With hundreds of bills having passed both chambers of the Indiana legislature, we now come to what can be the most challenging part of session: coming to a consensus on the final language of the enacted laws.
When the House amends a Senate bill, or vice versa, the author of the bill can either concur with or dissent to those changes. When they dissent, the bill goes to a conference committee, which is a small committee made up of both Republican and Democrat senators and representatives who are tasked with working together to come to a final agreement. The House and Senate each appoint two members to the committee and can appoint non-voting advisors as well. The committee’s final agreement must be signed by all four members in order for the changes to take place.
Several key issues are still being discussed in these committees, issues like preschool education, the business personal property tax and other economic development initiatives. I will continue to work, so we can find a resolution to all of these topics and many more. I know Hoosiers are counting on it.
I had one of the first bills to be sent to the governor this session, and I also had the last third reading bill to be voted on before conference committees began. On Monday evening, the House took an important step toward ensuring more rights for Hoosiers when they passed Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 9 by a vote of 79-16. SJR 9 is a proposed constitutional amendment to guarantee the rights of all Hoosiers to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife.
The first state to provide constitutional protection for its citizens’ right to hunt and fish was the state of Vermont in 1777. This is something they enacted because it was never a right that they enjoyed in England. Hoosiers have enjoyed the liberty to hunt, fish and harvest since 1816. Having this in our state constitution simply adds a layer of protection to those liberties and protects the people of Indiana from groups who might try to take this right away in the future.
The right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife goes deeper than just our rich Indiana heritage. It is a right that is necessary for the survival and well-being of all Hoosiers, as well as the economic stability of Indiana. Indiana’s economy benefits greatly from hunting, fishing and harvesting, with more than 16,000 Hoosiers employed in these fields.
As it should be, the process for amending Indiana’s constitution is somewhat lengthy. Any proposed amendment must be voted on and approved by two consecutive general assemblies before it is put to the voters in the form of a referendum at the ballot box. If Hoosiers vote in favor of the referendum, it then becomes part of the Indiana constitution. This is the first time that the General Assembly has voted on this particular resolution, so the same language will need to be voted on again next year, making it eligible for adoption into the Indiana constitution as early as November 2016.
The approval of this resolution shows a very important fact about Indiana. It shows that this is a state that prioritizes individual liberty and the history which has made our state standout amongst the rest. As we wrap up the last week of session, I will continue to do all that I can to ensure efficient and accountable government in the state of Indiana that looks out for its citizens and works in their continued best interest.