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GOP touts state’s No. 1 ranking by US News

March 5, 2017 GMT

When U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Indiana No. 1 on its list of “Best States,” Republican politicians sent out a host of tweets and press releases hailing the honor.

The ranking was based on several categories including fiscal stability, budget transparency, government digitalization and state integrity.

“Through years of conservative and commonsense actions taken by the Republican-led General Assembly and executive branch, we have reduced the size of government, streamlined services and supported sound fiscal policies that have put Indiana in the national spotlight,” said Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne. “I am committed to continuing this momentum and making sure our state government is accountable and transparent to Hoosier taxpayers.”

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But while Indiana topped the state government category, and ranked 4th in opportunity, it did pretty miserably elsewhere in the rankings.

* 41st in health care

* 27th in education

* 33rd in crime and corrections

* 20th in infrastructure

* 26th in economy

All of that led to an overall ranking of 22nd for the Hoosier state.

Simplicity reigns

It’s harder than it sounds to write a public question for Hoosiers to consider on the statewide ballot next year.

Lawmakers this session are finalizing the second of a three-part process to amend Indiana’s Constitution with a balanced budget amendment.

Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, is carrying Senate Bill 222 – which establishes the exact wording voters will see.

The first attempt was a bit rough – with Sen Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, saying citizens would be hard-pressed to understand any of it.

“Shall the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended by amending Article 10, Section 5 to provide that: (1) the amount of the appropriations enacted in a biennial budget may not exceed the estimated revenue of the State in the biennial budget period; (2) the State budget must appropriate for the State’s prefunded pension funds the amount necessary to actuarially fund the accrued liability of all such pension funds during the budget period; (3) if expenses exceed actual revenue received by the State when reconciled at the close of a biennial budget period, the subsequent biennial budget must subtract any shortfall from the projected revenue available for that subsequent biennial budget; (4) any of the foregoing provisions may be suspended if at least two-thirds of the members of each of the houses of the General Assembly vote to suspend the provision; and (5) the remedies a court may order are restricted if it finds a violation of the amended constitutional section?”

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Thankfully it has been reduced to this:

“Shall Article 10, Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended to require the General Assembly to adopt balanced budgets for state government that do not exceed estimated revenues unless a super­majority of two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the members of the Senate vote to suspend the requirement?”

Homeless shelter acceptance

A Fort Wayne City Council member rebutted allegations that a warming center for homeless women and women with children refused to accept more than two people on a cold night.

Speaking during the council’s public comment period, local activist Sally Segerson on Tuesday night referenced an email thread in which she said she was informed that a warming center would only take two women. Segerson did not identify the organization in question or state the date on which the described interaction occurred.

Segerson is the founder of Street Reach for the Homeless.

In response, Councilman Geoff Paddock, who is on the city’s Planning Council for Homelessness, said he has spoken with the Just Neighbors Interfaith Network about their warming center and did not receive any indication that anyone had been turned away.

The Just Neighbors Interfaith Network operates a shelter for women and children as part of an agreement with the city of Fort Wayne.

“I don’t know of anybody … that’s been turned away,” Paddock said. “Just the contrary, his doors have been open.”

Student attends Trump address

Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, took a high school student as his guest for President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night.

Banks’ office said he was accompanied by James Romano, 16, a Columbia City native who attends Canterbury High School in Fort Wayne.

Romano said in a statement from Banks’ office, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a front row seat to history.”

Romano “has shown an acute interest in the political process,” Banks’ office said, and he and Banks share an interest in Thomas Riley Marshall, a Columbia City resident who was vice president from 1913 to 1921.

Romano, the son of Anthony and Jennifer Romano, writes for his high school’s newspaper and is involved in student government. He traveled to Washington and back by train.

Dave Gong contributed to this report

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can also be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.