INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers began their 2014
legislative session Tuesday with a jam-packed schedule and just 10 weeks
to complete their work.
The House and Senate were scheduled to hold their first meetings of the
session Tuesday afternoon, following a one-day delay because of the heavy
snow and subzero temperatures that hit the state.
Two issues appear likely to dominate the session — the elimination of a
property tax on business equipment and machinery and an effort to place
the state's gay marriage ban in the constitution.
Gov. Mike Pence and some of the state's business lobbyists will be
squaring off with local officials in an effort to eliminate the business
personal property tax. Supporters say it is needed to improve the state's
business climate. Opponents say it could rip open a $1 billion budget hole
for cash-starved localities.
The gay marriage battle likely will draw most of the spotlight. Supporters
are seeking to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage, civil unions
and benefits for same-sex couples. Opponents of the amendment have run a
highly visible and coordinated campaign so far, but it's unclear whether
they will succeed in winning enough lawmakers to their side. A bipartisan
group of lawmakers overwhelmingly voted for the amendment when it last
came up in 2011.
Gov. Mike Pence also will be pushing education measures, including a
proposal to expand vouchers to teachers and preschool-aged children. He is
seeking additional aid for charter school operators and the creation of a
tax credit for parents who adopt.
Lawmakers are set to take up many of their own initiatives through the
session. A proposal to crack down on trespassers dubbed by opponents as
the "Ag Gag" bill is set for a hearing Tuesday afternoon. A handful of
Senate Republicans are seeking new limits on domestic surveillance,
following an Indianapolis Star report that state police were using a new
cellphone tracking tool.