Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Indiana Legislature at halfway point

Back To Front Page

 

DARCY COSTELLO

Associated Press

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 second half:

SOCIAL ISSUES

A first-of-its-kind 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 the House.

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 “abortion reversal.”

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.

ROADS FUNDING

AND BUDGET

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 provisions.

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.

BILLS ALIVE

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.

Another uncertainty 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.

DEAD BILLS

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.

A redistricting 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.

 

 

Posted 3/6/2017

 
 
 
 

 

 

Search This Site:

Custom Search