INDIANAPOLIS — It looks to be a hot summer under the Statehouse dome as Indiana lawmakers are planning to conduct in-depth reviews of several controversial issues to help prepare potential legislation for the 2019 General Assembly.
The Legislative Council on Tuesday approved a slate of study committee subjects that includes medicinal marijuana, sports wagering, public assistance employment mandates, local alcohol license quotas and bias-motivated crimes, among other topics.
Over the next few months, representatives and senators assigned to bicameral interim study committees covering those issues will convene at the Statehouse, seek expert opinions, take public testimony and potentially recommend new laws.
"There are controversial topics because we've done most of the uncontroversial things to move Indiana forward here already," said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.
State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, who has championed a variety of proposals to decriminalize and legalize marijuana over the years, said "it's about time" the General Assembly takes a serious look at the benefits of medicinal marijuana.
"I am in the superminority in the Indiana Legislature, and I will work for whatever I deem possible to get," Tallian said.
Three issues specific to Northwest Indiana also were chosen for study committee review.
The finance panel will examine how Lake County allocates property tax credits that are funded by local income taxes, as well as evaluate whether Lake County governments are prepared for pre-2008 local debt to count against property tax caps beginning in 2020.
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In addition, the commerce committee will study how to maximize underutilized resources in the city of Gary, a review initially recommended by state Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary.
"I am looking forward to working with legislators as well as the city of Gary to formulate a strategic economic plan that the Legislature can support to move Gary forward," Melton said.
Other topics set for study committee review include Department of Child Services improvements, autism in public schools, human trafficking, robocalls, the financial impact of smoking, alcohol excise tax rates, online public notice advertising, vehicle subscription programs and water infrastructure needs.
Tallian pointed out, to no avail, that zero study topics were assigned to the labor committee, despite what she insisted is an urgent need for thorough review of the state's worker compensation program, unemployment system and non-existent paid leave policy.
"It doesn't make any sense," Tallian said.