INDIANAPOLIS — On Monday, leaders from all four General Assembly caucuses unveiled their top priorities for the 2024 legislative session along with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
While some of those priorities, such as education, childcare, and economic development received unanimous support, other priorities, such as marijuana regulation, already face an extreme uphill battle. During a panel discussion hosted by the Indiana Chamber, all four caucus leaders agreed that, despite heading into a short, non-budget session, problems in K-12 education must be addressed.
Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said, next session, the General Assembly will take a serious look specifically into reading proficiency and truancy issues.
”So, there’s some avenues to do that,” Bray said. “But we just want to make sure that it’s a focus again because it’s, anything else, anything good we do in the education system, if those kids aren’t there, they’re not going to have success.”
Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor echoed those sentiments during the meeting and added that the General Assembly must find a balance to ensure quality public and private school education.
”90% of our children go to traditional public schools, and year after year, we see their funding go up 1, 2%, sometimes even staying stagnant,” Taylor said. “While we see the private school vouchers go up some 600%.”
According to Taylor, another top priority for Indiana Democrats is regulating and legalizing marijuana. He said legislation that would allow for referendums on issues like cannabis and reproductive rights are in the works.
“Let the people of Indiana have a say-so, because I think we’re way behind other states in determining what we need to with cannabis,” Sen. Taylor said. “I think it has a chance of passing.”
However, Republican leadership said any chance of a marijuana legalization bill passing is unlikely.
”I’ve stood every year and said no one has made a compelling case to me yet on why legalizing marijuana and having more people use cannabis in the state of Indiana is a positive thing,” Indiana Speaker of the House Todd Huston said. “So, until I hear that answer, I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of change.”
Other key issues for both sides of the aisle include childcare and housing. However, Speaker Huston pointed out HB 1005, which established a residential housing infrastructure program, went into effect earlier this year. He said more time is needed to see how that program pans out before passing additional housing legislation.