Indiana lawmakers have released surveys for the upcoming session, letting constituents share their views and get a sense of what’s ahead for 2021.

Rep. David Abbott, for example, wants to gauge support for protecting businesses from COVID-19-related lawsuits. It’s a hot topic in many states, including Florida, where the family of Gerardo Gutierrez filed suit over the grocery store employee’s death in April. The suit contends he asked to wear a mask and was not permitted to do so by his employer.

Abbott, a Rome City Republican, also wants to know whether the General Assembly “should be more involved in the decision-making process as to whether to extend emergency orders.” That’s a preview of the challenge some Republican legislators are preparing to make of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s authority over the public health crisis.

Rep. Matt Lehman, majority floor leader for the caucus, asks for constituent views on Indiana’s Red Flag Law, which allows a court to take guns away from people who pose a danger to themselves or others. Indiana has earned accolades for the law, as one of the first states to ensure guns are taken from individuals threatening suicide or harm to others.

Lehman asks, “Do you think this is an important public health and safety policy?”

The law was an issue in the recent gubernatorial election, with Holcomb supporting the law and Libertarian Donald Rainwater arguing it represents a violation of due process rights.

Rep. Martin Carbaugh also has law and order on his mind. He wants to know whether individuals legally permitted to possess a handgun should be exempt from licensing requirements, the so-called “constitutional carry” policy opposed by the governor. He’s also asking whether marijuana should be legalized, regardless of use.

And in apparent response to protests after George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, the Fort Wayne Republican wants to know whether “the penalties in Indiana for individuals who loot and riot are too low, too high or just right?”

“What, if any, police reforms do you believe are necessary?” asks Sen. Liz Brown, coming at the issue from a different direction.

The Fort Wayne Republican also asks about state budget priorities. Should the top priority be funding for mental health and addiction treatment, K-12 schools, infrastructure, job-training programs, child abuse prevention, or should it be COVID-19 relief or cutting taxes?

Regrettably, no Republican lawmakers appear to be seeking feedback on proposals to establish an independent redistricting commission. That’s a task that needs to be done soon, before lawmakers once again are left to draw districts to their own benefit.

Democratic lawmakers have yet to post their surveys. House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, said Wednesday he will post and mail his questionnaire next week.

A question from Sen. Justin Busch, R-Fort Wayne, goes straight to the point: “What issue is the most important for me to focus on as state senator?”

COVID-19 infections and deaths are rising rapidly. Businesses, schools, nonprofits and arts groups are struggling. The message to lawmakers should be clear. Forget the issues destined to create division and strife. Focus on crafting a budget that addresses Hoosiers’ needs in the midst of this public health crisis. A laser focus is needed to help Indiana meet one of its greatest challenges ever.

The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne

- The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne

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