Tim Lanane

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.

Indiana Senate Republicans

Senate Republicans are proposing what they call an “alternative” to their original legislation protecting the LGBT community from discrimination.

The new bill leaves out transgender Hoosiers as a protected class.

GOP Senator Travis Holdman’s first proposed LGBT bill added sexual orientation and gender identity to Indiana’s civil rights statute, while ensuring certain religious freedom protections. 

Neither side of the debate was happy about the measure. 

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

Senate Democrats want to provide local communities with a variety of long-term options for funding road maintenance and improvements. 

The bulk of the Senate Democrats’ proposal focuses on long-term solutions -- and involves tax increases.

One provision would allow locals to expand their public safety local option income tax to include road safety improvements. 

Another would decouple the wheel and excise taxes – allowing counties to enact one or the other, instead of both (as current law requires). 

Melanie Holtsman / https://www.flickr.com/photos/holtsman/4577259238

A discussion of how to bring Indiana's meth trade under control will include not only a long-running prescription debate, but consideration of harsher sentences for meth cooks.

Meth dealers currently face anywhere from 1-30 years in prison, with the specific range depending on how much of the drug they sell or manufacture.

The top range is reserved for meth cooks who make more than 10 grams of the drug -- about a third of an ounce -- or whose meth labs explode, regardless of how much of the drug they make.

Gretchen Frazee / Indiana Public Broadcasting

Legislators convene next Tuesday for the ceremonial opening of what shapes up as a third straight legislative session dogged by issues surrounding gay marriage.

Republican leaders have been mum about whether they'll hear a civil rights bill, or what form it might take if they do. But the Indiana Chamber has thrown its weight behind such a bill, calling it a "necessary action" to counteract negative perceptions from this year's quickly amended Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Child Services Caseload Lawsuit May Be Thrown Out

Oct 26, 2015
Indiana Department of Child Services / http://www.in.gov/dcs/files/DCSLog150.jpg

A judge will decide next year whether a lawsuit over heavy Department of Child Services caseloads should be thrown out.

State law caps the number of cases per worker at 17. DCS acknowledges caseworkers are above that ratio in most of the agency's 19 regions. But the state argues there's 15 years of precedent saying a state law must specifically grant a right to sue, or at least imply one.

Noah Coffey / https://www.flickr.com/photos/noahwesley/

Indiana Senate Democrats Monday unveiled policy initiatives aimed at helping the state’s undocumented immigrants, including a potential measure that would provide them with drivers permits.

The Pew Research Center estimates that about 110,000 undocumented immigrants live in Indiana.  Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane says there are common sense changes the state can make to help not just that population, but all Hoosiers.  That includes providing limited drivers permits to undocumented immigrants if they show proof of insurance – which Lanane calls a public safety measure:

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

The Department of Child Services’ caseload is up a quarter over last year.  So the state is responding by hiring more than a hundred new caseworkers.

State law sets a standard for the average number of cases each DCS employee should be handling at one time.  The vast majority of the department’s regions have been out of compliance for years. 

The state responded earlier this year by hiring 100 new caseworkers and 17 supervisors -- but DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura says since then, there’s been a spike in demand.

hareshd5000 / https://www.flickr.com/photos/113550905@N05/

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, says the General Assembly missed a prime opportunity for guaranteed job creation this session by not immediately approving live dealers for the state’s racetrack casinos.

The initial gaming bill this session allowed racinos to add a limited number of table games with live dealers.

But Gov. Mike Pence weighed in with lawmakers, objecting to live dealers because he viewed it as gaming expansion.

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.