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Committee unanimously approves hate crime bill

January 26, 2016

A bias-motivated crimes bill authored by a northern Indiana legislator was approved by a Senate committee Tuesday, the only one of six such bills to have received a hearing so far this legislative session.

Senate Bill 220, authored by Sen. Susan Glick, R-Howe, was passed by the Senate Corrections & Criminal Law Committee on a 9-0 vote. The measure would allow for a sentence to be enhanced for a crime committed with the intent to harm or intimidate another based on the victim’s characteristics including race, religion, gender and disability.

Glick’s bill is one of four introduced in the Senate and two proposed in the House of Representatives. All of the bills permit sentences to be enhanced, and include sexual orientation and transgender or gender identity as aggravating circumstances.

The other measures have been assigned to either the Corrections & Criminal Law Committee or the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee. None of the other bills have received a hearing and neither committee, so far, has scheduled a meeting after Jan. 27.

With Feb. 3 as the last day for third readings of bills in both the House and Senate, Glick’s bill appears to be the only one that will be considered by the General Assembly.

“We’re excited a hate crime bill appears to be moving this session,” said David Sklar, director of government affairs for the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council. The council is part of a coalition of civic and religious organizations advocating in the Indiana General Assembly for legislation covering bias-motivated crimes.

The coalition is working to strengthen the language in Glick’s bill. The measure includes crimes against transgender individuals; Sklar and his colleagues would like to change that to “gender identity” which, Sklar said, is a broader and more up-to-date term.

SB 202, authored Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, closely aligns with the proposal from the coalition. The bill goes farther than Glick’s measure by defining a bias-motivated crime as being committed against an individual or property. It also requires law enforcement officers to receive training for handling bias-motivated crimes and mandates that law enforcement agencies collect and report information about these types of acts. Sen. Glick has signed on as a co-author.  

In the House, Rep. Gregory Porter, D-Indianapolis, and Rep. Randy Truitt, R-West Lafayette, have each submitted bias-motivated crime bills – House Bill 1286 and HB 1268, respectively – that mirror the Rogers-Glick measure in the Senate. Porter and Truitt’s bills are identical and each has joined the other as a co-author. In addition, Truitt’s proposal has also picked up support from Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer, R-Indianapolis, and Sheila Klinker, D-Lafayette.   

Senate Bill 261 and SB 263, would allow victims of bias-motivated crimes to bring a civil action to recover damages, including punitive damages. Also the former prohibits any enhancement of imprisonment exceeding five years while the latter allows for enhancement to bump the level of the felony up one level.

Sklar said he is “a little optimistic” now that Glick’s bill has been approved. He believes the unanimous support from the committee bodes well for the measure’s success on the Senate floor.
 

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