Lucas discusses legislative proposals


As the Indiana General Assembly prepares to meet for the first time this year, District 69 Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, has his eye on measures limiting the governor’s emergency order powers, strengthening gun rights, medical marijuana and how tax dollars are used on education.

When the session begins Jan. 12, it will mark the first time the entire 150-member legislature will have met since the COVID-19 pandemic found its way to the United States.

The 2020 session ended March 12, just days before Indiana saw its first COVID-19 cases and Gov. Eric Holcomb began using emergency powers.

One legislative proposal for the upcoming session would limit the governor from declaring any public health emergency order and any subsequent extension of an emergency order to 30 days. Anything longer would require the state lawmakers’ input.

Lucas, however, said he thinks 14 days is long enough.

“We’re going into the 10th month of a declared emergency, and the people have not had any representation from their elected representatives during that entire length of time,” Lucas said. “There have been all these mandates from the executive branch, but under our representative government, no single branch or person was ever intended to have that kind of power.”

Each of the state’s 100 representatives are allowed to author 10 bills during the assembly’s long session, which includes putting together a budget for the next two years and redistricting. This year’s session must end by April 29.

During short sessions, held every other year, they are only allowed to write five bills. There is not a limit on how many bills can be coauthored, and in there is not a limit on how many bills a senator can author in either a short or long session year.

Lucas said he has plans on writing gun rights legislation, and it’s a top issue for him.

“I will be introducing constitutional carry and the elimination of gun-free zones. I will bring back my teacher training bill again,” he said.

He said gun rights affect everybody and the ability for police to do their jobs.

“Your Second Amendment right and Section 132 of the Indiana state constitution. That affects everybody. The first law of nature is self-defense,” Lucas said.

“As we’ve seen, not particularly in this district because we’re pretty conservative and level-headed down here but around the state, you’re seeing some cities that are telling their police departments to stand down,” he said. “Some of the councils are threatening to defund the police department. Well then, whose shoulders are your safety going to fall upon then?”

Another issue that’s a high priority to Lucas is allowing medical cannabis in the state and decriminalizing cannabis offenses when someone is in possession of 1 ounce or less. He wants Indiana to recognize this quantity of marijuana possession as a Class D infraction, which would result in a fine up to $25.

He said this also is an issue that affects every Hoosier.

“In Indiana, we’re still way behind on that, not just on the benefits that cannabis offers but the investment opportunities, revenue for the state … countless jobs,” Lucas said.

Even though the federal government is against legalization, he said the states should have the right to choose what is best for their people.

“That’s why we have the 10th Amendment. The 50 states are supposed to be incubators of different ideas, not a one size fits all from the top down with the federal government,” Lucas said. “That’s not what our constitution is about. Our constitution actually protects us from that, but we get what we tolerate.”

The state representative’s district, which includes the more populated eastern half of Jackson County including Brownstown, Seymour and Crothersville, and portions of Bartholomew, Jennings and Jefferson counties, also is working on an education bill where teachers and parents are given leeway as to where their tax dollars used for public education are going.

“Right now, the state has a dollar amount attached to each student,” Lucas said. “That money automatically goes to the local school corporation. Under my legislation, it still would still do that, but the parent would come in and take control of those dollars. In the same breath, if a teacher wants to offer tutoring classes, they could do that, as well.”

Under this bill, Hoosiers could also become approved as state-accredited vendors to teach and parents could use public education tax dollars to enroll students to be taught by them.

“Say Cummins wanted to start an engineering program and offer certain classes. A parent can take those education dollars and pay for those classes. Or if a retired home builder wanted to teach kids how to build a house, you know building trades, they could do that,” Lucas said.

He said this bill gives parents “freedom and flexibility” and called it a “win-win for everybody.”

Lawmakers will meet in person for the entire session, but these meetings, from House and Senate sessions to committee hearings, will look different from in the past to accommodate COVID-19 safety guidelines.

The House will not meet in its regular chamber, though. All 100 members will convene in a large conference room in the adjacent Indiana Government Center South building.

The 50-member Senate will continue to convene in the Senate chamber at the Statehouse, but all senators will be at least 6 feet apart. To do that, 30 senators will be seated on the chamber floor, and the remaining 20 will sit up in the gallery balcony, which is normally reserved for the public.

The public will still have access to the session through viewing online live streams or visiting the Statehouse, where additional monitors were added inside to allow people to watch session or committee meetings without being in the actual room.

To view bills proposed by the Indiana General Assembly, go to Future bills will be added at the link when votes happen in the House and Senate.

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