The bills that just won’t die

Just because a proposed law never gets hashed out by a committee of legislators or gets voted on by all of them doesn’t mean it’s gone forever.

Consider requiring schools to teach cursive writing. Or moving alcohol inventories behind the counter at retail stories. Or even changing the law that keeps you from buying a six-pack on Sunday.

For years, these and other bills have been dropped, or voted down by the majority of state lawmakers. The next time the legislature is in session, lawmakers try again.

Sometimes state lawmakers have to pitch the same bill for several years before their peers in the Indiana General Assembly agree to hear and consider passing what’s proposed, State Rep. Woody Burton, R-Whiteland, said.

“Some things you just don’t give up on,” Burton said. “Tenacity is what counts; you’ve got to just keep hanging in there.”

For years, Burton has been sponsoring a bill that would require stores selling alcohol to move those products behind the counter, just as they do with cigarettes. He said the bill is a safety issue, because it’s too easy for minors to walk in and steal bottles of alcohol that aren’t also topped with safety caps that stop people from opening them.

Three years ago, Burton’s bill made it out of a committee but died in the House of Representatives. Still, he’s continued to pitch the bill and is working on a new version of the bill now.

“Conditions change. Things change. And people’s ideas about issues change,” Burton said.

State Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, has been equally determined to pass a bill that would require students to learn and master cursive writing. This is the fourth year Leising has sponsored such a bill, which she has said is important because as kids perfect cursive writing they’re also developing cognitive and fine motor skills.

Burton knows that Leising has had trouble finding support for the bill, but he’s hopeful other state lawmakers eventually will agree to support the proposal. Right now too many students are getting dependent on using computers, and Indiana needs to be sure students are learning how to write clearly with paper and pencils, Burton said.

And while some bills that are sponsored session after session never become law, others that have been proposed for years eventually get enough attention for debate.

This year, State Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, agreed to sponsor a bill allowing alcohol sales on Sundays. Other lawmakers have been sponsoring similar bills for years, but Dermody, who is the chairman of the House’s public policy committee, agreed to sponsor the bill this year to ensure state lawmakers would debate the bill.

“It’s time to have the debate once and for all,” he said.