So much for Statehouse compromises... 


Just one day after the encouraging show of compromise that resulted in House Democrats returning to the Statehouse, Republican legislators appear to have redoubled their efforts in moving forward on an aggressive conservative agenda.

The Associated Press reported early Wednesday morning that Indiana’s Senate had voted 40-10 in support of the gay marriage ban, HJR 6, six weeks after its passage in the House.

Tim Davies of the AP reported:

“Tuesday’s Senate vote occurred below an empty public gallery, which was closed after a few dozen chanting protesters disrupted debate on the resolution Monday. No protesters were evident in the hallways outside the Senate during the final vote.”

In a session where Republicans have consistently called the shots, the bill’s passage comes as little surprise. But it’s not clear that the public necessarily agrees with their rulings. Poll results last week gave light to a lack of support from Hoosier voters, and several Indiana-based companies have voiced concerns that such a ban would harm the state’s image and future business dealings.

The bill will have to pass again in 2013 or 2014 before voters see it on the ballot.

As for HB 1210, one of the more restrictive abortion-related bills in the works, House Republicans rejected Democrats’ proposed amendments Tuesday, some adjustments that might have softened the blow. The legislation would make most abortions illegal after 20 weeks, shifting up the cut-off point from its current 24 weeks. Further, physicians would have to inform patients of the procedure’s potential risks, including a falsified link to breast cancer.

According to a report Tuesday by Mary Beth Schneider of The Indianapolis Star:

“Rep. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington, tried to remove that language, saying studies have shown no link between abortion and breast cancer.

‘I support the bill,’ said Welch, a nurse and one of only five House Democrats among the 51 co-sponsors of the bill. ‘But I do not support the (breast cancer) language because it is not evidence-based.’ Still, the House voted 41-52 against her amendment.

The only physician in the chamber, Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, voted for Welch’s proposal.”

Another amendment would have exempted women who had become pregnant as a result of rape or incest. Bill backers said it would create “a giant loophole.”

Tuesday’s report went on to quote the author of the legislation, Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero):

“‘I don’t want to disparage in any way someone who’s gone through the experience of rape, incest,’ Turner said. ‘But someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they’d been raped.’”

The bill will move to the House for a final vote later this week, then on to the Senate if approved. Insiders from Planned Parenthood of Indiana have noted with some apprehension that they expect decisions like these to come fast and furious now that the stalled session has officially resumed.

Update: The House Ways and Means Committee also passed Chairman Jeff Espich's (R-Uniondale) $27.9 billion two-year budget bill on Wednesday with a 60-37 vote.

According to the Associated Press, HB 1001 would for the most part keep education funding the same, but would shift distribution so that some urban and rural districts may experience cuts. A statement Wednesday evening from Rep. Espich's office outlined some additional provisions, including the elimination of extra grants for small schools and a focus on moving school districts toward more accurate per-pupil funding. Hoosier college students may see a limit on tuition hikes, as the bill would allow the Commission for Higher Education to set strict increase targets.

In the proposed budget, appropriations would be adjusted for state agencies 15 percent below those of Fiscal Year 2011; exceptions would include Medicaid, Indiana Comprehensive Health Insurance Association and pensions.

Also on Wednesday, Indiana House lawmakers approved the proposed school voucher program outlined in HB 1003, voting 56-42 in support of an income-based initiative that would move children from public to private institutions. Per concessions made earlier this week, the program would be limited to 7,500 students for the first year and 15,000 the second.

The AP reported Thursday morning:

“Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said the proposal was aimed at providing more education opportunities for those without such choices today.

Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce of Bloomington argued that the vouchers would take money away from public schools without any evidence of improving education.”

The bill now faces the full Senate.

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