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From teacher pay to elections: The top central Indiana political stories of 2020

Posted at 3:16 PM, Dec 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-29 15:16:36-05

INDIANAPOLIS – 2020 was a year unlike any other in local politics.

It began with an ordinary legislative session, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw everything afterward for a loop, as it did with everybody’s lives during the year.

Here’s a look at the top local political stories of 2020. Click each title for more information on each story.

Fight over teacher pay

After the RedforEd rally in 2019, both political parties said they heard teachers’ demands for more pay in 2020. But Democrats’ plans weren’t seriously heard by the Republican supermajority. Gov. Eric Holcomb released a plan for 2021 that involves spending some of the state’s surplus money, but it’s unclear how COVID-19 will affect those plans.

Pregnancy accommodations

One of Holcomb’s 2020 priorities was getting reasonable accommodations for pregnant women in the workplace, such as more frequent or longer breaks or a temporary transfer to a less strenuous position. But most Indiana Senate Republicans voted to strip the bill and turn it into a study committee, which didn’t even end up happening either. Holcomb will try again in 2021 and has added it to his agenda.

Law to criminalize panhandling in Indianapolis

A controversial bill that would effectively ban panhandling in Indianapolis in 2020 passed the legislature and was signed by Holcomb. It would’ve made it illegal to panhandle within 50 feet of a parking meter, parking garage, ATM, restaurant entrances and public monuments.

Before it went into effect, the ACLU sued to keep it from becoming law. Southern District of Indiana Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson agreed with the ACLU and blocked the law. "This case is not a close call,” she wrote in her opinion.

Todd Rokita’s return

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita won nomination to be his party’s nominee for attorney general, beating incumbent Curtis Hill and two other challengers. Rokita served as Indiana’s secretary of state from 2003-11, then as a U.S. Representative from 2011-19. As secretary of state, Rokita helped implement Indiana's voter photo identification law, one of the first in the country.

The last two years of Hill’s tenure was marred by sexual misconduct allegations. Hill was accused of inappropriately touching four women at a party at AJ’s Lounge on March 15, 2018. His law license was suspended for 30 days.

Rokita defeated former Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel in the general election.

Delayed primary election with 20 candidates running in one race

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the primary election, originally set for May 5 to June 2. In that primary election, 20 candidates ran for the ticket in Indiana’s 5th Congressional District. Former State Rep. Christina Hale and State Sen. Victoria Spartz won the Democratic and Republican tickets, respectively.

General Election Day

In the 2020 election, statewide Republicans won big. Republican candidates for governor and attorney general beat their challengers to win office.

In the 5th Congressional District, Republican Victoria Spartz won, keeping the seat heavily challenged by Democrats. Republicans also picked up four net seats in the Indiana House of Representatives. Democrats gained a seat in the Indiana Senate.