wound up because it was nearby and not swarming with people with plastic cords in their ears.) Those photos after the jump, but first, a few from the West Side Democratic Club:

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Continue reading "Let The Speechifying Begin: A Few Photos From The Dyngus Day Fun" »

Two Sets Of Talking Points: Guv Hates On Schools, Loves Education?

Apple_2 When you see, on one hand, the Guv talking about schools and local governments like they're the most wasteful entities on the face of the planet, you have to wonder how he can turn around and say things like this with a straight face:

Daniels said the state will continue to fund education properly.

"Schools and education come at the top of the priority list in Indiana," Daniels said. "I'm sure it will still be -- certainly for me -- a top priority regardless of budget circumstances."

That quote comes from this story by Associated Press writer Deanna Martin about the long-term effects of the Guv's tax "reform" plan on school districts, particularly those that don't have an affluent tax base on which to rely for funding:

Gov. Mitch Daniels says the state's new property tax restructuring plan "puts taxpayers first." But schools worry that coming in second could cost them millions, threaten programs and widen the gap between poor and rich districts.

"We have a responsibility, an obligation and a duty to ensure that our students receive a quality education," said Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White. "We have to pay for that."

The tax plan Daniels signed into law Wednesday will cap property tax bills for most homeowners at 1 percent of their home's assessed value, with 2 percent limits on rental property and 3 percent caps for businesses.

More money in taxpayers' pockets means less cash for schools. And education budgets are already tight, said Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association.

"Anyone that thinks that teachers are overpaid or schools are overfunded simply hasn't been out in the real world in a while," he said.

The Do-Not-Run List: Steve Carter Takes Himself Out Of The AG Race

Lawbooks Attorney General Steve Carter is throwing in the towel, according to this Easter Sunday update from the Star's John Strauss. (Odd timing, anyone?)

Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter today said he will not seek a third term in office and will likely bring his career in public service to a close.

"I want to look at a number of things in both the private sector and the not-for-profit sector," Carter, 54, said at a news conference in his office.

"I've enjoyed my term as attorney general. There have been great opportunities. We have achieved a lot, but I think we can achieve things outside government."

Carter, a former top aide to then-Lt. Gov. John Mutz and former corporation counsel to Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, vigorously championed the state's Do-Not-Call law and enforced it from his office. The AG’s office also pursued claims of gasoline price gouging after the 9/11 terror attacks.

Carter is married with two teenagers and a 12-year-old. He said today he has not interviewed for other jobs and has not decided what he would like to do next.

This bodes well for Linda Pence, the extremely talented and well qualified Democratic candidate who will go from running against incumbent Carter to running against Some Random, Late-To-The-Game Republican. It doesn't look like Pence has a campaign website just yet, but TDW will steer you to it once she does.

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