INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana General Assembly convenes Tuesday at the Statehouse for Organization Day, an annual one-day preparatory meeting held ahead of the early January start to the four-month regular legislative session.
All 100 state representatives and the 25 of 50 state senators who won election Nov. 6, or in subsequent days if their districts include late-reporting Porter County, will take their oath of office under the chandelier in the wood-paneled House or between the Senate's white marble walls.
That includes Northwest Indiana's five new state representatives: Lisa Beck, D-Hebron; Pat Boy, D-Michigan City; Chris Chyung, D-Dyer; Ragen Hatcher, D-Gary; and Carolyn Jackson, D-Hammond.
Altogether, Region voters are sending nine Democrats and four Republicans to represent them in the House, compared to seven Democrats and six Republicans during the 2018 General Assembly.
There was no change in Northwest Indiana's Senate delegation of four Democrats and three Republicans following the re-election of state Sens. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond; Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell; and Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes.
Both the House and Senate are controlled by Republican supermajorities equal to two-thirds or more of the total chamber membership.
In the House, it's 67 Republican representatives versus 33 Democrats, a three-seat increase for Democrats compared to 2018.
There now are 40 Republicans and 10 Democrats in the Senate after state Sen. J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis, a Purdue University Northwest Hammond campus graduate, toppled state Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, in the first Democratic Senate pickup in two decades.
After being sworn-in Tuesday, the lawmakers will approve each chamber's rules and procedures as well as officially elect the House and Senate leaders.
That election is destined to be fairly anti-climactic since Republicans already have decided state Rep. Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, will be House speaker for an 11th year; and state Sen. Rod Bray, R-Martinsville, will succeed retired state Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne, as Senate president.
Bosma typically addresses the House on Organization Day to welcome new and returning representatives and identify his objectives and policy goals for the legislative session.
New House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, will get the same opportunity on the first day of the regular session in January.
The top priority for the 2019 General Assembly, as it is in every odd-numbered year, is to craft a two-year state budget.
Indiana is likely to have approximately $32 billion to spend between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2021.
Education usually gets about half the pot. Though next year Hoosier teachers — like their colleagues in other states — are expected to aggressively advocate for pay raises, potentially pushing state school spending even higher.
But that's hardly the only issue lawmakers will focus on.
If history is any guide, between Organization Day and the first week of session, representatives and senators will work with the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency to prepare and file more than 1,100 proposals for new state laws.
Most will be eliminated from consideration by mid-February. While about 300 will go on to be evaluated, debated, revised and voted on prior to the Legislature's mandatory adjournment on or before April 29.