INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana lawmakers are returning to the Statehouse Tuesday for the start of
their annual legislative session, where a likely tax increase to pay for
infrastructure improvements is expected to be a major issue in the coming
The Senate was set
to gavel in at 1:30 p.m. The House will do the same at the same time
GOP leaders who
command supermajorities in both chambers say they have two major priorities
this year. One will be writing the stateís next two-year budget. The other
is crafting a plan - and a likely tax increase - that will fund road
improvements and infrastructure projects into the future.
residents could find themselves paying more for cigarettes, gasoline or
vehicle registration to build out and repair the stateís roads, highways and
bridges. It also creates an awkward situation for roughly two dozen
Republicans who signed a pledge by conservative activist Grover Norquist,
promising never to raise taxes.
Gov. Eric Holcomb says he will unveil his agenda for the session on Thursday
before he is sworn in as governor on Jan. 9, replacing current Gov. Mike
Pence, the vice president-elect.
Indiana is sitting
on about $2 billion in reserves. Revenues are projected to grow 2 percent
over the next two years, which could bring in an estimated $1 billion in new
Still, GOP leaders
say they are cautious after the state collected about $300 million less than
expected during the current budget cycle. They donít want to tap the
surplus, warning that a recession could be around the corner.
Another issue that
is expected to generate considerable debate is the future of the stateís
preschool program for children from low-income families. Advocates want
lawmakers to expand beyond the stateís current five-county pilot program and
the United Way of Central Indiana is asking for $50 million in funding.
Indiana was one of
the last remaining states to have a state-sponsored preschool program, until
Pence secured funding for the current $10 million pilot program.
Holcomb said on the
campaign trail that he would like to expand the program, but has yet to
offer specifics. Meanwhile, GOP leaders have suggested that lawmakers may
not have an appetite for expanding the program.
that hangs over the session is what role conservative social issues may
play. Many social conservatives say they have been emboldened by the
election of President-elect Donald Trump and see now as the time to push for
Already state Rep.
Curt Nisly, R-Goshen, has said he will sponsor a bill that would ban
abortion in the state, despite a longstanding U.S. Supreme Court ruling
allowing it. Supporters are pushing the bill they hope could lead to a court
case that overturns the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
advocates say they are similarly optimistic about their chances following
Rep. Jim Lucas, of Seymour, plans to file the bill that would get rid of a
state law requiring a license to carry handguns.
A bill filed by
Republican Sen. Travis Holdman of Markle would block judges from using
foreign law to impose a restriction that would violate a personís
constitutional rights. Holdman said he is sponsoring the bill after
constituents voiced concern that Islamic religious law, known as Sharia law,
could be cited in civil cases.