Budget, roads and cold beer continues to be focus ahead of session adjournment

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Nearly 70 bills’ fate have yet to be determined, but top Indiana lawmakers said they’re focused on the budget, roads and liquor.

Cold beer is what top state leaders continue to call the surprise of the 2017 session. “You’ve got to be a real restaurant, and not just a convenience store,” State Senate Pro Tem David Long said.

Last month, Ricker’s Gas stations started to sell cold beer after it got a restaurant license. Lawmakers are debating a bill to block Ricker’s, but are also considering a summer study to review all liquor laws.

There has been a lot of Statehouse chatter, but not much voter reaction. “I haven’t heard a ton from people, except maybe Ricker’s employees, or people who are effected, liquor store employees who are sending in emails at the request of their employer.”

“Well, I’m shocked to hear him say that,” Ricker’s gas station owner, Jay Ricker said. “I have been inundated with people who do not work for me, in fact, many of them are public officials”

Education is another debate. The House passed a bill giving students freedom to pray at school, wear religious clothing, and include religion in classwork.

“It’s about time for all faiths that we obey the first amendment and allow the exercise of religion,” State Rep. Bruce Borders (R-Jasonville) said. “I think from what I understand it really sets up, unfortunately an opportunity for our schools to have to fight lawsuits,” State Rep. Karlee Macer (D-Indianapolis) said.

The other education divide is pre-K. On Thursday, House and Senate leaders appear to be on board with spending a $1 million on an in-home option.

“It’s only one third of the cost of the other methodologies, which is a very attractive aspect of it,” Senate Pro Tem Long said. “We see it as an option, especially for rural communities,” House Speaker Brian Bosma said.

Roads and the budget are the final two major pieces. House Republicans still want to shift the gas sales tax to fix roads, and increase the cigarette tax.

It’ll come down to what’s done with the $16 billion budget. Which lawmakers say the list of 75 differences is cut in half, setting up a busy five days.

“Tired, and trying to refuel the jets here a little bit for the last sprint,” House Speaker Bosma said.

“I’m fine,” Senate Pro Tem Long said. “I’m used to it. I’m an old dog. I’m used to this stuff. You pace yourself.”

Both chambers believe work will be finished by Friday. Lawmakers are a week ahead of schedule. In fact, House Speaker Bosma said Thursday, they could adjourn before next Friday.

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