INDIANAPOLIS (April 14, 2015) – As a Tuesday night deadline loomed to make any changes to legislation on the House or Senate floor, lawmakers spent a whirlwind day passing bills on second readings, even adding new policy to certain provisions.
Here’s a look at some of Tuesday’s action:
On a 55-41 vote, the House passed SB1 on a final reading, which will allow the State Board of Education to select its own chairperson. Gov. Mike Pence has said he will sign the legislation into law. The bill highlights the controversy between Pence and current chairwoman Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, with some suggesting the bill would essentially take away some of her power.
Democrats attempted in both the House and Senate to discuss a statewide anti-discrimination law protecting LGBT Hoosiers in wake of the religious freedom debate. Both measures failed.
In the Senate, Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) proposed a study committee to look at the impact of a statewide anti-discrimination law.
“Time has come for us to carefully examine exactly what are the policies of our state in this regard,” he said. “What’s been the history, what is the need going forward.”
Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the discussion is warranted, but cautioned on this approach.
“I don’t do this lightly Sen. Lanane, and I do hope we’ll have a chance to work this out,” he said. “But I ask we don’t do it in this amendment, in this bill, in this day.”
The amendment was rejected in the Senate, while a similar measure in the House was never voted on, because it was deemed not germane to the bill lawmakers were trying to amend.
Drug testing welfare recipients:
The House approved a measure 79-15 requiring random drug tests for Hoosiers on public assistance, deemed high risk for drug abuse or charged with a drug-related crime.
State Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Crothersville, proposed the measure. Goodin represents Scott County, which is at the heart of the HIV epidemic.
“We’ve got a serious problem down there, and as we move forward to make things better, we feel this may be a positive step in the right direction,” he said.
If recipients fail multiple drug tests, they would be ineligible for benefits.
Expanding Narcan access:
The House voted 95-0 to make Narcan accessible to the public. The drug reverses the effects of a heroin overdose.
If this version is signed by Gov. Mike Pence, it would allow any Hoosier to obtain the drug from a doctor’s prescription or a pharmacy.
The bill is meant for friends and families of heroin addicts.
When receiving the prescription, there would be an education component included. The state would also track how much Narcan is being sold.
“As an Indianapolis firefighter, I can tell you we’ve used Narcan,” said State Rep. Dan Forestal, D-Indianapolis. “I’ve seen Narcan used on runs. It is nothing short of a miracle when it blocks the effects of an overdose.”
Lawmakers, who supported the measure, said more action, treatment and education is needed.
“A lot of people will advocate this is a life-saver,” said State Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville. “And I don’t disagree that it is in an immediate circumstance, but we can’t allow ourselves to think this by itself will solve the problem because it won’t.”
Common construction wage:
On its second reading, the State Senate passed a repeal of the common construction wage law, which sets a base wage for public projects.
The bill, supported by Gov. Mike Pence, would repeal the law on public projects worth more than $350,000.
Attempts by Democrats to stop the repeal failed. The measure moves onto a third and final reading, one day after the Statehouse lawn filled with protesters, including union contractors and workers.
“I’m very encouraged by the progress this is making,” Pence said Tuesday. “I’m strongly supportive of it. And I think we ought to let the marketplace set the wages on taxpayer-supported projects rather than some government structure that’s been in place for decades. I’m grateful to the support of the General Assembly to repeal this 80-year-old law. And if it reaches my desk, in the form we’ve requested, I look forward to signing it.”