2015 Indiana General Assembly

Brandon Smith / http://www.ipbs.org/

During a rally at the Statehouse Monday, members of the Indiana Pastors Alliance used words like “shock,” “outrage,” and “betrayal,” while accusing GOP leaders of “selling out” religious liberty when they passed the religious freedom bill’s “fix.” 

But Indiana Pastors Alliance executive director Ron Johnson says the fix was akin to passing a gay rights bill.  Johnson says GOP leaders “cowardly capitulated” to the pressure of what he calls the “gay mafia,” a “media lynch mob,” and big business.  And he says leaders need to be held accountable.

Lawmakers Could Finish Budget Deal Today

Apr 28, 2015
Jim Nix / https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimnix/5039079018

The specifics of a new state budget are expected today. House and Senate leaders have pledged to give legislators 24 hours to look over the budget before a vote.

With the session required to end tomorrow, that makes today the deadline, and House Speaker Brian Bosma says he expects a bill to be made public this afternoon.

The House and Senate proposed about the same total spending, but had slightly different school funding formulas. And Bosma says he’s still looking for more money for charter schools.

Gretchen Frazee / http://www.ipbs.org/

State school superintendent Glenda Ritz would remain chair of the State Board of Education until after she wins or loses reelection next year, under the latest version of a bill to end the feuding between Ritz and the board.

The board would undergo changes first. The bill shrinks it from 11 members to nine starting in June, and shifts two appointments from the governor to the House speaker and Senate president pro tem.

Keith Cooper / https://www.flickr.com/photos/cooperweb/8363160192

With only three days left in session, lawmakers are crafting a final version of the budget, and doing so with less money than they’d planned. 

Senate Leader David Long (R-Fort Wayne) and House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) both say money for K-12 education is safe – the $466 million increase in both House and Senate budgets will remain intact. 

And Long says they’re standing firm on maintaining a strong budget reserve.

“I think it’s important to do that given our recent memories of how tough it was when the recession hit,” Long says.

Online Wine Sales Bill Awaits Gov's Signature

Apr 23, 2015
Quinn Dombrowski / https://www.flickr.com/photos/quinndombrowski/4067656996/

 Restrictions on Internet wine purchases in Indiana may soon be a thing of the past.

The Senate has given final approval to a bill repealing the requirement that buyers make one in-person purchase before ordering wine online or by mail.

The restriction would be lifted July 1 if Gov. Pence signs the measure.

Online and mail-order shoppers would still have to scan or fax an ID.

Jim Butler, owner of  Bloomington’s Butler Winery, says he lost 90-percent of his shipping customers when the legislature added the requirement 10 years ago.

ISTEP To Be Studied, Rather Than Replaced In Budget

Apr 22, 2015
Melanie Holtsman / https://www.flickr.com/photos/holtsman/4331034955/

The ISTEP exam will survive another year, after a legislative flirtation with replacing it.

The Senate twice passed bills to get rid of ISTEP in favor of a shorter and cheaper national test, amid estimates, since scaled back, that a revised ISTEP would cost $67 million a year. The legislation appeared to gain momentum in February with the announcement that this year‘s test would take 12 hours.

Courtesy Eric Turner / http://www.in.gov/legislative/house_republicans/homepages/r32/2085.html

Although other issues have overshadowed them this session, the Indiana legislature entered the 2015 session with two major goals: pass a budget and write new ethics reforms.

Recent ethics scandals at the Statehouse prompted lawmakers this session to strengthen Indiana’s ethics code. 

The bipartisan legislation is the most sweeping ethics package in a decade.

But some critics say the changes don’t go far enough.

Kyle May / https://www.flickr.com/photos/kylemay/

The Senate Wednesday narrowly approved a bill eliminating the state’s common construction wage after senators spent more than three hours over the past two days debating the issue of repealing Indiana’s minimum wage for construction workers on public projects.

Opponents of the bill such as Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) note that the common wage helps support job training programs and ensures public projects are properly built by well-trained, highly paid workers.

Flickr Creative Commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/intropin/4499124890

When Justin Phillips lost her son Aaron to a heroin overdose in October of 2013, she didn’t know there was a drug that could have saved his life. Now, she’s a passionate advocate of making naloxone available to people like her. At a recent Indiana House committee meeting, she told lawmakers that she doesn’t want other parents to go through what she did.

“Aaron was a brother, a friend, a talented quarterback, and an adolescent without a fully-formed decision-making center in his brain,” she said. “Aaron only used heroin for four short months. And he really wanted to quit.”

Brandon Smith / IPBS

More than two thousand predominantly union workers and contractors filled the south lawn of the Statehouse, listening to industry leaders and lawmakers oppose a bill repealing the common wage law.

“Enough is enough! Just vote no,” the rallyers chanted.

Frank Marshall is the president of contracting company G. E. Marshall.  He describes himself as a lifelong Republican and says he regrets helping put GOP lawmakers in power at the Statehouse.

“They will not any longer get any financial support from me or my votes in the future,” Marshall says.

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