Republicans to ‘tread lightly’ with bigger Statehouse majorities

Republicans celebrated Election Day wins that extended their legislative supermajorities to levels not seen for decades but pledged to be inclusive with the dwindling number of their Democratic colleagues.

House Speaker Brian Bosma – who will return to that post for the next session – said Wednesday that he has no plans to change the makeup of committee meetings or the levels of caucus staffing, even though Republicans now have more members in the House overall.

And Bosma said he’s encouraged his members to “tread lightly” when it comes to dealing with Democrats.

“While it was a substantial win for Republicans last evening, I’ve been on both sides of these caucus wins,” Bosma said. “And there were some good people that weren’t reelected and that’s not easy.”

Republicans went into the election with a 69-31 majority in the Indiana House and emerged with a 71-29 lead. That’s the largest margin for any caucus since 1973.

The GOP unseated Democratic Reps. Shelli VanDenburgh and Mara Candelaria Reardon in northwest Indiana and picked up a seat opened by retiring Rep. Kreg Battles of Vincennes.

Democrats, meanwhile, unseated Republican Rep. Jack Lutz of Anderson.

At a caucus on Wednesday afternoon, the Republican caucus elected a new majority floor leader, giving the job to Rep. Jud McMillin of Brookville. At just 37 years old, McMillin becomes the youngest lawmaker in House leadership. He said he represents a growing number of relatively new lawmakers. In fact, a majority of the House Republican caucus has been elected in just the past four years.

“It’s really important that we have somebody with that type of experience in a leadership role,” McMillin said Wednesday. “There’s a strong voice from that section of the caucus.”

Republicans reelected Rep. Kathy Richardson of Noblesville to serve as caucus leader. Bosma appointed Rep. Bill Friend of Macy, who had previously been the majority floor leader, to serve as speaker pro tem. Rep. Eric Turner of Cicero, who has been plagued by accusations that he voted in favor of legislation that benefited him and his family, previously held that post but announced recently he would leave the General Assembly.

House Democrats plan to meet Wednesday to choose leaders.

Republicans in the Senate also extended their majority on Tuesday, picking up three districts. They unseated Sens. Tim Skinner of Terre Haute and Richard Young of Milltown while also picking up the district that had been represented by retiring Sen. Lindel Hume of Princeton.

That extends the GOP majority in the chamber to 40-10, the largest such lead in six decades.

The GOP caucus met Wednesday and reelected Senate President Pro Tem David Long to be the chamber’s leader – a decision that will formally be made on the session’s opening day. Republicans also reelected Sen. Jim Merritt of Indianapolis to be the majority caucus chairman.

“Senate Republicans are ready to get to work,” Long said in a statement. “We expect the upcoming session to be productive in a variety of areas.”

Senate Democrats also met Wednesday to choose their leaders. They reelected Sens. Tim Lanane of Anderson to be the Democratic floor leader, Jean Breaux of Indianapolis to be assistant floor leader and Jim Arnold of LaPorte to serve as caucus chairman.

Lanane said the Democrats’ smaller numbers won’t stop the caucus from participating in the process.

“The caucus feels we have been successful in advancing our agenda and stating loyal opposition to proposals that we felt were not in the best interest of Hoosiers,” Lanane said. “Now, more than ever, we are motivated to work with the other side when appropriate and zealously debate when we disagree.”

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