Several issues unresolved as General Assembly nears ending point

March 13, 2018

The Indiana Senate abruptly adjourned Tuesday afternoon, with lawmakers leaving a crush of bills that still need final votes for the last day of the annual legislative session.

"They're out for the night?" said House Speaker Brian Bosma, who was surprised by the Senate's decision to call it a day. He later needled them from the House floor, suggesting that the chamber adjourned so its members could catch an "early blue plate special."

That sets the stage for a flurry of activity as lawmakers face a midnight deadline Wednesday to wrap up their unfinished business. It also raises the possibility that many bills could die as they run out of time.

"There's only a handful of truly important issues left," said Bosma, who kept the Indiana House of Representatives working into the night. "A lot of the stuff that is less critical, fortunately there is another legislative session next year."

A joint committee of the House and Senate on Tuesday backed a boost in funding for school safety programs, which is one of Gov. Eric Holcomb's priorities, as well as the protection for young immigrants referred to as "Dreamers."

But both of those measures still need a final vote.

Negotiations have been ongoing on legislation to eliminate handgun licensing fees and make changes to the leadership of the state's workforce development programs.

Other issues still in play include legislation allowing Ball State University to take over Muncie schools, a measure giving parents more control over sex education and a stopgap school funding bill.

"Once we get our agenda items done there's not a lot of reason to stay here," Bosma said.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, spent much of Tuesday giving speeches and honoring those who were retiring from the Legislature.

Earlier in the day, members of joint conference committees comprised of members of the House and Senate appeared to strike agreement on language to boost school safety and allow young immigrants to obtain professional licenses.

Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, has championed the measure protecting "Dreamers." The term refers to young immigrants, typically brought to the U.S. illegally as children, who have had protection from deportation under a program developed under former President Barack Obama known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

DACA recipients can go to school and work. But under a recently adopted policy by the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, they can no longer obtain or renew a professional license for dozens of professions including cosmetology, nursing and real estate.

"There's been a growing realization of the urgency of this," Clere said. "Members are hearing from people all over the state who are impacted or would be impacted by the current situation and this is going to resolve that and help a lot of people and employers."

The school safety measure includes funding Gov. Holcomb has sought in the wake of a school shooting last month in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. The Republican governor had requested $5 million in additional funding to improve school security.


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