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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, April 22, 2017 1:02 am

The Latest: Indiana Legislature adjourns for the year

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Latest on what's expected to be the last day of the Indiana legislative session (all times local):

2:00 a.m.

The Indiana Legislature has adjourned for the year.

Lawmakers worked into the early morning Saturday before adjourning at 12:53 a.m.

The Republican majorities came into the day with a hefty list of major priorities that still needed approval.

But after approving a roads-funding plan that will pump an average of $1.2 billion in new money into infrastructure in the coming years, as well as a new two-year state budget they gaveled the session closed.

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12:35 a.m.

A $32.3 billion state budget is headed to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb after Indiana lawmaker in both chambers voted to approve the two-year spending plan.

The budget boosts average yearly spending on infrastructure over the coming years by about $1.2 billion, while granting Holcomb a $9 million increase in funding for a preschool program for poor kids.

In fact, Holcomb had a number of victories in the bill, including $15 million in a new fund that he can spend on economic development programs.

The budget draws the state's nearly $2 billion reserve fund down slightly, while boosting pay for state police and includes a modest increase in education spending.

The measure is now goes to Holcomb for his signature.

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12:10 a.m.

The Legislature has put its final stamp of approval on an infrastructure funding plan to address the state's aging roads and bridges.

The Republican plan includes a number of tax and fee increases levied on motorists in order to pay for improvements.

The final product raises fuel taxes by 10 cents a gallon, creates a new $15 vehicle registration fee and shifts the sales tax charged on fuel purchases to roads funding by 2025. A provision also allows the governor to seek federal authority to toll. Republican leaders say tolling will likely play a role in the future funding picture.

It cleared the House 69-29 with one lawmaker donning a hard hat as he presented. The Senate later signed off in a 37-12 vote.

Holcomb has signaled he will sign it.

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11:40 p.m.

Indiana's much-maligned ISTEP exam is set to be replaced in 2019 under a bill heading to Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The ISTEP became a liability after Republicans undertook a number of education overhauls that made the test more difficult. Indiana students performed poorly and an electronic version was plagued with glitches.

This session's bill sets some parameters for a new test dubbed "ILEARN" and gives flexibility to the state school board. It also allows school districts to revise plans to change how ISTEP results factor into teacher evaluations in the upcoming school year.

The state school board is required to establish new pathways to graduation under the measure.

The bill cleared the House 68-29 Friday before passing the Senate 39-11.

Critics say students are tested too much.

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8:50 p.m.

Gov. Eric Holcomb must now decide if he will sign a bill cracking down on a legal loophole used by Ricker's convenience stores to sell cold beer after it was approved by the Indiana Legislature.

The bill sets such a high bar that Jay Ricker, who started selling carryout cold beer at two of his Ricker's convenience stores, says he will have to stop sales by April 2018.

Package liquor stores and restaurants can sell cold beer, but gas stations and convenience stores are only allowed to sell warm beer and cold wine.

Ricker worked around it by installing seating and serving burritos, landing a restaurant classification - and the right to sell cold beer.

Ricker would be able to keep his yearly permit allowing carryout sales of cold beer until it runs out. But in order to renew it, the bill mandates that 60 percent of all alcohol sales must be for on-site drinking at businesses like Ricker's that obtained a permit after November 2016.

Democratic Rep. Terri Austin said the bill makes the Legislature "look terrible" because it targets one company.

Republicans vow to take up a complete overhaul of the state's complicated alcohol laws next year.

The House approved the bill on an 84-13 vote. The measure passed the Senate on a 43-1 vote.

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8:30 p.m.

Indiana lawmakers have sent Gov. Eric Holcomb a measure authorizing the state to take over financially troubled school districts in Gary and Muncie.

The bill allows the state to appoint emergency managers to assume broad control of the districts. Gary has more than $100 million of debt and officials say Muncie has a negative cash balance of $18 million.

The Senate approved it unanimously Friday and the House later signed off on it in an 88-10 vote.

Some Democrats say fiscal problems in the districts are rooted in Republican-championed property tax caps and changes in education funding over the last decade. They expect more school districts will have financial trouble in the coming years.

A spokeswoman for Holcomb did not immediately respond to a message requesting comment.

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7:40 p.m.

The Indiana Legislature has approved a major overhaul of a vaping law they approved last year that created a monopoly and sparked an FBI investigation.

The bill guts a series of stringent provisions that effectively allowed one security company from Lafayette, Mulhaupt's Inc., to issue production permits and play gatekeeper for the industry. The company initially approved just six politically connected producers.

The new measure would require manufacturers of the nicotine-laced "e-liquid" consumed through vaping to follow federal rules.

The bill still allows the state's Alcohol and Tobacco Commission to conduct random inspections of production facilities and now puts it in charge of issuing permits.

The House approved the measure 83-14 Friday. The Senate approved it 45-5. It now goes to Gov. Eric Holcomb for consideration.

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3:55 p.m.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb says it will be a joy to sign into law an expansion of Indiana's preschool pilot program.

The measure passed the House 81-16 Friday and the Senate then approved it in a 31-19 vote.

Holcomb says the bill provides access to high-quality early education for "thousands" of poor families." It was one of the governor's top priorities.

The proposal by Republican Rep. Robert Behning of Indianapolis adds 15 counties to the original five-county program and increases spending by $9 million. It sets aside another $1 million for an online preschool program.

Critics say the pilot should be expanded more broadly. They also oppose letting the families of preschoolers in the pilot obtain private school vouchers for kindergarten.

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2:45 p.m.

Indiana lawmakers have approved an expansion of the state's preschool pilot program that's a top priority for Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The proposal by Republican Rep. Robert Behning of Indianapolis adds 15 counties to the original five-county program and increases spending by $9 million. It sets aside another $1 million for an online preschool program.

Senators had originally preferred a smaller expansion. Holcomb has stressed the importance of doubling the number of students served by the state's pilot, but his spokeswoman didn't immediately provide comment.

The final version passed the House 81-16 Friday. The Senate then approved it in a 31-19 vote.

Critics say the pilot should be expanded more broadly. They also oppose letting the families of preschoolers in the pilot obtain private school vouchers for kindergarten.

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2 p.m.

The Indiana Legislature has approved an NRA-backed gun bill that allows people who've obtained protective orders to carry firearms without a license for a period of time.

Rep. Sean Eberhart says his proposal gives victims of domestic violence a way to immediately protect themselves. The Shelbyville Republican's bill also asks that police expedite those individuals' license applications.

Opponents say guns don't make people safer. Some also are concerned a victim's handgun could be used against them.

The measure cleared the House Friday 74-26 before the Senate voted 38-12 to send it to Gov. Eric Holcomb. His spokeswoman says he will consider it carefully.

The bill also calls for lawmakers to study removing the requirement to have a license to carry a handgun.

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1:30 p.m.

Lawmakers have slipped a provision into Indiana's proposed budget that authorizes the state to purchase new lethal injection drugs while preserving the anonymity of suppliers.

The measure was not debated in committee and was only revealed once the budget proposal was released on the last day of this year's legislative session.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma says the state's supply of drugs used in the executions of prisoners is nearing their expiration dates. He said the provision was added at the request of Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The measure bars the release of information that could reveal the identity of a manufacturer or supplier of the drugs. That prohibition also applies to attorneys seeking the information in civil and criminal trials.

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12 p.m.

The Indiana Legislature has approved a bill that would allow people with certain types of epilepsy to use marijuana-derived oil as medicine.

The House approved the measure on a unanimous vote Friday. It cleared the Senate on a 36-13 vote Thursday.

The Legislature has long resisted efforts to allow the use of cannabidiol oil, commonly referred to as CBD. But that changed this year.

The oil cannot get patients high but contains compounds that studies suggest lessen the severity of seizures. Many parents of children who have treatment-resistant epilepsy have testified in support of it during hearings.

The measure now goes to the desk of Gov. Eric Holcomb for consideration. A Holcomb spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether the governor will sign it.

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9:49 a.m.

Indiana lawmakers are entering what is expected to be the last day of their session with a hefty list of bills that still must be approved.

House Speaker Brian Bosma says he anticipates that Friday's floor session will stretch into early Saturday.

Republican leaders reached agreement on a roads funding plan that will pump $1.2 billion more a year into infrastructure by raising fuel taxes and fees. But they still have to vote on that plan, as well as Indiana's next two-year budget.

Other pending measures include more money for preschool programs and a bill to close a legal loophole Ricker's convenience stores is using to sell cold beer.

A bill allowing the state to take over cash-strapped Muncie and Gary school districts is also among measures needing final approval.