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GOP's Legislative Agenda Makes Room For Malpractice Laws, Drug Dealing Penalties, Road Plans

Andy Redgrave

Governor Pence announced his legislative agenda earlier this week, and now Senate Republicans have chimed in with their own.

Senators are proposing mandatory minimum sentences for major drug dealers, endorsing Pence's request for additional money for the Regional Cities Initiative and promising to fast-track a hold-harmless policy for schools whose ISTEP scores drop this year.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long says Republicans are also calling for a $400,000 boost in the $1.25 million cap on malpractice verdicts.

Long says the cap hasn't kept pace with rising health care costs, to the point where it runs the risk of being declared unconstitutional.

The bill, authored by Senator Brent Steele, would refigure the cap every four years based on the health care cost index.

Republicans are also prioritizing a solution to a long-running struggle to control rising property-tax assessments on farmland. Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Chairman Brandt Hershman says because the formula measures past economic performance, farmers end up paying higher taxes in the midst of a downturn.

The GOP agenda includes more money for local roads, but not Pence's call for more money for state roads.

Senate Republicans are also pushing to make it easier for prosecutors to try to convict people as drug dealers. Indiana’s recent criminal code reform required prosecutors to have evidence besides just the weight of a drug to prove someone was dealing drugs – for instance, scales and plastic baggies. 

Indianapolis Republican Senator Mike Young wants to eliminate that extra requirement if a person is caught with at least thirty pounds of marijuana or ten grams of other drugs. Young notes those amounts are just a starting point and could change.

“But we think that that’s, looking at it that that’s way," he says. "It’s probably the amount that would be more than someone could use for their personal use.”

But Bloomington Democratic Representative Matt Pierce says the only way to win the war on drugs is to halt the demand – which he says means focusing on treatment and rehabilitation. "You're never going to be able to cut off the supply, because the minute you take that one person off the street who has more than ten grams, one hour later there's going to be another person right in their place," he says.

Pierce acknowledges that a minimum weight to prove dealing might be prudent…but isn’t sure if Young’s amounts are high enough.  

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