INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Chamber of Commerce announced its 2017 legislative goals Monday, highlighting the strong push from the state business community, as legislators prepare to return to the Statehouse.
Front and center is the push for a long-term infrastructure plan.
Republican leaders, cognizant of the fact a long-term solution failed to reach fruition last session, are promising a new effort to find a solution to fund Indiana roadways for the foreseeable future.
In no uncertain terms, leaders said Hoosier motorists will have to chip in, adding serious discussions of raising the state’s gas tax and other potential fees will be both contentious and necessary.
“This is a tough sell, no matter Republican or Democrat,” State Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) said. “You’re talking about having to raise revenues. What’s your source of doing it? I will say this, it’s inevitable we have to find some new sources of money, no question about it.”
The chamber’s other top priorities include an expansion of state-funded pre-K for low-income families and ways to reduce the state’s smoking rate. Also, in what was described as a “legislative long shot,” the chamber is still backing a proposal to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s civil rights code, a move many see as unlikely in the 2017 session.
Also Monday, top Republicans distanced themselves from a proposal that would ban all abortions in Indiana.
State Rep. Curt Nisly (R-Goshen) said he will introduce what he calls the ‘Protection at Conception’ legislation in January, which would make abortions illegal and punishable by law.
“We deal with these every session,” House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said Monday. “And they usually, unless they’re extremely worthy ideas, they work themselves out at the committee level or before they get to the floor of the House.
“You guys ought to be focusing on the stuff that’s really important,” Bosma said. “The stuff that’s really going to move this General Assembly instead of just one issue because it has a headline with it.”
Republican Governor-elect Eric Holcomb said the measure isn’t on his agenda either.
“I will be squarely focused on our legislative agenda,” he said. “That’s what I’ll be focused on, not potential bills that aren’t related to taking this state to the next level.”
Holcomb named Earl Goode his chief of staff Monday, who served in the same capacity for former Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Lawmakers will gather at the Statehouse Tuesday for the annual Organization Day, a ceremonial kick-off to the 2017 session where new lawmakers are sworn in and agendas are touted.