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Brandon Smith / http://www.ipbs.org/

Governor Mike Pence’s fiscal leadership team is getting a shake-up as longtime advisor Chris Atkins leaves the administration for the private sector. 

Chris Atkins has been with the Pence team since the 2012 campaign, serving as a senior advisor for Pence’s gubernatorial run. 

He’s led the Office of Management and Budget since Pence took office and previously served at the agency under Governor Mitch Daniels. 

Indiana Department of Administration

Changes to Indiana’s ethics statutes passed by the legislature this year are prompting state agencies to officially adopt policies about employees using state property for personal use.  But very little will actually change.

The legislation approved by the General Assembly requires the State Ethics Commission to approve all state agencies’ policies barring employees from using state property for personal use.  But as Ethics Director Jen Cooper told the commission at its meeting Thursday, agencies already had those rules in place.

Legislation Encourages Indiana to Think Regionally

Jun 4, 2015
Eric Allix Rogers / https://www.flickr.com/photos/reallyboring/5994901568

On the shoreline of Whiting, Indiana – Lake Michigan splashes against the rocks. Between the Chicago skyline to the west and the BP Whiting Refinery to the east lies the new Whiting Lakefront Park. Chain link fences surround a soon-to-be-unveiled gazebo, pier and garden.

Al Renda, a lifelong resident of Whiting, walks through the park as part of his daily routine. He says the recent improvements are marvelous.

“I would say in my lifetime it’s probably better than it’s ever been,” Renda says.

Steve Baker / https://www.flickr.com/photos/littlebiglens/6105159838

State police say the lapse of Patriot Act surveillance provisions has no direct impact on intelligence gathering at the state level. The Patriot Act clarified and expanded rules for federal eavesdropping, not state and local departments. State Police do operate a so-called "fusion center" which receives and coordinates intel from all levels, including federal, but spokesman Dave Bursten says any effect from the Patriot Act would be indirect.

ISTEP, Smoking And More To Be Studied By Legislature

May 29, 2015
MilitaryHealth / https://www.flickr.com/photos/militaryhealth

ISTEP testing, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and redistricting are among more than 40 topics assigned to legislative study committees this summer. Legislators will review some topics they started to address in this year‘s session, including needle exchange programs, and some they deliberately put off for more study, like replacing ISTEP with a shorter test. House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says the ISTEP review will be of particular interest.

Jim Grey / https://www.flickr.com/photos/mobilene/

Legislative leaders and the governor entered the 2015 Indiana General Assembly, declaring it an “education session” and saying there was work to be done addressing worrisome topics such as infant mortality rates.

Many of the education issues got buried under the political sparring between GOP leaders and Democratic state superintendent Glenda Ritz. And most other legislation missed out on coverage because of debate over the state’s so-called “religious freedom” bill.

Ken Walton / https://www.flickr.com/photos/kenwalton/15726458855/

The common construction wage is a kind of minimum wage for construction workers on public projects.  The wage is set for each project by a local board.  In a statement announcing he signed the bill repealing the common wage, Governor Pence says wages should be set by the marketplace, not government bureaucracy. 

He says repealing the system puts taxpayers first.  But opponents of the repeal say ending the common wage will create more economic disparity, driving more public projects into the hands of out-of-state workers.

Ars Electronica / https://www.flickr.com/photos/arselectronica/7406755896/

An Indiana tech expert is speaking out on the Federal Aviation Administration‘s new Pathfinder drone program.

Ball State University Director of Emerging Technologies Jonathan Blake Huer calls the program a "good step in the right direction." Huer says the explosion in the number of drones and all sorts of concerns surrounding them are causing the FAA to move quickly on new regulations.

“The FAA is trying to be a regulating body that works and clarify rules that still keep the public appropriately safe,” Huer says.

Indiana Department of Administration

Governor Pence says the Indiana Economic Development Corporation has spent months traveling around the country, talking to leaders in areas that adopted a regional economic development approach.  And he says the IEDC will be spreading the lessons learned from those talks across Indiana as the Regional Cities Initiative is rolled out. 

While the program will force regions to compete for relatively limited dollars, Pence says his hope is that it also helps end some competition:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/larry84988/5629533329
Larry Amaloo

  Local mayors say education and mass transit are two areas they’re glad to see getting more funding in the new two-year state budget passed this week.

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski (D) is especially pleased with the education funding.

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

Governor Mike Pence was able to declare almost total victory Thursday in the wake of the 2015 session despite early skepticism from the General Assembly for much of his agenda -- in part because he took so much criticism for his handling of the state's so-called "religious freedom" bill.

Gretchen Frazee / Indiana Public Broadcasting

Republican lawmakers and the governor say while the controversy around the religious freedom law overshadowed a part of the session, they’re confident its shadow will fade over time.  Democrats agree, but for a different reason.

Governor Mike Pence says he regrets not being able to foresee the controversy that erupted over the religious freedom law known as RFRA.

“And as I’ve said, I regret the difficulty that Indiana passed through during a time of great misunderstanding about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act," Pence says.

Jim Grey / https://www.flickr.com/photos/mobilene/

The budget deal announced last night isn‘t final yet. Governor Pence spent about 40 minutes behind closed doors with House and Senate leaders and legislative and administration fiscal analysts today working out the final numbers.

House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says the last-minute snags aren‘t significant -- he says there will be changes to what he calls "limitations and line items" that came to light after the administration and other stakeholders were able to read through the entire 250-page document. He says the broad outlines of the bill will remain the same.

Lawmakers Could Finish Budget Deal Today

Apr 28, 2015
Jim Nix / https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimnix/5039079018

The specifics of a new state budget are expected today. House and Senate leaders have pledged to give legislators 24 hours to look over the budget before a vote.

With the session required to end tomorrow, that makes today the deadline, and House Speaker Brian Bosma says he expects a bill to be made public this afternoon.

The House and Senate proposed about the same total spending, but had slightly different school funding formulas. And Bosma says he’s still looking for more money for charter schools.

Gretchen Frazee / http://www.ipbs.org/

State school superintendent Glenda Ritz would remain chair of the State Board of Education until after she wins or loses reelection next year, under the latest version of a bill to end the feuding between Ritz and the board.

The board would undergo changes first. The bill shrinks it from 11 members to nine starting in June, and shifts two appointments from the governor to the House speaker and Senate president pro tem.

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