- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana lawmakers approved a number of bills Wednesday but will try to settle some of the tougher fights during the 2014 legislative session later.

The General Assembly gave final approval to measures that would improve state oversight of private bus inspections, help more veterans enter teaching and grant excused absences for students attending the State Fair. Lawmakers also created a task force to study long-term answers to the state’s transportation funding troubles.

More contentious bills scheduled for a vote Wednesday were pushed off for approval later in the session, which ends next week.

A proposal to study sexual assault in Indiana and protect minors from prosecution if they report drug overdoses or other health emergencies didn’t make it to the floor, and a measure to require warrants for police to use aerial drones also was delayed.

Senators did not vote on a measure that would effectively kill a state energy efficiency program after a band of business owners and advocates rallied against the bill that morning.

The measure originally would have allowed industries that use 1 megawatt or more of electricity to pull out of the Energizing Indiana program. The House later changed the bill to prohibit the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission from extending or beginning new contracts with the program after this year.

The bill would also prevent the IURC from requiring an energy efficiency program or extending current regulations after this year.

“Utilities will go back to the way things were - running energy efficiency programs only if, how and when they want to,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana spokeswoman for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “If that’s not killing the Energizing Indiana program, I don’t know what is.”

Republican Gov. Mike Pence will now decide whether to sign the bills on his desk into law. Pence can veto measures, but vetoes are easily overridden in Indiana with a simple majority in either chamber.

The major pieces of Pence’s 2014 agenda are still being debated. They include business tax cuts and a preschool voucher program.

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