Senator seeks to put bicentennial commission into law

By Tim Grimes

INDIANAPOLIS – A commission has been working for nearly a year on plans for Indiana’s 200th birthday in 2016 but a state senator is now pushing to make the effort official.

Chris Jensen, executive director of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, said putting the group into law makes it part of the state's historical record. Photo by Tim Grimes,

Chris Jensen, executive director of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, said putting the group into law makes it part of the state’s historical record. Photo by Tim Grimes,

Senate Bill 561 – authored by Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis – puts the Indiana Bicentennial Commission into law, which may not be necessary.

Already the group has been busy with its first projects, including a $30 million Bicentennial Nature Trust that’s meant to conserve thousands of acres of Indiana wetlands, forest and prairies.

But Chris Jensen, the group’s executive director, said putting the organization into law will make it part of Indiana’s historical record.

“Hoosiers enjoy a good celebration and the 200th year birthday is a pretty good reason to celebrate,” Jensen said. “And, so we’ll look at different community events and statewide events where we can have big celebrations to celebrate the state of Indiana.”

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2016 marks the 200th anniversary of Indiana’s statehood and the Indiana Bicentennial commission is already hard at work.

The Statehouse’s Tim Grimes reports.



The Senate Commerce Committee approved the bill unanimously and it now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Former Gov. Mitch Daniels created the bicentennial group and appointed its 15 members. In addition to the nature projects, the group is planning events meant to educate Hoosiers about Indiana’s history and to organize celebrations throughout the year.

The commission is headed up by former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and former congressman Lee Hamilton. Senators Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, and Earline Rogers, D-Gary, and former Chief Justice Randall Shepard are all a part of the commission.

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, voted for the bill But he said he would like the commission to be more diverse. Taylor cited American Indian and Jewish communities as two examples of groups he would like to see included.

“In a celebration like this,” Taylor said, “we should have people from both sides of the aisle, from both perspectives, from different ethnic groups that may have been represented, like the Indian tribes, things like that. That’s a true bicentennial. Tell the good and the bad.”

Tim Grimes is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. 

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