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General Assembly will deliver controversial issues

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – If you want to buy liquor on Sundays or use marijuana to treat a medical condition, you should pay attention to what goes on in the 2015 Session of the Indiana General Assembly.

Lawmakers could affect your life in dozens of other ways as well.

We’re heading into the long session of the legislature. That means the big issue is the budget and the school spending that dominates it.

But there’s controversy coming, too, and House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath came to town a day early to mount an offensive.

“It’s just another way to try to drive the wedge in,” he said.

Pelath spoke out against a bill that would continue the gay marriage debate from last year. It would protect caterers, florists and others who refuse to be hired by gay couples.

“And, that’s not,” said Pelath, “what we should be about here in these chambers anymore.”

Pelath also promises to fight the governor’s plan, announced at a December conference, to remove Glenda Ritz as chairman of the State Board of Education.

“It’s time to take politics out of education in Indiana or at least out of the State Board of Education,” said Mike Pence at the time.

Instead Pelath promised to pursue a Ritz initiative to provide free textbooks in public schools.

“If we are going to cut taxes,” said Pelath, “there is one tax we have to cut first.  It is time to eliminate the textbook tax.”

But Democrats will work with Republicans in an effort to reform ethics laws, an effort spelled out by House Speaker Brian Bosma on Organization Day when he said, “We’re already consulting national ethics experts trying to find the state of the art for part-time legislatures around the country.”

“It’s important to be done,” said Pelath. “We’ve learned from the mistakes of the past.”

And there will be other issues where party labels won’t matter. Casino gambling reform is one of them.

But make no mistake, the GOP is in charge. Republican super majorities in both houses are bigger than they were last year.

And we still don’t know much of the governor’s agenda. He spells it out in the State of the State Address next week.