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Indiana Democrats bracing for Republican redistricting plan

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s significant population shifts over the past decade mean rural areas will lose seats in the state Legislature while Indianapolis and its surrounding suburbs will gain influence.

Republicans, however, can be expected to use their iron-clad control of the once-a-decade redistricting process to draw new election districts for Indiana House and Senate seats that help maintain their commanding majorities in the General Assembly.

Democratic Rep. Sue Errington knows that the Muncie district she first won in 2012 could be on the chopping block when Republicans release on Tuesday the proposed new Indiana House and U.S. House maps that they’ve drawn behind closed doors.

Errington’s district lost 7 percent of its population since 2010 for one of the largest drops among the 100 Indiana House seats, according to a census analysis by City University of New York. It is surrounded by Republican-held districts that also lost population and have to gain territory, making Errington a potential target.

“If they were ready to get rid of me, it would be pretty easy,” Errington said.

Voting-rights activists argue that partisan gerrymandering has helped Indiana Republicans gain outsized power in state government. Over the past decade, Republicans have ousted all Democrats from rural legislative districts across the state as they’ve built majorities of 71-29 in the House and 39-11 in the Senate.

Republicans have used the full legislative supermajorities they’ve held since the 2012 elections to advance issues such as expanding state funding of vouchers for students attending private schools, toughening anti-abortion laws and approving the contentious state religious objections law in 2015.

Republicans might have to shed some of their rural districts as more than half of the state’s 92 counties lost residents over the past decade. But the fastest-growing areas are also friendly Republican territory, with all five state House districts that grew by more than 20 percent being GOP-held seats in suburban Indianapolis.

Republican state Rep. Tim Wesco of Osceola, chairman of the House elections committee, said he anticipated some dramatic changes in legislative district maps.

“You’re definitely going to see some of these districts that already have quite a few counties, probably gain a few more counties and expand,” Wesco said.

Republicans plan to move quickly to approve the new districts, with the House elections committee holding two days of public hearings Wednesday and Thursday followed by votes in the full House next week. Proposed state Senate maps are set for release Sept. 21, with a final Senate vote expected Oct. 1.

Democrats and voting-right activists have criticized that fast-tracked process as giving the public little time to study and comment on the new maps.

While Democratic-leaning Indianapolis and Marion County gained more people than any other Indiana county, the new district maps from Republicans will likely combine parts of the city with outlying suburban and rural areas in order to dilute the Democratic vote, said Charles Taylor, a member of the unofficial Indiana Citizens Redistricting Commission organized by voting-rights groups.

“There’s no reason to expect that they won’t want to just kind of double down on that,” said Taylor, who is a political science professor at Ball State University. “But they’re going to have to do it even more aggressively, because of the growth in the urban areas and the population decline in the rural areas.”

Several religious leaders recently gathered at the Indiana Statehouse to denounce gerrymandering, saying that it threatened to limit the influence of the state’s growing minority populations in the Legislature.

“Ultimately, you’re suggesting that some people do not have the same image of God that is in you,” said the Rev. David Greene, a Baptist minister who is president of the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis civil rights group. “We must understand that gerrymandering is political and theological idolatry.”

Population losses in four Indiana House districts in northern Lake County now held by Black Democrats could cut into minority representation, even as Black population’s share in the state grew from 9.0 percent in 2010 to 9.4 percent in 2020 and the Hispanic share grew from 6.0 percent to 8.2 percent.

The district held by Democratic Rep. Earl Harris of East Chicago sustained a 10 percent population loss for the biggest drop of any district. Harris, vice chairman of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, said he’s concerned about diminished minority representation following redistricting.

“If you eliminate voices, I think that makes the state weaker,” Harris said.

Errington, the Muncie legislator, said she felt “the handwriting is on the wall” on the intentions of Republicans but that she was encouraged by greater public attention on redistricting as several hundred people attending public hearings around the state last month.

“My hope is that the public voice will have some influence,” Errington said. “Maybe that will give some pressure to moderate some of their tendencies on gerrymandering.”

Report: Climate change could see 200 million move by 2050

BARCELONA, Spain — Climate change could push more than 200 million people to leave their homes in the next three decades and create migration hot spots unless urgent action is taken to reduce global emissions and bridge the development gap, a World Bank report has found.

The second part of the Groundswell report published Monday examined how the impacts of slow-onset climate change such as water scarcity, decreasing crop productivity and rising sea levels could lead to millions of what it describes as “climate migrants” by 2050 under three different scenarios with varying degrees of climate action and development.

Under the most pessimistic scenario, with a high level of emissions and unequal development, the report forecasts up to 216 million people moving within their own countries across the six regions analyzed. Those regions are Latin America; North Africa; Sub-Saharan Africa; Eastern Europe and Central Asia; South Asia; and East Asia and the Pacific.

In the most climate-friendly scenario, with a low level of emissions and inclusive, sustainable development, the world could still see 44 million people being forced to leave their homes.

The findings “reaffirm the potency of climate to induce migration within countries,” said Viviane Wei Chen Clement, a senior climate change specialist at the World Bank and one of the report’s authors.

The report didn’t look at the short-term impacts of climate change, such as the effects of extreme weather events, and did not look at climate migration across borders.

In the worst-case scenario, Sub-Saharan Africa – the most vulnerable region due to desertification, fragile coastlines and the population’s dependence on agriculture – would see the most migrants, with up to 86 million people moving within national borders.

North Africa, however, is predicted to have the largest proportion of climate migrants, with 19 million people moving, equivalent to roughly 9 percent of its population, due mainly to increased water scarcity in northeastern Tunisia, northwestern Algeria, western and southern Morocco, and the central Atlas foothills, the report said.

In South Asia, Bangladesh is particularly affected by flooding and crop failures, accounting for almost half of the predicted climate migrants, with 19.9 million people, including an increasing number of women, moving by 2050 under the pessimistic scenario.

“This is our humanitarian reality right now and we are concerned this is going to be even worse, where vulnerability is more acute,” said Prof. Maarten van Aalst, director of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, who wasn’t involved with the report.

Many scientists say the world is no longer on track to the worst-case scenario for emissions. But even under a more moderate scenario, van Aalst said many impacts are now occurring faster than previously expected, “including the extremes we are already experiencing, as well as potential implications for migration and displacement.”

While climate change’s influence on migration is not new, it is often part of a combination of factors pushing people to move, and acts as a threat multiplier. People affected by conflicts and inequality are also more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change as they have limited means to adapt.

“Globally we know that three out of four people that move stay within countries,” said Dr. Kanta Kumari Rigaud, a lead environmental specialist at the World Bank and co-author of the report.

The report also warns that migration hot spots could appear within the next decade and intensify by 2050. Planning is needed both in the areas where people will move to, and in the areas they leave to help those who remain.

Among the actions recommended were achieving “net zero emissions by mid-century to have a chance at limiting global warming to 1.5° degrees Celsius” and investing in development that is “green, resilient, and inclusive, in line with the Paris Agreement.”

Clement and Rigaud warned that the worst-case scenario is still plausible if collective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in development isn’t taken soon, especially in the next decade.


Read more of AP’s climate coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/Climate

Read more of AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

Marine's body returned to Indiana hometown with procession

LOGANSPORT (AP) — The body of a Marine who was among 13 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing during the U.S.-run evacuation at Afghanistan’s Kabul airport was returned Sunday to his northern Indiana hometown.

A military procession marked the beginning of memorial services for Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, of Logansport.

Sanchez’s body arrived Sunday morning at Grissom Air Reserve Base near Peru, about 80 miles north of Indianapolis. The procession then headed about 20 miles to Logansport.

People lined the route to show their respects, many with American flags, and jets flew overhead as the procession approached downtown Logansport. It stopped briefly downtown, where the hearse carrying Sanchez’s body paused under a garrison flag. The procession included Indiana State Police and vehicles carrying Sanchez’s family, followed by thousands of motorcycles.

Sanchez was among 17 members of his Logansport High School class who joined the military after their 2017 graduation. He died in the Aug. 26 attack in Kabul, where he had been transferred after serving as a U.S. embassy guard in Jordan, according to his obituary.

A public visitation is scheduled for Monday at LifeGate Church in Logansport. The funeral is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday the church. Burial will follow at Mount Hope Cemetery.

Benavidez sentenced for city hall incident

A Rochester man who was irate about having discolored water at his house and took his anger out on city employees is serving 180 days on probation.

Edward L. Benavidez, 630 E. 17th St., was found guilty of battery and criminal mischief during a June 11 bench trial in front of Fulton Superior Court Judge Greg Heller.

He was sentenced in August to concurrent terms of 180 days, with credit for four days served and 172 days suspended for each.

Benavidez and his attorney, Joshua P. Stein, appeared telephonically for the Aug. 17 sentencing hearing.

Special terms of his probation include not being allowed to enter Rochester City Hall or the Rochester Water Plant, having no direct or indirect contact with city employee Chris Bryant or her family, paying restitution in the amount of $71.70 to the city of Rochester and completing anger management classes.

Additionally, Benavidez was ordered to pay a fine of $1 and court costs of $185.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Benavidez went to Rochester City Hall July 30, 2019, and threw a bucket of discolored water onto Bryant and her desk.

Earlier that day, he called the water department and city hall to complain about discoloration issues with his water. The problem with the water was reportedly explained.

Court records indicate Benavidez remained angry and called the employees names. Bryant later saw him arrive at city hall and immediately instructed other employees to call police.

Bryant told police she tried to get out of the way when he threw the water but was unsuccessful. She said the water saturated her computer printer, electronic calculator, phone and multiple papers and documents.

Before leaving, Benavidez flung the rest of the water toward Water Department Superintendent Derrick Holloway, who was at city hall during the incident.

The incident sparked the city to invest in partitions and other security measures in the lobby at city hall.