Welcome to in-depth. The two appear to go hand in hand. the Indiana Legislative Session and debate showing two very polarizing views. This year is no exception.
Joining me tonight is Republican State Representative Wendy McNamara who has been in the House Chamber since 2010 representing Posey and Vanderburgh counties.
Brad Byrd: Rep. McNamara thanks for being here tonight. Basically, Governor Holcomb has signed that hate crime bill and it was void of some key components Democrats wanted in that. And that was gender, gender identity and age, but he did indicate in the future he would like to see stronger language. You tell me, you were on the committee that was receiving so much information about this, tell me about that and tell me how you feel about that stronger language later on.
Wendy McNamara: I would suggest that there were Republicans and Democrats that wanted what we call “the list”. What we feel came out of the house, the final language is as comprehensive as you could get. Our goal was to make sure you include everyone. That nobody was left off that list. If you’re an attorney who is attacked for being an attorney, we wanted that to be covered. In fact, just yesterday former Justice Frank Sullivan – a Democrat – who sat on the court in 2003 for the Whitmore decision – confirmed that he believed the language that we came up with – that passed the house, that the governor signed – really covers everything. It covers gender, gender identity, citizenship, marital status, all of those things. We were hoping that we could make sure that not one person was left out. And what this does, is it allows a judge to add an aggravator, or extend a sentence to someone, who they believe commits a crime based on bias.
Brad Byrd: So, you’re telling me even without these three items, gender, gender identity, and age not being in this bill that has been signed, all the individuals who fall under those categories are going to be protected?
Wendy McNamara: Correct. It has been our belief from the beginning, the particular language that was worked on – for months, going back to October – to cover everybody and exclude no one.
Brad Byrd: Do you think the stronger language could be revisited next year or in future years?
Wendy McNamara: I would doubt it. The conversation over hate crimes has been going on as long as I’ve been up at the state house, you have people opposed to having a list – I was telling you earlier in my committee there were five bills – all five bills had different lists. So, it’s hard to say that adding a list would be inclusive of everyone. And I firmly believe that Senate Bill 198, signed by the governor, includes everyone.
Brad Byrd: House Bill 1004 – that has a special place in your world, especially during the past several months. And one of the controversial aspects of this is, something you say you were misinterpreted by video, and that was you were talking about mental health and the roles that our educators play in the mental health of our kids – walk me through that please.
Wendy McNamara: House Bill 1004 is a school safety bill. And in the school safety bill are recommendations from a task force that the governor put together last August. A couple sections of the bill have a CDC youth risk assessment survey that we can data to determine what are our problems. We don’t know. They might be different from region to region or school to school. We want to know where to place our money to best help our kids. The other section is signing a memorandum of understanding with local health care providers. I was speaking to those two items and speaking passionately from a teacher’s perspective and a principal’s perspective and saying that teachers are the parents today and we need every tool, we need everything we can possibly get to help our kids.
Brad Byrd: But you weren’t excluding parents – you’re telling me?
Wendy McNamara: No. Not at all. Absolutely not. There’s group that clipped off a segment of what I said to scare parents, to scare people and, frankly, to raise money. They’re using it as a fundraiser – they’ve put up on our local pages – in northeast Indiana – it’s unfortunate that there are groups that want to do things like this.
Brad Byrd: Fundraising for what – lobbying?
Wendy McNamara: Yes, raising money for their efforts.
Brad Byrd: Let’s talk about the other side of safety – active shooter drills. Legislation you have been passionate about is establishing perimeters and included in that are active shooter drills. There was an incident that happened in Monticello, Indiana where projectiles were used during an active shooter drill, whether it be pellets, according to the state teacher’s association had no idea that was going to happen. When did you find out about that?
Wendy McNamara: I found out about it the day we were voting on the third reading of my bill and sending it to the Senate. I spoke with the teacher’s association and assured them that I would put language in there to establish those perimeters. In my opinion, I don’t think projectiles should be used in active shooter drills against teachers, whether they’re aware of it or not.
Brad Byrd: What about teachers being armed?
Wendy McNamara: Teachers being armed I think is a local decision. We have several local communities that have chosen to go down that path. We have a bill that passed the House, I’m not sure where it is in the Senate, but it would allow secured school safety fund to be able to train teachers in use of weaponry – they have to go through psychological exam, weapons training – as if they were law enforcement – so they have to log as many hours of shooting.
Brad Byrd: this would be an option though for teachers?
Wendy McNamara: Absolutely.
Brad Byrd: Because a lot of teachers they have enough on their plate.
Wendy McNamara: No, they wouldn’t be chosen and told you have to do this. It’s a local decision. Teachers can volunteer. But they have to pass several steps before doing so.
Brad Byrd: Senate Bill 2 would increase penalties for drivers who drive by school bus stop arms. Tragedy up in northern IN where three kids were killed by a driver who blew right past that school bus stop arm. What we have right now, is this headed in the direction to help keep kids safe?
Wendy McNamara: I don’t think it goes far enough – it was stripped of a lot of the things that I think would be useful. I suggested tape around the bottom that can be seen in the dark hours and be visible. We worked, I actually worked with EVSC to try to make sure we got it right. There was part of the bill that would have school corp. pay for cameras and using those cameras to find those drivers who pass them. This step would have given it an extra step of enforcement and that was taken out of the bill. It moved it from a Class A infraction to a Class C Misdemeanor.
Brad Byrd: Alright thank you Rep.Wendy McNamara for being here tonight.
(This story was originally published on April 4, 2019)