Sen. Grooms, advocate for legal aid, leaving Statehouse early

“It’s been an incredible privilege serving the people of Senate District 46 for the last 10-plus years,” Grooms said in a statement. “I’ve had the distinct honor to work with a number of outstanding legislators who have worked tirelessly to move Indiana forward.”

Sen. Ron Grooms

Grooms, who joined the state senate in 2010, had already announced he would not be running for reelection in 2022. He told the News and Tribune in June that someone younger than him was needed to represent the district and that he wanted to dedicate more time to his family and his interests in travel and mentoring up-and-coming leaders.

The senator did not indicate Thursday why he decided to leave the Statehouse before his term was complete.

“Although I will miss the Statehouse, I look forward to pursuing new opportunities, spending more time with family, playing a bit more golf and relaxing with a good book,” he said. “I leave knowing that I did my job and made a difference in my community.”

Through Senate Enrolled Act 235, which he co-authored in 2012 with former Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, Grooms helped the legal community’s pro bono efforts at a time when the traditional funding source, Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts, was running dry. The $1 the legislation added onto the state’s civil legal filing fee provided much-needed money to support volunteer lawyers.

Since then, more than $3.1 million has flowed into the state’s pro bono districts.

“Sen. Grooms’ leadership in securing a filing fee to support the work of Indiana’s pro bono delivery system has been essential,” Charles Dunlap, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation, said. “… The impact of these funds has been multiplied through the work of volunteer lawyers who provide crucial support to low-income Hoosiers in need of legal representation in obtaining protective orders, securing housing and providing other services to help overcome hurdles to employment.”

Grooms championed legal aid because of his experience with trying to help his pharmacy patients, who many times had legal issues but could not afford an attorney.

When SEA 235 was scheduled to sunset, he introduced new legislation in 2017 that extended the filing fee to 2022.

Grooms then introduced Senate Bill 253, which would have increased the filing fee to $3 during the 2021 session. After the measure failed to get a hearing, he tried to get the language inserted into the state’s budget bill but ultimately was unsuccessful.

Dunlap called Grooms the “consummate statesman and public servant,” and said the senator will be missed.

“The Indiana Bar Foundation salutes Sen. Ron Grooms and his exemplary service to the people of Indiana,” Dunlap said. “Among his other legislative accomplishments, Sen. Grooms has been a strong advocate of civil legal assistance and access to our legal system for all Hoosiers of all incomes and backgrounds.”

Grooms worked on a wide array of legislative initiatives during his tenure in the Legislature.

In particular, he authored SEA 246 in 2013, which sought to prevent overprescribing and abuse of drugs by allowing only licensed physicians, hospitals and hospices to have ownership in businesses that prescribe, dispense or administer controlled substances.

Also, he was involved in the Ohio River Bridges Project that led to two new bridges — the Abraham Lincoln and the Lewis and Clark — being built to connect southern Indiana with Louisville, Kentucky.

“Sen. Grooms has been a thoughtful leader on a variety of issues during his tenure in the Senate,” Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said in a statement. “We appreciate his service and the valuable expertise he has lent to our caucus and the Senate at large, and wish him well in this next chapter of his life.”

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