Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is calling on the General Assembly to pass a hate crimes bill after someone spray-painted anti-Semitic graffiti at a suburban Indianapolis synagogue.
Holcomb said Monday he’ll meet with lawmakers, legal experts, corporate leaders and “citizens of all stripes who are seeking to find consensus on this issue so that, once and for all, we can move forward as a state" after Nazi flags and iron crosses were spray-painted early Saturday on two walls of a brick shed at Congregation Shaarey Tefilla in Carmel.
The governor said he hopes a hate crime bill passes in 2019. Indiana remains just one of just five states without a hate crimes law.
Multiple bias motivated crime bills have been proposed in the Statehouse in 2016, 2017 and 2018, but many had difficulty gaining traction and did not even get a hearing in committee. The measure authored by Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, did get through committee but in 2017 and 2018, but in-fighting among Republicans led to the bill being pulled before the full Senate could vote.
The Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code has been tapped to study bias motivated crimes. Chaired by Rep. Thomas Washburne, R-Evansville, the committee has scheduled meetings for Aug. 28 and Sept. 12, but no agenda has been released.
Washburne was unavailable for comment Monday.
Democratic legislators are echoing Holcomb and calling for Indiana to pass hate crime legislation. House minority leader Terry Goodin, D-Austin, applauded the governor but questioned the Republicans’ ability to pass any legislation.
“:...(T)his is Indiana, where we find it easier to talk about stopping hate crimes instead of actually doing something about it,” Goodin said. “The governor announcing his support is one thing. Getting the Republican majorities in both the House and Senate to act is another.”
Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said the vandalism was “sickening, disheartening and unacceptable” but he stopped short of endorsing separate hate crime legislation.
“This summer, the Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code will take another look at the issue of bias-motivated crimes and identify opportunities for legislative consensus,” Bosma said. “Indiana judges already have the ability to enhance sentences based on a criminal’s motivation when presented with evidence of bias, but perhaps more needs to be done to clarify and highlight this existing provision.”