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Crunch Time at the Statehouse: Legislators Seek Final Deals As Adjournment Deadline Looms

Gun permit bill in doubt; job-training bill returns to drawing board after announcement of agreement last week

(INDIANAPOLIS) - With a Wednesday adjournment deadline getting closer, legislators are still seeking agreement on some major bills, including a couple which had appeared to be all settled.

Legislative leaders announced a deal on a new job-training framework last Thursday. The package has topped Governor Holcomb's priority list for the session. But a proposed new "career Cabinet" that would oversee the system and advise the governor on what skills are going to be most in demand doesn't meet federal requirements for business and legislative representation. Unless there's a waiver, that could cost Indiana $49 million in federal funds.

House Speaker Brian Bosma says he's not aware of any Labor Department assurances that a waiver will be granted. He says the risk of losing funding isn't necessarily a deal-breaker for the bill, but says legislators are back at the negotiating table working to iron out concerns on what he says is a critical issue.

Bosma is more pessimistic about a bill to eliminate gun permit fees, saying it will be "difficult" to resolve differences before the deadline, though he says legislators are still working on it. The House had passed a bill eliminating fees for lifetime permits, and one proposal being floated would eliminate short-term permits entirely, and the fee with them. But legislators had second thoughts after the Florida school shooting about a provision abolishing point-of-purchase background checks for gun buyers with lifetime permits, and police groups have expressed concern over the loss of money now earmarked for training and body armor.

Bosma says there's agreement on a bill which would exempt churches from Indiana's ban on guns on school campuses, but that provision will become collateral damage in the fee debate if negotiators can't reach an agreement.

And a  bill to legalize cannabis oil is still bogged down in a disagreement over labeling requirements. Representatives Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) and Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) warned last week the General Assembly will "look stupid" if it can't pass the bill. Bosma says strict labeling rules in the Senate version would end up making CBD oil impossible to purchase, and says he hopes negotiators reach a deal.

With 33 hours left in the session, legislators had yet to vote on any negotiated compromises -- the only bills sent to Holcomb's desk have been those on which the House or Senate accepted changes made by the other chamber. Bosma says the House could vote on as many as 40 compromise bills, including a boost in school funding, in a marathon next-to-last day in session.

House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

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