Addressing the Indiana House of Representatives, Speaker Brian Bosma encouraged legislators to move forward with the new criminal code and to provide the funding for community corrections programs.
Bosma spoke Nov. 19 during the Indiana General Assembly’s Organization Day. The largely ceremonial session day provided lawmakers the opportunity to meet with colleagues and begin preparing for this year’s short session.
Noting that he was speaking on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, Bosma, R-Indianapolis, highlighted the past accomplishments of the Legislature and outline four priorities for the upcoming 2014 session.
He spoke to an attentive group in House chambers while outside, special interests groups and grassroots organizations milled around and tried to call attention to their concerns.
Although he did not include same-sex marriage as one of his priorities, Bosma asserted the Legislature’s role in deciding whether to put the amendment before the voters. He also appealed to lawmakers to be civil.
“My charge to you as we debate this very emotional personal issue is that we do so with the recognition of the dignity of every Hoosier in here and elsewhere, and also respecting each other’s strongly held positions.”
An amendment to the state’s constitution banning same-sex marriage in Indiana was approved during the 117th General Assembly. To get the proposal on the ballot in the next general election, the amendment must be approved again this session or the provision will be dead and the long amendment process will have to start over.
Bosma said the focus of the session must be the skills gap, early childhood education, road funding and fair business taxation. Here, too, he emphasized the need for Republicans and Democrats to work together to find solutions.
The speaker also singled out the new criminal code.
“We have to continue efforts to bring continued transparency and openness to the public, to our own process and the local government processes,” Bosma said. “We have to finalize and implement our criminal code revisions and give local communities the tools and resources to implement them.”
The Legislature passed the rewrite of the state’s criminal code during the 2013 session. It expands the felony categories, revises sentences and keeps low-level offenders in community programs rather than putting them in the Indiana Department of Correction. Advocates have worried the state will not properly fund community corrections and probation, leaving local municipalities to foot the bill.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long was optimistic about the 2014 session, saying his caucus is looking forward to discussing issues that will better the lives of Indiana residents.
“It’s certain to be another productive year for the Indiana Legislature,” Long said. “Senate Republicans continue to focus upon growing our economy, strengthening our schools and protecting Hoosier taxpayers.”
The 2014 is scheduled to reconvene Jan. 6 and adjourn March 14.