State senators present goals for 2018 legislative session

Indiana State Sen. John Ruckelshaus, a Republican from Indianapolis, on Jan. 2, 2018, described the upcoming legislative session: "It's like all the kids coming back to school. Everybody will come back, sharpen their pencils. This is an exciting day!" (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The 2018 legislative session begins Wednesday.

By Wednesday afternoon, the Statehouse halls will be bursting with people.

State Sen. John Ruckelshaus, a Republican from Indianapolis, said “It’s like all the kids coming back to school. Everybody will come back, sharpen their pencils. This is an exciting day!”

Indiana’s 150 state legislators will come together for the 120th General Assembly.

On the Senate side, the very first bill on the list would allow Sunday alcohol sales from noon to 8 p.m. at liquor, grocery and convenience stores as well as drugstores.

Ruckelshaus said another big issue will be the state’s opioid crisis. “We’re gonna look at that from two angles. One is for the treatment of those that have become addicted. We want to try to get those people on the straight and narrow. Then, really go after the dealers from a punishment standpoint … really crack down on the source of that issue.”

Across the aisle, State Sen. Tim Lanane, a Democrat from Anderson, leads the Democratic Party caucus. This will be his 20th session.

Lanane said, “It is also an opportunity for caucuses to talk about their agendas a little bit more, what they hope will be accomplished.”

He hopes to accomplish some work on redistricting reform, enacting a hate crime law and examining the inner workings of Indiana’s Department of Child Services. Former director Mary Beth Bonaventura resigned in December in a scathing letter to the governor.

Lanane said, “I’m going to call for us to be holding hearings on the matter, and to be apprised by the administration as to what is the current status of protecting children in Indiana. What’s the plan going forward? What legislative fixes may be in order?”

In the Senate, there are more than 100 bills filed so far this session.

Over on the House side, things are a little different. That’s because the speaker of the house has not signed off on the list of prospective legislation yet.

Lawmakers still have time to submit more bills. In late November, House Speaker Brian Bosma, a Republican from Indianapolis, set the tone for this session: “We have an opioid crisis we’re dealing with, we have education initiatives that need attention and, frankly, we have some more downsizing of government that can be done.”

This is a short session, only about 10-1/2 weeks. Lawmakers on Tuesday said they hope to be finished by March 14, the last day both houses can adjourn.