Lawmakers look ahead to upcoming statehouse session

Bartholomew County’s legislators are warming to the idea of some movement on legalizing marijuana, but show little interest in raising cigarette taxes and want to encourage parents to read to their children.

State Senator Greg Walker and State Representatives Ryan Lauer, Jennifer Meltzer and Jim Lucas, all Republicans, were guests at a legislative session preview forum held Monday organized by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.

In questions from attendees, the legislators were quizzed on their priorities during the session that starts in January. In a recent survey to constituents, Lauer asked whether marijuana should be legalized and an audience member asked what the legislators thoughts were.

Lucas has been a voice in support of legalization in previous legislative sessions and said he is definitely in favor of it.

Walker said he is warming to the idea of limited changes and recognizes that there may be some medical benefits. Meltzer said that she thought the state should only make changes after the federal government reduces its restrictions. But also said that with legalization in the neighboring states of Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois and Michigan, Indiana will have to eventually make changes to its laws.

Lauer said he has opposed changes in the past and believes legalization will bring associated social ills. He also agreed on the need for federal changes and said that Indiana should prepare a framework for what it will do when and if that happens.

On other issues:

  • All of the legislators said they were frustrated by slipping reading levels in Indiana schools and all said that they supported parents efforts to read to their children every day, with Walker encouraging such reading to be a homework assignment for parents from teachers.
  • The legislators were divided on whether Indiana should provide driving privilege cards to immigrants who are not here legally. Walker and Meltzer were in favor of such privileges as it would encourage insurance coverage amongst those drivers, while Lauer an Lucas were opposed.
  • The three representatives said they were opposed to raising cigarette taxes. Walker said he would listen to arguments in favor of such a raise. But he said he almost was trampled by his fellow lawmakers when he once suggested banning cigarettes altogether, but allowing for distribution to those who were addicted to nicotine.