Statehouse 2017: Where legislation stands

More than a month into this year’s legislative session, here is a look at where some key pieces of legislation stand:

Food and beverage tax

A proposal by State Rep. Woody Burton, a Republican who represents parts of Johnson County, would allow a city or town to approve an up to 1 percent food and beverage tax to pay for local expenses.

Greenwood officials have been asking for a local food and beverage tax, with the money going to local expenses, such as the police department.

The proposal was referred to the House Ways and Means committee last month, and has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

Fuel tax, road funding options

The Indiana House approved a roads plan that would raise the gasoline tax by 10 cents and increase vehicle registration fees to fund improvements to the state’s infrastructure.

The proposal also directs the entirety of the state’s sales tax on gas toward roads.

Supporters argue funding is needed, and the plan responsibly addresses that need by asking people who use the roads to pay for improvements. Democrats have criticized the tax increase, saying it would hurt average motorists and give the governor unchecked power to impose tolls on roads.

The measure passed 61-36 earlier this month, with seven Republicans joining the Democratic caucus in voting no.

Cigarette tax

Lawmakers are considering multiple proposals that would increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1 or more.

A $1 cigarette tax increase is a key component of the House’s $31.7 billion budget proposal.

Multiple pieces of legislation have been proposed, and are waiting to get a hearing in various committees.

Religious freedom in schools

Indiana public school students could pray aloud in a public forum under a measure lawmakers are considering.

State Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, says his measure would give students an opportunity to pray in school, but not mandate that they do so. He envisions a designated moment for students to pray aloud according to their individual faith and said prayer would benefit the student body.

Bill opponents question the need for such a proposal, saying students’ freedom of religion is already acknowledged in schools.

The measure also suggests high schools establish a course studying religions of the world, affirm students’ right to wear religious clothing or jewelry and ensure religious groups have equal access to school facilities.

The House education committee approved the bill on Tuesday on a 10-2 vote.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.