Indiana lawmakers lay out agenda during ceremonial session start

Indiana lawmakers kicked-off the 2017 session during the ceremonial, "Organization Day." (WISH Photo)
Indiana lawmakers kicked-off the 2017 session during the ceremonial, "Organization Day." (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Indiana lawmakers returned to the statehouse Tuesday for a ceremonial start of the legislative session. It was pomp and circumstance lawmakers hope will help them hit the ground running in January.

“People have been banging on doors all summer,” State Rep. Scott Pelath said. “They’ve been talking to voters. The reason they did that was the outcome to serve the people.”

Before any oath was taken, lawmakers symbolically started the 2017 session surrounded by tools. It was to showcase the session’s charity of choice, Habitat for Humanity, but it also had another meaning.

On Tuesday, Indiana lawmakers stood with Habitat for Humanity to announce a partnership to collect tools, and a build project that'll take place on the statehouse lawn in March. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)
On Tuesday, Indiana lawmakers stood with Habitat for Humanity to announce a partnership to collect tools, and a build project that’ll take place on the statehouse lawn in March. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)

“We are building a foundation for the session,” State Sen. Jim Merritt said. It’s a foundation started by the election of house and senate leaders.

Brian Bosma was re-elected as house speaker. In the senate, David Long was re-elected as pro-tem.

Both Republican leaders told members they plan to focus on the budget, roads, education, and also the growing opioid problem. “It’s complicated, it’s difficult, and we have to find a solution, and it’s on our desks right now ladies and gentlemen, and we’re going to have to find a solution for that as well,” State Sen. Long said.

One thing not addressed, social issues, including abortion and LGBT rights. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t discussed.

Freedom Indiana members delivered 5,500 letters to lawmakers to ask them to consider LGBT protection this session. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)
Freedom Indiana members delivered 5,500 letters to lawmakers to ask them to consider LGBT protection this session. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)

Freedom Indiana delivered 5,500 letters to Governor-elect Eric Holcomb’s office. “The majority of Hoosiers want protections and it should be something that he looks out for,” Freedom Indiana Campaign Manager, Chris Paulson said.

Looking out for emerging topics is something that can always change legislative plans. While it was smiles, and handshakes Tuesday, a new year can always bring different ideas.

“Often a session will start that way, and then we find that issues that people had wished to avoid arise during the legislative session, and even thereafter,” State Rep. Pelath said.

Lawmakers will adjourn for the holidays. They will continue to work on legislation until they return in January. That’s when Democrats said they will lay out their session agenda.