By The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers are entering the second half of the legislative session with more than 400 bills still alive, covering issues including teacher pay, gambling and hate crimes.
The Indiana House was on Monday considering Senate-approved legislation, while the state Senate was evaluating proposed laws endorsed by the House. Measures that are approved by both chambers will then be considered by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb.
One bill would provide $611 million for education. While the bill doesn't specify how school districts must use the funds, lawmakers hope officials will use the money to fund teacher pay increases.
"Having the legislature tell the school districts exactly what to pay teachers is problematic so we are trying to come up with other creative ways to help," Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said.
Another proposal would legalize sports wagering, including on mobile devices.
"What we are doing in this bill would allow us to capture part of that market that already exists," Holcomb said. "I'm not quick to walk away from that."
Another key piece of legislation set for review is a proposed hate crimes law. Holcomb made a public appeal regarding the bill after the state Senate removed a list of specifically protected characteristics, including sexual orientation, gender identity and race.
"The list is an important statement," said Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane. "We all have a race. We all have a color, a sexual identity."
Opponents argue that the government shouldn't regulate what people think. Others are pushing for the bill to include additional protections for political beliefs and involvement in national groups.
Bills that didn't clear either chamber could still be amended into surviving legislation.
There are two months remaining in the budget-writing session. The Republican-dominated Legislature must draft a new two-year budget to fund school districts, universities and state agencies before the session ends in late April.