By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — With the General Assembly intent on finishing its business by the end of this month, state legislators are busily sifting through numerous bills dealing with everything from state education standards to confined deer hunting in order to determine what should and should not be passed before the current legislative session ends.
In an effort to shine some light on the status of the legislative home stretch, State Sen. Carlin Yoder joined State Rep. Wes Culver in Goshen Saturday morning for the final Third House gathering of the current legislative session at the Goshen Chamber of Commerce.
“As has been said, we are hopefully a week away, and I’m fairly confident we’re a week away from closing things up,” Yoder said of the General Assembly’s current status. “Everything is in conference committee right now that’s still out there.”
According to Yoder, when the state’s economic forecast was released last week, it gave legislators a better picture of what’s in store for the state financially as they work to fashion a passable budget.
“The forecast was fairly optimistic. It really projects income taxes to go up, and other taxes to kind of stay the same. That being said, it shows a fairly good forecast, which I think gives some of us more confidence to pass a budget that is optimistic in nature and not so pessimistic in nature, which is good I think for everybody,” Yoder said.
With the proposed budget now in conference committee, Yoder described some of the negotiations currently being considered for inclusion such as a possible 10 percent income tax cut being sought by Gov. Mike Pence.
“The House version didn’t have one,” Yoder said of the proposed tax cut. “We (the Senate) had maybe around 3.5 percent in tax cuts, so that’s being negotiated, as well as plenty of other things.”
In describing some of the bigger bills currently on his radar, Yoder first pointed to his recently approved ephedrine bill that limits the amount of ephedrine a person can buy annually in an effort to curb methamphetamine production in the state.
“My ephedrine bill is officially done and through,” Yoder said. “It does not force people to get a prescription to get ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which is important to me, and I think it’s a good compromise.”
Yoder also touched on the numerous education-centered bills currently working their way through the assembly such as those dealing with Common Core state standards and the A through F school grading system.
“A through F is a big issue that we’re still trying to get our arms around trying to come up with a fair formula before we leave,” Yoder said. “It’s not easily done, as I discovered, but hopefully we can get there.”
As for the Common Core bill, which looks at whether or not the controversial educational system will be required in Indiana schools, Yoder said there is still plenty of discussion to be had before any final decisions on its passage are made.
“Common Core, it’s being attempted to be put back into Bill 1427,” Yoder said, “which is a fund name for various education matters.”
Yoder noted that the Senate passed a version of the Common Core bill that would have put a stop to its implementation going forward while it was studied over the summer to determine if it is in the best interest of the state. That bill was later killed by the House, however.
“So as it happens quite frequently in the legislature, the author of the anti-Common Core bill in the Senate is now attempting to put his language in Bill 1427,” Yoder said. “Whether or not that will fly or not, I don’t know.
“A through F is also in this bill now,” he continued. “We all for the most part agree that the A through F scale needs to be fixed, and now, but there are some of us who are a little iffy on Common Core. So then what happens? Do you kill the bill because the anti-Common Core bill is in there and then you kill the A through F as well? This is the fun that happens in the next week or so as we try to figure all these things out.”
During his talk Saturday, Culver chose to provided attendees with a breakdown of some of the more strange and obscure bills that have passed or are currently up for consideration by the legislature.
Included among the bills discussed was a successful bill seeking to allow confined deer hunting within the state.
“That’s where the deer are in the reserves, but they are fenced in, and the hunters come in and shoot them,” Culver said. “That was controversial. In this area, there are a lot of Amish and Mennonite farmers that grow the deer for these places.”
Culver also touched on a controversial bill calling for armed resource officers in all Indiana schools.
“The state had an amendment that mandated that there should be one (school resource officer) with a gun in every school,” Culver said. “That amendment got killed in the House.”
Additional bills Culver said Hoosiers should keep an eye on over the coming week included a possible criminal code revision, a bill that would require the state’s horse track casinos to hire live dealers versus automated dealers, and a bill that would require the horse track casinos to give money for the next 20 years as a loan to the Indianapolis 500 to help with improvements and upgrades.