INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A shutdown of the state's energy efficiency program was sent to the governor's desk Monday, but lawmakers were still mulling over other tough issues, including the proposed relaxing of gun regulations, as they entered the final week of their 2014 session.
Senate lawmakers on Monday approved placing the state's energy efficiency program on hold for a year while they study the costs and benefits of the program. That measure now heads to Gov. Mike Pence for consideration.
Supporters of the program, including businesses and environmental groups, say it employs hundreds of workers and saves money for consumers who receive free, in-home energy audits. But opponents of the Energizing Indiana program, led by the state's utilities and major manufacturers, have criticized it as a wasteful tax that is hurting the state's economy.
Senate Utilities Chairman Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, originally sought to exempt utilities and manufacturers from the tax that funds the program, but House Republicans changed the measure to eliminate the program altogether. Merritt said he would like a year to study the effectiveness of the energy audits.
"This allows us to look at Energize Indiana. Then the Legislature and the Pence Administration can say it's a terrific program, or maybe it's not," Merritt said.
Meanwhile, House and Senate negotiators spent the morning grilling an opponent of a guns measure that would allow parents to keep guns in their cars while on school property.
A bill to allow properly stowed and hidden guns in school parking lots drew heated debate in a final round of negotiations Monday. The original bill would have banned gun buy-back programs, but a Senate committee effectively gutted the measure and only would prohibit use of state or federal funding for the programs.
Testimony grew tense when members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America spoke against the bill, which they say will create easier access to guns that could be used in school shootings.