INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers return to the Statehouse Wednesday for the start of the 2018 legislative session. And looming large are a number of controversial issues, as Republican leaders promise a focus on workforce development, jobs and the opioid crisis.
Here are a few issues to watch.
Alcohol: Sunday sales and cold beer
A state panel studying Indiana’s alcohol laws have recommended the General Assembly pass legislation to allow Sunday carryout alcohol sales but to continue prohibiting cold beer sales in grocery and convenience stores.
“If I were to predict, I’d say it’s going to pass,” House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said in an interview last month when discussing Sunday sales.
Gov. Eric Holcomb has said he will work with lawmakers throughout the process.
“They’re not part of my agenda,” Holcomb said in a recent interview. “But I have said, look I want to make sure the state of Indiana is always looking forward. And this would be an example – our state’s alcohol laws – if there are ways that we can modernize those laws, I want to be part of that conversation.”
Lawmakers are rushing to fix this one.
State Sen. Jim Tomes (R-Wadesville) has already introduced legislation to fully legalize CBD oil and State Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Symour) said he will do the same in the House.
The confusion comes after legislation last session that legalized the produce for certain epilepsy patients who have signed up through a state registry.
But in recent weeks contradictory opinions about whether the products are legal for all Hooisers have come from Holcomb and Attorney General Curtis Hill.
Right now Holcomb has issued a 60-day moratorium, prohibiting State Excise Police from seizing any products.
Lucas also said he plans to introduce legislation to legalize medical marijuana, but Republican leaders have fiercely pushed back.
“I don’t think it has a lot of support,” Bosma said.
This debate happened last session and is expected to ignite again.
The question will be whether lawmakers want to approve legislation that would allow Hoosiers to carry a handgun without a permit.
“I do know that law enforcement expressed grave concern last year and concern this summer,” Bosma said. “We want to make a sensible change, just not change for change sake. And I’ll be listening closely to the desire of law enforcement, and if they have grave reservations about a new course of action, it gives me grave reservations as well.”
Lucas, the bill’s author, will argue the answer is pretty simple.
“We can call this the freedom session so to speak,” he said. “Returning the rights to the individual to let them make their choices.”
Bosma didn’t mince words on organization day last month.
“I’ve been called on social media a liar, compared to Nazis, told I was disgusting, a pathetic excuse for a Christian,” he told fellow lawmakers. “And people wonder why good people don’t want to run for office. And many of those comments were posted on my mother’s funeral memory page. That’s exactly how low we’ve gotten.”
Bosma promised a crack-down, to the best of his ability, to conduct a civil discourse throughout the legislative session, noting much of the problem he said arises from growing tensions in Washington.
“Some of you here in the building encourage incivility,” he said. “You encourage misrepresentation. You participate in the vilification of others. You’re insensitive to those who are hurting and those who are misunderstood. And I would only encourage you to stop.”
Republicans hold a super majority, and for their part Democratic leaders have said they’ll work with Republicans while creating a strategy to grow their own party.
“We’re not going to have a nuclear bomb approach here and just scatter things and throw it on the wall and see what sticks,” newly-appointed House Minority Leader Terry Goodin (D-Austin) said. “I don’t think there’s any reason for discourse or contention. I think the only way you can get things done is to be able to move forward.”