By Abrahm Hurt
INDIANAPOLIS — At the halfway point of the 2018 legislative session, members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus see the apparent defeat of bias crimes legislation as one of the biggest setbacks so far.
Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, speaks during the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus’ press conference. Pryor said she was pleased that the IBCL was able to have some of their legislation and amendments pass. Photo by Abrahm Hurt, TheStatehouseFile.com
“I think probably a lot of people in the state of Indiana are disappointed that the bias crime legislation continues to not move forward,” Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, said during a press conference Monday. “That is a strain on the state of Indiana both economically and also for the individuals who are negatively impacted by criminal behavior just because of the color of their skin, sexual orientation or race and identity.”
Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said the bill died year because it included sexual orientation and gender identity.
“I don’t think there’s any secret to what’s behind it. Gender identity and sexual orientation,” Taylor said. “The 41, who are able to tell the 9 that we’re not going to hear this issue, and they couldn’t get 26 votes out of their caucus because it had sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Republicans have a supermajority in the Senate, controlling 41 of 50 seats.
Senate Bill 418 would have allowed judges to increase a sentence if the crime was committed against an individual because of everything from race to sexual identity. It died in the Senate when it was not called for a vote in the Public Policy Committee after members of the Senate Republican caucus, meeting behind closed doors, could not agree to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the bill.
The IBLC were also disappointed that legislation to set up a study to examine African-American homicide rates, install seat belts on school buses and raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 was not passed.
Sen Greg. Taylor, D-Indianapolis, answers questions during a press conference. Taylor said Senate Bill 418, which deals with bias crime legislation, died this year because it included sexual orientation and gender identity. Photo by Abrahm Hurt, TheStatehouseFile.com
Despite seeing many of their priorities fail, the IBLC did see progress in some legislation with diabetes reporting, bullying and pharmacy deserts.
House Bill 1175, authored by Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, would require the state department of health to work with the office of the secretary of family and social services to create a plan to reduce the prevalence of diabetes and pre-diabetes. The bill passed the House 92-0.
House Bill 1356, authored by Rep. Gregory Porter would require school corporations to report the number of bullying incidents that occur, and it would allow the department of education to conduct a statewide study on bullying reporting. The bill passed 87-3 and was referred to the Senate’s Education and Career Development Committee.
Rep. Charlie Brown’s, D-Gary, House Bill 1382 would create a study committee to address the problem of large chain pharmacies closing in rural and urban areas across Indiana. The bill passed 88-3 and was referred to the Senate’s Family and Children Service’s Committee.
“We are happy that we do have some small measure of success, although we are gravely disappointed that the bias crime legislation did not pass,” Pryor said.
HB 1175 is scheduled to be heard in the Senate’s Health and Provider Services Committee Wednesday.
Abrahm Hurt is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.