Organization Day, the first official day of the Indiana General Assembly’s 2016 legislative session, was held on November 17. Traditionally held in mid-November, Organization Day provides an opportunity for new rules to be adopted and for legislators to make arrangements for the upcoming legislative session.
Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane laid out key issues for lawmakers to tackle during the 2016 session, primarily the expansion of the Indiana civil rights laws to provide protections for the LGBT community. In September, Senate Democrats outlined their proposal to send the clearest message that Indiana does not condone discrimination after passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act exposed major loopholes for the LGBT community in Indiana. Senate Republican leadership announced a watered-down proposal on Organization Day, receiving criticism from Sen. Lanane that the proposal contains too many carve-outs and exemptions to provide the protections that Hoosiers expect.
Sen. Lanane also took to the Senate floor to highlight other major issues the Senate Democratic Caucus will focus on in the coming session. Primarily, Senate Democrats will advocate for a number of proposals that to support Hoosier families, such as raising the minimum wage paired with increasing the state earned income tax credit, equal pay for equal work, paid family medical leave and expanding child care assistance for working Hoosiers.
Additionally, the Senate Democratic Caucus voiced support for a proposal offered by Sen. Mark Stoops that will hold students, teachers and schools harmless from an expected decline in ISTEP scores. The legislature will also focus on strategies that will help to address the teacher shortage in Indiana schools. Sen. Lanane also spoke about the need for Indiana to make an investment in repairing the state’s aging infrastructure, increasing voter participation through a legislative package offered by Sen. Karen Tallian, and methods to curb the epidemic of heroin and methamphetamine addiction in Indiana.
The Indiana Senate and House of Representatives now stand in recess and will reconvene on January 5, 2016.