In these last few days of the Indiana General Assembly’s 2018 session, state senators and representatives are negotiating on bills that they haven’t agreed on yet.
Dozens of bills are in conference committees, including the bill to allow the sale of CBD oil in the state.
The disagreement is not about selling the oil — both chambers agree that should be allowed in Indiana. The negotiations are about allowing the oil to be manufactured in the state.
“Everyone is in agreement of the sale of it,” said State Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper. “This difference is in manufacturing the oil. That difference must be worked out so that both chambers will pass the same bill.”
Differences in bills are worked out in conference committees, which are comprised of two house representatives and two senators. The four legislators, along with senate and house advisers, talk about the differences and work on a compromise. If a compromise can be found, the bill is changed to include the compromise and is sent back to both chambers for another vote. If a compromise can’t be found, the bill dies.
The original CBD oil bill from the House of Representatives, House Bill 1214, allows for the oil to be sold here, so long as it contains less than .3 percent of THC, which is the federal standard to classify the oil as an agricultural product, and that is noted on the oil container’s label. The bill also allows for the oil to be manufactured in the state.
The Senate’s version of the bill, however, does not allow for manufacturing the oil. Messmer explained that the Senate doesn’t feel that should be allowed because regulations to oversee the production of the oil are not in place.
“You can spot check a product that comes in. It’s not hard to take samples to test it to make sure it has less than .3 percent of THC,” Messmer explained. “But for manufacturing it, we don’t have the framework. We don’t have the capacity to inspect and oversee the production.”
Messmer is not on the conference committee for the bill, but he has been watching the bill’s progression
“Both chambers agree that we need to move on this issue,” Messmer said. “Sometimes the difference is in the ideology. But I expect it to get approval.”
Messmer is on two conference committees. A committee on Senate Bill 380, Messmer’s bill about road construction work in a historic preservation zone, met Thursday morning to fix a technicality.
“House Bill 1003 did some updating to the same code area that I was working on in Senate Bill 380. They took out a section of the code that I was not working on. But the whole code was in my bill,” Messmer said.
If Gov. Eric Holcomb signs the House bill first and Messmer’s bill after it, Messmer’s bill would put back in the code the section the House bill was trying to remove.
“It would have deleted it one day, and the put it back in the next,” he said. “It’s kind of odd. But it happens.”
So Messmer’s bill went into a conference committee to delete the code section that the House bill was removing.
“It’s a technical correction,” he said. “But Legislative Services watches for things like that, so that you don’t end up with a conflicting measure.”
Messmer also has a conference committee meeting Monday morning on House Bill 1130, which involves updating professional licensing agencies’ rules. This is normally a routine happening. But the federal government made some changes recently in the pharmaceutical regulations, and those must be put into the state bill, Messmer said. “So the bill has to go into a conference committee to clean that up,” he said.
State Rep. Shane Lindauer, R-Jasper, has been assigned to two conference committees so far. One was a technical fix to make sure codes don’t contradict each other; that was handled Thursday.
The second one is to reconcile differences in House and Senate legislation concerning autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles. Lindauer serves on the House’s roads and transportation committee, and that group created safety regulations in House Bill 1341 for having the vehicles in the state, which Lindauer predicts will eventually happen.
“The Senate saw that bill, from what I understand, quite differently,” Lindauer said. “The argument is that putting in the framework we approved might stifle innovation.
“We tried to allow innovation, but at the same time provide safety,” he continued. “The Senate’s side is that it’s too much.”
The conference committee on the bill will meet Monday morning to negotiate. “Hopefully we can come to an agreement,” Lindauer said.
Although legislators know of some of their conference committee assignments, others could be coming. And they can come quick.
“I found out yesterday afternoon that I was on this committee for Monday morning,” Lindauer said. “These conference committees can just pop up on you. They told us to watch our phone, text and email, because something could come up.”
Messmer and Lindauer said that the session will end on Wednesday, as legislators need all the time they have to finish the conference committees.
“Before you can sign a conference committee bill, you have to run by attorneys and your caucus, and majority of the caucus has to say that change is OK,” Messmer said. “You can think that you have an agreement worked out; but if one of the four caucuses say that they don’t like it, you have to go back and rehash the matter again.”