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Several issues unresolved as Indiana session nears end

Posted at 6:11 PM, Mar 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-13 18:11:13-04

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana legislators agreed Tuesday to boost funding for school safety and lift the ban on occupational licenses to some young immigrants, but plenty of unfinished work remained on the eve of their planned adjournment.

A joint committee of the House and Senate backed the school safety program, which was one of Gov. Eric Holcomb's priorities, as well as the protection for young immigrants referred to as "Dreamers."

However, the Senate abruptly left for the day Tuesday afternoon with a crush of bills that still need final approval from both chambers. They won't be back until Wednesday, the session's final day, to the surprise of House Speaker Brian Bosma.

"They're out for the night?" the Indianapolis Republican questioned.

That raises the possibility that many of lawmakers' could kill off a considerable number of bills tomorrow as they run out of time.

"There's only a handful of truly important issues left," said Bosma. "A lot of the stuff that is less critical, fortunately there is another legislative session next year."

Negotiations have been ongoing on legislation to eliminate handgun licensing fees and making changes to the leadership of the state's workforce development programs.

Other issues still in play include legislation allowing Ball State University to take over Muncie schools, a measure giving parents more control over sex education and a stopgap school funding bill.

"Once we get our agenda items done there's not a lot of reason to stay here," Bosma added.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, spent much of Tuesday giving speeches and honoring those who were retiring from the Legislature.

Earlier in the day members of joint conference committees, comprised of members of the House and Senate, appeared to strike agreement on language to boost school safety and allow young immigrants to obtain professional licenses.

Republican New Albany Rep. Ed Clere has championed the measure protecting "Dreamers." The term refers to young immigrants, typically brought to the U.S. illegally as children, who have had protection from deportation under a program developed under former President Barack Obama known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

DACA recipients can go to school and work. But under a recently adopted policy by the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, they can no longer obtain or renew a professional license for dozens of professions ranging from cosmetology to nursing to real estate agents.

"There's been a growing realization of the urgency of this," said Clere. "Members are hearing from people all over the state who are impacted or would be impacted by the current situation and this is going to resolve that and help a lot of people and employers."

The school safety measure includes funding Gov. Eric Holcomb has sought in the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.

The Republican governor had requested $5 million in additional funding to improve school security.