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Lawmakers seek to piggyback priorities onto other bills

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Spring is in bloom outside the Indiana Statehouse, but lawmakers inside are getting ready to light up the state's biggest "Christmas tree"—the state budget.

Any bill can become a "Christmas tree"—a place for lawmakers to hang a priority that has struggled to win approval on its own. But the budget often looks best to desperate lawmakers because it is the one piece of legislation they must approve before they can split town.

The Indiana General Assembly could wrap up its 2013 session by the end of the week. Lawmakers have already sent at least one hot-button measure, placing new limits on abortion pills, to Gov. Mike Pence. But the majority of contentious items are still being hashed out.

"There's been all sorts of thing put in the budget," said House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, when asked to reflect on last-minute surprises he's spotted over his 14 years in the Legislature. He pointed out a tax cut approved in 1999 with aid for developers of mobile home parks. The 2006 legislation authorizing tax increases to pay for Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis also included creation of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority to coordinate projects in that corner of the state.

The germaneness of an issue—how closely it relates to the subject of the original legislation—is often of little concern as legislators scramble, Pelath said.

"Legislative leaders usually find a way if they want to do something, they're usually not perturbed by their germaneness banalities."

Former Gov. Mitch Daniels pushed for years to win his automatic tax refund, introducing it as a stand-alone measure without luck until it was affixed to the budget passed in 2011. Another measure that year, to defund Planned Parenthood, slid through just before the deadline attached to a bill. A federal injunction on the state law remains in place as the issue is being litigated.

There are plenty of contentious measures still seeking a home this year.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, ticked down the list:

An effort to back major improvements at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, either through state grants or state-backed loans, is still being hashed out.

A possible gambling expansion is still on the table, along with changes to how much the industry pays in taxes. Lawmakers are considering adding table games at the state's two horse racing tracks.

"That is obviously one that will keep folks busy, in discussion, right up until the end," he said.

A compromise plan to expand the state's school voucher program is still being worked on, and lawmakers must still decide whether Indiana will participate in the national Common Core education standards.

And lawmakers still have to decide whether they will seek an additional review of the state's plan to buy coal-fired gas from the developers of a plant in Rockport.

"I feel pretty good about reaching a resolution with all of these, with about a week to do so," Bosma said.

That's not to say the state's largest "Christmas tree" is bare. Lawmakers have been putting up and taking down priorities throughout the session.

The budget that passed out of the House included money for one of Bosma's top priorities, a pilot program giving children vouchers to attend preschool.

Senate lawmakers took that down and hung their own proposal for expanding Medicaid using the state's Healthy Indiana Plan in its place.

They might look a little worn out as they traverse the hallways of the Statehouse during their final, grueling week. But most lawmakers will leave town with at least a little "Christmas" cheer.

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  • Evaluate Piggyback
    The process of piggyback legislation should be evaluated for effectiveness. Especially if the legislation has previously failed in discussion. The process seems to have some negative issues and may need adjustments.
  • Comedy Central
    Why is it that our State Legislature continues to prove the adage, "Money can truly buy the love and support of a corrupted politician". In Washington, they refer to the sweet deals afforded friends back home as "Earmarks" but I will hold with the premise that sweet deals added to needed statewide legislation as "Kickbacks" for the campaign donations and other sweet deals afforded those who knowingly direct state tax revenues to their friends and campaign supporters.
  • Samuel Clemens
    Mark Twain once wrote that "No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session." How right he was, and now we are entering the most dangerous phase of this year's legislative spectacle of inanity. Fasten your seat belts and hang on to your wallets, folks.

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  1. Of what value is selling alcoholic beverages to State Fair patrons when there are many families with children attending. Is this the message we want to give children attending and participating in the Fair, another venue with alooholic consumption onsite. Is this to promote beer and wine production in the state which are great for the breweries and wineries, but where does this end up 10-15 years from now, lots more drinkers for the alcoholic contents. If these drinks are so important, why not remove the alcohol content and the flavor and drink itself similar to soft drinks would be the novelty, not the alcoholic content and its affects on the drinker. There is no social or material benefit from drinking alcoholic beverages, mostly people want to get slightly or highly drunk.

  2. I did;nt know anyone in Indiana could count- WHY did they NOT SAY just HOW this would be enforced? Because it WON;T! NOW- with that said- BIG BROTHER is ALIVE in this Article-why take any comment if it won't appease YOU PEOPLE- that's NOT American- with EVERYTHING you indicated is NOT said-I can see WHY it say's o Comments- YOU are COMMIES- BIG BROTHER and most likely- voted for Obama!

  3. In Europe there are schools for hairdressing but you don't get a license afterwards but you are required to assist in turkey and Italy its 7 years in japan it's 10 years England 2 so these people who assist know how to do hair their not just anybody and if your an owner and you hire someone with no experience then ur an idiot I've known stylist from different countries with no license but they are professional clean and safe they have no license but they have experience a license doesn't mean anything look at all the bad hairdressers in the world that have fried peoples hair okay but they have a license doesn't make them a professional at their job I think they should get rid of it because stateboard robs stylist and owners and they fine you for the dumbest f***ing things oh ur license isn't displayed 100$ oh ur wearing open toe shoes fine, oh there's ONE HAIR IN UR BRUSH that's a fine it's like really? So I think they need to go or ease up on their regulations because their too strict

  4. Exciting times in Carmel.

  5. Twenty years ago when we moved to Indy I was a stay at home mom and knew not very many people.WIBC was my family and friends for the most part. It was informative, civil, and humerous with Dave the KING. Terri, Jeff, Stever, Big Joe, Matt, Pat and Crumie. I loved them all, and they seemed to love each other. I didn't mind Greg Garrison, but I was not a Rush fan. NOW I can't stand Chicks and all their giggly opinions. Tony Katz is to abrasive that early in the morning(or really any time). I will tune in on Saturday morning for the usual fun and priceless information from Pat and Crumie, mornings it will be 90.1

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