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INDIANAPOLIS – In his State of the State address Tuesday, Governor Mike Pence said jobs, the economy, schools, roads and confronting drug abuse are his priorities. However, the governor did address the much-debated issue of expanding Indiana’s civil rights laws to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity.
Pence said he has studied the issue and met with Hoosiers across the state on each side of the debate. While he said he believes no one should be "harassed or mistreated because of who they are, who they are or what they believe," Pence said he would not support "any bill that diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers or that interferes with the Constitutional rights of our citizens to live our their beliefs in worship, service or work."
Pence added would consider any bill on the issue that is sent to his desk, but the legislation must be consistent with the Indiana Constitution. However, he did not say whether he thought the bills currently moving through the General Assembly infringed on religious freedoms.
In line with his 2016 legislative agenda, Pence addressed the need for infrastructure improvements across the state. He proposed his plan to make $1 billion available to improve roads and bridges over the next four years without raising taxes.
The governor also called for the Ports of Indiana to explore building a fourth port in southeast Indiana, which he said "could unleash enormous economic investment throughout the southeast region of our state."
Pence called for the state to "take a step back" from the ISTEP test and called for action to make sure teachers and schools are held harmless from last year’s ISTEP test results. He also gave his support to House Speaker Brian Bosma’s (R-88) scholarship plan to encourage more Hoosiers to pursue careers in education and teach in Indiana.
Governor Mike Pence said the Indiana Constitution declares that “all people are created equal.”