Summer study committees ready to take on prominent issues

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Civil rights issues related to gender identity and sexual orientation, Sunday alcohol sales, sexual misconduct in schools, and improving the roads of Indiana will all be high-priority topics of discussion in the Indiana Statehouse this summer.

The Legislative Council—a group of top lawmakers from both chambers—met Wednesday to approve topics for the summer study committees to work on prior to the next General Assembly.

The Obama Administration recently directed public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. But House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said he supports U.S. Rep. Luke Messer’s effort to block the ruling in Congress, and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said it will be a topic of discussion in Indiana.

“It’s an interpretation by an agency of the government that will now change society in America in their eyes—in a dramatic way,” Long said.

Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said he is encouraged to see the Republican-led group include LGBT civil rights in the list of topics to be studied.

Several bills that would have created varying degrees of employment, housing and public accommodation protections for the gay community were debated last year, but none advanced.

The effort this summer will be headed up by the Interim Study Committee on Courts and the Judiciary. Any recommendations it makes could be used to develop legislation next session.

“As the 119th General Assembly draws to a close, this is our final chance to make right on this issue and let Hoosiers know that their friends, family members, and neighbors are all truly protected within the full scope of the law,” Lanane said in a statement. “It is time to do the right thing.”

Bosma said the civil rights discussion is important to him but said his main focus is on the roads study committee.

“It is truly a fundamental core economic development function of state government,” Bosma said. “It’s a conservative Republican principle to invest in infrastructure so the private sector can thrive.”

The summer study committees also have a chance to look at the code for alcohol sales.

“There has just been continual debate about the three-tier system, cold beer, alcohol sales on Sunday, over the last decade,” Bosma said.

The committee will also look at ways to keep young people safe in the state, especially while they’re at school. Long said it’s common for teachers’ past records to be unavailable, which prohibits background checks and more strict scrutiny.

“Students' safety is first and foremost in our minds regarding the issue,” Long said. “It is not an easy subject.”

The group will study more than 40 issues this summer.

“The hopes for the committees is to look at what is state-of-the-art elsewhere,” Bosma said. “Other states may have some safeguards in place that we aren’t talking about here and the committee will take a look at those.”

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