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Lawmakers gather for 1st day of 2023 legislative session

Senate Republicans said they'd be focusing on several areas, including fiscal responsibility, public and mental health and public safety.

INDIANAPOLIS — Monday marked the first day of the 2023 legislative session.  

Lawmakers in both chambers have been busy filing bills this week to be considered.

Senate Republicans said they'd be focusing on several areas, including fiscal responsibility, public and mental health, public safety and allowing consumers to monitor how much of their data is being used by businesses, along with the ability to delete it.

Senate Republicans have proposed a bill that would create a State and Local Tax Review Commission to see if eliminating the state's income tax is doable.

Other proposals would focus on the health of Hoosiers, including a bill that would give county health departments more state funding with the goal of making sure people have the same access to health services, no matter where they live in the state.

"We're chasing our tail focusing on treating sick people as opposed to prevention and I think we're going to go through more of a paradigm shift because of the Governor's Public Health Commission in focusing more now on prevention," said Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-District 5, the author of Senate Bill 4.

Senate Democrats said they'd also be focusing on the health of Hoosiers and were prepared to fully fund recommendations from the Governor's Public Health Commission to improve Hoosiers' health.

Senate Democrats said their other priorities included more money for K-12 schools that would cover raises for teachers and staff, as well as eliminating textbook fees that Hoosier parents pay for now.

And, while lawmakers passed a ban on abortion with some exceptions last summer during a special session, a law that's currently on hold while the Indiana Supreme Court decides its constitutionality, Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-District 40, filed a bill to change the time frame on how long someone would have to get an abortion, should the Supreme Court rule that the law is constitutional.

"Today I filed a bill that would restore abortion access up to 20 weeks. This allows this Legislature the opportunity to course correct if the Supreme Court allows SB-1 to stand," Yoder said.

2023 is also a budget year, which means lawmakers will decide how the state spends the revenue it's projected to bring in.

House Democrats are calling for universal pre-K to give more families access to childcare.

"It's statistically proven that children enrolled in pre-K have higher high school graduation rates and are more likely to go to college," said House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-District 80, in a speech to the House chamber outlining his caucus's legislative priorities.

"A comprehensive system would remove the financial barriers that keep many families from sending their children to pre-K.  It would level the playing field for Hoosier children, regardless of their family's tax bracket. The more children we have accessing early education, the more benefits Indiana will reap in the long run," GiaQuinta said.

House Democrats said they also supported eliminating the fees parents shoulder for their kids' textbooks.

House Speaker Todd Huston, R-District 37, said Republicans would also take a look at both of those issues.

"I think giving parents and schools more flexibility in how they use their dollars has always been a key component of the House Republican agenda. So we'll look at what opportunities there are to do that and how we give parents the flexibility to use those dollars and get the curriculum material they need for their kids," said Huston.

One issue Huston said the House was less likely to take up were bills surrounding marijuana. A handful have been filed by both House and Senate members to either legalize cannabis or decriminalize it.

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