INDIANAPOLIS – State lawmakers from across Indiana are unveiling their priority agenda items and getting ready for the 2022 session. Many hot-button issues could be on the table this year, from abortion access to marijuana legalization.
As discussion begins on everything from tax cuts to school boards, both parties gathered at the Indiana Statehouse for Organization Day, setting their agendas for the year ahead as lawmakers continue to debate the questions that have arisen over issues involving separation of powers throughout this pandemic.
Even as the state sees an increase in cases of COVID-19 and a still rising positivity rate ahead of Thanksgiving, lawmakers are still trying to balance the emergency powers between the Governor’s office and the legislature, with Gov. Holcomb announcing stipulations to “wind down” Indiana’s emergency declaration that has been in place since March 2020.
Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) and House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) announced Saturday that both chambers will meet November 29, to take up legislation allowing the governor’s orders to expire.
Lawmakers will reconvene for one day, looking to address the stipulations set by Gov. Holcomb to “responsibly” wind down the emergency declaration. Those requirements include preserving a program for matching Medicaid expenses, enhance SNAP benefits statewide, and expand the ability to vaccinate Hoosiers aged 5 to 11.
The early session comes just about five weeks before the legislature begins to formally meet on January 4.
This comes as lawmakers set the stage for other important policy decisions at the Statehouse. Republican officials are reportedly watching various abortion laws making their way through the courts, signaling what may come here in Indiana.
Democrats, on the other hand, fear this may be a wedge issue that keeps both sides from working together on other key topics. House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) shared his concerns with FOX 59 Statehouse Reporter Kristen Eskow.
“That’s the type of divisive issue that has hurt us in the past,” Rep. GiaQuinta said. “I would hope that we wouldn’t really see that type of issue coming forth this session.”
Hoosier Democrats announced last week their intention to focus on the marijuana legalization in the coming session.
“We can try to deny it, but it’s here. It’s here to stay,” Sen. Taylor said. “And we better get on board because… the incentives go down if the federal government makes a move before us.”
On the other side of the aisle, leading House Republicans are weary of the policy change without further research and evidence, or absent a move from the federal government first. Speaker Huston explained his stance to IN Focus, which he says hasn’t changed even after multiple attempts at legalization in the Statehouse.
“When you make the argument about having that substantial of a policy change, just because you’re trying to chase dollars, makes no sense to me,” Speaker Huston said.
As businesses continue to deal with a labor shortage as a result of the pandemic, Hoosier Republicans say they’re focused on tackling Indiana’s financial problems as well as supporting small businesses. Business leaders across the state are calling on lawmakers to take action to get Hoosiers back to work.
Many are concerned about rising inflation and are looking for local ways to combat it. House Majority Leader Matt Lehman says he’s watching where the state prioritizes its money very closely.
“As we look at some of our spending issues, where we invest our money, etc., I think we need to keep a sharp eye on where inflation is going.”