Countdown to Election Day: 39 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:

  • Trump Signs Executive Order on an America-First Healthcare Plan

  • Ginsburg’s Coffin Arrives at Capitol, Where She Will Become the First Woman to Lie in State

  • Judge Says 2020 Census Must Continue for Another Month

  • Pelosi Abruptly Shifts Course, Restarts Economic Relief Push

  • The Next Cliff for the Unemployed

  • Marion County Easing Some, Not All, Pandemic Restrictions; Indy Middle Schoolers Head Back to School

  • Groups Sue to Stop Law that Could Invalidate Thousands of Indiana Mail-In Ballots

  • Congressman Banks Receives Republican Study Committee Endorsement

  • U.S. Parents Delaying Preschool, Kindergarten Amid Pandemic

  • Important Dates

  • Daily Numbers

    Let’s dive in.

 
 

Trump Signs Executive Order on an America-First Healthcare Plan


At an event in North Carolina, President Trump signed "Executive Order on An America-First Healthcare Plan" which will serve as a messaging document for the presidential election. The order reiterated previous policy actions from the Administration and stated a commitment that individuals with pre-existing conditions will still be able to "obtain affordable healthcare." The statement did not mention Texas v. California (also known as Texas v. Azar), the court case to be heard by the Supreme Court in November to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

While the document is a restatement of previous "positions and policy" its contents did not constitute a change in federal rules or law. In a statement to the press, HHS Secretary Azar reiterated that the EO is a "defined statement of U.S. policy that people with preexisting conditions are protected." Therefore, should the ACA be struck down in court the EO would not, on its own, preserve protections for those with pre-existing conditions enacted in ACA.

On surprise medical billing, the EO directs Sec. Azar to: "Take administrative action to prevent a patient from receiving a bill for out-of-pocket expenses that the patient could not have reasonably foreseen" if there is no congressional action by the end of 2020.

The EO also gave broad directions to agencies to:

  • Expand access to and options for affordable healthcare,

  • Ensure consumers have access to meaningful price and quality information prior to the delivery of care,

  • Reduce waste, fraud, and abuse in the healthcare system,

  • Improve quality in the delivery of care for veterans, and

  • Promote medical innovations to find novel and improved treatments.

These directions do not include directives for specific rulemaking.

Links:

Executive Order Full Text

Texas v. California Summary

 

Ginsburg’s Coffin Arrives at Capitol, Where She Will Become the First Woman to Lie in State


Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s coffin has arrived at the Capitol in advance of a memorial service for guests. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) are participating in a welcoming ceremony.

Ginsburg will become the first woman to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol in National Statuary Hall. (Civil rights icon Rosa Parks was given a lying-in-honor tribute in Statuary Hall in 2005.)

Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), have both arrived for the ceremony. Biden is accompanied by his wife, Jill.

President Trump and Vice President Pence both visited the Supreme Court this week while Ginsburg lay in repose there. They are not attending the ceremony Friday. (The Washington Post)

 
 

Judge Says 2020 Census Must Continue for Another Month


A federal judge has stopped the 2020 census from finishing at the end of September and ordered the once-a-decade headcount of every U.S. resident to continue for another month through the end of October, saying a shortened schedule likely would produce inaccurate results.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in California made her ruling late Thursday, two days after hearing arguments from attorneys for the Census Bureau, and attorneys for civil rights groups and local governments that had sued the Census Bureau in an effort to halt the 2020 census from stopping at the end of the month. Attorneys for the civil rights groups and local governments said the shortened schedule would undercount residents in minority and hard-to-count communities. (AP News)

 
 

Pelosi Abruptly Shifts Course, Restarts Economic Relief Push


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., abruptly shifted course Thursday and moved to assemble a new and smaller coronavirus relief bill to form the basis for renewed talks with the White House, amid mounting pressure from moderates in her caucus and increasingly alarming economic news.

The parameters of the new legislation were not immediately clear but it’s expected to be narrower in scope than the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act the House passed in May. Pelosi has more recently focused on the need for $2.2 trillion in aid—a figure Republicans say is still too high.

Pelosi on Thursday asked key committee chairmen to get to work on putting together the bill, according to several Democratic aides with knowledge of the developments who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss them. House Democratic leaders were meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss how to move forward.

News of Pelosi’s new push lifted the stock market slightly higher, with the Dow Jones industrial average gaining more than 200 points, or 0.8%. The Dow had slumped badly so far in September, losing nearly 9% in just three weeks.

“I think we’re headed towards a resurgence of the virus in the fall, and until we defeat the virus, you’re not going to have a full economic recovery,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said Thursday. He said a vote could come as soon as next week.

The window for action is narrow, however, and it’s unclear how quickly a bipartisan deal might be able to be reached—if at all. Negotiations between Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin collapsed in August and never really resumed. Congress is supposed to adjourn at the end of next week through the election, although lawmakers could be called back to vote on a deal, if there is one.

Mnuchin reiterated in an appearance before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday that he saw the need for more stimulus and was prepared to resume talks. He mentioned in particular that aid should focus on assistance for small businesses, among other things. He has also said that the White House would support another round of stimulus checks for Americans, something Democrats have also said they want to authorize. (Indianapolis Business Journal)

 
 

The Next Cliff for the Unemployed


A program supporting Americans who are typically ineligible for unemployment benefits will expire at the end of the year, with millions still relying on it as the labor market sputters.

Why it matters: The result could be catastrophic for the economic recovery that Wall Street fears is already fragile.

  • Unemployment insurance is "propping up all parts of our economy," Kathryn Edwards, an economist at think tank RAND Corporation, tells Axios. 

  • The money has buffered consumer spending and helped unemployed Americans pay bills while out of work, she says.

Background: The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, created by the CARES Act, allows freelancers, gig workers or others with limited work history to get unemployment benefits.

Driving the news: Data from the Labor Department on Thursday showed over 11 million people were receiving benefits through PUA as of Sept. 5 — a whopping 43% of the roughly 26 million Americans relying on some form of unemployment.

  • Economists estimate millions are depending on the program, though they warn the DOL’s number is overstated. Goldman Sachs economists wrote in a note Thursday that “processing backlogs, delayed filings and fraudulent filings” have boosted the figure.

Where it stands: Congress can’t seem to agree on another stimulus package. Even if they do break the stalemate, it’s unclear whether the PUA will be extended.

  • A failed version passed by the House over the summer proposed extending the PUA through January. 

  • A failed version proposed by Senate Republicans didn't mention a PUA extension.

Between the lines: Economists aren't expecting a massive shift in economic conditions (or a complete return to pre-pandemic life) between now and December that would cause a substantial drop-off in the number of workers receiving these benefits.

  • PUA recipients — who can span from lawyers who can't be in court to salon stylists — have a different kind of job search experience.

  • "Someone who is self employed is not looking for a job, they're looking for a customer," Edwards says.

The bottom line: There have been endless cliffs for the unemployed, heightening anxiety around being jobless during the pandemic. 

  • First: Millions watched their financial cushion dwindle when the additional $600 in payments expired. 

  • Then: The supplemental $300 in aid provided by President Trump's executive action dried up earlier this month for most states that offered it.

  • Now: An unemployment program helping keep Americans afloat is set to expire, and there’s little hope that Congress will act.

 
 

Marion County Easing Some, Not All, Pandemic Restrictions; Indy Middle Schoolers Heading Back to School


Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said Friday that he would ease some pandemic restrictions on businesses in Indianapolis, but not by as much as the rest of the state.

Starting Monday, he said:

  • Indianapolis restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other food businesses can operate at 50% indoor capacity and up to 100% outdoor capacity. That’s up from 25% for bars. Restaurants were already allowed to operate at 50% indoors. They will still be required to close at midnight.

  • Live entertainment can resume at bars, clubs and performance venues, but only with a 10-foot buffer between stages and audiences. Audiences must practice social distancing.

  • Museums, cultural and entertainment venues will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity.

  • Gyms and fitness centers may expand from 25% to 50% capacity.

  • Church and funeral services may be held indoors at 75% capacity.

  • Assisted living facilities may open for indoor visitation.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday he was moving Indiana to Stage 5 of the Back on Track recovery plan starting on Saturday, a move that essentially lifts all restrictions, except for some social distancing requirements and regulatory conditions for larger crowds. The state has been in Stage 4.5 since July 1.

Holcomb’s executive order allows local governments to impose more restrictive guidelines. Marion County has issued more stringent orders than the rest of the state throughout the pandemic.

Hogsett said Marion County’s seven-day COVID-19 testing-positivity rate has fallen to 4.8%, down from 5.6% at the beginning of the month. He said improving conditions made it possible to ease some restriction, but he wanted to see further improvement before fully opening to avoid a backslide. (Indianapolis Business Journal)

Meanwhile, middle school students in Marion County can now go back to school in-person, full time for the first time since the novel coronavirus pandemic closed schools more than six months ago.

While two Marion County districts – Indianapolis Public Schools and Washington Township – are still operating fully remote until next month, the rest have returned to in-person instruction and most are using hybrid schedules for their middle and high schools. Students are divided into groups that rotate between receiving instruction in-person and virtually.

High school students will still have to wait for the opportunity to be back in school full time, as Caine released new guidelines for their return Friday. The county’s positivity rate will need to stay at or below 5% and the average number of new cases per day will need to sit at 35 or below for two weeks, she said. (Indy Star)

 
 

Groups Sue to Stop Law that Could Invalidate Thousands of Indiana Mail-In Ballots


An estimated 10,000 Hoosiers’ mail-in absentee ballots were rejected as “late” during Indiana’s 2020 primary election under a disputed state law, suggesting multiple times more ballots could be thrown out in the Nov. 3 general election, groups challenging the law in federal court contend.

Those assertions are made in a brief filed on behalf of Common Cause Indiana and the Indiana Conference of the NAACP. The filing supports a request for an injunction that would block enforcement of an Indiana law requiring absentee ballots be received by election officials by noon on Election Day to be counted. Plaintiffs argue the postmark date, not the date a ballot was received, should determine whether a vote was timely cast.

Common Cause and NAACP sued in July, claiming the law unconstitutionally disenfranchises voters through no fault of their own who mailed their ballots on or before Election Day.

In Wednesday’s filing before Southern Indiana District Court Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker, Common Cause and the NAACP pointed to a sampling of rejected ballots from the 2020 primary—when all registered voters were permitted to vote by mail due to the pandemic.

The brief suggests a far greater number of ballots may be tossed out in the Nov. 3 election if the law is not blocked. Multiple times more Hoosiers will vote in the general election, and an unprecedented number are expected to cast ballots by mail because of the pandemic.

In arguing against the injunction, the Office of Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill asserted in a brief last week that “(g)ranting Plaintiffs the relief they seek would upend long-established election rules on the eve of an election, confusing voters and placing a significant strain on the system. Such results undermine, not further, the public interest.”

The state asserts that it requires most absentee ballots to be received by noon on Election Day to be counted, except for a small number from overseas voters. The deadline is extended 10 days to count overseas ballots that are postmarked by Election Day. Plaintiffs say any absentee ballot with a postmark on or before Election Day should be counted during that period — an argument Hill’s office rejects.

The plaintiffs, represented in this case by the Indianapolis firms of Macey Swanson and Findling Park Conyers Woody & Sniderman as well as the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, rejected the state’s claims that an injunction would confuse voters and undermine confidence in the election.

The lawsuit is one of several challenging Indiana elections laws, including another filed by Common Cause in which a judge on Tuesday blocked a unique-in-the-nation Indiana law that restricted who may petition a court to extend polling hours when voters have been deprived an opportunity to cast a ballot.

Perhaps most significantly among the unsettled Indiana voting lawsuits is a challenge that seeks to permit any registered Indiana voter to cast a ballot by mail. A district court judge upheld Indiana’s restrictions on absentee balloting, but the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals expedited the appeal, setting oral arguments for Sept. 30. (Indianapolis Business Journal)

 
 

Congressman Banks Receives Republican Study Committee Endorsement


The founders of the Republican Study Committee have endorsed Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) to become the conservative group’s next chairman, after meeting with him earlier this week, according to a letter. And Banks, who is running for this position unopposed, also chairs the Guardian Fund PAC this cycle and doled out $125,000 checks yesterday to GOP candidates that are veterans, per sources.

 
 

U.S. Parents Delaying Preschool, Kindergarten Amid Pandemic


Kindergarten isn’t required in most states, and even in normal times parents sometimes “red-shirt” children who would be young for their kindergarten class to give them an extra year of developmental readiness. But enrollment numbers have plunged in many places this fall as parents weigh health concerns and the prospect of helping young children to navigate distance learning while also holding onto their jobs.

In Los Angeles’ public schools, kindergarten enrollment is down about 6,000 students, or 14%. In Nashville, Tennessee, public kindergarten enrollment is down about 1,800 students, or 37%, from last year.

According to a University of Oregon survey conducted in early September with 1,000 parents from around the U.S., including 242 with a child who was supposed to start kindergarten this fall, 17% of respondents said they were delaying their children’s schooling. Among those, the most frequent reason cited was safety concerns, followed by concerns about managing virtual schooling and other responsibilities, according to Philip Fisher, a psychology professor at the university who is leading an effort to measure the effect of the pandemic on young children and their families.

Fisher said the vast majority of parents reported that they were making sure their kids were attending all of their virtual lessons and completing their coursework without the assistance of hired help or other adults, making juggling their own work a challenge. He said that parents are overwhelmed, particularly those in low-income communities where schools are more likely to be offering only remote instruction.

Only 17 states and Washington, D.C., require children to attend kindergarten, Markowitz said. Parents elsewhere can bypass kindergarten and just send their children to first grade next fall. In a typical year, only about 4% of children who are eligible to begin kindergarten are held back by their families, said Chloe Gibbs, a Notre Dame economist.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine released a report in July focused on younger children. Its advice was to prioritize the reopening of schools for children in kindergarten through fifth grade with well-funded safety measures in place. But since the report was released, high rates of community spread have made in-person learning more risky in many communities, turning young learners into virtual learning guinea pigs. (Indianapolis Business Journal)

 
 

Important Dates


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: 1,195

Total cumulative cases reported Friday: 115,407

Total cumulative cases reported Thursday: 114,236

Increase in cumulative cases: 1,171

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: 18

Total deaths: 3,340

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: 10,198

Total cumulative tested individuals reported Friday: 1,341,462

Total cumulative tested individuals reported Thursday: 1,331,608

Increase in cumulative tested individuals: 9,854

Cumulative positivity rate unique individuals: 8.6%

Seven-day positivity rate unique individuals: 7.1%**

Cumulative positivity rate all tests: 5.9%

Seven-day positivity rate all tests: 4.6%**

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: 21,196 (increase of 129)

Marion County new deaths: 1

Marion County cumulative deaths: 765

Marion County 7-day positivity rate unique individuals: 6.6%

Hamilton County cumulative cases: 4,848

Hendricks County cumulative cases: 2,715

Johnson County cumulative cases: 2,305

Madison County cumulative cases: 1,643

Boone County cumulative cases: 968

Hancock County cumulative cases: 921

Morgan County cumulative cases: 716

Shelby County cumulative cases: 672

Indiana Intensive Care Unit Usage

Available ICU beds: 38.3%

ICU beds in use by COVID-19 patients: 11.1%

Available ventilators: 80.9%

Ventilators in use for COVID-19: 2.9%

U.S. and Worldwide Numbers

As of Friday, from Johns Hopkins University:

U.S. cases: 6,987,129

U.S. deaths: 203,015

Global cases: 32,308,999

Global deaths: 984,278

Editor & Publisher

Founder of NUVO, a new voice for Indy, and first executive director of the non-profit, nuvo.net. My purpose is to increase civic participation through informed storytelling and the search for common ground through dialogue.