Countdown to Election Day: 41 days

Important Indiana Election Dates:

October 5 - 2020 Voter Registration Ends

October 22 - Deadline to Request Mail-In Ballot

November 3 -  General Election Day

November 14 - Military/Overseas Ballots Must be Received (must be postmarked by November 3)

Local, state, and federal highlights in today’s memo include:

  • Holcomb Moving Indiana to Stage 5 of Recovery Plan, but Extends Mask Mandate

  • COVID-19 Relief Package Still Dead

  • House Passes Continuing Appropriations Act

  • Centrist Democrats ‘Strongly Considering’ Discharge Petition on GOP PPP Bill

  • House Democrats Unveil Reforms to ‘Prevent Future Presidential Abuses’

  • Election Cues, County by County

  • State Tweaking Requirements for Small Business Pandemic-Relief Program

  • Important Dates

  • Daily Numbers

    Let’s dive in.

 
 

Holcomb Moving Indiana to Stage 5 of Recovery Plan, but Extends Mask Mandate


Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday said he was moving Indiana to Stage 5 of the Back on Track recovery plan starting Saturday, but was extending the state’s pandemic mask order through at least Oct. 17.

Stage 5 essentially lifts all restrictions, except for some social distancing requirements and some limitations on larger crowds. The state has been in Stage 4.5 since July 1.

Holcomb’s executive order, which he expects to sign Thursday, will allow local governments to impose more restrictive guidelines. Marion County has issued stricter orders than the rest of the state throughout the pandemic.

The mask order from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb first took effect July 27 and was set to expire Saturday without the extension. The governor said he was making the move to Stage 5 because COVID-19 numbers have been “moving in the right direction.”

Full state guidelines for Stage 5 can be found here.

Holcomb last week vigorously defended mask-wearing last week as helping keep COVID-19 death and hospitalization rates far below what they were during the worst of the outbreak in April and May. (Indianapolis Business Journal)

 
 

COVID-19 Relief Package Still Dead


Per Politico, there’s little sign that Congress is near a breakthrough on a coronavirus relief package, but the restaurants, hotels, airlines and the travel industry are continuing to lobby for one. Chip Rogers , the president and chief executive of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, is headed to the White House today to accept an award from the Trump administration for the trade group’s work to support hotel employees. He’ll use the visit to meet with Ivanka Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and press for the relief measures the trade group is seeking, according to the trade group. Hotels also held a call with Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, on Friday to make the case for aid.

The U.S. Travel Association, meanwhile, sent another letter to lawmakers this morning urging them to restart the Paycheck Protection Program and expand who’s eligible for it, even if they can’t agree on anything else. “While we agree with the need for comprehensive relief, we simply cannot wait for a perfect solution any longer,” Tori Barnes, the trade group’s top lobbyist, wrote in the letter. “Therefore, we respectfully request your help in enacting legislation that at least provides a modicum of relief — whether on its own as a stand-alone bill, or as part of another bill.” And the Independent Restaurant Coalition has continued to lobby lawmakers to sign onto legislation introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), which added three more Democratic co-sponsors this week.

 
 

House Passes Continuing Appropriations Act


The House passed the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2021 in a bipartisan manner Tuesday evening. The legislation funds the government through December 11 and was voted on hours after Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin reached a deal to include billions of dollars in funding for the agriculture industry. The stopgap funding measure now heads to the Senate where it is expected to pass sometime this week.

Section-by-section summary

Full text

 
 

Centrist Democrats ‘Strongly Considering’ Discharge Petition on GOP PPP Bill


A number of moderate House Democrats are on the cusp of endorsing a GOP resolution to force a vote on emergency aid for small businesses, according to sources familiar with the plan.

The centrist Democrats — currently numbering about a dozen — are "strongly considering" the act of signing on to a procedural measure, known as a discharge petition, designed to force floor action on legislation extending the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), said a senior Democratic aide associated with the Democrats' moderate wing.

That figure falls a handful short of the number of Democrats the Republicans need to reach 218 signatures on their discharge petition — the tally required to force legislation to the floor.

But the number is growing, said the aide, as party moderates — including front-line members facing tough reelections in November — become increasingly frustrated with the inability of party leaders to reach a deal with the White House on another round of coronavirus stimulus.

If those centrist Democrats do peel away to join the GOP's gambit, it could also have the political effect of undermining the hard-line negotiating strategy of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is seeking a comprehensive, $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package — and has refused to break it apart to vote on any piecemeal provisions. (The Hill)

 
 

House Democrats Unveil Reforms to ‘Prevent Future Presidential Abuses’


House Democrats unveiled a sweeping package of reforms Wednesday morning designed to strengthen Congress’s ability to check the executive branch and prevent abuses of power, especially by the president.

The package, which its architects have informally referred to as “post-Trump reforms,” includes measures to restrain the president’s power to grant pardons and declare national emergencies, to prevent federal officials from enriching themselves, and to accelerate the process of enforcing congressional subpoenas in court. It also includes provisions to protect inspectors general and whistleblowers, increase penalties for officials who subvert congressional appropriations or engage in overt political activity, and safeguard against foreign election interference.

Taken together, the proposals represent the Democrats’ long-awaited attempt to correct what they have identified as systematic deficiencies during the course of President Trump’s tenure and impeachment, in the style of changes Congress adopted after Richard Nixon left office.

The measure includes several provisions to speed up judicial rulings on congressional subpoenas and emoluments cases, in which the House or Senate alleges that a federal official violated constitutional prohibitions on accepting gifts without congressional permission. The bill states that both types of cases should be decided by a panel of three judges, and that any appeals would go directly to the Supreme Court.

The measure also includes several provisions to limit the president’s ability to interfere with congressional appropriations, by putting a time limit on emergency declarations and prohibiting the president from holding back congressionally-approved funding any later than 90 days before it expires — a change that aims to close a loophole the administration has used to effectively cancel unspent funds, particularly foreign aid, near the end of the fiscal year.

The bill incorporates several other pieces of existing legislation as well, such as Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam B. Schiff’s (D-Calif.) measure requiring the administration to give Congress materials related to any pardon within 30 days and expressly prohibiting self-pardoning. It also includes Administration Committee Chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s (D-Calif.) measure requiring political committees to report attempted foreign influence operations to the FBI. (The Washington Post)

 
 

Election Cues, County by County


Ipsos and U.Va.'s Center for Politics are out with an interactive U.S. map that goes down to the county level to track changes in public sentiment that could decide the presidential election, Axios' Hans Nichols reports

How it works: The 2020 Political Atlas tracks President Trump's approval ratings, interest around the coronavirus, what's dominating social media and other measures, with polling updated daily — enhancing UVA's "Crystal Ball."

  • Larry Sabato, director of U.Va.'s Center for Politics, says understanding swing states means knowing "what's being discussed in their local papers and nightly news, and how much the candidates are spending there." 

Explore the atlas.  (Axios)

 
 

State Tweaking Requirements for Small Business Pandemic-Relief Program


The Indiana Department of Economic Development on Wednesday said it was changing the eligibility requirements for a $31 million grant program to help small businesses struggling during the pandemic, in hopes of generating more applications.

The state launched the Small Business Restart Fund in June to help companies with fewer than 50 employees cover the costs of pandemic-related expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, lease payments for real or personal property, and safety costs, including personal protective equipment and infrastructure improvements.

Most of the funding for the program—$30 million—came from the $2.4 billion the state received from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The city of Indianapolis chipped in $1 million of its CARES Act funding for Marion County businesses.

But, to date, fewer than 500 applications have been received, with about $1 million being awarded to 246 small businesses, including 46 owned by minorities and 59 owned by women, in 83 counties.

IEDC Chief of Staff Luke Bosso told IBJ that the low number of grants awarded so far could likely be attributed to a rule that prevented businesses that qualified for the federal Paycheck Protection Program from applying for the Restart Fund.

Businesses that received federal support through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan or Community Development Block Grant programs also didn’t qualify for the Restart Fund.

The state initially designed the program that way because it was meant to complement the federal assistance. About 83,000 businesses in Indiana received $9.5 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans.

Under a change announced Wednesday, the state will now allow businesses that received federal assistance, such as the PPP loans, to apply for the Restart Fund grants. The deadline to apply has been extended from Sept. 30 to Nov. 1 for small businesses in Marion County and until Dec. 1 for businesses outside of Marion County.

(Indianapolis Business Journal)

 
 

Bar Owners Sue City, Health Department Over ‘Arbitrary and Unreasonable Pandemic Rules’


The owners of 20 Marion County bars and nightclubs are suing Indianapolis, Mayor Joe Hogsett, and the Marion County Public Health Department and its director, Dr. Virginia Caine, over COVID-19 pandemic restrictions that they say violate their constitutional rights.

The 42-page complaint, filed Tuesday, takes issue with Marion County’s pandemic public health order because it includes tougher restrictions on bars and nightclubs in Marion County than those in the rest of the state. Among those disparities are rules regarding capacity limits, bar seating, treatment of adults-only establishments, live entertainment and dancing, and hours of business.

The owners say those tougher restrictions—which they label “arbitrary and unreasonable”—violate their constitutional rights of equal protection “by singling out their businesses to bear the brunt of months-long business closures and overstrict capacity requirements.”

The owners say the county’s tougher restrictions have caused them lose significant revenue, lay off employees, incur significant debt and put them in eminent danger of permanently closing.

They say those restrictions have been left in place even though deaths caused by COVID-19 in Marion County have decreased since spring and industries and schools have reopened.

Bars and nightclubs in Marion County were allowed to reopen June 19 after being closed for three months due to the pandemic, but they were forced to close a month later, on July 24, when the county health department issued a new public health order that shut down bars and nightclubs and ordered restaurants to close from midnight to 5 a.m.

At the time, Marion County was experiencing a surge in the number of people under 40 who were testing positive for the coronavirus.

The lawsuit states that bar and nightclub owners were caught off guard by the re-closing order and were given no timeline for when they would be allowed to reopen again. (Indianapolis Business Journal)

 
 

Important Dates


Thursday, September 24 - 10:00 am - Public Safety and Military Affairs Interim Study Committee - House Chamber - CANCELLED

Thursday, September 24 - 10:00 am - Commerce and Economic Development Interim Study Committee - House Chamber

Thursday, September 24 - 10:00 am - Roads and Transportation Interim Study Committee - Senate Chamber

Monday, September 28 - 10:00 am - Code Revision Commission - House Chamber

Tuesday, September 29 - 10:00 am - Financial Institutions and Insurance Interim Study Committee - House Chamber - CANCELLED

Tuesday, September 29 - 10:00 am - Public Safety and Military Affairs Interim Study Committee - House Chamber

Wednesday, September 30 - 10:00 am - Probate Code Study Commission - House Chamber

Wednesday, September 30 - 1:00 pm - Interim Study Committee on Courts and the Judiciary - House Chamber

Thursday, October 1 - 9:00 am - Legislative Continuity Committee - Room 233

Thursday, October 1 - 10:00 am - 21st Century Energy Policy Development Policy Task Force - House Chamber

Monday, October 5 - 10:00 am - Indiana Standards and Assessment Task Force, House Chamber 

Monday, October 5 - 1:30 pm - Environmental Affairs Interim Study Committee - Senate Chamber

Tuesday, October 6 - 11:00 am - Corrections and Criminal Code Interim Study Committee - House Chamber

Tuesday, October 6 - 10:00 am - Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Interim Study Committee - Senate Chamber

Wednesday, October 7 - 10:00 am - Financial Institutions and Insurance Interim Study Committee - House Chamber

Wednesday, October 7 - 10:00 am - Probate Study Commission - Senate Chamber

Thursday, October 8 -  10:00 am - Fiscal Policy Interim Study Committee - House Chamber

Thursday, October 8 - 10:00 am - Roads and Transportation Interim Study Committee - Room 233

Tuesday, October 13 - 1:30 pm - Legislative Council Audit and Financial Reporting Subcommittee - Room 233

Wednesday, October 14 - 10:00 am - Pension Management Oversight Study Committee - Room 404

Wednesday, October 14 - 12:00 pm - Public Health, Behavioral Health, and Human Services Interim Study Committee - House Chamber

Thursday, October 15 - 10:00 am - 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force - House Chamber

Monday, October 19 - 10:00 am - Indiana Standards and Assessment Accommodation Taskforce - Senate Chamber

Tuesday, October 20 - 9:00 am - Legislative Continuity Committee - Room 233

Wednesday, October 21 - 10:00 am - Probate Code Study Commission - Senate Chamber

Tuesday, October 27 - 10:00 am - Employment and Labor Interim Study Committee - House Chamber - CANCELLED

Thursday, November 12 - 10:00 am - 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force - House Chamber

Thursday, November 19 - 10:00 am - 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force - House Chamber

 
 

By The Numbers …


COVID-19 Cases

*New cases: 728

Total cumulative cases reported Wednesday: 113,337

Total cumulative cases reported Tuesday: 112,626

Increase in cumulative cases: 711

Increase in cases reported Aug. 1-Sept. 1: 27,769

Increase in cases reported July 1-Aug. 1: 21,170

Increase in cases reported June 1-July 1: 11,122

Increase in cases reported May 1-June. 1: 16,065

COVID-19 Deaths

New deaths: 10

Total deaths: 3,305

Increase in deaths reported Aug. 1-Sept. 1: 322

Increase in deaths reported July 1-Aug. 1: 315

Increase in deaths reported June 1-July 1: 480

Increase in deaths reported May 1-June. 1: 914

Increase in deaths reported April 1-May 1: 997

COVID-19 Testing

New tested individuals: 7,509

Total cumulative tested individuals reported Wednesday: 1,322,819

Total cumulative tested individuals reported Tuesday: 1,315,440

Increase in cumulative tested individuals: 7,379

Cumulative positivity rate unique individuals: 8.6%

Seven-day positivity rate unique individuals: 6.8%**

Cumulative positivity rate all tests: 6.0%

Seven-day positivity rate all tests: 4.2%**

Increase in unique tested individuals reported Aug. 1-Sept. 1: 325,159

Increase in unique tested individuals reported July 1-Aug. 1: 268,890

Increase in unique tested individuals reported June 1-July 1: 223,820

Increase in unique tested individuals reported May 1-June 1: 166,257

Increase in unique tested individuals reported April 1-May 1: 85,264

** The health department reports the 7-day positivity rates with a six-day lag to allow time for more comprehensive results.

County Numbers

Marion County cumulative cases: 20,936 (increase of 104)

Marion County new deaths: 2

Marion County cumulative deaths: 761

Marion County 7-day positivity rate unique individuals: 6.7%

Hamilton County cumulative cases: 4,761

Hendricks County cumulative cases: 2,681

Johnson County cumulative cases: 2,279

Madison County cumulative cases: 1,610

Boone County cumulative cases: 956

Hancock County cumulative cases: 914

Morgan County cumulative cases: 706

Shelby County cumulative cases: 666

Indiana Intensive Care Unit Usage

Available ICU beds: 40.8%

ICU beds in use by COVID-19 patients: 11.8%

Available ventilators: 81.4%

Ventilators in use for COVID-19: 2.7%

U.S. and Worldwide Numbers

As of Wednesday, from Johns Hopkins University:

U.S. cases: 6,902,930

U.S. deaths: 201,120

Global cases: 31,673,086

Global deaths: 972,372