Close but no cigar.

It’s the argument that state Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, was ready to make for a tax on cheap, brown-wrapped tobacco products that look a lot like cigarettes in shape, size, filter and packaging.

But his proposal to close a loophole excluding popular “little cigars” from the cigarette tax flamed out.

It didn’t even get a hearing.

Miller was sanguine about it. “It’s a short session,” he said. “There’s not time for everything.”

Lawmakers routinely try to defy the space-time continuum, stuffing as much legislation as possible into a compressed meeting in Indianapolis.

At the beginning of this year’s 10-week session — with its mandatory end on March 14 – lawmakers had filed nearly 800 pieces of legislation.

Their bills ranged wildly, from one seeking tax hikes to raise billions of dollars needed for road repair, which is still alive, to a measure with no traction that would have made it a crime, punishable by a $6 million fine, for someone to use their financial clout to cause a lawmaker to lose his or her non-legislative job.

Most of the nearly 800 bills were dead this week, without so much as a committee hearing before Wednesday’s deadline to pass bills from one chamber to the other.

Other measures were debated but stifled along the way.

The most contentious - legislation to expand civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people - was pulled by Senate leaders before it could get a full vote.

Instead, the Senate passed a lesser-known “hate crimes” bill that gives judges power to inflict harsher penalties for crimes motivated by bias against a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, along with race, religion, color or ethnicity.

Also failed was a bill to prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The measure would have banned the procedure much earlier in a pregnancy than is now allowed. Similar to a law struck down in North Dakota as unconstitutional, that bill never got a hearing.

Another abortion measure still stands, however. It would criminalize abortions sought because of the gender or a diagnosed disability of the fetus.

Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, again saw her perennial bill to legalize medical marijuana snuffed out.

Still in play, however, is a proposal to grant immunity from prosecution to parents who give cannabidiol, derived from the marijuana plant, to children with seizure disorders.

Doctors who prescribe the oil would get the same immunity.

Some gun bills were shot down early. They included a measure filed by Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, a staunch gun-rights advocate, to rid Indiana of its licensing requirement to carry a handgun.

But a bill that would allow state employees to carry firearms in the Statehouse, where the public is barred from being armed, easily passed the Senate and is on its way to a receptive House.

The Sunday alcohol sales bill - to let grocery stores sell beer, wine and liquor like they do the other six days of the week - failed again.

That despite the best efforts of retiring House Public Policy Chairman Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, who wanted to leave it as his legacy.

But the spirit of Dermody’s bill remains, in a measure to allow Indiana artisan distilleries to sell liquor by the bottle on Sundays.

And the dream of Sunday sales hasn’t died.

House leaders vowed to take a deep dive in studying the state’s alcohol laws this summer.

That signals what could come as a big issue next time around - revamping the state’s Prohibition-era liquor laws - during a “long,” four-month session of the Legislature.

Maureen Hayden covers the Indiana Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers and websites. Reach her at mhayden@cnhi.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaureenHayden.

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