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January 8, 2014

Polar vortex slows statehouse

State legislators barely reach quorum to open 2014 session.

INDIANAPOLIS — Lawmakers slid into the opening day of the 2014 session — some literally — as a polar freeze held its brutal grip on much of the state Tuesday.

The House and Senate barely made the numbers needed to conduct business for an opening that already had been postponed a day, with many legislators still struggling to navigate snow-packed roads made worse by sub-zero temperatures. Their business was brief — just long enough for leaders to formally hand down some bills scheduled for committee hearings this week.

The House hit its quorum of 67 members, out of 100. The Senate also got a late start Tuesday, delayed more than an hour by lawmakers who’d underestimated travel time on highways that remained treacherous following near-record snow on Sunday.

“I know it was a job for you to get here,” House Speaker Brian Bosma told members who’d arrived on time, many of them clad in snow boots and multiple layers of clothes.

It was bigger job for some more than others.

State Rep. Steve Stemler (D-Jeffersonville) left home in southwest Indiana Monday evening then crept along Interstate 65 at about 20 mph before he was stymied by a state police shutdown of a major portion of the highway covered in ice and drifting snow.

“It was just littered with cars that had slid off the road,” Stemler said. “I’ve got pictures on my cell phone of jackknifed semis up and down the highway. The state police were out there doing an incredible job rescuing people.”

Stemler felt fortunate. On Tuesday morning, when he was leaving his Indianapolis hotel to head to the Statehouse, he ran into some Kansas City Chiefs fans who’d been stuck in the city since seeing their team lose to the Colts on Saturday. Hundreds of flights had been cancelled or delayed at the Indianapolis airport.

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