‘First day of school’: General Assembly gathers for 2023 legislative session

After the summer’s special session and a couple months off, lawmakers are back in the Indiana Statehouse for a fresh start.

It’s a new year, but protestors have not forgotten. Citizens wielding signs regarding abortion and other topics surrounded the House and Senate chambers.

The House

Representatives new and old took their seats in the House, with some even bringing their family members. Significant topics mentioned included health care, this year’s budget and education.

The House of Representatives meeting began with a prayer, followed by House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, inviting minority leader Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, to speak.

“This is the People’s House, said GiaQuinta. “And the people of Indiana have entrusted each of us with a sacred charge: to represent their interests and to better their lives.

“To do this important work should inspire us all. It is a good day to be a Hoosier.”

On a less positive note, GiaQuinta mentioned his concerns for the state’s health-care system, even including a few statistics:

  • Indiana has the sixth highest rate of smoking.

  • Hoosiers have “some of the worst” infant and maternal health outcomes in the U.S.

  • The state is 41st in the nation for overall health.

Even with these challenges, GiaQuinta said he believed all Hoosiers “want the same thing.”

He also shared that House Democrats are happy with Gov. Eric Holcomb’s goals for the session and agree with his health-care ideas for his $243 million potential budget.

GiaQuinta also touched on education issues: “Let’s keep the teaching in the classroom and the politicking on the campaign trail.”

Majority leader Matt Lehman, R-Berne, started his speech by mentioning the need for unity across party lines. This desire comes months after protestors swarmed the Statehouse to raise concerns surrounding abortion and trans athlete rights. Lawmakers also went toe to toe discussing things like gun rights, school curriculum and marijuana.

“I do believe we need to passionately debate the issues. We will disagree with each other,” he said.

“We must not be disagreeable. We will challenge each other. But we must not be challenging.”

He ended by simply saying, “Let’s get to work.”

—Ashlyn Myers

The Senate

School is back in session.

When the Indiana Senate returned Monday, one senator joked that the atmosphere was akin to the first day of school, while another was elated to find he was sitting “at the back of the class.”

After welcoming each other back, the senators took care of various housekeeping items.

The biggest discussion was about plans to install a bust of late Indiana Gov. Joseph Kernan in the Statehouse. Kernan, from South Bend, had attended Notre Dame and served in the U.S. Navy. Among his achievements as governor, Kernan appointed the first female lieutenant governor, supported full-day kindergarten and supported Indiana business.

Sen. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend, called Kernan “a man of noble distinction.” Niezgodski authored the resolution alongside Sen. Ryan Mishler, R-Bremen. A moment of silence followed from the Senate in support of the memorial.

Sen. Rodric Bray, president pro tempore, adjourned the session until Tuesday. And so begins a legislative new year for Hoosiers, with health care and education at the forefront.

—Erin Bruce

Ashlyn Myers and Erin Bruce are reporters for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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