(INDIANAPOLIS) - Marijuana and money, politics and prayers, health care and highways -- all will be up for discussion when the Indiana General Assembly begins its new session today.
The Herald Times reports that lawmakers must develop a new two-year budget.
The legislators also will wrangle with many other issues before they're through in April. Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, is proposing the state reduce penalties for people who possess less than 10 grams of marijuana - making the offense like a traffic ticket instead of a crime.
Sen. Dennis Kruse, proposes that school students be required to recite the Lord's Prayer (with broad exceptions for students who do not want to participate). And many lawmakers say they must deal with the impact of federal health care reform on the state's budget.
Legislators also will cope with new faces in new places under the Statehouse dome.
Start with the governor's office. Mitch Daniels has been sitting in the governor's chair for eight years, but this will be his last week in office. Gov.-elect Mike Pence, a Republican, will be sworn in on Jan. 14.
Lawmakers also will work with a new state school superintendent. Democrat Glenda Ritz defeated Republican incumbent Tony Bennett - the architect of many of Indiana's controversial school reforms - in the November election.
Veteran Representative Eric Kock says lawmakers also must get to know each other - about half of the 100 House seats, for example, will be filled by people starting their first or second two-year terms, Kock says bringing new energy, ideas and perspectives to both sides of the aisle.
With the results of November's election, the Republicans enjoy so-called "super majorities" in both the House and the Senate. That means the GOP holds enough seats to form quorums and conduct votes in both chambers, with or without their Democratic counterparts.
House Speaker Brian C. Bosma, R-Indianapolis, has reappointed Koch as assistant chairman of the House Republican Caucus. It'll be Koch's job to help caucus Chairwoman Kathy Richardson, R-Noblesville, run the House.
Part of that task, Koch said, will be having "frank conversations" with fellow lawmakers about which ideas are likely to succeed and which are not.
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