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Indiana lawmakers sprint to finish 2017 session: ‘We’re getting tight’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Indiana lawmakers plan to adjourn the 2017 session a week early, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

On Monday, House Speaker Brian Bosma spoke with 24-Hour News 8 to give an update on how close the legislature is on certain issues “We’re getting tight,”  he said.

The busy work started Monday with discussions on nearly 15 bills in front of packed committee rooms. “Head is definitely spinning right now,” State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) said. “I’ll be glad when we do get a little bit of a reprieve, and get a little rest.”

There might be a lot of work to do, but the focus is on the budget, roads, and cold beer. “By the time Friday night at midnight rolls around we’ll all be wiping our brow and saying, ‘Oh, can we go home now?’ State Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) said.

Before they do, lawmakers are scratching their heads over burritos. Not a topping choice, but how Ricker’s Gas Station got a restaurant liquor license to sell cold beer because of its burrito operation.

It is a business House Speaker Bosma visited this weekend. “I haven’t changed my opinion, other than to say, Ricker’s runs a clean operation, and nice new facilities, including the one in my neighborhood,” House Speaker Bosma said. “Question is whether you want them to be package liquor stores on every corner?”

Road funding is another issue. Lawmakers want to increase the gas tax and add vehicle fees.

The Senate prefers adding tolls, while the House wants to shift the gas tax to repair roads. To plug the sales tax loss to the general fund, the House wants to increase the cigarette tax.

But on Monday, 24-Hour News 8 learned it appears to be dead. “The Senate has never really expressed an interest in this and they haven’t expressed a remarkably new interest,” House Speaker Bosma said.

Finally, lawmakers must pass a budget. Both sides say they’re close, and plan to present a draft Thursday before voting Friday, setting up an early end to the session. “I don’t know if it’s more chaotic, but it’s always chaotic,” State Sen. Tallian said.

24-Hour News 8 also learned movement could come soon on a state superintendent bill. The House passed a bill that would give the governor power to appoint the position in four years. The Senate changed it to eight years. House Speaker Bosma said House Republicans planned to discuss the matter Monday afternoon, and decided whether to bring it to a vote.

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