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Friday, February 28, 2014

Some ideas just didn't have momentum

Posted By on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 4:00 AM

click to enlarge Lesley_Stedman_Weidenbener_-_mug_-_The_Statehouse_File.jpg
As lawmakers move into the last weeks of the 2014 legislative session, it's tempting to pay attention only to the bills that are still in play.

But it's worth taking a few minutes to look back at some that won't become law this year.

Of course, no issue is every really dead at the General Assembly - not until lawmakers adjourn sine die, the term used to mean they're done for the year. Until then, there are so many procedural ways to revive issues or language that it's hard to put anything into the graveyard.

Still, there are a few issues that appear to be dead. So let's take a look at some of those bills that started with some momentum but lost it along the way.

Fenced hunting

For years, the Indiana Senate has been the place where bills to legalize fenced hunting preserves have died. But this year, Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, agreed to let the issue move forward.

He made the call after conflicting court decisions declared existing fenced deer hunting operations either legal to operate or illegal under current state law.

That led a Senate committee to pass a bill to legalize and regulate the operations, which allow hunters to pay to hunt farm-raised deer in a large, enclosed area.

But the bill failed in the Senate when only 25 of the chamber's 50 senators voted yes. It takes 26 votes to pass a measure.

"Right now, because of court rulings that have just come down over the past few months, it appears that we are looking at a Wild West situation if we don't do something," said the bill's author, Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury. "If we don't act, anything could go."

But it doesn't like that action will happen this year after all.

Gambling

Another no-go this year is legislation that would have allowed riverboat casinos to move their gambling operations onto land and let horse track casinos have live dealers at their table games.

That bill - considered several times over the past few years - got no more than a committee hearing. Then Senate Public Policy Chairman Ron Alting, R- Lafayette, decided not to have a vote, promising instead to ask for a summer study of the issue.

Virtual school sports

The House passed legislation that would let students at virtual charter schools - where instruction is delivered primarily over the internet - play sports in their home, traditional public districts.

"All this bill does is gives these children the opportunity to try out for a local sports teams. If they don't meet any requirements that the coach asks for them... these kids can be kicked off," said the bill's author, Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour. "Try out and give them the opportunity to play by the rules of every other child."

The Senate Education Committee took testimony on the bill as well. But Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, ultimately decided against having a vote, saying he wants to see the Indiana High School Athletic Association and virtual schools officials do more talking about the issue first.

Others

We'll probably be putting Gov. Mike Pence's plan for state-funded preschool on the list of proposals that didn't pass.

The House approved a five-county pilot program, but the Senate stripped the measure out of the bill and replaced it with a study committee.

And we know Pence's proposal to eliminate the property tax on business equipment won't become law. At issue now is whether some scaled back version of that plan - a cut in the tax - might survive.

Of course, there are bound to be other bills that don't make it. As the session winds to a close in the next two weeks, political fights or special interests or bad luck will kill other bills. It's just too soon to make full list.

Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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