The internal changes to the Legislature’s interim study committee structure are not readily visible, but majority and minority leaders are optimistic the alterations will streamline the process and control the workload.
Under key provisions of a bill approved during the 2014 session of the Indiana General Assembly, the number of topics has been reduced and the Legislative Council has more control over what issues are studied. Also the legislators appointed to the interim committees will be drawn from the standing committees that review similar topics during the session.
“It does restrict the number of topics actually addressed by the committees and that is what really had gotten so out of hand,” Indiana Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said. “Sixty or 70 topics assigned with the same number of meetings they have now…, the committees were not able to spend sufficient time on those critical issues. So it’s hopefully a course to give them vision, to give them direction and to keep them pointed in the right direction.”
Working under Senate Enrolled Act 80, the Legislative Council met Wednesday and unanimously approved the resolution that assigned about 37 topics to 15 interim study committees.
Among the committees and their topics are:
- Interim Study Committee on Corrections & Criminal Code: autism spectrum disorders of defendants; juvenile justice issues; and changes to the criminal code.
- Interim Study Committee on Courts & Judiciary: Digital privacy; nonparty defense; adoption and requests for new courts or changes in the jurisdiction of existing courts.
- Interim Study Committee on Education: pre-kindergarten and student discipline, including the suspension, expulsion or exclusion of a student from school.
The chairs of the study committee will not be able to introduce additional topics without the approval of the Legislative Council’s Personnel Subcommittee. Bosma reiterated this provision is meant to control the number of topics. Without the preapproval process, he said, the concern is the issues not assigned would be submitted directly to the chairs of the committees to pick up.
Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, sees no problem with the committee chairs being prohibited from adding new study topics.
During the 2013 interim session, he filled the agenda of his Commission on Courts with additional topics from the one assigned. Although he will now have to get thumbs up before assigning new topics, Steele does not think he will have any problem getting preapproval.
Senate minority leader Tim Lanane also does not anticipate problems under the new committee structure.
“I think the Senate bill made some positive changes just in terms of how administratively do we establish the committees and we process the committees,” the Anderson Democrat said. “But I don’t think it disrupts what I think is the very important work of the interim study committees.”