Indiana Chamber unveils 2019 legislative goals, suggests appointing attorney general

Indiana Statehouse

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Chamber flexed its political muscle Monday, announcing its top legislative priorities for the upcoming 2019 session.

The priorities include:

  • Raise the state’s smoking age to 21
  • Raise the cigarette tax by $2.00 a pack
  • Support the adoption of a hate crime law
  • Oppose any push to legalize medical marijuana

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar also said the organization supports a change to allow the governor to appoint the attorney general as opposed to being an elected position.

“There’s been a number of cases and instances where the attorney general is going off in a different direction that one has not been good for the employer community,” Brinegar said. “Our thoughts on that have nothing to do with Mr. Hill specifically. Just in general we think the attorney general ought to follow the same standards of client-attorney responsibility.”

In response to the idea, current Attorney General Curtis Hill issued the following statement:

“There’s a good reason that 43 of America’s 50 states have attorneys general who are elected by the people. Namely, we have a rich tradition in our democratic republic of respecting the people’s wisdom in choosing their leaders. There will always be those who prefer to concentrate the levers of government in the hands of a powerful few, but I believe most Hoosiers value the freedom of electing their public servants by casting ballots.”

A spokesperson for Gov. Eric Holcomb said late Monday, “This is not something the Governor has contemplated and doesn’t intend to do.”

Holcomb, along with other top Republican leaders, had called on Hill to resign after he was accused by a state lawmaker and three legislative staffers of inappropriately touching them.

“I don’t oppose the policy,” House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said. “But as I shared with Kevin when he mentioned it to me, the message that might send right now would be one I think would not be well-received, perhaps not by the public as well.”

If lawmakers still wanted to act, the only other option would to begin impeachment proceedings.

“It will be up to the members of the General Assembly to determine if the facts on the table now warrant that type of extraordinary treatment,” Bosma said. “I personally think probably not, but we’ll see.”

State Sen. Mark Messmer (R-Jasper) was more direct.

“It will be up to the voters,” he said. “There won’t be any legislative action to force him out. If he’s not been convicted of a felony, there’s no real reason to move that issue forward.”

Lawmakers will return to the Statehouse on Tuesday for Organization Day ahead of the 2019 session beginning in January.