INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A discussion of proposed changes to Indiana’s “stand your ground” law on Friday raised concerns about vigilantism, but the bill’s author said his intent was not to encourage “a shooting spree.”
“This bill concerns me a lot,” Patricia Rettig, the local group lead for Hamilton County’s Moms Demand Action, said.
The bill would expand the limits of justifiable use of force in self-defense or in defense of another person under Indiana’s “stand your ground” Law.
“I feel that it would give citizens a sense of vigilantism, where they would go out and not be concerned about the repercussions of what they may do with their weapon,” Rettig said.
“This does not allow people to become a vigilante,” state Rep Jim Lucas, a Republican from Seymour, said. “That’s the farthest thing from it.”
Lucas, the bill’s author, said, “This does not allow people to just go on a shooting spree.”
Rather, Lucas said, the bill would grant immunity from liability in a civil case.
“The only thing this does is a justified use of force, up to and including deadly force,” Lucas said. “That, if somebody’s justified in using force, it simply raises the bar to a level that makes it more difficult for that person to be dragged through a civil court.”
“If you’re immune from that, then that is also concerning because say you are justified in the initial shooting, but also injured or killed somebody else,” Rettig said. “Now, this bill could feasibly remove the ability of their family to then pursue civil action for wrongful death or what have you.”
Lucas said his bill has already passed the House 80-13 and the Senate’s judiciary committee. He’s waiting for it to get a second reading in the Senate, which he says could happen as soon as next week.
“The reason we need this law is very simple: violent criminals should not be able to sue their victims – or those that come to the aid of their victims – based on the lawful and justified use of force under Indiana’s existing self-defense laws,” Carmel Attorney, Guy Relford said in a statement.
Relford said he helped State Rep. Jim Lucas create the language for the bill.
“HB 1284 does not change Indiana law at all as to when force is justified in self-defense (or defense of a third person) and when it is not, so If someone uses force, including deadly force, that is not already justified by Indiana’s self-defense law, they go to prison. HB 1284 does not change that in any way. HB 1284 only provides civil immunity under the specific circumstances when the use of force is already justified under Indiana law.
HB 1284 only applies to any lawsuit brought by the person whose illegal conduct justified the use of force against him; thus, it specifically excludes any claim brought by an innocent bystander, contrary the claims of MDA.”
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Indiana lawmaker wants to expand ‘stand your ground’ law
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — From teaching teachers how to shoot a gun to growing hemp in Indiana, many bills are getting closer to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk.
Here’s a closer look at where some of the more high-profile bills stand.
Teacher handgun training
Public schoolteachers are a step closer to being able to get handgun training paid for by the state.
“It was designed by the very same people that train our police officers,” State Rep. Jim Lucas, a Republican from Seymour, said Wednesday. “It has actually a few more hours required of the teachers and the staff than what police do when they graduate from law enforcement academy.”
Lucas came up with the idea, one that the Indiana State Teachers Association recently balked at.
“Teachers’ first priority is instruction. It is not to pack a firearm,” Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith has said.
The bill already shot past the House, and Lucas said the measure will have hearing Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development.
Another bill getting traction is state Rep. Ryan Hatfield‘s animal cruelty bill.
“The goal is to not only enhance penalties, but also to be able to go after people who are truly abusing animals,” the Evansville Democrat said Wednesday.
Hatfield said his bill already passed the House and is on the way for a full Senate vote, possibly next week.
Hoosiers might soon see fields of green hemp in Indiana. Congress recently legalized hemp nationwide.
A bill from state Sen. Randy Head would set up a hemp plan for Indiana.
“That’s got to be under 0.3 percent THC so it’s not intoxicating. It gives our farmers, it gives our sellers an opportunity go grow and sell hemp products in the open market,” the Republican from Logansport said Wednesday.
“I hate it,” Rep. Lucas said.
Lucas said he takes issue with part of that bill that could criminalize smokable CBD, which is legal right now. “To me, we’re going to wipe out established businesses, which is wrong, for selling a legal product.”
“There may be an amendment in committee tomorrow (Thursday) that deals with that,” Head said. “I’m not sure exactly how that’s going to go.”
“We’d like to give teachers more pay,” Sen. Head said Wednesday. “I’d personally like to be able to do that. We have a couple of bills pending right now.”
One of those bills calls for using $150 million in cash reserves to pay off the difference between what retired teachers are owed and what the state has in the bank for teacher pensions. Republicans say that change will free up $70 million in “savings” for schools.
Republican leaders said they “encourage” schools to use that money solely to increase teacher pay.
“What a lot of people don’t realize, teacher pay is decided at the local level,” Lucas said.
Rep. Hatfield doesn’t like where efforts to increase teacher pay stand so far this session.
“I’ve been disappointed in the actions that we’ve seen over this session,” Hatfield said. “So far, we do not have an adequate teacher pay bill. I’m hopeful but skeptical that we get one.”
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Kicking addiction is a hard fight many Hoosiers are battling.
But on Wednesday, lawmakers sent a strong message to try to help them.
Indiana legislators advanced a measure that would open three addiction recovery centers statewide. The bill now heads to the House floor for its first full vote.
Under that bill, one of those centers would each be placed in Indiana’s central, northern and southern regions.
“I just felt this hopelessness and emptiness,” Sean McDonough, a recovering addict, said Wednesday.
The 40-year-old spent thousands of dollars to get his cocaine, booze and marijuana fix after he lost his Wall Street job in 2009. For almost a decade, he was addicted.
“For me, it was more like a calming effect. I kind of turned to it to have an escape from reality,” McDonough said.
Reality caught up with him in 2017. He decided to get clean. Now, he helps other people struggling with addiction.
That’s why he and several others champion an addiction recovery center bill. It would give Hoosiers a central place to go for help with beating addictions to things like meth, opioids, alcohol or cocaine. That access is not easy to get today.
“Even once you get plugged into addictions treatment, it’s still very fragmented,” said Brandon George, director of Indiana Addictions Issues Coalition. “You might have to go to five different agencies to receive the five types of services you need.”
State Sen. Jim Merritt said, if approved, the state would give each center $1 million in start-up money.
“I have found that we have gotten ourselves into a situation where it’s not only an opioid epidemic, it’s an addiction epidemic,” said the Republican from Indianapolis. “You’re talking about different types of addiction, from tobacco to alcohol, to opioids and to meth.”
The idea could mean a new and better life for people like Michael Oppelt. He relapsed back into alcohol nine months ago after more than 25 years in recovery.
“There’s good people dying every day because they don’t have access to services,” Oppelt said. “It’s life and death.”
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Could there soon be more options to help Hoosiers get fast cash?
There’s a bill making its way through the Statehouse that supporters say could expand payday lending in our state. But, opponents believe Hoosiers could wind up short-changed.
The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 26-23 on Feb. 26. It’s now in the hands of the House Committee on Financial Institutions.
There are more payday loan centers in the United States than there are McDonald’s restaurant locations, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Those loans are marketed as a convenient way to get cash quickly.
“We’re talking about financially distressed households that are then paying exorbitant rates to borrow small amounts of money that are due on their next payday,” said Erin Macey, senior policy analyst for the Indiana Institute for Working Families.
Macey said that “those borrowers generally can’t repay the loan their next payday, so they renew, and renew, and renew.”
Supporters of the Senate bill, including Sen. Andy Zay, a Republican from Huntington, argue the bill creates more lending options for people with poor credit. “So, what the legislation tried to do is create some options in between, at much lower interest rates,” Zay said. “One of them, a maximum, would be 40 percent less than what’s currently available. The other would (be) 70 percent less than what’s currently available. Through that, we believe, this will create some stair steps and opportunities for folks in that area.”
Macey said, “This bill would allow payday and subprime lenders to make much larger and much longer loans” with actually higher interest rates. “Now what we’re going is legalizing, what is currently considered felony loan sharking, we’re allowing people to make installment loans at rates in excess of 72 percent.”
“It’s simply not true,” Zay retorted. “It’s a community that exists. Subprime lending is here.”
“On the other side of the coin,” Zay added, “there’s a million Hoosiers that do have subprime credit. We either put them in a position where it’s a regulated arena or we kind of turn it to the wild, wild West. I think what we have proposed is a very responsible and prudent option.”
State Rep. Robin Shackleford, a Democrat from Indianapolis, is chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus. Shackleford said, “As for SB (Senate Bill) 613, it should be labeled for what it is: legalized loan sharking in Indiana.”
Shackleford issued a statement about the bill:
“By enabling payday lenders to create new types of loans with interest rates that can go as high as 192 percent, we will be perpetuating a cycle of poverty and hopelessness for minorities, veterans, and others living day-to-day on low or fixed incomes.”
“It also opens the door for the kind of predatory practices that are the hallmark of these types of lenders: constant pressure on people to renew loans and collection policies that are reminiscent of gangster movies.”
FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) — A measure approved by the Indiana Senate would help public schools make sure their environments are safe from radon.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the extremely toxic radioactive gas causes lung cancer. The EPA also says you can’t see the gas, smell it or taste it.
Hamilton Southeastern Schools actively tracks the gas in its facilities.
Bob Rice, who is the energy manager for Hamilton Southeastern Schools. said Friday, “It comes from the ground and it can infiltrate buildings. It’s the second-leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.”
Rice is in charge of testing all HSE schools for radon every five years.
“Most of our schools are on slabs. But, the radon gas can still come in. Since we have brick walls, it can actually build up in our schools,” Rice said. “So, it’s one of those issues where we’re bringing in enough fresh air so we’re pumping the radon out and getting fresh clean air in so we’re not exposing our kids to radioactive elements.”
Cumberland Elementary School was remodeled and tested a couple years ago. The cost to test that school was about $1,200. Rice said it costs more to test its high schools, Fishers and Hamilton Southeastern, which are larger than the elementaries.
“We’ve never had a school reach over 4 picocuries, which is kind of the baseline,” Rice said. “Most of our are around 1.3, 1.8, which is the average of Indiana.”
Under a bill from state Sen. Eric Bassler, the state’s Health Department every three years would have to give each public school district a “best practices” manual for indoor air-quality management and radon testing recommendations.
“It will get radon on people’s radar screens,” said the Republican from Washington, Indiana. “So, they will be able to start being aware of it. They can then make a decision on how often they would test for it. I believe the EPA recommends a school test every five years.”
The senator said less than roughly 5 percent of Indiana public schools have tested for radon in the last five to 10 years.
“If we ever got to the point where we were going to require schools to do that testing,” Bassler said, “I’d want to provide them with funding to help to the testing.”
Bassler’s bill was referred to the House on Wednesday for consideration.
Anyone with questions about radon or needing to help test for or get rid of it can calls these phone numbers provided by the EPA:
800-767-7236: Purchase radon test kits by phone.
800-557-2366: Get live answers to radon questions.
800-644-6999: Radon Fit-It Hotline has general information on fixing or reducing the radon level in your home.
800-426-4791: The Safe Drinking Water Hotline has general information on drinking water, radon in water, testing and treatment, and standards for radon drinking water. It’s operated under a contract with the EPA.
Indiana State Department of Health also has information on radon.
An EPA interactive map shows the nation by county and their average radon readings.
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday urged lawmakers to change the hate crimes bill working its way through the Statehouse.
His words came after lawmakers voted to delete a list of protected characteristics inside the original bill.
“There are folks who want to do nothing,” the Republican governor said at a news conference. “They think what we have suffices. I disagree respectfully. There are folks that are just against a list. I disagree respectfully.”
“Here is a list that is already in law,” Holcomb said and then read the entire list in the U.S.code.
“Under federal law, criminal acts committed because of a person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or because the person was engaged in a federally protected activity (voting, jury service, education, etc.) can be charged as hate crimes,” Holcomb read. “This is applies right now in the state of Indiana.”
Last week, the state Senate passed an amended hate crimes bill that deleted the list of protected characteristics.
Indiana is one of five states without a hate crimes law.
“In terms of sentencing, what is in front of a judge,” Holcomb said. “This, I submit to you ladies and gentleman, will get us off the list.”
Holcomb said he has heard overwhelming support statewide for a hate crimes bill that includes a list, which is why he wants Hoosiers to contact lawmakers.
“Respectfully and appeal to their hearts and minds why this is important,” Holcomb said. “Not just to them, but the life of our state.”
So, would Holcomb veto a hate crimes bill brought to his desk without a list?
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Holcomb said. “What I am saying and will say as I have with individual members and leaders is that I want a list.”
Also on Wednesday, Indiana’s House Democratic Leader said House Democrats are stand ready to help the governor pass meaningful hate crimes legislation.
Holcomb was asked if he would be willing to testify in front of the House of Representatives about the hate crimes bill.
“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Holcomb said. “I wouldn’t rule it out. By the time we get to that point, if it’s necessary, the answer’s ‘yes.'”
Moving forward, what would Senate Republicans expect, if the bill moves out of the House?
“I expect that the bill will change on some level as it comes back from the House and maybe again in conference committee. I don’t know,” Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray of Martinsville said. “But, I think there’s certainly a possibility we could see some change in the language, and we would be very open to taking a look at anything that the House is able to do.”
Also on Wednesday, Indiana’s House Democratic Party leader said House Democrats are stand ready to help the governor pass meaningful hate crimes legislation.
Indiana House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta from Fort Wayne said in a statement:
“Indiana House Democrats agree with Governor Holcomb that we need to pass a meaningful bias crimes law this year. We also agree with the Governor that we will not accept any proposal that doesn’t include a list of specific classes of people that would be protected. He has offered two options – his own administration’s employment policy and federal law – that he believes will put Indiana on the list of states that punishes criminal attacks based on race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, sexual orientation or gender identity, physical or mental disability, or veteran status.”
House Democrats are prepared to add this language back into Senate Bill 12, and we join the Governor in encouraging the people of Indiana to contact their Republican legislators about getting these changes put into the version of the bias crimes bill that will come before the House.”
(INDIANAPOLIS) — Halfway through this year’s Indiana legislative session, lawmakers are still figuring out how to give raises to public school teachers and a way to create a hate crimes law.
They are two of many bills still on the table.
Democrats came out swinging Tuesday and tried to poke holes in the Republican budget proposal when it came to teacher pay.
“I think that might have been one of the problems with the House bill,” Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane from Anderson said. “Was when you go district to district, there wasn’t language in there to make sure the job could get done in each district. We’re going to have to look at that.”
House Democrats said they presented specific plans on how to give raises to teachers but were shot down.
“We had 5 percent each year in the biennium specifically earmarked for teacher pay. It’s just not that complicated,” said House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta from Fort Wayne.
Republicans said they believe it is best that local school districts decide how to handle the specifics of teacher pay.
“We’re happy with the (House Bill) 1003 approach,” said Speaker of the House Brian Bosma on Tuesday. “Where we monitor and encourage every school at the local level to make those decisions. But, to prioritize teacher salaries, that’s our goal.”
Bosma said $60 million in teacher appreciation grants and more money is on the way to districts.
“Plus, there’s $611 million, new dollars that are available to go to teachers at the local level,” Bosma said. “Plus the $70 million that will be generated every year in savings through our one-time payment on teacher retirement. Their (the Democrats’) assertion is meaningless. It is inaccurate.”
The House budget bill with the education spending will now head to the Senate.
Hate crimes bill
Lawmakers on both sides are hopeful they’ll pass a hate crimes law, but the specifics of the bill remained at issue Tuesday.
Last week, the Senate passed an amended hate crimes bill that is drastically different than what the bill’s authors intended. A list of protected characteristics was stripped out on the Senate floor. That list included race, religion, age, sexual orientation and gender identity. The action drew swift criticism from, state organizations, lawmakers from both sides, and Gov. Eric Holcomb.
Democrat Lanane said, “I am hoping the governor’s leadership will come to the forefront now and, with that leadership, the pressure can be put on. I know that your caucus will put the pressure on to restore that list in the hate crimes bill. We think that that is important.”
Republican Bosma said, “I understand the advocates desire for a list. I really believe there needs to be a discussion of compromise in that regard and still have a bill that covers everyone, including those that are desired to be on the list. I think that’s the right approach.”
Bosma said he hopes lawmakers pass a hate crimes bill that gets Indiana off the list of five states that do not have such a law on the books.
The Republican governor, Holcomb said last week there’s a lot of work to do on the hate crimes bill and time still to do it.
House speaker’s priorities
Bosma said the 10 priority bills for his caucus are now before Senate lawmakers for consideration:
- House Bill 1001: The Republican’s balanced-budget proposal. The budget includes $611 million in new K-12 funding over two years. $30 million a year for teacher appreciation grants and the maintenance of the $100 tax credit for teachers for classroom supplies. In addition, the budget would fund the Indiana Department of Child Services at current spending levels.
- House Bill 1002. The proposal was designed to promote early and continuing career exploration and navigation, reinvigorate career and technical education courses and encourage completion of certifications or postsecondary credentials.
- House Bill 1003. The measure was designed to encourage schools to shift more existing and future dollars to Hoosier classrooms by setting a target for public schools to spend at least 85 percent of state funding on instructional expenses.
- House Bill 1004. The measure could implement recommendations from Gov. Eric Holcomb’s school safety report to improve physical security at schools and mental health resources for students.
- House Bill 1005. If approved, Hoosiers would no longer elect the school superintendent of public instruction beginning in 2021 instead of 2025. The job would be an appointment.
- House Bill 1006. The bill contains what are designed to be reforms for the Indiana Department of Child Services: reducing family case manager loads and allowing foster youth to receive services and participate in independent living programs into their early 20s.
- House Bill 1007. The bill aims to engage more at-risk expecting mothers in early prenatal care, and require medical providers to give verbal substance-use screenings to pregnant women as a way to improve and increase referrals to addiction treatment.
- House Bill 1008. The bill would create professional growth and advancement opportunities through teacher career ladder models.
- House Bill 1009. The measure would create residency programs to pair new teachers with mentors in the classroom.
- House Bill 1010. The bill would phase in an income tax exemption for military retirement pensions and increase the assessed value eligibility cap for the disabled veterans’ property tax exemption.
- APP USERS: View the video of Speaker Bosma online
Democrats speak about priorities
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow sports betting at all casinos.
The bill would also allow one of two Gary casinos to move to downtown Gary and the other to Terre Haute.
Plus, the legislation would allow live dealers at the racetrack casinos in Anderson and Shelbyville.
The bill passed 38-11, but Speaker of the House Brian Bosma said the bill may have a tougher time getting through his chamber. Bosma said the measure represents a major expansion of gambling in the state and that some members of his caucus oppose all gambling bills.
The Associated Press reported that the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Mark Messmer of Jasper, called the measure “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reset the casino industry in Indiana.”
The Indiana Senate on Thursday afternoon passed an amended hate crimes bill, leaving it without characteristics including race, age, religion, gender identity and sexual orientation. The legislation passed 39-10. The measure will now go to the House of Represenatives for consideration.
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — On Tuesday night, a majority of Indiana senators made a drastic change to a hate crimes bill.
A list of protected groups was taken out, leaving some lawmakers and Gov. Eric Holcomb upset.
After that big change to the the bill, the dust settled Wednesday at the Statehouse. The bill is scheduled for a full Senate vote on Thursday. If passed, it heads to the House of Representatives.
Amendment 2 deleted specific characteristics from the original Senate bill. Those included race, age, religion, gender identity and sexual orientation. Amendment 2, which was the only one lawmakers passed Tuesday, called instead for judges to issue enhanced sentencing for “bias.”
Republican state Sen. Aaron Freeman authored the amendment.
“There were not 26 votes to pass what came out of committee on Monday. I feel Aaron Freeman’s opinion is that I would rather try,” the Republican from Indianapolis said Wednesday. “I would rather try and do something. I want to find a compromise. I hope both sides can decrease the level of tension here.”
Democratic state Sen. Greg Taylor is the original bill’s co-author. He has pushed for years for a hate crimes law. Indiana is one of five states without one. The others are Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Wyoming.
“We do know people are being killed because of their religious beliefs, because of their sexual orientation and because of their race,” the Indianapolis Democrat said Wednesday. “It’s not time to play shenanigans with the legislative process in doing so.”
State Sen. John Ruckelshaus was one of the handful of Republicans to vote “no” on the amendment.
“I’m going to continue to work with the governor all through the process to try to put that list back in, or other methodologies, so we can all get back to the same place,” the Indianapolis Republican said Wednesday.
“It’s possible,” Sen. Taylor added. “I pray that it happens.”
State Rep. Robin Shackleford, a Democrat from Indianapolis, and chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, issued a statement Wednesday about the future of bias crimes legislation in the 2019 session:
“We share Gov. Holcomb’s disappointment at what the Indiana Senate supermajority did. Like the governor, the IBLC recognizes there is ample time to make things right before the end of the 2019 session.
“The battle now moves to the Indiana House. We know that the Speaker and his leadership would prefer this matter to simply go away, and that we pass Senate Bill 12 without a peep.”
So, what happens to the bill next?
The author of the amendment, Freeman, said, “I want both sides to work together, and I want to find a compromise on this issue. If the House can use my amendment and make it better and find something that works, God bless them, and I hope they can do it.”
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — One Indiana lawmaker wants to create options for students who just don’t want do to wield scalpels in the classroom for animal dissections.
You know the traditional tools of animal dissection with the microscope and that scalpel. Well, State Rep. Rahen Hatcher wants schoolkids to be able to go digital.
An IUPUI biology lecturer knows the ins and outs of animal dissection. “We’ve done cats, we’ve done fetal pigs, we’ve done frogs,” said Robert Yost, the senior lecturer of biology at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis. “We’ve done earthworms, we’ve done sea stars.”
He’s taught and led students in the inner workings since 1993.
“It really gives them an opportunity to see what the true inside workings of an animal really look like and how they’re related,” Yost said.
Yost said virtual dissections work, but added, “I think it’s much more beneficial for students to have a hands-on experience and really be able to see, because internally, there are just normal anatomical differences in the way structures are put together or how they’re oriented within the body, that you don’t get on the virtual.”
Rep. Hatcher, a Democrat from Gary, said, “All those animals that are killed every year to be used in the schools. Some schools use pigs even.”
Which is Hatcher filed her “alternatives to animal dissection” bill.
“I’m sure there are other opportunities for students to be able to learn about dissection, technologically, without necessarily cutting open a frog itself,” Hatcher said.
Her bill suggests films, pictures, models, live observation in the wild or a zoo, or via computer.
Hatcher is not sure if her bill will get a hearing. She should know in the coming days.
News 8 asked some people visiting Indianapolis to weigh in.
Brian Wald of Tacoma, Washington, said, “If there has to be an alternative, then it would be nice to have a realistic one. I don’t think you necessarily have to have an alternative. I think the real thing sometimes can’t be substituted.”
Samantha Ruben of Chicago said about the proposal, “I think that sounds fair. It’s kind of an uncomfortable experience. So, I think an alternative would be good.”