Indiana lawmakers talk priorities ahead of legislative session

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Monday afternoon, Indiana’s top lawmakers gathered to announce their 2019 legislative priorities. It was part of the Indiana Chamber’s 2019 Legislative Preview at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis.

At the meeting, several topics came up more than once: school safety, recreational and medical marijuana and bias or hate crimes.

Statehouse Democrats came out swinging, drawing a hard line of support for passage of a hate crime bill.

“The time is now to pass a hate crimes law,” said State Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, a Democrat from Fort Wayne.

“If we don’t get it done this year, shame on us,” said State Sen. Tim Lanane, a Democrat from Anderson.

In recent weeks, Gov. Eric Holcomb said he’d make hate crime legislation a priority. On Friday, House and Senate Republicans sided with the governor.

Republican State Sen. Mark Messmer, of Jasper, said, “I agree with Speaker Bosma. If it’s done in a way that’s an aggravator to an existing crime and not a standalone crime, I think there’s a pretty reasonable shot we can get some consensus behind that.” 

Kevin Brinegar, CEO of the Indiana Chamber, said his group also wants a biased or hate crime bill passed. He said the fact that our state doesn’t have a law with clear language tarnishes Indiana’s image.

“I think it’s quite possible we’ve lost individuals who might’ve otherwise brought their skills and talents to Indiana,” said Brinegar.

But agreement among lawmakers disappeared when medical marijuana came up. 

“We think Indiana should join the 33 other states and the District of Columbia, which allow access to medical marijuana for certain conditions,” Lanane said.

“I’m not a fan personally,” Bosma explained Monday afternoon, “because I think it leads directly to recreational marijuana. I just don’t think that’s a positive step for young people in our state.”

“The Food and Drug Administration has not approved marijuana for any valid medical purpose,” Brinegar said. “Until it does, we remain in opposition.” 

Lawmakers were pretty much on the same page when it came to school safety though. Republican leaders lauded Indiana as one of America’s best states for school safety policy.

“Obviously, that doesn’t absolve you from threats and real incidents at our schools,” Bosma said. 

Organization Day is Tuesday at the Statehouse.

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