BATESVILLE — With less than three weeks to go before the mandatory close of this legislative session, Indiana lawmakers are sending a flurry of bills to the governor for his signature.
Legislation that's already passed out the House and Senate cover a wide gamut of issues, from expanding the definition of a historic cemetery to banning welfare recipients to withdraw their cash assistance from ATM machines inside strip clubs.
As of Monday, Gov. Mitch Daniels had already signed nine bills into law, including the controversial “right to work” legislation that makes it a crime for employers to enter into labor agreements that require workers to pay union dues.
Another nine bills were on Daniels' desk by late Monday awaiting his signature. They include legislation that rolls back a “blue law” on Sunday motorcycle sales, and would allow the state's motorcycle dealers to sell their wares seven days a week.
By law, the 2012 “short” legislative session must wrap up by March 14. House Speaker Brian Bosma is predicting lawmakers may be done earlier, by March 9.
Of the more than 100 bills that Daniels is likely to sign into law this year, few are the headline-grabbers like the one that made Indiana the 23rd “right to work” state in the nation. A partisan fight over the bill stalled the first half of the legislative session, when House Democrats refused more than half-dozen times to show up for quorum calls.
Many of the bills headed to Daniels desk are like the cemetery bill that expands the definition of a historic cemetery that can be cared for with county tax dollars. It moves the date to be considered “historic” from 1850 to 1875; it also expands the definition to include cemeteries with the graves of Civil War veterans.
“It may not be the most important bill we pass, but it will be important to a lot of people who care about this issue,” said Rep. Ed Clere, a Republican from New Albany who co-sponsored the bill.
While legislation that would have required state officials to start a drug-testing program from welfare recipients failed, a bill that further limits how welfare recipients can access their cash benefits passed, and has already been signed into law by Daniels.
Under the new law that goes into effect July 1, Hoosiers enrolled in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program are banned from accessing their cash benefits using an ATM inside a strip club. The current law already bars those TANF recipients from using ATM machines in casinos, horse tracks, gun shops, bars and liquor stores to access their cash benefits.
One big bill still up for debate is the statewide smoking ban that would prohibit smoking in most indoor workplaces. The House has already passed a bill that would give bars and taverns an extra 18 months to implement the ban, and with exemptions for casinos, cigar bars, and private clubs.
The full Senate is expected to take up the issue Tuesday. As of late Monday, at least 20 different amendments to the bill had been filed. Some would further limit the exemptions, while others would expand the businesses that would be exempt from the smoking ban. Even if the bill passes, it has to go to a joint House-Senate conference committee where legislators would work out their differences.
Daniels has made the smoking ban one of his priorities and has told legislators he wants few workplaces exempted from the law.
Each bill passed by the General Assembly that goes to Daniels for his signature is posted online at the state's Bill Watch site. To follow the bills going to the governor's desk, go to www.in.gov/billwatch