2019 Indiana State Legislature: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Source: Indiana Senate Democrats – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: 2019 Edition

The Ugly

Bias Crimes

This session, Governor Holcomb made it a priority to pass bias crimes legislation. With the governor’s support, Senate Democrats were confident that Indiana would finally get a comprehensive bias crimes law on the books. Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) worked with the Republican author of SB 12, the bias crimes bill chosen to advance in the Senate, to get a clear, concise proposal containing a list of protected characteristics, passed out of the Senate Committee on Public Policy. Once the bill reached the floor, however, the Supermajority removed the list from the bill’s language. Despite protests by the Democratic caucus, Republicans chose to advance the watered down bill. After receiving backlash, however, Republicans took a different route, amending bias crimes language into an unrelated SB 198. Though the language included a list of protected classes, it left out age, sex and gender identity. Democrats fought to get these important characteristics added back into the bill with no success. Governor Holcomb, who promised to pass an inclusive and comprehensive bias crimes bill, mysteriously had a change of heart and decided that a non-inclusive bill that was ageist, sexist and transphobic was sufficient and signed the bill into law once it reached his desk.

All Democratic amendments removed from budget

Every single item that Senate Democrats have fought for over the past four months was removed from the budget in the final days of session. The Democratic Caucus fought to pass legislation that would improve the lives of Hoosiers and every one of our efforts was eliminated. Those efforts included protecting the Lake Michigan shoreline from erosion, providing adoption subsidies for foster parents to keep kids out of foster homes, relief for Hoosiers unable to pay interest fees on property taxes and funding the Mortgage Foreclosure Program requested by Indiana’s Supreme Court to help Hoosiers not lose their homes.

Shifting funding away from public education
The Statehouse Republican budget prioritizes private and voucher schools over public schools. Many schools in urban or poorer communities saw cuts to their complexity funding, and many of those that saw their total dollars increase, still did not receive increases that match the inflation rate. Moreover, funding for private and charter schools saw large increases, sometimes as much as 10 percent.

No teacher pay raises

This year, the General Assembly appeared to be in agreement that raising the salary of Indiana teachers was a priority. Despite that, only Indiana Democrats actually drafted and fought for legislation that would allocate new dollars to accomplish this goal. SB 399, drafted by Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Gary), was the only legislation drafted that would provide school corporations with a grant that would be used to specifically to raise teacher pay. The bill would have granted a 5% increase to teacher pay over the biennial, but it died without ever being given a committee hearing. Sen. Melton again attempted to ensure that a guaranteed teacher raise, offering an amendment to the budget with the same language included in his SB 399; it was defeated along party lines. Another Senate Democratic amendment to the budget would have placed a tax on cigarettes and mandated that some of the proceeds be used to raise teacher pay. The amendment was also defeated along party lines.

Attempt to legalize the shooting of teachers

In March, Indiana made national news when several news articles reported that teachers were left with bruises and welts after being shot with rubber pellets during school shooting simulations. To address this issue, language was added to Senate Bill 1253 that would require teachers to consent to being pelted during training. This came after language, added in committee, banning the practice altogether was removed from the bill. Unfortunately, the new proposal requiring teachers to consent failed to become law after Republican author Representative Jim Lucas stopped it from progressing due to other changes in the bill — changes that would have mandated training for all teachers who planned to carry firearms in schools since there are cheap revolvers for sale that are available in the market nowadays.

Discrimination in publicly-funded private schools

Sen. J.D. Ford filed a bill this session, SB 344, and also offered an amendment to the budget to bar private schools receiving state voucher funds from discriminating against their students, staff and teachers. Both his bill and his amendment were defeated by the supermajority. Sen. Ford fought for this language in response news that Roncalli High School, which has received over $6.5 million in tax dollars, is terminating the employment of two employees simply because of their same-sex marriages.

Standoff

A Brief History of Indiana’s Marriage Discrimination Amendment

I try to follow and post about the Indiana’s Marriage Discrimination Amendment every time it’s come up in the Indiana State Legislature, and here is a short history that I’ve been able to cobble together from past posts. This is mainly a testimony to my sketchy blogging more than anything else, as I seem to have often failed to follow up on posting about the outcomes of various bills. I’ll attempt to update this page with more research on bilerico.com and the Indiana legislative archives when I we are not in the middle of a legislative fight and when my internet is a lot more reliable than it is today.

In January of 2014, HJR-6 was re-named HJR-3 and introduced to the House Judiciary Committee. It got stuck in committee because it didn’t have the votes to move, so Brian Bosma moved it to the Elections Committee where it passed.

In January of 2013, HJR-6 (which is now the current bill HJR-3) was filed but never made it out of the House Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers indicated that they preferred to wait until the Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act were announced.

In March 2011, HJR-6 (which is now the current bill HJR-3) was being pushed through the state legislature for the first time. The LGBT Community held a rally to protest it.

In February of 2008, SJR-7 died after Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City refused to hear the legislation in the House.

In January of 2008, Representative Eric Turner, ranking Republican on the House Rules and Legislative Policy Committee, tried to amend a property tax bill to add SJR-7 after it looked like it would never make it out of committee to be heard.

On April 3rd, 2007, SJR-7 died in committee, unable to make it out of the Indiana House of Representative’s Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee.

On March 29th, SJR-7 testimony to the House Committee for SJR-7 revealed that the language in it had been rejected for the federal version of this amendment by Robert Bork because it was too ambiguous.

In the spring of 2007, SJR-7 became was being pushed through a house committee.

On February 8th of 2007, SJR-7 passed the Indiana Senate and was sent to a House committee to be heard.

On January of 2007, SJR-7, an Indiana Marriage Discrimination Amendment was re-introduced to the State Lesgislature.

On March 8th of 2005, we held a rally to oppose SJR-7, the first wave of an attempt to pass the Indiana Marriage Discrimination Amendment. This was the language of SJR-7:

DIGEST OF INTRODUCED BILL
Definition of marriage. Provides that marriage in Indiana consists only of the union of one man and one woman. Provides that Indiana law may not be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

Notice the second sentence of that bill – at time, we noted how flawed the language of the second sentence (different language than today’s HJR3, but still really flawed and problematic) was.

Prior to SJR-7 in 2005: There was a great deal of awareness in Indiana that a Marriage Discrimination Amendment was probably coming. There was an attempt to pass one on a federal level in 2003-2004 before the plan was blocked in Senate and the failure of Massachusetts ban on same-sex marriage and subsequent marriages triggered a flurry of activity in red states like our when opponents of same-sex marriage rights realized their days were numbered.

I really think there was a prior attempt at an amendment in the late 1990s or early 2000s, because I recall when I was more politically active in LGBT Fairness that we covered the issue and when we were fighting the state statute. I don’t have specific bill numbers or information about those attempts yet.