RFRA backer Sen. Scott Schneider not running again

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – One of the primary authors of Indiana’s much-criticized religious objections law announced Saturday that he will not seek re-election in 2016 because he wants to concentrate on his growing family business.

Two-term state Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, said his business, Mister Ice, one of the largest suppliers of ice machines in central Indiana, has increased its workforce by more than 30 percent and soon will break ground on an expansion.

“I will remain active behind the scenes, continue to be a spokesman for conservative Republican principles, and perhaps return to elective office in the future,” Schneider said in a news release distributed Saturday morning.

Schneider plans to serve the remainder of his term, which expires in November 2016.

Some groups cancelled events scheduled to take place in Indiana to protest the Religious Freedom Restoration Act after Gov. Mike Pence signed it into law last March. Lawmakers quickly passed another bill to address criticism that the law allowed religious beliefs as a defense for discrimination against the lesbian-gay-transgender-bisexual community. Opponents boycotted Mister Ice because of Schneider’s role in getting the law passed.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. hired a New York-based public relations firm, Porter Novelli, to help rebuild the state’s image, paying it $365,000 before cancelling the $750,000 contract after two months.

Since the outcry, LGBT supporters have campaigned across Indiana for more cities to introduce anti-discrimination ordinances that include sexual orientation and gender identity. Democratic lawmakers say they will push during next year’s legislative session to amend the state civil rights laws to add protections.

Schneider introduced an amendment in 2011 to withhold taxpayer money from Planned Parenthood, which passed overwhelmingly and was signed by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels. Planned Parenthood later won a permanent injunction in federal court blocking the law.

Schneider also co-authored school choice legislation, led an effort to move the state away from the Common Core education standards, and co-sponsored Indiana’s right-to-work law.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, praised Schneider as “a strong leader for his constituents and for our state.”

“He is a man of integrity and commitment to principle, and we will miss him as a member of our caucus,” Long said.