Pence releases legislative agenda for education, jobs, roads

Gov. Mike Pence plans to pursue jobs, roads, education and health care legislation during the 2016 session of the General Assembly, but his agenda does not include a stance for or against adding protections for the LGBT community into the state’s civil rights law.

“Our agenda prioritizes funding for state and local roads, ensures that schools and teacher salaries are not negatively impacted by the transition to a new test, and combats drug abuse and addiction through tougher enforcement and expanded treatment,” Pence said in a written statement Monday.

But Democrats and gay rights groups argue the governor’s focus should be shifted to adding LGBT rights to Indiana law. The session—which begins Tuesday—comes about nine months after Pence caused a national uproar by signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, a move gay rights advocates said would legalize discrimination.

Lawmakers passed a so-called “fix” meant to prevent the law from being used to justify discrimination but Democrats and gay rights advocates have said it doesn’t go far enough. Pence, who also signed the fix into law, has said repeatedly that he’s weighing the gay rights issue.

“How many more times must Pence put Indiana’s coveted ‘Hoosier Hospitality’ reputation in jeopardy?” said Drew Anderson, a spokesman for the Indiana Democratic Party, in a statement. “Hoosiers deserve to have a governor who will restore the state’s welcoming reputation and use common sense to solve today’s problems for them.”

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, echoed the party’s complaints.

“Sadly, Gov. Pence is still tone deaf on extending civil rights protections to LGBT Hoosiers,” said Lanane in a statement. “Omitting the issue from his legislative agenda couldn’t make his intentions clearer: He wants to make RFRA go away. And that won’t cut it.”

Republicans in the Indiana Senate are set to consider legislation that would put some civil rights protections for gays and transgender people into state law. But it would also take steps to protect some religious freedoms, particularly for small businesses in the wedding industry.

Pence has not commented publicly on that legislation.

The governor’s complete 2016 legislative agenda is listed below. Bills marked with an asterisk are forthcoming.

Jobs & Economic Development

21st century crossroads*

Author: Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury

Makes $1 billion in new state road funding available over the next four years without raising taxes.

Local road funding (SB 67)

Author: Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek

Makes immediately available $418 million in Local Option Income Tax (LOIT) reserves to local governments to help improve local roads and bridges across the state.

Regional Cities funding*

Author: Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville

Amends Indiana law to authorize an additional $42 million in tax amnesty collections to provide funding for three Regional Cities proposals instead of two.

State certification for veteran-owned businesses*

Author: Rep. Doug Gutwein, R-Francesville

Provides the Indiana Department of Administration with the authority to certify a business as a veteran-owned small business.

Promote use of ethanol fuel blends*

Author: Rep. Don Lehe, R-Brookston

Promotes the use of ethanol-blended fuels by expanding the misfueling immunity statute.


A-F school grades (SB 200)

Author: Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn

Holds schools harmless for their A-F accountability grade for the 2014-2015 year to accommodate the transition to more rigorous academic standards and lower ISTEP scores. 

Teacher bonuses and evaluations*

Author: Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis

Ensures that teacher bonuses and evaluations are not negatively impacted by the transition to a new test and lower ISTEP scores.

Health & Well-being

Increase penalties on drug dealers*

Author: Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon

Increases penalties for drug dealers convicted of serious and aggravated offenses. 

Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse*

Author: Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis

Establishes a commission to comprehensively address drug abuse issues at the state and local level.

Expansion of the Lifeline Law (SB 89)

Author: Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis

Expands the Lifeline Law to allow immunity for certain individuals who call emergency personnel when an individual is at risk of a drug overdose.

Standing order for Naloxone*

Author: Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis

Ensures that lifesaving overdose intervention drugs are available statewide by requiring a licensed prescriber at the Indiana State Department of Health to issue a statewide standing order (prescription).

Codify Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 (SB 165)

Author: Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis

Puts into law the basic structure and overall policy objectives of the HIP 2.0 program, which are already in place administratively.

Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act) (SB 11)

Author: Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville

Creates a savings program for Hoosiers to better provide for their loved ones with special needs by allowing them to save money for disability-related costs without placing other benefits at risk.

Add human trafficking to the DCS statute*

Author: Senator Randy Head, R-Logansport

Ensures that children who are victims of human trafficking are able to be served by the Department of Child Services (DCS) by adding human trafficking to the Child In Need of Services statute.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.