Berman: No Big Surprises in 'Smooth' Session

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Indiana legislators are taking a break after what WIBC/Network Indiana Statehouse Bureau Chief Eric Berman calls a "smooth" legislative session. The Indiana General Assembly adjourned for the year Wednesday evening five days before the session's deadline, a stark contrast to last year when the legislature went to the wire. Berman says the most controversial piece of legislation was the hate crimes bill, but legislators were still able to pass it relatively quickly. 

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Berman said the gambling bill turned out to be the most difficult piece of legislation to get passed, but overall, there weren't any major surprises in the legislative session.

"There wasn't anything terribly unusual, which is why it went so smoothly. Often, there is some surprise that explodes. It didn't really happen this time," said Berman. "It might have been a little bit of a surprise (with) gambling. This debate started as a sports betting debate. It became clear pretty quickly that sports betting was not going to be controversial. There was a little bit of a surprise when that turned into a big gambling bill (and) they rolled it up with the Terre Haute casino and the Gary casino and the live dealers at the racinos. That was a little bit surprising followed by the surprise that even that wasn't terribly controversial."

Berman says the legislature will soon be gearing up for summer study committees. One of the major topics that will be studied this year is the "complexity formula," which is the augmentation of school funding. He says there is a consensus that the state doesn't have a good way to set up that formula and the committee will look into a better way of doing that.

Berman adds legislators will also be looking at a tax on vaping. A bill on the topic died during the session but Senate President Pro Tempore Rod Bray (R-Martinsville) wants to continue the discussion.

"That's something he wants to look at both in terms of what's the best way to tax vaping; do you tax it based on the price? Do you tax it based on the volume? Do you tax based on the nicotine content? And secondly, what's a fair and efficient way to collect it? We heard from a lot of retailers, convenience stores in particular, saying this would be a burden to actually assess that tax."

He says there will many more topics studied over the summer as well.

Berman says there weren't any major surprises in the legislative session.
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