The Indiana General Assembly convened on Tuesday, January 5 to begin the 2016 legislative session. Lawmakers face a compact legislative timeline of only 10 weeks due to the short legislative session which will conclude in March. In the span of less than three months, lawmakers have a host of pressing issues to address, among them addressing civil rights issues, improving the state’s roads, increasing the number of Indiana educators, addressing issues with ISTEP and finding a solution to the rising abuse of methamphetamines and heroin.
The ISAE Government Affairs Committee is tracking issues of concern to ISAE members throughout the session. Issues on the list range from data breaches, employment issues, charity gaming and of course one of the hottest issues of the session—civil rights. Review the list of bills the committee is tracking and current status in real time.
The General Assembly reached the procedural halfway point the first week of February with the passage of the third reading deadline for bills in their house of origin. In the House, out of 430 bills filed, 160 passed and were referred to the Senate, with 65 having passed this week alone. Across the hall, the Senate passed 103 bills this week, bringing the total number of bills passed by the Senate to 152 from 411 filed. Highlights of the first half of the session include:
- The passage of competing road funding and meth control legislation in the House and Senate.
- The failure of civil rights legislation.
- The expedited passage of legislation shielding teachers and schools from the effects of last year’s ISTEP.
Overshadowing much of the Senate during the final week of the first half of the session was the debate over LGBT legislation. SB 344, which narrowly passed out of committee, would have offered protections to gay, lesbian and bisexual Hoosiers but punted the topic of transgender protections to a summer study committee. However, the bill died without discussion on the Senate floor when the bill’s author Sen. Travis Holdman (R – Markle) declined to call the bill to second reading claiming, “it has become apparent that Senate Bill 344 lacks the support in our Senate to advance any further.” Legislators had filed 27 amendments to the bill.
Reactions to the failure of the bill were mixed. Sen. Brent Waltz (R – Greenwood) claimed the move as a, “victory for common sense conservatism,” while LGBT rights organizations expressed disappointment in the failure of the bill. Representatives of business interests, such as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Indiana Competes, also expressed concern the failure of the bill would compound negative perceptions of the state. If the bill had passed it would have faced substantial resistance in the House and a potential veto from the governor. President Pro Tempore Sen. David Long (R – Fort Wayne) has already pledged to revive the issue next year, claiming that LGBT rights are inevitable, but “it just depends on when.”
Of the 19 bills in 2016 originally tracked by the ISAE Government Affairs Committee, only two remain active for the second half of session. Check back at the end March for another update and recap of this year’s legislative session.