Countdown to Election Day: 55 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:

  • D.C. Update: Senate Returns to Washington

  • Merritt Stepping Down

  • College Coronavirus Meltdown

  • Drug Companies Issue Rare Joint Pledge on Vaccine Safety Amid Political Fears

  • Indianapolis to Use $7.1 Million in Federal Grants to House 500 Homeless Households

  • Discord Over State and Local Funds Plagues Coronavirus Talks

  • Pete Buttigieg Reportedly Joins Joe Biden Presidential Transition Team

  • Important Dates

  • Daily Numbers

    Let’s dive in.

 
 

D.C. Update - Senate Returns to Washington


The Senate returns to Washington this Tuesday afternoon to consider five judicial nominations. Senate Republicans are also expected to unveil a new skinny COVID relief package as they try to develop a package with the support of 51 members of their Conference. The legislation is expected to include $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits until December 27, $105 billion in funding for schools, additional funding for the expired Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), an additional $10 billion for the United States Postal Service, and liability protections in an effort to protect businesses and schools from frivolous lawsuits.  

Though additional COVID stimulus remains a priority for Congress, the body also must fund the government and extend surface transportation funding by September 30th, the end of the government’s fiscal year. Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer have indicated that they do not support combining a COVID package with a government funding bill.  With relatively few legislative days this month, a combined package may be necessary should congressional negotiators and the White House reach a deal on COVID legislation.  As of today, there is still a substantial distance on priority issues.

The House will remain out of session this week but will conduct committee hearings.

 
 

Merritt Stepping Down


Republican State Senator Jim Merritt is stepping down. 

Merritt, who served in the General Assembly since 1990 and who also ran for Mayor of Indianapolis in 2019, will be leaving his post in November.

Merritt is the longest-serving current State Senator and has been caucus chairman since 2004, serving in that post longer than anyone else.

While in the legislature, Merritt served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Utilities, and as a member of the Senate Committees on Commerce and Technology, Homeland Security and Transportation, Public Policy, Rules, and Legislative Procedure, and Veterans Affairs and the Military.

Merritt is known mostly for Indiana’s Lifeline Law, which allows for underage Hoosiers to call or text 911 in an effort to save the life of an inebriated minor friend without fear of prosecution. 

Merritt ran for Mayor last year against incumbent Joe Hogsett.  Hogsett won with about 70-percent of the vote.

It is unclear what Merritt plans to exactly do after stepping down.  However, sources say he plans to continue his public service.

With two more years still left on his term, his replacement would be voted in by a caucus of Republican precinct committeepeople. (Indy Politics)

 
 

College Coronavirus Meltdown


Tens of thousands of college students across the country have gotten infected with the coronavirus, and thousands more are being sent home to potentially spread the virus to their families and communities, Caitlin Owens writes

  • Why it matters: These concentrated outbreaks — and any subsequent mishandling of them — could fuel larger outbreaks across the country as we head into a fall that's already expected to be extremely difficult.

Colleges and universities have found at least 51,000 coronavirus cases already, according to a campus tracker the N.Y. Times built (subscription).

  • Each of these schools has reported more than 1,000 cases: Illinois State University, the University of South Carolina, Auburn University, the University of Alabama, and UNC-Chapel Hill. (Axios)

 
 

Drug Companies Issue Rare Joint Pledge on Vaccine Safety Amid Political Fears


Nine pharmaceutical companies on Tuesday issued a rare joint pledge seeking to reassure the public about the safety and efficacy of their potential vaccines for coronavirus. 

The statement from the top drug companies working on coronavirus vaccines, including Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, comes amid fears of political pressure from President Trump on the vaccine approval process and doubts among the public about taking a vaccine. 

The joint pledge states that the companies will not seek Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for their vaccines until a rigorous phase 3 clinical trial shows that it is safe and that it works. 

The companies pledged they would “only submit for approval or emergency use authorization after demonstrating safety and efficacy through a Phase 3 clinical study that is designed and conducted to meet requirements of expert regulatory authorities such as FDA.”

The companies said they would “always make the safety and well-being of vaccinated individuals our top priority.”

Highlighting the fears of political interference, Trump on Monday floated the idea of having a vaccine before Election Day on Nov. 3. "We're going to have a vaccine very soon. Maybe even before a very special date. You know what date I'm talking about,” he said at a news conference. 

Trump has put pressure on the FDA before, saying that the “deep state” at the agency was throwing up roadblocks before the agency issued emergency authorization for a coronavirus treatment known as convalescent plasma. 

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn has also offered reassurances that his agency will base vaccine decisions only on science and not on politics. (The Hill)

 
 

Indianapolis to Use $7.1 Million in Federal Grants to House 500 Homeless Households


The city of Indianapolis on Tuesday announced it would spend $7.1 million of federal funding on a homeless initiative that should help 500 households find permanent housing.

Using $7 million of Emergency Shelter Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city has partnered with Merchants Affordable Housing and the Coalition for Homelessness Prevention and Intervention to rapidly rehouse 500 individuals or families currently experiencing homelessness. Roughly $5.4 million will be spent on 12 months of rental assistance for people experiencing homelessness, $1 million will go to supportive services and up to $700,000 will be spent on administrative costs.

Rapid rehousing is an evidence-based best practice that has been the primary solution for ending homelessness for years, Chelsea Haring-Cozzi, director of CHIP, said Tuesday. It provides short- to medium-term rental assistance and supportive services to help people obtain housing quickly while increasing self-sufficiency. It is offered without pre-conditions, such as employment or sobriety.

Haring-Cozzi said 90% of people housed through rapid-rehousing programs are still sheltered after two years and do not return to homelessness.

The effort has three components: Working with landlords to find apartments, providing rental assistance and connecting people to services, such as employment.

Merchants Affordable Housing will work to identify available apartment units and will also serve as the fiscal agent and has created a separate entity to fulfill those duties.

The funding will serve 350 people or families currently living in non-congregate shelters, especially those at risk of contracting COVID-19 and dying, and 150 unsheltered households that face high barriers to finding housing.

The funding comes in addition to $2.7 million in CARES Act funding awarded earlier this summer to eight local homeless prevention organizations and the Indy Continuum of Care, and $650,000 that went to Horizon House to expand permanent supportive housing services.

The city also invested in public restrooms and handwashing stations that have been set up around the city and booking hotels for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. (Indianapolis Business Journal)

 
 

Discord Over State and Local Funds Plagues Coronavirus Talks


Negotiators seeking to strike a deal on a stalled coronavirus relief bill risk additional economic bruising unless they come to agreement on providing fiscal aid to state and local governments, which remains the largest stumbling block in talks between Democrats and the White House.

Republicans insist that $150 billion in additional aid will be enough to help state and local governments fill in their budgetary shortfall, and have railed against what they call a "blue state bailout" for governments they say were already fiscally irresponsible before the pandemic.

Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing for $900 billion in aid — a figure Republicans call outlandish — saying that without it the country faces a longer and weaker comeback. Some economists say scant federal aid to state and local governments in 2009 hampered the last recovery.

How the government ultimately responds to the partisan impasse — or fails to respond — will be critical for the economy, and could have significant implications for November’s election.

Without federal aid, states could resort to cutting back employment and services in education, transportation, infrastructure and other key fields. (The Hill)

 
 

Pete Buttigieg Reportedly Joins Joe Biden Presidential Transition Team


Former presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend Pete Buttigieg joined Democratic nominee Joe Biden's presidential transition team, according to reports by CNN, Bloomberg, and other media outlets.

An Afghanistan war veteran, Buttigieg would serve in a 15-person advisory board alongside former national security adviser Susan Rice; Vivek Murthy, the US surgeon general under former President Barack Obama, and Sally Yates, former deputy attorney general, among others.

On Thursday Biden signed a memorandum of understanding with President Donald Trump’s General Services Administration to begin planning for a potential handover of power should Biden win the November election.

The document is required under the Presidential Transition Act and formalizes how the federal government will go about assisting Biden’s transition team ahead of Election Day. (Indy Star)

 
 

Important Dates


Wednesday, September 9 - 9:00 am - Legislative Continuity Committee - Room 233

Wednesday, September 9 - 2:00 pm - Legislative Council, Audit and Financial Reporting Subcommittee - House Chamber

Thursday, September 10 - 1:00 pm - Roads and Transportation Interim Study Committee - Room 233

Tuesday, September 15 - 11:00 am - Corrections and Criminal Code Interim Study Committee - House Chamber

Wednesday, September 16 - 10:00 am - Agriculture and Natural Resources Interim Study Committee - Senate Chamber

Wednesday, September 16 - 10:00 am - Public Safety and Military Affairs Interim Study Committee - House Chamber

Thursday, September 17 - 10:00 am - 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force - Senate Chamber

Thursday, September 17 - 10:00 am - Public Health, Behavioral Health, and Human Services Interim Study Committee - House Chamber

Tuesday, September 22 - 11:00 am - Corrections and Criminal Code Interim Study Committee - House Chamber

Wednesday, September 23 - 10:00 am                                                                 Pension Management Oversight Study Committee - Room 404

Thursday, September 24 - 10:00 am - Public Safety and Military Affairs 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

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 - 10:00 am - 21st Century Energy Policy Development Policy Task Force - House Chamber

Tuesday, October 6 - 11:00 am - Corrections and Criminal Code 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

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

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

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

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: 394

Total cumulative cases reported Tuesday: 100,780

Total cumulative cases reported Monday: 100,394

Increase in cumulative cases: 386

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: 12

Total deaths: 3,156

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: 4,635

Total cumulative tested individuals reported Tuesday: 1,150,863

Total cumulative tested individuals reported Monday: 1,146,572

Increase in cumulative tested individuals: 4,291

Cumulative positivity rate unique individuals: 8.8%

Seven-day positivity rate unique individuals: 7.5%

Cumulative positivity rate all tests: 6.6%

Seven-day positivity rate all tests: 5.6%

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

County Numbers

Marion County cumulative cases: 19,307 (increase of 35)

Marion County new deaths: 0

Marion County cumulative deaths: 750

Marion County 7-day positivity rate unique individuals: 7.5%

Hamilton County cumulative cases: 4,241

Hendricks County cumulative cases: 2,467

Johnson County cumulative cases: 2,096

Madison County cumulative cases: 1,418

Boone County cumulative cases: 892

Hancock County cumulative cases: 849

Morgan County cumulative cases: 625

Shelby County cumulative cases: 638

Indiana Intensive Care Unit Usage

Available ICU beds: 43.4%

ICU beds in use by COVID-19 patients: 10.6%

Available ventilators: 82.3%

Ventilators in use for COVID-19: 2.2%

U.S. and Worldwide Numbers

As of Tuesday, from Johns Hopkins University:

U.S. cases: 6,306,412

U.S. deaths: 189,283

Global cases: 27,382,880

Global deaths: 893,658