INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Republicans who control Indiana’s Statehouse said they wanted a break from
divisive social issues that embroiled the Legislature in recent years. But
with the session half over, it appears what lawmakers are actually taking a
break from is their plan to steer clear of social issues.
“We really are
focusing on other issues this year,” said Republican Senate leader David
Long, of Fort Wayne. “That was never going to be a, ‘No, we’re not hearing
any social issues’ rule.”
To be sure, the
House passed a roads funding plan that’s now before the Senate. And the
state’s next two-year budget is taking shape.
But each chamber
recently passed its own abortion bill, including one that critics contend is
unconstitutional. The House also passed a school prayer measure.
Here’s a look at
bills that are alive, those that died - and what to look forward to in the
abortion bill that would make it impossible for a minor to have the
procedure without involving a parent cleared the Senate and is now before
It mandates that
parents receive legal notification and have a chance to oppose their
daughter’s abortion in court if she pursues a judicial bypass, a move that
allows minors to seek a judge’s permission without their parents’ knowledge.
Backers say it strengthens parental rights. Opponents say it runs afoul of a
U.S. Supreme Court ruling and, in cases of incest, could allow a father to
have cruel legal rights.
Speaker Brian Bosma,
an Indianapolis Republican, says he expects it will get a hearing. Same goes
for a House bill now in the Senate that would require a woman considering a
drug-induced abortion to receive information on scientifically disputed
A separate measure
by Democratic Indianapolis Rep. John Bartlett would explicitly allow
students to pray aloud at school. Republicans like the measure, but many
fellow Democrats argue students already have that freedom and fear it would
push religion in public schools.
The Senate will
take up a House Republican roads funding package that would increase gas
taxes by at least 10 cents a gallon, impose a new $15 vehicle registration
fee and allow the state to seek federal authority to impose roadway tolling.
The House also added a $1 per pack cigarette tax to their proposed $31.7
billion two-year budget. Many aspects of it are likely to face stiff
opposition in the Senate, where Long and Senate Appropriations Committee
Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, have already voiced a difference of
opinion, most notably to the cigarette tax increase and some gas tax
At the same time,
conservative groups are lining up in opposition to the House package. They
included the Koch Brothers’ political wing, Americans for Prosperity, and
activist Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. Indiana’s gas station
industry and Big Tobacco, which would be hit hard, have also joined forces
to fight the House plan.
A request by GOP
Gov. Eric Holcomb to double funding for Indiana’s five-county preschool
pilot program for poor kids was approved by the House. But its fate is far
from certain. The Senate approved a bill that whittled Holcomb’s $10 million
request down to $3 million. And they’re calling for a separate pilot program
that would divert $1 million for the UPSTART online preschool program that
has been used in Utah. The company offering the program, the Waterford
Institute, says on its website that the lessons take “15 minutes a day, 5
days a week.”
Negotiations over a
final number will continue in the coming weeks.
is a proposal by Holcomb to make Indiana’s schools chief position appointed
by the governor instead of elected by voters.
A measure to do
that passed the House. But a similar Senate bill caused drama when it was
voted down on the Senate floor.
A bias crimes bill
failed again this session, meaning Indiana will remain one of five states
without a hate crime law. The measure would have allowed judges to impose
tougher sentences for crimes motivated by race, religion, sex, gender
identity or sexual orientation.
reform proposal backed by House Speaker Brian Bosma also failed. It called
for an independent commission to draw lines for legislative and
congressional districts after the next census. The committee chairman did
not allow a vote after the bill’s hearing, despite supporters’ arguments
that it would have led to fairer districts and more competitive races.