Fourteen days after rallying on the third floor of the Indiana Statehouse to cheer, applaud and push the Legislature into passing a hate crime bill this session, advocates were stunned the measure failed last week to even get a committee vote.
The Republican-majority Senate stripped a hate crimes bill Tuesday of language that specified the types of crimes it would apply to — those motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation, gender and other categories — despite emotional pleas by Democrats to leave the bill as written.
After more than three hours of testimony and discussion on Monday morning, the Senate Public Policy Committee voted to send a bias crimes bill to the full Senate for consideration. Senate Bill 12 would give judges the ability to consider whether a crime was committed out of hate or bias toward specific groups of individuals as an aggravating circumstance at sentencing.
Opponents and supporters of a proposed Indiana hate crimes law are arguing their positions before state legislators. A state Senate committee opened a hearing Monday morning on a bill that would create a law specifically against crimes fueled by biases regarding traits such as race, religion and sexual orientation.
As they did in January 2018, supporters of hate crimes legislation rallied Tuesday in the Indiana Statehouse to again push lawmakers to add a bias-motivated crime statute to the Indiana law books. Advocates from a broad array of groups, including business, education, nonprofits and faith-based organizations, were on-hand to applaud and cheer as legislators and community leaders called for Indiana to join the 45 other states with hate crimes law.
In an effort to remove Indiana from a list of five states without hate crimes legislation, lawmakers have filed three separate bills so far in the Indiana General Assembly, but the latest measure does not specify the classes of individuals and groups who would be protected.
Among the biggest issues the 2019 General Assembly will have to contend with is the Department of Child Services, which is still reeling after a tumultuous year that saw a leader abruptly resign and a national group identify several shortcomings in the department’s operations. Gov. Eric Holcomb is calling on lawmakers to devote significant financial resources to the struggling department, and all four legislative leaders say their caucuses plan to make DCS a top priority.
The spray-painting of a swastika outside a suburban Indianapolis synagogue this summer was the final straw for Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who quickly called for Indiana to join the 45 states that have hate crime laws.
In what the Indiana House Speaker said is likely to be an “extraordinarily difficult” budget session, Indiana’s legislative leaders plan to focus their efforts during this year’s legislative session on budget-impacting legislation, such as funding for the embattled Department of Child Services and increasing teacher pay.