INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Speaker of the House Brian Bosma set a positive yet challenging tone Tuesday for budget legislation facing the Indiana General Assembly as it readies for the 2019 session.
"In short, the economy and the government are running on all cylinders," said Bosma, R-Indianapolis, addressing House members in an afternoon meeting on the annual Organization Day.
"No, we didn't get Amazon ... but the tech giant Infosys just broke ground on their new headquarters at the old airport and they're going to bring at least 3,000 jobs," Bosma said.
But facing the Legislature are "very significant budget challenges," he said, such as funneling to the Indiana Department of Child Services about $275 million of an anticipated $325 million to $350 million in new tax revenue.
Legislators can now begin submitting bills which are expected to include hate crimes, alignment of workforce agencies, school safety improvements and looks at increasing teacher pay.
Legislators return to the Statehouse on Jan. 3 to conduct business through the end of April.
Bosma recalled that in 2004, when he was first served as House Speaker, Indiana was saddled with leading the nation in job losses and was 46th in job creation.
"This is the shocker: We were the only state in the nation that between 1996 and 2002, the only state to actually lose technology jobs," Bosma said.
Now, he said, Indiana is "the envy of the nation" in software job growth and low property taxes, among other factors.
House members gave a standing ovation to State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, who was injured in a serious motorcycle crash in northern Michigan in September. He walked into the chamber with aid of a cane.
By 3:30 p.m., however, the 14-member Legislative Council was undertaking business by unanimously approving a report setting a sexual harassment policy for legislators.
"This is a very serious policy that we're putting together here today. It may not be the be-all and end-all," said Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.
In part, the policy requires an hour of sexual harassment prevention training each year and sets up more uniform procedures in handling complaints.
Legislators would be able to file a complaint if they were harassed by a non-legislator, including other elected officials. Legislators previously had no policy although there was a mechanism for investigating complaints in both chambers. The council's recommendation must be approved by both chambers.
State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, a member of the council, said she hoped that legislators would come up with consequences for misconduct.
In the other chamber, Senators welcomed new members with Republicans keeping 40 of the 50 seats. Before the Nov. 6 election, Republicans had 41 seats. The House is made up of 67 Republicans and 33 Democrats.
In the 2019 session, legislation will also be introduced to address hate crimes. Indiana is one of five states with a law that adds penalties to a crime committed against a person due to his or her gender, religion or sexual identity among others.
Gov. Eric Holcomb has indicated support for a hate crimes bill.
"I'm encouraged by the fact there is now bipartisan support," Lanane said.