INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma called for lawmakers to move past a
“rough” campaign season and refocus on the priorities of state government
when the Legislature convenes in January.
Republican, who has held the title of speaker since the 2011 session, made
the remarks Tuesday when lawmakers convened for Organization Day. It’s an
annual gathering where new members are sworn in, committee assignments are
doled out and legislative leaders outline their priorities for the coming
session, which will include increasing funding for infrastructure and a
state preschool program.
“The mailers. The
advertisements. This was a rough one,” Bosma told lawmakers assembled in the
House chamber. “No one can point fingers at one aisle without pointing it at
the other as well. This group needs to refocus. We need to leave that
rhetoric and that hurt behind.”
This year lawmakers
are tasked with crafting a two-year budget at a time when state revenue
projections have shown a downward trend.
GOP leaders say
infrastructure funding will be their biggest priority. Last session House
Republicans pushed a plan that would have raised Indiana’s cigarette tax by
$1 a pack and tacked 4 cents onto the state’s 18 cents-a-gallon gas tax. But
Gov. Mike Pence and the GOP-controlled Senate were opposed and a stop-gap
was approved instead.
“We continue to
call ourselves the crossroads of America and you can’t do that with
crumbling roads and bridges,” Bosma said.
GOP Senate leader
David Long, of Fort Wayne, acknowledged Monday that new revenues would be
“It is inevitable
that we have to find some new sources of revenue,” Long said. “No question
Bosma also said
he’s hopeful that the state’s pre-K pilot program for low income students
will be expanded. On the campaign trail Democrats called for a universal
preschool program for all students. Before abandoning his gubernatorial
re-election bid, Pence also called for expanding the pre-k program,
currently offered in five counties, though he wanted to limit it to
Bosma said he would
like to double or triple funding for the program, but wants to move slow and
said he was unsure if there was support in his caucus.
There’s also the
looming possibility that conservative social issues favored by many members
of the GOP caucus could creep into the debate, even as Republican leaders
try to steer clear. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels called for a moratorium on
them, but Pence embraced social issues. Unknown is how incoming Republican
Gov. Eric Holcomb will treat such matters, though he may be tested soon.
State Rep. Curt
Nisly, R-Goshen, says he will sponsor a bill that would ban abortion in the
state, despite a longstanding U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing it. Indeed,
social conservatives are pushing the bill which they hope could lead to a
court case that could eventually overturn the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court
“We always have
issues like that to deal with,” Long said. “But we are focused on other
issues this year.”