INDIANAPOLIS — House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, is hoping to end the 2019 legislative session April 24 — five days ahead of the April 29 adjournment required by state law.
It's not because Hoosier lawmakers have been unusually efficient this year, though Bosma insists that "members are working hard to bring to their legislation to a successful close."
Rather, the majority of the 150 representatives and senators, including most of the Northwest Indiana delegation, will have no hotel rooms to stay in between April 25 and April 28 when the National Rifle Association convention takes over downtown Indianapolis.
President Donald Trump even will be flying Air Force One to Indiana's capital city to attend the NRA convention April 26 and to address thousands of supporters of the gun rights organization.
Bosma said Republican legislative leaders have a plan to wrap up state budget negotiations by April 22 to give lawmakers up to 48 hours, and certainly no less than 24 hours, to review the budget prior to voting on it April 24 and then adjourning for the year.
However, he's not sure whether that plan still is feasible, given the differences between the House-approved budget and the Senate revisions to House Bill 1001 that's set for Senate approval Tuesday.
A further wrinkle is likely to hit Wednesday when the revised state revenue projections for the next two years are released, and lawmakers must rework the budget based on whether anticipated tax collections are estimated to grow, stay the same or shrink.
Bosma said he has a bad feeling about the forecast based on his body language observations of the legislative and executive branch employees who put together the consensus revenue projection that remains confidential until Wednesday's State Budget Committee meeting.
"I expect there's going to be significantly less funds," Bosma said. "It's not going to be more dollars. That I'm quite confident of. I'd be shocked if it was the same as the December forecast."
Reduced revenue likely means cutting at least a portion of the planned spending increases in what Bosma described as the "two big buckets" of elementary and high school education, which comprises 50% of state spending, and the Department of Child Services.
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"We have no preconceived solutions yet. We have to see the forecast first," Bosma said. "Again, there's two big buckets, and we'll have to decide which to start pouring water out of."
If lawmakers are unable to complete their business by April 24 there are no restrictions or prohibitions on the General Assembly meeting while the NRA convention is in town, or leaving April 24 and coming back April 29 to finish the session.
"Our stretch goal is the 24th. It could be the 25th. We could be here Friday if we had to. Heck, I might be here Saturday; I've been here on Saturday before," Bosma said. "We could come back here on Monday. We'll just have to see."
In addition to the budget, intense negotiations are expected on major gaming legislation (Senate Bill 552), and a proposal to fund various Indianapolis convention center and stadium projects (Senate Bill 7).
Also on the docket are dozens of other measures that, while they will affect fewer Hoosiers, nevertheless are very important to the people who stand to benefit from the legislation and the lawmakers championing the proposals.
Bosma said, no matter what, the Legislature will wrap its business by April 29.
Last year, Gov. Eric Holcomb had to call lawmakers back for a May special session day after negotiations on a few proposals took too long, and the House and Senate were forced to adjourn at midnight, in accordance with state law, even though urgent proposals still were awaiting final votes.
"The only thing we have to adopt before we leave this General Assembly, constitutionally, is a budget," Bosma said. "We'll get that done. If that's all we get done, that's what we get done."
"I know we'll have a lot more than that. But the other items won't hold us up."