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Indiana Senate’s 1st new leader in 12 years showing caution

November 20, 2018
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Sen. Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, takes the oath of office from Judge Loretta Rush as his wife, Kelly, holds the Bible during organization day at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018, in Indianapolis. Bray was selected to replace outgoing President Pro Temp David Long. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Senate’s first new leader in a dozen years doesn’t seem set on rocking the boat inside the Statehouse.

Members of the Republican-dominated Senate elected Sen. Rodric Bray of Martinsville as its president pro tem during the Legislature’s Organization Day session on Tuesday — the most visible change in what has been a major overhaul of the Senate’s leadership over the past two years.

Bray takes the place of former Sen. David Long of Fort Wayne, who retired from the Legislature after the November election. Senate Republicans had picked Bray to become their new leader after Long announced in February that he was stepping down.

Bray spoke for just a few minutes on the Senate floor following his formal selection, saying he wanted to see respectful debate as legislators work on matters such as drafting a new two-year state budget during the session that starts in early January.

Bray, who is an attorney, has only been in the Senate since 2012, but has long ties to the Statehouse through his father, Richard Bray, whom he succeed in the Senate and served in the Legislature for 38 years.

He didn’t stake out strong positions on potential contentious issues for the upcoming session, such as a push for adoption of a state hate crimes law and raising the state’s cigarette tax by perhaps $2 a pack.

“We’ll see as I get going and get a comfort level on what I think is going to work the best,” Bray told reporters when asked about any changes in direction for the Senate.

Bray became the Senate’s majority leader for the 2018 session with the resignation of Sen. Brandt Hershman, while longtime Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley retired after the 2017 session and was replaced by Sen. Ryan Mishler of Bremen. This will be the first session that the new Senate leadership will be in place for Legislature’s budget session that continues until late April.

Five new senators and 16 new House members were sworn into office for the first time Tuesday after an election that saw Republicans maintain two-third supermajorities in each chamber — 40-10 in the Senate and 67-33 in the House — that allow them to action even without Democrats being present.

House members re-elected Speaker Brian Bosma to a sixth two-year term in the position he’s held since the 2011 session after earlier being speaker in 2006-06.

House members gave a standing ovation to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tim Brown of Crawfordsville, who attended the session walking with a cane while still recovering from injuries he suffered in a September motorcycle crash in northern Michigan.

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