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Statehouse Opinions Split On Pence's State Of The State

Gretchen Frazee
Indiana Public Broadcasting

Republican legislative leaders say Governor Mike Pence Tuesday was clear in his State of the State about the necessity of protecting religious freedom when it comes to the debate over LGBT rights, but Democratic leaders say Pence failed to provide any leadership.

Senate Republicans have already proposed two versions of legislation seeking to balance civil rights protections for LGBT Hoosiers with religious liberty assurances.  And Senate GOP Leader David Long says he thinks those bills pass muster with Pence’s indication that he wouldn’t sign a bill that weakens religious freedom.

“But the issue of whether the governor has to stand out there and say ‘I’ll do this or I won’t do that,’ I don’t agree with that,” he says. “It’s very uncertain where this legislation is going.”

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane says he’s astounded by Pence’s lack of leadership, particularly focusing on the governor’s remarks questioning whether reconciling LGBT rights with religious liberty was possible or necessary.

“It sent a message to me that he would be perfectly happy with us doing absolutely nothing,” says Lanane, who adds he thinks Pence essentially punted the entire issue to the legislature. 

Speaker Brian Bosma says he’s not surprised Governor Mike Pence in his State of the State Tuesday came out against the House GOP’s plan to raise taxes to fund road improvements.

The House Republican road funding plan proposes two tax hikes – raising the gas tax to match a rise in inflation and a one-dollar cigarette tax increase.  Governor Pence says Hoosiers’ wallets and pocketbooks should be the last place to look for money to pay for roads and bridges, but Speaker Bosma takes a different view.

“The concept that we need a lot of road investment and Hoosier taxpayers shouldn’t pay for it I find to be an anomaly,” Bosma says.

Pence proposed his own billion-dollar road plan while saying the condition of Indiana’s roads and bridges are above the national average.  But democrats say the governor fails to even acknowledge the state’s road problems. House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath says he’s astonished the governor won’t even say the roads are problematic

“It’s like he’s living in an alternate universe,” Pelath says. “He’s living in Bizarro Indiana.”

Speaker Bosma says he hopes the legislature and the governor will produce a road funding plan that’s a melded solution of each proposal.  

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.
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