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A look at issues in Indiana Legislature

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 3, 2013 at 8:31 am •  Published: March 3, 2013
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A look at the status of major legislation before the Indiana General Assembly this year:

BIG-TICKET ITEMS

— STATE SPENDING: The House approved a two-year, $30 billion budget that increases school spending by 2 percent the first year and 1 percent the second year. The House plan added $200 million for education and $500 million for roads to the proposal submitted by GOP Gov. Mike Pence. The Senate will now take up the budget plan.

— TAX CUT PROPOSAL: Pence's proposal to cut the state's personal income tax from 3.4 percent to 3.06 percent isn't included in the House budget. GOP House and Senate leaders have been skeptical of the move, but Pence argues the state can afford the estimated $500 million-a-year cut and that it would spur economic growth.

— HEALTH CARE: The Senate approved a bill authorizing Pence to expand Medicaid using the state's Healthy Indiana Plan to cover an estimated 400,000 low-income residents. Pence and Republican legislative leaders oppose a straight expansion of Medicaid and starting a state health insurance exchange under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

EDUCATION

— SCHOOL VOUCHERS: The House approved a bill expanding the private school voucher program by allowing kindergartners, siblings of current voucher students and some others to be eligible without first spending a year in public schools. House leaders shelved a bill that would have shifted voucher administration away from new Democratic state schools superintendent Glenda Ritz, a voucher opponent.

— SCHOOL STANDARDS: A Senate-passed bill would suspend adoption of the Common Core national reading and math standards until a fresh review is completed, but the House is unlikely to take up the measure that Ritz supported. Many in the House and Senate agree with Ritz that changes are needed to the state's A-F grading scale for individual schools, but no bills have cleared either chamber yet.

— SCHOOL SECURITY: The state would offer schools up to $50,000 a year in grants to help hire police officers and buy safety equipment to better secure their buildings under a bill approved by the Senate.

— CAREER COUNCIL: The House approved establishing the Indiana Career Council led by the governor with officials from state agencies and Ivy Tech Community College and other education and business leaders. The venture would match the state's workforce training programs with available jobs.

MONEY AND TAXES

— CASINO CHANGES: Senators approved a plan that would allow Indiana's 10 riverboat casinos to move inland to adjacent property and permit live table games at the two horse track casinos as they face more competition from neighboring states. The bill would also cut state taxes on casinos by millions of dollars. Several House leaders, however, are wary of making major changes to casino laws.

— ONLINE SALES TAX: The House voted to require Amazon.com and other online-only retailers to start collecting Indiana's 7 percent sales tax this summer. That's six months earlier than planned under a deal then-Gov. Mitch Daniels reached with Amazon last year, and some Senate leaders are reluctant to break that agreement.

— INDIANAPOLIS SPEEDWAY: A bill providing up to $100 million in state funding toward improvements at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway cleared the Senate. The proposal would have up to $5 million a year in existing state sales and income taxes generated from the track go toward a 20-year financing plan.

— FARM TAXES: The first bill Pence has signed into law extends for a year delays in new calculations for property taxes on Indiana farmland. It stops officials from using updated soil quality figures that were projected to lead to an average 25 percent increase on farm tax bills.

LAW AND ORDER

— SENTENCING OVERHAUL: The House backed a plan to overhaul the state's criminal sentencing laws. Provisions require those convicted of the most serious crimes to spend more time in prison and send more low-level felony offenders to work release and other local programs.

— TORT REFORM: A Republican senator withdrew a bill sought by Pence that would have required the loser in a lawsuit to pay all legal fees after concluding the proposal would likely be defeated.

SOCIAL ISSUES

— ABORTION REGULATIONS: The Senate approved a bill requiring abortion clinics to perform ultrasounds on women seeking the abortion pill and imposing tougher requirements on clinics that offer abortion drugs but not surgical abortions. Doctors' offices would be exempt from the provisions.

— GAY MARRIAGE: House and Senate leaders delayed until next year votes on a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, saying they wanted to wait until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on similar bans in other states.

— WELFARE DRUG TESTING: A House-approved bill would have welfare recipients face drug testing in order to keep receiving benefits if they're identified by a written screening test for possible drug abuse problems.

DAILY LIVES

— SUNDAY ALCOHOL SALES: A bill that would have lifted Indiana's ban on Sunday retail alcohol sales died when a House committee chairman didn't hold a vote on it. Bills seeking to end the ban have been filed the past several years, but it received a committee hearing for the first time this session.

— RIGHT TO HUNT: The Senate backed adding the right to hunt, fish and farm to the state constitution. If approved by the House, the proposed constitutional amendment would go before voters in the 2014 general election.

— SPECIALTY LICENSE PLATES: The House approved overhauling the state's specialty auto license plate system by requiring all groups with plates to sell 500 a year and undergo a financial review once a decade. The bill sets a limit of 150 specialty plates. The state now has about 100 specialty plates.


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