Indiana lawmakers will study topics in the coming weeks that include human trafficking, a racial achievement gap in K-12 schools and unemployment benefits for gig economy workers.
But overall, their study committee load is lighter than usual.
Eight different committees – including elections, agriculture, courts and public safety – aren’t assigned to study anything this year.
House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said legislative leaders chose topics barely a week after session ended this year – while most of the time, they wait weeks.
“Felt like this year we were making the decision soon, so I don’t know if people just didn’t get all their requests,” Huston said.
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Any lawmaker can propose a study committee, even via a simple memo to leadership. Study committees are chosen by the four caucus leaders: Huston, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville), Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) and House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne).
Three of the four of those leaders must vote to approve a study committee topic.
In a statement, Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie) and Rep. Pat Boy (D-Michigan City) expressed frustration at the complete lack of topics assigned to the Environmental Affairs Committee.
Errington had proposed studying the decline in Indiana's pollinator population, including bees and butterflies. Boy suggested an examination of the state's wetlands in the wake of a new law that eliminates state protections on the vast majority of them.
"I'm shocked at the blatant disregard the supermajority has shown for Indiana's environment," Boy said.
Still, Bray said the light agenda doesn’t mean lawmakers won’t be hard at work.
“Sometimes it’s much more productive to kind of start in May, talk to all the parties of interest – not necessarily in a public meeting. Sometimes, among interest groups, you can get a little more candid, conversation when it’s done quietly,” Bray said.
Study committees typically start meeting around August.