Amended hate crimes bill passes Indiana Senate

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UPDATE

The Indiana Senate on Thursday afternoon passed an amended hate crimes bill, leaving it without characteristics including race, age, religion, gender identity and sexual orientation. The measure will now go to the House of Represenatives for consideration.

The vote was 39-10.

All state senators from southwestern Indiana voted in favor of the bill.

President and CEO Kevin Brinegar said the Indiana Chamber of Commerce is deeply disappointed with the amended bill.

He released this statement:

“Unfortunately, what passed the Senate today does not meet the all-important criteria of a meaningful bias crimes law. The Indiana Chamber and its members will continue to work with all legislators to do just that. We agree with Gov. Holcomb that the current legislation does not even remove Indiana from the list of five states without a bias crimes statute.

With more than two full months left in this legislative session, there is still time for the House to properly address this issue and for the Senate to act again – this time to pass a comprehensive law. If the General Assembly fails to do so, it will only unnecessarily fuel this controversy.

Nearly 75% of Hoosiers support passage of a bias crime law. Republican, Democrat, white, minority, urban, rural, young and old voters all are in strong support. This debate is now about politics within the Statehouse, not among Indiana voters. It is time for legislators to truly represent the wishes of their constituents.

There is no rational reason not to pass a meaningful and comprehensive bias crimes law this year to remove Indiana from the list of five states without one. Our state’s reputation is at stake. We must send a strong message of inclusiveness to help ensure our state’s future success.

The Indiana Chamber commends co-authors Mike Bohacek and Ron Alting for their original bill and continued efforts.”

PREVIOUS

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — On Tuesday night, a majority of Indiana senators made a drastic change to a hate crimes bill

A list of protected groups was taken out, leaving some lawmakers and Gov. Eric Holcomb upset. 

After that big change to the the bill, the dust settled Wednesday at the Statehouse. The bill is scheduled for a full Senate vote on Thursday. If passed, it heads to the House of Representatives.

Amendment 2 deleted specific characteristics from the original Senate bill. Those included race, age, religion, gender identity and sexual orientation. Amendment 2, which was the only one lawmakers passed Tuesday, called instead for judges to issue enhanced sentencing for “bias.” 

Republican state Sen. Aaron Freeman authored the amendment. 

“There were not 26 votes to pass what came out of committee on Monday. I feel Aaron Freeman’s opinion is that I would rather try,” the Republican from Indianapolis said Wednesday. “I would rather try and do something. I want to find a compromise. I hope both sides can decrease the level of tension here.”

Democratic state Sen. Greg Taylor is the original bill’s co-author. He has pushed for years for a hate crimes law. Indiana is one of five states without one. The others are Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Wyoming.

“We do know people are being killed because of their religious beliefs, because of their sexual orientation and because of their race,”  the Indianapolis Democrat said Wednesday. “It’s not time to play shenanigans with the legislative process in doing so.” 

State Sen. John Ruckelshaus was one of the handful of Republicans to vote “no” on the amendment.

“I’m going to continue to work with the governor all through the process to try to put that list back in, or other methodologies, so we can all get back to the same place,” the Indianapolis Republican said Wednesday.

“It’s possible,” Sen. Taylor added. “I pray that it happens.” 

State Rep. Robin Shackleford, a Democrat from Indianapolis, and chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, issued a statement Wednesday about the future of bias crimes legislation in the 2019 session:

“We share Gov. Holcomb’s disappointment at what the Indiana Senate supermajority did. Like the governor, the IBLC recognizes there is ample time to make things right before the end of the 2019 session.

“The battle now moves to the Indiana House. We know that the Speaker and his leadership would prefer this matter to simply go away, and that we pass Senate Bill 12 without a peep.”

So, what happens to the bill next?

The author of the amendment, Freeman, said, “I want both sides to work together, and I want to find a compromise on this issue. If the House can use my amendment and make it better and find something that works, God bless them, and I hope they can do it.” 

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(This story was originally published on February 21, 2019)

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