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Weakened Smoking Ban Clears Indiana Senate

By a vote of 29-21, the Indiana Senate has passed a heavily-amended statewide smoking ban.

The Senate measure includes exemptions for casinos, bars, private clubs, tobacco stores, bingo parlors and other places.

It will be sent to a conference committee next week. That’s where lawmakers will try to reconcile it with the House version, which has fewer exemptions.

This is the first proposed smoking ban to win Senate approval. Republican Michael Young voted ‘no,’ calling the exemptions hypocritical.

“The argument is people die because of second-hand smoke. And yet we said ‘it’s okay for you to die if you work over here, but not over there,'” Young said in a floor speech.

Bill supporter Sen. Ron Alting urged his colleagues to let the bill move through the legislative process.

“I believe in my heart and mind what we need to do today is vote this bill out of the Senate and get it to conference committee so we can begin to sculpture the correct…what should be perhaps in it, and what perhaps shouldn’t be in it,” he said.

Health organizations and other supporters of a stricter ban say they hope some of the Senate loopholes will be removed when the bill goes to conference committee.

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Indiana Budget Talks Underway

A conference committee of Indiana House and Senate lawmakers has begun budget negotiations as a June 30 deadline approaches to enact a new spending plan.

The talks began Wednesday morning during a public meeting that included testimony from some university presidents. Their appearance was orchestrated by House Democrats who say they’re being pressured to accept a budget proposal passed by the Republican-led Senate and backed by Governor Mitch Daniels.

Democratic Representative Scott Pelath defended the process.

“This may be easy to question why we’re doing that right now, but essentially folks in my caucus have been told take it or leave it, with the Senate plan. So we have to take some time to figure out whether we’re going to take it or leave it, and that’s kind of where we are right now,” Pelath said.

Governor Daniels has been touring southern Indiana in support of the GOP budget plan. He says the Democratic version would spend too heavily. Daniels will make an appearance in New Albany Thursday.

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Budget Talks Underway In Frankfort

A conference committee of Kentucky House and Senate lawmakers has begun negotiations on their respective plans to balance the state budget and other issue on the call of a special legislative session.

The talks come a day after a Senate committee rejected a bill that would allow slots at horse tracks to aid the racing industsry. Senate Democratic leader Ed Worley says there are still other important economic development matters that need attention.

“We lost one issue that’s important to us. The bridges bill is extremely important to four of our members from Jefferson County, two of our members from western Kentucky and the incentive bill will open the doors for a lot of economic development across the state.” Worley said.

The House and Senate have approved differing plans to address the state’s $1 billion shortfall.

Thanks to Stu Johnson, Kentucky Public Radio/WEKU, Richmond

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Indiana Senate Passes 'Fail-Safe" Budget Bill

The Indiana Senate has approved a so-called ‘fail-safe’ bill that would keep state government operating at current levels if the legislature can’t agree on a budget by June 30.

Senate President pro tem David Long says the measure would simply prevent a government shutdown in the event lawmakers are unable to meet the budget deadline.

“It is not an abdication of our responsibilities as legislators as some have suggested. Far from it. It prevents those who might see a political advantage of not passing a budget from getting away with such an irresponsible position,” Long said.

The bill cleared the Republican-led chamber mostly along party lines.

Democrats complain that the measure would give Republican Governor Mitch Danielstoo much control over spending and would take pressure off budget negotiations during the special legislative session.

The Senate and the Democratic-controlled House have each passed their version of a state budget that will have to be reconciled by conference committee.