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ICYMI: Alcohol sales, industrial hemp among topics discussed in state legislature last week

With only a few weeks left until the Indiana General Assembly must adjourn for the session, lawmakers are continuing to hear, pass and fail hundreds of bills still in the works. Here’s what you missed last week in the legislature:

President pro tempore to retire

President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, announced Tuesday his plans to retire in November of this year. 

After spending 22 years in the Senate, 12 of them as Senate leader, Long said in a Feb. 13 press release that it was time.

“It’s difficult to leave a job that you love and that you believe you were born to do,” Long said in the release. “However, none of us is indispensable, and you have to know when the time is right to step away. For me, that time is now.”

Long will remain as the president pro tempore until Election Day on Nov. 6. The entire Senate will then choose the new Senate leader. The Indiana State Republican Party will also create a caucus of precinct committee members in Long’s district, District 16, to choose a replacement for Long.

Alcohol sales

A House committee passed a bill Wednesday that could allow for Sunday carryout alcohol sales sooner rather than later. 

The House Public Policy Committee passed Senate Bill 1, which would allow for liquor, convenience, grocery or drug stores to sell carryout alcohol from noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

Before the bill passed, the committee approved an amendment which would change when the bill would go into effect. Originally, the bill, like all bills the Indiana General Assembly passes, would have gone into effect July 1. The committee changed Senate Bill 1, however, to be effective immediately upon passage. This means that if the bill passes through the House and is signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, Hoosiers could begin buying alcohol on Sundays as soon as the end of March. 

Senate Bill 1 now moves to the full House for a vote. The bill was originally introduced and passed in the Senate but now must be passed through the House before it can become a law. 

The Senate is currently hearing an almost identical House bill. If both bills pass through their respective chambers, a conference committee will consolidate both bills into one toward the end of the session, which ends March 14.

Industrial hemp

A bill that would allow the state agriculture department to study the cultivation of industrial hemp passed Thursday through a Senate committee.

House Bill 1137 would set up a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation and marketing of industrial hemp and its products. Hemp is made from a part of the cannabis plant and contains low levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Lawmakers have been debating the legalization of CBD oil and industrial hemp all session. Both chambers will vote in the coming weeks on bills that would legalize CBD oil, a product similar to hemp that comes from a different strain of the cannabis plant. 

Although the bill passed unanimously through the House, it only passed 8-3 in the Senate commerce and technology committee. It now makes its way to the full Senate for amendments and a vote.

Workforce development

A bill that would establish an employability standards curriculum in K-12 schools passed Thursday through a House committee.

Senate Bill 297 focuses on increasing K-12 students’ soft skills. Soft skills include everything from problem-solving, to decision-making, to time management, to work ethic. The bill would also work to solve a current skills gap in Indiana’s workforce by giving students different pathways to a career.

The bill would establish interdisciplinary employability standards for K-12 schools’ curriculum. It would also increase the number of schools piloting the Indiana Career Explorer program, which helps students explore in-demand jobs, skills and career pathways. It also formally establishes a work ethic certificate program. High schoolers can add the certificate to their diploma.

House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said even if students don't plan to go into the workforce right away, having these soft skills are still important.

“Those soft skills are so essential even if you’re going into higher ed,” Behning said.

The bill now heads to the full House where it will be amended and up for a vote.

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