INDIANAPOLIS – As Republicans hold their supermajority in the Statehouse, lawmakers have started making plans for next session.
Republican lawmakers have held more than two-thirds of the seats in the Indiana House and Senate. The GOP has picked up one Senate seat, and some close races in the House may go to a recount.
Andy Downs, director emeritus of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue University Fort Wayne, said he believes last year’s redistricting was a big factor in the legislature remaining under a GOP supermajority.
“The districts that were drawn were drawn pretty comfortably to continue to favor the party that’s in power,” Downs explained.
Downs pointed out 40% of the state legislative seats on the ballot this year were uncontested.
“That’s not necessarily healthy, and I think that speaks to people seeing futility in trying to field candidates to run in some of the races,” he said.
The biggest item on lawmakers’ agenda will be crafting the state budget, a process done every two years.
At the end of the fiscal year in July, the state’s surplus topped $6 billion, $1 billion of which was returned to taxpayers in an automatic refund over the summer.
Laura Wilson, associate professor of political science at the University of Indianapolis, said there will be much debate over how to spend or save the remaining funds.
“I know there will be other lawmakers who talk about reinvesting it in the state and looking at programs that seem to be sorely underfunded that could use that kind of money, especially in terms of education or health care programs,” Wilson said.
Although lawmakers passed a near-total ban on abortion over the summer, elected officials and analysts have said they expect the debate to continue in some form.
“Those kinds of details in terms of the circumstances, the life of the mother, rape or incest, the age, some of those questions I think will still be battled out,” Wilson said.
Before the session starts in January, lawmakers will briefly be back at the Statehouse Nov. 22. That’s when Republican legislative leaders will announce their priorities for the upcoming session.