Indiana legislators will formally take office for the next legislative session Tuesday during Organization Day at the Statehouse. More than a dozen new legislators will join the ranks, while House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-88) and Senate President Pro Tempore Rod Bray (R-37) will be officially elected to their positions. Network Indiana/WIBC Statehouse Bureau Chief Eric Berman says the 2019 session will include a new budget bill and a number of other much-anticipated pieces of legislation.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Berman said the biggest hot-button issue will likely be hate crimes legislation, which earlier this year received support from Governor Eric Holcomb and has had trouble in the legislature over the past three years.

"It didn’t have the governor behind it in those sessions. It actually did get through the Senate the first of those years and then went nowhere in the house," said Berman. "The leaders of all four caucus, Democrats and Republicans (in the) House and Senate, say they support it, but there have been problems with the rank-and-file in the Senate."

Berman cites Bosma who said Monday there is a version of a hate crime bill that could pass, however if legislators who want something stronger push too hard for it, the whole effort could collapse. 

The Senate Democratic Caucus last week unveiled its legislative priorities, which include medical marijuana. Berman says while there is support on both sides of the aisle for the issue, the likelihood of a bill passing is slender.

"The governor in the past has said that he is opposed to it," Berman said. "The (Indiana) Chamber announced that they’re concerned that it might have a little bit of momentum given the referendum in Michigan. They will be actively opposing it; they say it will be bad policy. You’ve got the longstanding opponents like the Prosecuting Attorneys Council. So the Senate Democrats are out in front on this. Whether they’ll get any backup in particular from the Republicans, who basically set the agenda, that remains to be seen but I would not bet on it." 

Berman adds another one of the Senate Democrats’ priorities, increasing teacher pay, has a very good chance of passing. He says each session, there is always a bill or two that is significant and has widespread support from both parties and the teacher pay issue is likely to fall under that category in the new session.

Berman says the biggest hot-button issue will likely be the hate crimes bill.

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