Lawmakers pass several key bills as HJR-3 moves to Senate rules committee

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Lawmakers are nearing the halfway mark of this year’s legislative session, with several key deadlines approaching next week.

All along, the proposed constitutional ban on same sex marriage has been a lightning rod of controversy at the Statehouse – and Thursday the Senate Republican leader announced the measure, known as HJR-3, would head to the Senate rules committee next month.

By a vote of 57-40, House lawmakers passed an amended version of HJR-3 Tuesday afternoon after they dropped HJR3′s controversial 2nd sentence.

Some had worried what that sentence could mean for civil unions and domestic partnerships. But because the resolution had to pass with the same wording as the last time it passed, the change in wording means the issue likely won’t be on this November’s statewide ballot, unless the Senate adds the wording back in and somehow gets the House to go along with it too.

“There are certainly ways people can bring things back to life,” said Freedom Indiana campaign manager Megan Robertson. “But I think it’s a positive step in the right direction.”

“There’s all kinds of possibilities,” acknowledged Senate president pro tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne. “It’s something we’ll have to consider… Is that wise, is it not? We really are kind of in uncharted waters here with this discussion so you can ask just about any question and I can say it’s possible.”

Sen. Long said he had originally planned to send HJR-3 to the Senate judiciary committee, but changed his mind.

“It’s really my belief for an issue that is this public and this consequential, that the Senate rules committee is the proper place to hear the bill,” said Sen. Long. “I’d like to see a clean bill come to the floor of the Senate. I will say that once it comes to the floor, any and all amendments are going to be considered and available, they’ll be no attempt to block anything.”

Long said the measure would be heard by the Senate rules committee the week of Feb. 10.

Meantime, legislators also dealt with another major issue Thursday – the business personal property tax on business equipment and machinery.

House lawmakers passed a bill Thursday that would allow local governments to opt out of the tax. HB 1001 passed by a vote of 63-33.

By a vote of 35-11, state senators approved their own measure Thursday that would begin to phase out the tax, a move supported by Governor Mike Pence, who introduced the idea as part of his economic agenda for 2014.

Gov. Pence said phasing out the tax would help create jobs in a competitive economic environment, but said the move should not unduly burden local governments which rely on the tax revenue.

Lawmakers dealt with a host of other bills, including a proposal to drop federal Common Core standards, and a bill that would let Indiana school districts purchase cameras to use in their school bus stop arms.

Senate lawmakers also passed a bill that would allow some brands of locally-produced alcohol to be sold at the Indiana State Fair. The bill will now go to the House.

Next week, House lawmakers must make their final votes on bills authored in the House, while Senate lawmakers will need to make final votes on bills that originated in the Senate.

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