INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's General Assembly jumped to a quick start Monday with promises from Republican leaders to focus on workforce development and a request from Democrats to place a moratorium on divisive social issues for the next two years.
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma and Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long said training Indiana residents for new advanced manufacturing jobs will take top billing over the next four months.
Newly minted House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath punctuated the list of Democratic priorities with a request that lawmakers avoid divisive social issues like gay marriage and abortion for the next two years. But Bosma rebuffed his call for a moratorium, saying the term "social issue" is highly subjective.
Pelath, who leads a pack of heavily outnumbered Democrats, asked Republicans to show "enlightened restraint" in the coming months.
"Above all, we must make sure the power of government does not shift far from the center, the majority has a duty not to misinterpret the reasons why they were elected. And I call upon you to show enlightened restraint in your goals," he said, in an opening speech to the House.
The 2013 session will be filled with talks of what should be in the state's next biennial budget, from a potential personal income tax cut to the restoration of education spending cut in the last few years. How social issues will be handled, including an effort to write the state's ban on gay marriage into the state constitution, remains a looming question.
The marriage debate, in particular, has the ability to suck the air out of the 2013 session. Bosma declined Monday to push off the gay marriage battle until later, but Long has said he's waiting on a legal review of what impact a Supreme Court ruling would have before deciding whether to take up the issue.
Meanwhile, the Assembly's other 148 lawmakers plan to begin meeting in committees this week to vet a wide range of proposals. The Senate education committee will consider an expansion of the school voucher program and proposals to increase funding and flexibility for high-performing schools.
Lawmakers also await Gov.-elect Mike Pence's first legislative agenda. He laid out the broad strokes on the campaign trail, but has yet to fill in the details. Pence takes office Jan. 14.