INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana lawmakers have days to decide whether to keep certain contentious bills alive during this legislative session, including one that would extend civil rights protections to gays and lesbians, but not transgender people, one that would use a tax increase to fund road improvements and one that would further restrict the sale of cold medicines used to make methamphetamine.
Facing a Wednesday deadline, here are some things to know about the issues that will be considered and ideas that have already been kicked aside:
Republican Senate Leader David Long promised to address LGBT rights following the passage last March of a religious objections law that was strongly criticized, including by the business community, as an invitation for people to discriminate against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.
The full Senate is poised to vote on a bill that would protect lesbians, gays and bisexuals from being fired, denied service or evicted due to their sexual orientation. But the measure, which has exemptions for clergy, small businesses and religious organizations, has strong opposition from people on both sides of the issue.
Democrats and gay rights supporters, including business leaders, say the bill doesn’t go far enough because it wouldn’t cover transgender people, too. Religious conservatives, though, say it could force Christians to work with gay people even if they are religiously opposed to doing so.
“The far right, the far left are so passionate on this. There’s no give with those groups,” said Long, who plans to call the bill for a vote even though it could face defeat. “But those are extreme positions, and you have to remember that.”
A long-term road funding plan favored by GOP Speaker Brian Bosma was opposed not only by GOP Gov. Mike Pence, but also Republicans in the Senate because it would raise cigarette prices by $1 a pack and increase the state’s 18-cent-per-gallon gas tax by 4 cents.
House Republicans on Thursday added a gradual income tax cut to their plan to make it more palatable, but it didn’t work.
Long questioned whether the measure, which would reduce the income tax rate to 3.06 percent in 2025, was prudent. Pence, meanwhile, pointed to his own roads proposal, which would pump an estimated $481 million into state highway projects in 2017 by borrowing money and drawing down state budget reserves.
“Governor Pence is confident we can take care of our roads and bridges without raising taxes on working Hoosiers,” spokeswoman Kara Brooks said.
Bosma has consistently said the House GOP proposal would raise revenue and rewrite tax law in a way that provides a stable, long-term infrastructure funding. But by adding the income tax cut, other areas of the state’s budget could face a financial squeeze in the years to come.
With Indiana topping the national list for meth lab seizures for the third consecutive year, lawmakers proposed several measures this year to curb meth manufacturing. The favored approach by the House would allow pharmacists to require suspicious people to get a prescription to purchase otherwise over-the-counter cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine - a key meth ingredient.
The Senate, meanwhile, has a measure that would allow pharmacists to turn down suspicious customers looking to buy such medicines. Another Senate measure would restrict people with drug convictions from purchasing pseudoephedrine without a prescription by adding them to a national do-not-sell list.
SUNDAY ALCOHOL SALES
Big-box grocery chains and liquor stores have fought for years over legalizing Sunday sales, with this year’s measure requiring grocery and convenience stores to place alcohol in a separate area and away from toys, school supplies and candy. It also would have required cashiers at grocery and convenience stores to have state permits to ring up alcohol sales, similar to a requirement for liquor store clerks.
Despite professed support for the idea from some influential lawmakers, the perennial effort was voted down by a House committee after lawmakers raised concerns that the bill would deregulate alcohol sales for grocery chains but not for liquor stores.
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