By Adrianna Pitrelli
INDIANAPOLIS — Creating redistricting reform, passing hate crime legislation and raising the minimum wage are the Senate Democrats top priorities for the 2018 legislative session.
“We’ve accomplished some things in the General Assembly, but we’ve dropped the ball on several important issues,” said Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.”
Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, touts the Senate Democrats agenda for 2018. Some of the top issues include raising minimum wage and passing a bias crimes bill. Photo by Adrianna Pitrelli, TheStatehouseFile.com
Lanane and members of the Senate Democratic Caucus discussed their priorities for the 2018 legislative session Thursday, which they are calling INvision 20/20. The plan sets goals to reach by 2020.
The public, said Lanane, is fed up with partisan gerrymandering that draws lines so legislators choose voters rather than voters choosing their legislators. State and federal legislative districts will be redrawn following the 2020 census.
“It’s time now for an independent redistricting commission,” Lanane said. “We feel it is by far the best way to make sure every vote counts.”
Some states have already created nonpartisan commissions to draw the lines — a step Indiana tried to take during the 2017 legislative session. House Bill 1014, which would have created an independent redistricting panel, never made it out of the House committee.
Lanane and the Senate Democrats also plan to make voting easier by extending polling hours by one additional hour and implementing same day registration. Lanane said he believes both proposals will have bipartisan support.
But as far as raising the minimum wage goes, Lanane said he will challenge Republicans to hear the bills they will offer. Democrats in the Senate are in the minority by a margin of 41-9.
“Can you really say realistically that people can live on a minimum wage?” Lanane asked. “It’s time for us to have respect for the dignity of work.”
Hoosiers should not work 40 hours a week and not be able to pay for basic neccesaities, like food, electricity or child care, said Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond.
“More and more families depend on minimum wage and Hoosiers deserve to have their voices heard,” Mrvan said. “We aren’t the best we could be and as senators we have to strive to be the best, we should be proud of our state and we have to take everybody into consideration but that’s where we fail.”
The minimum wage in Indiana is currently $7.25 an hour — lower than 29 other states — and hasn’t been raised since 2009. According to in.gov, a full-time job at $7.25 an hour will not support a single adult in any county in Indiana, and the poverty rate has increased 29.3 percent since 2007.
For the fifth year in a row, Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, touted the need for Indiana to have a bias crime law.
In the past two years, Taylor said there has been a significant increase in bias-motivated crimes. Recent incidents include the vandalism of Jewish community centers and attacks on Muslims because of their religion.
“It is time that Indiana joins the 45 other states who recognize the heinous nature of these crimes to show we are welcoming to all people and protect victims of crime targets on the basis of their race, religion, sex, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity,” Taylor said. “We need to demonstrate to the country that Indiana welcomes all people, all skin colors, all religions.”
During the 2017 legislative session, a hate crime bill fail which would have allowed Hoosier judges to consider enhancing criminal sentences based on whether a crime was committed because of a victim’s religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender.
According to a Bowen Center for Public Affairs survey, 64 percent of Hoosiers support passing a bias crime law. Currently, Arkansas, Wyoming, Georgia and South Carolina are the only other states that don’t have a bias crime bill.
Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.