- Associated Press - Sunday, January 3, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Proposals addressing everything from civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to requiring a prescription for a common cold medicine used to make methamphetamine will be debated when lawmakers gather for the 2016 session, which begins Tuesday.

Here’s a brief look at some of the new measures:

- TRANSGENDER BATHROOM ACCESS: Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, has proposed a bill that would make it a Class A misdemeanor - punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of as much as $5,000 - for a transgender person to enter a public bathroom that does not conform to their gender at birth.

- LONG-TERM ROADS FUNDING: Among other provisions, the measure sponsored by Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, would charge a $1 “user fee” per pack of cigarettes and allow the state’s gas tax to keep pace with inflation. The state’s gas tax has not been increased in over a decade, while the amount collected has plummeted due to more fuel-efficient cars.

- COLD MEDICINE: A bill by Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, would require a prescription to purchase cold medicine that contains pseudoephedrine - an ingredient used to make methamphetamine.

- FOUR WORDS AND A COMMA: “Gender identity, sexual orientation” would be the four words added to Indiana’s anti-discrimination law under a measure proposed by Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson. His approach is preferred by LGBT rights supporters, including much of the business community, because it does not offer religious exemptions.

- LGBT RIGHTS/RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS: These LGBT civil rights protections would not be as robust as the “four words and a comma” approach. Instead, the bill by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, includes significant exemptions for small businesses and religious institutions that object to working with gay people. Still, Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long has said that the bill is a good “first attempt” at bridging the gap between LGBT rights supporters and religious opponents.

- PENCE’S ROADS PLAN: Gov. Mike Pence unveiled his “21st Century Crossroads Plan” in October, which would boost state spending on highways in 2017 by roughly $481 million. Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd says legislation that includes that plan will be sponsored by Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury.

- ISTEP: Pence and House and Senate GOP leaders will look to address dismal 2015 student ISTEP scores, which came after the national Common Core standards were scrapped in favor of new, Indiana-written stringent guidelines. Teachers’ merit pay is tied to those scores, which have yet to be released as a result of glitches by the testing vendor.

- TEACHER SHORTAGE: One idea to alleviate the shortage, which was suggested by GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma, would create a free-ride college scholarship for students who agree to teach in Indiana schools for at least five years.


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