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Indiana lawmakers face big list of bills at session's end

April 21, 2017

Indiana lawmakers entered what is expected to be the last day of their session on Friday with a hefty list of bills that still must be approved.

House Speaker Brian Bosma says he anticipates the day's floor session will stretch into early Saturday.

Republican leaders reached agreement on a road-funding plan on Thursday that will pump $1.2 billion more a year into infrastructure by raising fuel taxes by a dime and imposing new vehicle-registration fees. But they still have to vote on that plan, as well as Indiana's next two-year budget, which was released to the public early Friday.

The proposed budget includes some wins for Gov. Eric Holcomb and would boost spending on the state's preschool program for poor children by $9 million. That's a victory for the new governor, especially after Senate budget writer, Sen. Luke Kenley, initially offered just a $3 million increase, with an additional $1 million for an online preschool program.

It also creates a new fund with $15 million that Holcomb can spend as he sees fit on economic development programs, including his efforts to lure new direct flight routes to the airport in Indianapolis. Holcomb also got $5 million to fund the efforts of his newly anointed drug czar Jim McClelland, who is tasked with finding federal funding and grants, as well as developing a strategy for combating the state's opioid crisis.

Other pending measures include a bill to close a legal loophole Ricker's convenience stores are using to sell cold beer and a rewrite of the state's vaping rules, which created a monopoly and sparked an FBI investigation.

A bill allowing the state to take over cash-strapped Muncie and Gary school districts is also among measures needing final approval, as is a bill that would allow people with epilepsy to use marijuana-derived oil as medicine.

Lawmakers also have to take up a bill that sets parameters for an as-of-yet selected test that will replace the state's much-maligned ISTEP exam that students must take.

As of 10:45 a.m., the House was taking votes, but the Senate had yet to gavel in.

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