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Michael Wolf is leading a panel discussion at the Indiana Statehouse

Downs Center co-hosts panel to open Indiana legislative session

By Blake Sebring

November 28, 2023

The Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, one of Purdue University Fort Wayne’s 13 Centers of Excellence, joined with the Indiana Capital Chronicle at the Indiana Statehouse on Nov. 21 to host dozens of media figures and citizens for a panel discussion about what to expect during the upcoming legislative session of the Indiana General Assembly. Among the featured speakers was PFW’s Mike Wolf, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science and acting director of the Downs Center.

“The mission of the Downs Center is to provide key information to Indiana citizens to empower them to participate meaningfully in politics and to better guide elected officials,” Wolf said. “This event was carefully designed to initiate public awareness of the legislative agenda and provide an opportunity to reflect on the agenda and engage their legislators prior to the session starting early next year.”

The panel provided its insight into what priorities will likely drive the new session on Organization Day, which is the key date in November when legislators meet to set the agenda, organize the chambers, and plan for the relatively short length of this year's legislative calendar.

The panel was moderated by Dan Spehler, FOX 59 anchor and host of the two largest Indiana-based news feature programs: IN Focus and Indiana Week in Review. Panelists included Niki Kelly, editor-in-chief of the Indiana Capital Chronicle, Brandon Smith, Statehouse bureau chief, Indiana Public Broadcasting, Dr. Greg Schufeldt, associate professor of political science at the University of Indianapolis and research associate with the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, and Dr. Laura Merrifield Wilson, associate professor of political science at the University of Indianapolis and research associate with the Downs Center.

“The Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics is the only center of its kind in the state,” Wolf said. “Events like this that extend its reach across the state build on the strong foundations that its founding director, Dr. Andrew Downs, established and help us meet the vision that friends of Mike Downs had for a statewide, citizen-centered, educational resource. Furthermore, it proves that our university contributes meaningfully to the civic literacy of the people of Indiana.”