2016 Legislative Preview

Andy Redgrave / https://www.flickr.com/photos/scramblerman/

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.

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

State and local road funding, harsher penalties for drug dealers, and holding schools harmless for a drop in ISTEP scores – those are some of the initiatives Governor Mike Pence says will be part of his legislative agenda for the upcoming session.  

Pence unveiled his $1 billion state road funding plan months ago, a proposal that spends down the state’s budget reserves and incorporates bonding. He signed on last month to a Senate Republican local road funding bill worth more than $400 million.  

Gretchen Frazee / Indiana Public Broadcasting

House Speaker Brian Bosma says he will do everything in his power to ensure the legislature’s upcoming debate over LGBT civil rights is a respectful one.

Bosma says when the General Assembly was in the midst of the religious freedom controversy last session, Indiana was portrayed as an unwelcoming and discriminatory place. The Speaker says that isn’t true and urges people on both sides of the debate not to continue saying so, arguing it damages the state’s reputation.

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The General Assembly this session will look to address the state’s ongoing drug crisis by expanding the Lifeline law and making it easier for people to get their hands on a drug that halts the fatal effects of a drug overdose.  The proposed legislation comes with the backing of Governor Mike Pence and the state’s drug abuse task force.

MilitaryHealth / https://www.flickr.com/photos/militaryhealth

Cancer prevention advocates have long called for Indiana to raise its cigarette tax – something the state hasn’t done in eight years.  But this session, it’s not health concerns but a road funding priority that’s finally generating momentum for the controversial move.

On Upcoming Civil Rights Legislation, Pence Stays Mum

Dec 22, 2015
State of Indiana / http://www.in.gov/

Governor Mike Pence doesn't expect to announce a position on a civil rights bill for gays and lesbians until the legislative session is underway -- and doesn't rule out the status quo. 

Pence says balancing discrimination protections with constitutional guarantees of religious freedom is a challenge of "great complexity." And he says the deliberations include not only the search for that balance, but whether the law needs to be changed at all.

"We're a state with a constitution and we're a state that cherishes the freedoms enshrined in that constitution," he says.

Nic McPhee / https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicmcphee

A new revenue forecast unveiled Thursday by state fiscal analysts predicts Indiana will collect $175 million less in tax revenue over the next two years than previously expected.  

Herald Post / https://www.flickr.com/photos/heraldpost/

One legislative leader says he expects a bill to decouple ISTEP+ scores from teacher evaluations to pass during the first few weeks of the legislative session.

Indianapolis Representative Bob Behning who heads the House education committee, says a bill that would allow schools to remove ISTEP+ scores from a teacher’s evaluation rubric is expected to pass through an expedited process the first few weeks of the session.

Behning says the General Assembly wants to make sure teachers aren’t negatively affected by test technology troubles or lower scores.

Jim Grey / https://www.flickr.com/photos/mobilene/

While state legislators have made it clear they want to focus on anti-discrimination laws this session, some civil rights activists are pushing for another type of law –one punishing bias or “hate” crimes.

Hate crimes add an extra element to traditional crimes, a bias against a particular group, such as one defined by race, sexual orientation or religion.

Senate Republicans Unveil GOP Anti-Discrimination Bill

Nov 18, 2015
Noah Coffey / https://www.flickr.com/photos/noahwesley/

Senate Republicans Tuesday unveiled the details of legislation they say strikes a balance between protecting the LGBT community from discrimination and ensuring Hoosiers’ religious freedom.