Indiana lawmakers are set to begin their four-month legislative session, facing a tight state budget picture and a possibly contentious debate over adopting a state hate crimes law.
The Indiana House and Senate will meet Thursday afternoon at the Statehouse in Indianapolis to start a session scheduled to last until late April.
The Republican-dominated Legislature must draft a new two-year budget to fund school districts, universities and state agencies such as the troubled Department of Child Services.
Indiana is one of just five states without laws specifically against crimes fueled by biases regarding race, religion and sexual orientation. Conservative legislators have blocked adoption of such an Indiana law for several years, although Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb says it is long overdue.