In Depth with Brad Byrd

Brad Byrd In-Depth: State Sen. Jim Tomes on a chaotic legislative session

Brad – Welcome to In-Depth.
Last week was marked by what observers say was chaos as the Indiana legislature plodded toward the end of a turbulent session marked by finger pointing, 11th hour maneuvering and bills just sitting there without a vote. But one bill got through all of that maze, the  legalization of CBD oil. Republican State Senator Jim Tomes guided this bill through the trenches...and it was not easy. And State Senator Tomes thanks for joining us tonight. You sat here with such high hopes a few weeks ago and this was – I think you would say it wasn’t going to be a breeze, but you didn’t think it was going to be a full-blown hurricane to get this bill passed. Tell me about that and what was going on up there?

Senator Tomes – Well, I don’t think many of us knew, or expected, for it to develop like it did but, with regard to the CBD bill, you know the process… the last time I was here, you know, I said we would get it done. And I was confident. But, I have to tell you that there was moments that um, in the final few weeks, in the final few days, in the final few hours, I wasn’t sure because of just what unfolded and it was sort of a… it was, as you said, chaotic.

Brad – And a week ago tomorrow, you were still somewhat in doubt that this was going to happen. What was the turning point if you can share that with me?

Senator Tomes – You know, we… uh, there was those legislators who we’re never going to change their mind, they were never going to support it. And so we knew we had that fight going on. But I think what turned it for us,  at one point we had three medical doctors that testified in committee. And one of those was invited to come in our caucus and speak. And he was given an hour to do a presentation and it was phenomenal. He covered everything from the beginning – the history of the plant, right up through the process on how these products are derived from the plant, that it has no psychiatric… no psychotropic products in it, and then also he explained how it works in the body’s system, and um… all the way up to the legal aspects of this. So, I think his presentation is what pushed it over the edge for us to get more of our members on board with it. 

Brad – And this is heading to the Governor’s desk for signature.

Senator Tomes – Yeah.

Brad – And fully expected to sign it. Okay, but let’s take a look at how the legislature worked or, depending on your point of view, how it did not work in this session. For example, on Tuesday lawmakers in the Senate basically did not take up any bills in conference committee, which was somewhat rare for them to do that.

Senator Tomes – Yeah.

Brad: In conference committee, which was some what rare for them to do that, what happened with that?

Sen. Tomes: I know Tuesday a lot of us were a little bit stunned why we didn’t do a little bit of prep work. I know they said some of the bills weren’t ready to be called down yet. I still think there were some details that could’ve been done Tuesday. Some of the other things that were conducted on Wednesday could’ve been done on Tuesday and that would have preserved the entire day of Wednesday dedicated solely to the bills. That didn’t happen. 

Brad: And on Wednesday, I believe three lawmakers who are retiring, the accolades came in, and how long did that take?

Sen. Tomes: You know, I think it was a good two hours. It was a long time. I wasn’t watching the clock on it, but I know it went incredibly long. I was wondering, ‘how’s this going to work for us?’ because I knew we had the midnight hour deadline. I don’t know if that’s where things starting getting away.

Brad: Last hour, we were talking about Hollywood couldn’t have scripted this. There were people literally running up to the podium. Gov. Holcomb, according to one news report, bounded up the staircase of the Senate chamber, trying to get things moving, but ran out of time.

Sen. Tomes: It was streamed live, everybody could watch it. They were calling the bill down on the floor in the chamber, and typically the legislator would go up to the mic and speak about the details of that bill. That didn’t happen. They briefly called the bill by number, and just a brief description, and then we took a vote. 

Brad: And the House adjourned without votes on school safety, the Ball State takeover of Muncie schools - that was a historic piece of legislation – the regulation of self-driving vehicles, and a couple of tax bills. So the Governor [Monday] said I’m calling you back to work. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when that special session gets underway.

Sen. Tomes: Well, I’m sure that between now and when the Governor is thinking May for this special session, I would almost believe between now and then, there will be a lot of very intense discussion going on with the leaders and the governors, and set the platform on what’s going to happen on that special session. I got the impression that the house was scrambling to get bills they couldn’t get signatures on and agree on, and they were trapped over there. On the Senate side, I just felt that it was just a mismanagement of time. We didn’t prepare to make sure you got everything completed and have a little cushion in between the last bill and the stroke of midnight. 

Brad: Well, Sen. Tomes I know you got the CBD oil, you could say that’s an accomplishment considering what did happen. Hopefully, for everyone’s sake when that special session is gaveled into order things will be run a little bit more smoothly. 


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(This story was originally published on March 19, 2018)

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