INDIANAPOLIS — Depending on who you ask at the Statehouse, the 2019 General Assembly either is on its way toward accomplishing great things for Hoosiers, or busy compiling a record of missed opportunities to improve Indiana.
The Republicans who control both the House and Senate have the first view. The Democratic minority in both chambers share the second.
But members of both political parties agree that what happens during the second half of the legislative session ultimately will determine whether Hoosiers are satisfied with the work of the men and women they elected to represent their interests.
Starting today, the House will begin considering Senate-approved legislation, and the Senate will evaluate proposed new laws endorsed by the House.
Once a measure passes both chambers with identical language, it will go to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb for him either to sign into law or veto.
However, the second chamber usually makes changes to most legislation, so lawmakers from both the House and Senate in mid-April must meet in conference committees to negotiate compromise versions; those versions then must be re-approved to advance to the governor.
The General Assembly is required by law to adjourn for the year on or before April 29.
Here's a look at some of the key measures advancing at the Statehouse and others that likely will not become law this year:
Teacher pay — While no pending legislation mandates that local school corporations pay higher wages to teachers, the state budget in House Bill 1001 provides $611 million in new state and local funding for elementary and high school education over the next two years, which GOP leaders are hoping school districts will put toward teacher pay hikes.
Gaming — Senate Bill 552 authorizes relocating Gary's casinos from Lake Michigan to a land-based site, likely adjacent to the Borman Expressway, and to the west-central Indiana city of Terre Haute. The measure also ensures other Region casino cities see no reduction in their gaming tax revenue due to the Gary move. It also legalizes sports wagering, including on mobile devices.
Buffington Harbor — With the Majestic Star casinos out of Buffington Harbor, Senate Bill 66 creates a new Gary Indiana Transmodal Compact, jointly led by the state and the city, to develop the lakefront land into an intermodal shipping and warehousing alternative to Chicago that takes advantage of Gary's unique water, rail, air and highway connections.
Bias crimes — The governor is urging Hoosiers to contact state lawmakers and tell them to restore the comprehensive bias crime protections in Senate Bill 12, including a list of protected classes, that was watered down by the Senate to merely codify existing judicial options for punishing a crime more severely when it's motivated by bias toward a victim's particular characteristics.
Data center — House Bill 1405 provides tax breaks on data center equipment and most electricity to encourage the developers of Hammond's Digital Crossroads of America Data Center to grow from a planned $40 million, 105,000-square-foot project at the site of the former State Line Generating Plant, into a $200 million campus with 400,000 square feet of lake-cooled data storage.
Beach activities — Following an Indiana Supreme Court ruling that held the shore of Lake Michigan is owned by the state and open to all Hoosiers, Senate Bill 553 establishes the right of beach visitors to fish, boat, swim, wade, walk, run, sit, recline, picnic, sunbathe, bird watch, toss a ball or disc, play sports or engage in any similar or related shore activities.
Marijuana — Legislation to allow recreational marijuana use, Senate Bill 213; or medicinal marijuana, Senate Bill 357, did not advance out of the Senate. Even if they had, Holcomb said he will not approve marijuana legalization in Indiana until the federal government no longer classifies the drug as a banned controlled substance.
Bus safety — In the wake of a crash that killed three Fulton County children boarding a school bus, Senate Bill 2 increases the penalties for motorists who injure or kill a child at a stopped school bus, and authorizes schools to deploy cameras on the sides of school buses to record drivers illegally passing the bus.
Elections — Following a 2018 Election Day fiasco, House Bill 1217 restructures Porter County election administration with an eye toward eliminating partisanship and promoting professionalism.
Children's hospital — The Region's premature babies and very ill young children served by Medicaid would be assured of receiving treatment at a University of Chicago hospital under House Bill 1238, instead of having to travel to an Indianapolis children's hospital.
Griffith — House Bill 1177 gives the town of Griffith until November 2020, instead of this November, to join either North or St. John townships, following its voter-approved exit from comparatively high-tax Calumet Township.
Cigarette tax — Proposals to increase the state's cigarette tax by $2 per pack, House Bill 1565; or $1 per pack, House Bill 1551, to deter Hoosiers from smoking, failed to advance out of the House and appear unlikely to be revived in the Senate.
Lead testing — Senate Bill 297 requires the water in every public and private school in Hammond and East Chicago annually be tested for compliance with federal lead and copper standards. It does not provide schools any money to cover their water-testing costs.
Public notice — Mandatory newspaper publication of sheriff's sale notices is eliminated under House Bill 1212 and replaced by a foreclosed property listing on a sheriff's office or county government website.
Felon registry — Every person convicted of a felony in Indiana since at least 2012, and going forward, would be publicly listed on a state website and forever associated with their crime on internet search engines under Senate Bill 36.
Abortion — House Bill 1211 includes new restrictions on a specific abortion procedure that courts have struck down in seven other states. It also attempts to revive an abortion "complications" reporting mandate that an Indiana federal court last year deemed invalid.
Superintendent — House Bill 1005 makes the state superintendent of public instruction a governor-appointed position starting in 2021, instead of 2025.
Exoneration — Prison inmates who later are found not to have committed a crime would be paid $50,000 under House Bill 1150 for every year the person wrongfully spent incarcerated at the Department of Correction.
Citizenship test — Senate Bill 132 requires students to memorize the answers to the U.S. citizenship exam and correctly recall at least 60 out of 100 or be denied a high school diploma, even if they've satisfied all other graduation requirements.
Veterans — Military veterans would pay no state tax on their military retirement income under House Bill 1010.