INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
For the first time in years, Indiana’s Republican supermajorities are
returning to the Statehouse without a major legislative goal to accomplish
during the annual session that begins Wednesday. That leaves a vacuum some
plan to fill with contentious issues and debates that GOP leaders have in
the past sought to contain.
one overarching, bright shiny object that keeps attention focused. And it’s
a little bit different this year,” House Speaker Brian Bosma recently told
reporters. He later added: “It’s OK. We’ll manage it. We’ll work through
That may be easier
said than done.
With such large
majorities - 70 of 100 House seats and 41 of 50 Senate seats - the ability
of Bosma and GOP Senate leader David Long to keep a handle on legislators
will likely be tested. Senate Republicans are already dealing with a
leadership vacuum after the recent retirements of Sen. Luke Kenley, the
chief GOP budget writer, and floor leader Brandt Hershman, who is stepping
down effective Tuesday.
dark clouds on the horizon, both Bosma and Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb
issued pre-emptive calls for civility amid what they view as a coarsening
political climate. It’s unclear if the party’s restive base, let alone
several outspoken lawmakers, will go along.
conservatives are already on the attack, angered that Republican leaders
have not taken up constitutionally questionable anti-abortion legislation.
Recently, the group
Hoosiers for Life issued a news release superimposing a snowflake over a
picture of Bosma. It’s a reference to the term “snowflake,” which
conservatives have pejoratively employed against liberals they deem delicate
and overly sensitive. Bosma says anti-abortion activists also sent him
vitriolic messages, including ones left on a memorial page for his recently
flared during a recent legislative forum previewing the session. Bosma and
Democratic Rep. Linda Lawson clashed over a gun law passed last session
allowing domestic violence victims to conceal carry without a permit.
Lawson, a retired police officer, says it essentially encourages a victim to
carry a gun without proper training.
“Not one of these
people here has seen a woman shot in the head in a domestic violence
quarrel,” said Lawson, of Hammond. “It is outrageous that you hand a gun to
a woman with no training, no expertise, not even know how to load a weapon
and say this is going to make you safer.”
Republican Rep. Jim Lucas, an avowed gun rights supporter, is pushing to go
a step further. He wants to eliminate the need to have a conceal carry
license. The idea is opposed by advocates for domestic violence victims and
Hinting at just how
tricky the issue can be in a pro-gun caucus, Bosma suggested federal gun
legislation moving through Congress could pose complications. While careful
not to rule anything out, Bosma said Lucas’ bill may have to wait because
“you can’t prioritize everything.”
libertarian leaning Republican from Seymour, will also sponsor a bill to
legalize medical marijuana. Veterans groups support it as a way to help
returning soldiers cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. Indiana’s
powerful prosecutors association and the governor oppose it.
To that end, the
brevity of a short 10-week session ending by mid-March may prove a blessing.
However, there’s still significant business lawmakers hope to take up.
Holcomb wants to
tinker with the state’s workforce development training, though much of the
heavy lifting will come in the 2019 session.
And support appears
to be coalescing around a proposal to eliminate Indiana’s prohibition-era
ban on retail Sunday alcohol sales. An effort to allow convenience stores
and big box retailers to sell cold beer - a move widely supported by the
public - faces an uphill fight against the clout-heavy liquor store
Democrats hope to
take advantage of President Donald Trump’s growing unpopularity.
irrelevance in the Legislature for the better part of a decade, their
message is focused on a number of proposals they perceive Republicans to be
weak on. They include passing a hate crimes law, increasing funding to fight
the opioid crisis and making changes to the redistricting processes to make
legislative and congressional districts more representative of the
Democrats also want
to address Indiana’s beleaguered Department of Child Services.
The state has seen
funding outstripped by a soaring number of child welfare cases tied to the
opioid epidemic. In December, Holcomb’s outgoing child welfare chief blasted
him in a scathing letter of resignation, in which she accused him of cutting
programs and micromanaging the agency in ways that “all but ensure children
“There’s a lot of
unfinished business,” said Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, of Anderson.