At approximately 1:30 p.m. today, both chambers of the 2019 Indiana General Assembly will be called into session for what is referred to as its “long” session. It could last up to four months, although it most likely adjourn before that.
The primary chore of this session is crafting and passing the state’s biennial budget. But it certainly won’t be the only issue with which lawmakers grapple. Many of the hundreds of bills that will be introduced will deal with budget matters, but there will be lots of other legislation proposed as well. They will deal with issues big and small.
Among the big issues expected to get attention is a hate crimes bill. Gov. Eric Holcomb believes the time has come for Indiana to adopt a law that would add punishment to those who commit crimes because of hate or bias against others based on their race, religion, sexual orientation and other specified attributes. Such a bill will face a tough road, but the governor is right. It’s time for the state to take action.
Despite last November’s election, west-central Indiana’s legislative delegation stays the same, with one notable exception. Tonya Pfaff, a math teacher at Terre Haute North Vigo High School, has been sworn in as the District 43 representative in the Indiana House. She succeeds longtime state Rep. Clyde Kersey, who retired last year.
Pfaff is the only Democrat in the area’s delegation. Other lawmakers include state Sen. Jon Ford, and state Reps. Bob Heaton, Bruce Borders and Alan Morrison.
The overall legislative makeup of this session has changed somewhat, with a number of new legislators elected. However, the Republican Party retained its super majority status in both chambers, so there isn’t much Democrats can do to exert influence.
Rep. Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) remains speaker of the House. But there will be a new Senate president pro tem for the first time in 12 years. Sen. Rodric Bray of Martinsville was elected to the post by the GOP caucus.
Individual citizens need not hesitate to interact with their representatives. It’s easy to contact legislators to share views. We encourage you to do so. Here’s how:
• Members of the Indiana House of Representatives can be reached by phone at 1-800-382-9842.
• Members of the Indiana Senate can be reached at 1-800-382-9467.
• The mailing address for representatives and senators is 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204.
• If you have online access, there is a wealth of information, including email addresses of legislators, about the General Assembly and related services at www.IN.gov/legislative.
Government is at its best when the people are engaged and involved. Lawmakers work for you. Don’t be shy about letting them know your opinions.