Originally Posted Friday, February 05, 2010

We could be moving close to a big change in the school year in Indiana. The State Senate has passed a bill that would ban most public schools from starting classes before Labor Day, and if the Democrat-led House approves it, Governor Mitch Daniels says he would sign it. Daniels says the bill keeps local control of class calendars while setting a statewide framework, so school does not start too early. Supporters say starting classes after Labor Day would give families more summer vacation time and reduce air-conditioning costs. The bill faces an uncertain future in the House.

Former Indiana Senator Dan Coats, who wants his old job back, only has 11 days to get 45-hundred signatures to get on the Republican May primary ballot. Those names all have to be from certified registered voters, with 500 from each of Indiana's nine congressional districts. WFRN spoke with Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute, who has joined the group of volunteers trying to scurry to get the signatures. Smith was a staffer for Coats for 11 years while he was in the U.S. House and Senate in the 1980s and 90s, serving as Coats' state and communication director. Smith believes Coats has the best chance for Republicans to knock Democrat Senator Evan Bayh out of office, even though Smith calls the four other Republicans running for the seat "very good candidates." Smith believes Americans have a deeper concern about the future of our country now that we're seeing the affects of the 2008 elections. Smith, who remains very close to Coats, says Coats has been thinking about another run for politics since last summer but quickly decided to get in the race against Bayh after Congressman Mike Pence's decision last week to seek his own re-election and rebuild the Republican party. Pence is considered a possible candidate for governor or even president in 2012.

The maker of the Humvee faces some uncertain times ahead. Earlier this week, the U.S. Army announced plans to stop buying the Humvee for its troops and instead in the 2011 budget will spend nearly a billion dollars to maintain its current fleet. The Humvee is made at AM General in Mishawaka, and spokeswoman Celeste Ross says the company is doing everything it can to work with Congress and the Army to make sure AM General can continue to produce the military vehicle in the future. Ross says there have been some recent layoffs, with 46 more coming up soon. AM General has produced Humvees for the military since 1985.

The U.S. House is just a few weeks away from holding hearings on Capitol Hill on our nation's military policy "don't ask, don't tell." That policy prohibits open homosexuals from serving in our armed forces, but President Obama wants to repeal the 17-year-old policy to the chagrin of lots of groups across the country. Family Research Institute Chairman Paul Cameron says our military should not be involved in social experiments while involved in fighting terrorism. Cameron also says homosexual soldiers are five times more likely to engage in sexual assault, lesbians 15 times more likely. Most pro-family groups say having open homosexuals serve in the military would damage troop morale and hurt recruiting.

If you're driving south, be prepared for some rough driving. The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for Central Indiana, with snow accumulations of four to eight inches. The heaviest snow is expected to fall this (Friday) afternoon and into the evening hours. The Kokomo area could have three inches, and the amount of snow increases the further you go south. We could have a little snow in extreme Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan, but not much accumulation.

We could see a battle over gambling in the Indiana House over the next couple of weeks. A number of casinos along Lake Michigan are hoping to move inland, despite the State Senate's recent move to remove the land-based provisions from a gambling bill in the Senate. Democrats, though, could revive it in the House, which opponents say would amount to an expansion of land-based casinos in Indiana. Republican House Minority Leader Brian Bosma says he plans to fight any efforts to pass legislation that would allow riverboats to move onto dry land.

A proposed statewide smoking ban authored by a lawmaker who complains it's too watered down will likely die in the Indiana Senate. The House recently voted 73-to-26 to pass the measure after it was expanded to allow smokers to keep "lighting up" at casinos, horse tracks, bars, some small businesses and VFW and American Legion halls. Senate President Pro Tem David Long says it could be years before a statewide public smoking ban is approved by the General Assembly. The bill's author, Gary House Democrat Charlie Brown, is troubled by the exemptions but says it's the first step towards a more comprehensive smoking ban.

If you've got a child in school, you might want to set the game clock for college. So many kids wait to start preparing for college when they get into high school, but Bill Stanczykiewicz of the Indiana Youth Institute tells WFRN that process should start during the middle school years. Stanczkiewicz urges you, if you're the parent of a sixth-grader to start working on academic study skills. In the seventh-grade, make sure your child is taking courses as rigorous as possible, and the eighth-grade, be talking with your child about whether or not he or she wants to pursue the Core 40 honors diploma or regular diploma to prepare for college. Only half of Indiana's college students graduate, and Stanczykiewicz hopes to see that number improve.

An Elkhart man is facing a whopping 110 years in prison on drug-related charges. Police say 54-year-old Melvin Hines' home was a major marijuana distribution center in Elkhart County. Authorities confiscated 45 pounds of marijuana, ten grams of cocaine and 17-thousand dollars in cash when they searched his home. Hines' trial date is set for June 21st.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is headed to Miami for the Super Bowl, but the trip won't be all football. Daniels' schedule includes economic development meetings and a meeting with members of the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee. Indy will host the Super Bowl in 2012.

Students in the Indianapolis schools get to sleep in on Monday because of the Super Bowl. Three years ago when the Colts played in the Super Bowl against the Bears, lots of bus drivers called in sick the next day, forcing schools to cancel classes. School officials in Indy wanted to delay the start of class this coming Monday two hours. The State Department of Education would not allow it, saying it would leave Indy schools short of the hours required for instruction. So instead, they will open one hour later than normal Monday and extend the school day 30 minutes.

...In Sports...

When you put Purdue and IU together, who knows what's going to happen. Seventh-ranked Purdue went into Bloomington a big favorite to beat the Indiana Hoosiers and escaped for their first win at Assembly Hall since 1999. IU missed a three-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime, and the Boilers won 78-75 for their fifth straight victory. Juniors Robbie Hummel and JuJuan Johnson each scored 21 points in the Purdue win. Verdell Jones had 22 for IU.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish had lost four of their last five games but are feeling a lot better about themselves this morning. That's because the Irish dismantled Cincinnati at the Joyce Center in front of a national television audience Thursday night, 83-65. Notre Dame evens its Big East record at 5-and-5 with the win. Luke Harangody dropped in 37 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the win for the Irish.

The 15th-ranked Butler Bulldogs notched their 11th straight win with a 63-58 homecourt win over Detroit. Butler is now 12-and-0 in the Horizon League, 19-and-4 overall.

With Super Bowl 44 just two days away, Indianapolis Colts fans are anxious to see if All-Pro defensive end Dwight Freeney will be able to play against the New Orleans Saints. Freeney injured his right ankle against the Jets in the AFC Championship game and remains questionable for the Super Bowl. Earlier this week, Freeney said he would wait to test out the ankle until Saturday, but yesterday, he proclaimed he would try out the injury a day sooner today. Freeney says the ankle feels better each day but admits he is still sore.

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