It was an Organization Day like no other.
Not only did some 15,000 Hoosier educators pack the Statehouse on Tuesday for the General Assembly's ceremonial first meeting, they saw history happen before their eyes as the longest-serving Indiana House leader announced the 2020 session will be his last.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said the time has come for him to do other things after spending 34 years as a state representative, including 12 years as the chamber's leader in 2005-06, and again since 2011.
Bosma plans to remain speaker for most of the 10-week legislative session that's set to run from Jan. 6 to March 11. He'll then resign from the House sometime after the May 5 primary election to give the winner a head start on his or her public service.
In addition, House Republicans in coming weeks will elect a speaker-designate to learn the ropes from Bosma during the session, take over in the final days, and continue in the post if Republicans retain control of the chamber after next year's general election that will see all 100 state representatives on the ballot.
"I'm not done yet, and I look forward to working with my House and Senate colleagues in the upcoming legislative session to take us over the finish line on time and under budget," Bosma said.
The speaker's decision was not spurred by the massive gathering of Indiana teachers demanding state lawmakers fund more generous pay raises, minimize school accountability mandates and drop burdensome licensing requirements.
Rather, Bosma said he's leaving the House because he believes he's met his original public service goal to "serve Hoosiers, and to make Indiana the best place to live, work and raise a family."
He said Indiana today is ranked among the very best states for its business friendly climate, low tax rates, fully funded 20-year infrastructure plan, low unemployment rate, budget transparency, commitment to ethics, and support for teachers and schools, including allocating more than half of each year's state budget to kindergarten through 12th-grade education.
For that he credited the willingness of Hoosier lawmakers to consistently work across party lines, on nearly every issue, to find policy solutions that do the most good for the most people, in accordance with Bosma's basic governing principle: "Just do what's right and let the politics shake out for themselves."
At the same time, Bosma's tenure as speaker saw a six-week walkout by Democrats protesting right-to-work legislation, he repeatedly attempted to insert a ban on same-sex marriage in the Indiana Constitution, and helped pass a 2015 "religious freedom" law that prompted businesses to temporarily boycott Indiana due to its seeming endorsement of discrimination against LGBT individuals.
"This is a remarkable place where we get along, we may disagree, we may disagree very strongly. But we cast a vote, and we move on to the next item," Bosma said.
After leaving the speakership, Bosma expects to continue his downtown Indianapolis legal practice and take on a new role as national chairman of the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, which works to elect Republicans to state legislatures across the country.
"My goal will be to take the success, both politically and policy-wise, that we've enjoyed here in Indiana to other states in the nation," Bosma said.
The speaker's announcement was met by a sustained standing ovation from both Republicans and Democrats in the chamber, to which Bosma quipped from the rostrum in his inimitable way: "Everybody loves you when you're leaving."
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said Bosma long will be remembered for "his contributions of unparalleled consequence at a time when our state needed strength in the speaker's chair," as well as Bosma's "incredible capacity to give to causes serving those most in need."
"Since the turn of this century, I've come to know Brian as a trusted friend, and for that reason alone, he'll remain on my speed dial," Holcomb said. "Speaker Bosma is the type of state leader you don't replace, you only follow."
State Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, is perhaps the most likely successor.
Huston achieved widespread acclaim last session for his work on the state budget as co-chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee alongside state Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, after Brown was severely injured in a 2018 motorcycle crash.
No matter who takes over as House leader, Senate President Rod Bray, R-Martinsville, said Bosma "will leave enormous shoes to fill."
"Speaker Bosma has been a pillar of Indiana's policymaking for decades and has played a huge role in landing Indiana in the enviable position we now find ourselves," Bray said.
"While I hate to see him leave, I certainly respect his decision, and acknowledge that our work together is not yet done. I look forward to one final productive session alongside the speaker and wish him all the best in the next chapter of his life."
Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, joined the Republicans in thanking Bosma for his service.
"While we may not have always agreed on the issues, I have enjoyed working with him in leadership as we have always fought respectably to make the best path forward for Indiana," Lanane said. "I wish him all the best on his future endeavors.”