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Out of session, lawmakers look at future issues

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By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

Indiana legislators will be working this summer in preparation for the 2019 session.

Some study committee topics include raising industrial hemp, human trafficking, Department of Child Services issues, the effectiveness and need for public notices in newspapers, medical marijuana and many more.

State Sen. Jean Leising has been assigned to the Interim Study Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications. She is on the standing Utilities Commission during the session.

The Utilities Committee will investigate the use of automatic dialing and continuing changes in technology that relate to robocalls, telephone solicitation and cybersecurity, she said. There may be a discussion of the Do Not Call list. 

During the May primary election, at least one candidate charged another with using robocalls in the campaign, she said. People have different definitions of robocalls but they are phone solicitations and sometimes violate Indiana’s no-call list provisions.

Leising serves on commissions that meet as needed.

Choice Home Health Commission watches over a service for low-income persons who are not on Medicaid but would benefit from home health services.

The Indiana Protection Advocacy Services receives federal funds to make sure those who are disabled get services they are entitled to, she said. 

The Indiana Corn Marketing Council investigates the spending of corn check-off dollars.

The State Fair Advisory Committee only meets once or twice a year, she said.

Two committees that she does not serve on will have hot topics to discuss.

The Interim Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources will study the regulation of hemp, industrial hemp products and the manufacturing of low-THC extract, CBD oil, Leising said. 

The first issue to be discussed by the Interim Committee on Health is medical marijuana. That is a surprise for many of the legislators, she said.

State Sen. Jeff Raatz serves on the Summer Study Commission for Education, Commission for Commerce and Economic Development. 

The Education Commission will discuss autism in public education and career counseling in elementary and high schools. Over a couple of years, the commission will look at the adequacy of state and local funding for school career counseling and the workload of counselors as well as the progress on implementing the multiple pathways to graduation approved in 2017. 

A topic for the Economic Development Commission is studying the underutilized resources of Gary.

Raatz will serve on the Education Commission of the States, which is a governor’s appointment.

“It is a non-partisan organization to serve policymakers in all 50 states,” Raatz said. “My last assistant often reached out to them to see what other states are doing on issues. It is wise for us to look at what other states have done and see if it’s been successful and see if it can be tweaked for the state of Indiana.”

The counseling study will include topics of adequacy of state and local funding for school career counseling and workload of counselors, progress of multiple pathways to graduation the General Assembly passed in 2017.

Rep. Cindy Ziemke said two committees she serves on – Interagency State Council on Black and Minority Health and the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse – are ongoing appointments. 

The Council on Minority Health does not always meet and there is nothing scheduled for it, she said. The Drug Commission is not a legislative commission but rather reports to the governor. Her focus during the session is drug issues, because her two sons have gone through recovery for addiction.

“One summer study I’m interested in is hemp production,” she said. “I think we as a state need to move forward with hemp production and legalizing medical marijuana.”

With medical marijuana, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, is trying to reclassify it from Schedule I substance so it can be studied. The question becomes if Indiana wants to go against the federal law, she said. 

“Indiana is one to do that, and I don’t know how comfortable the governor is to do that with the Feds,” she said. “There is a huge outcry for it in Indiana.”