Gambling, education, criminal justice bills still unresolved

Indiana lawmakers were still working late Tuesday to make deals on key bills about gambling, education and local criminal justice programs with just one day left in the 2015 legislative session.

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said a proposed agreement on the gambling bill will allow riverboat casinos to move on land but will delay letting horse track casinos have live dealers for five years.

Lanane said Gov. Mike Pence’s staff indicated the Republican would veto any measure that permitted the live dealers – which would take the place of electronic table games – anytime sooner.

“It’s unfortunate for the gaming industry,” Lanane said. “This is our opportunity to do a comprehensive improvement of our industry to ward off the competition of other states.”

Lanane said the delay will kill potential jobs in Shelbyville and Anderson, and eliminates a competitive advantage for the state.

As passed by the House, the bill would have authorized the land-based casinos and the live dealers immediately. It also provided tax breaks to help the casinos beat back competition from Ohio and Illinois.

But the Senate pushed back the live dealers for five years.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said the gambling compromise won’t likely be finalized until Wednesday, the last day for legislation to pass the General Assembly.

That’s when lawmakers also expect to vote on Senate Bill 1, a controversial bill that would give the State Board of Education the authority to elect its own chair. Originally, the House and Senate voted to put that provision in place this summer, which would likely sweep state Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, out of her role as chair.

But a new provision would let Ritz, who was elected in 2012, keep the spot until the end of her four-year term.

Lawmakers were also still working on a bill to distribute millions of dollars in grants to local community corrections programs to help pay for programs – including mental health and addiction services – to men and women convicted of lower level felonies.

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