Stripped-Down Hate Crime Bill Passes Senate
(INDIANAPOLIS) - A stripped-down hate-crime bill has passed the Senate.
The bill adding "bias" to the list of factors judges can rely on to impose harsher sentences passed 39-10. Democrats and Lafayette Republican Ron Alting, one of the bill's co-authors, voted no, arguing that without a list of targeted groups, it's not a hate crime bill at all. Alting says he promised constituents last year that the one thing he'd insist on in any hate crime bill was specific protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. 33 Senate Republicans voted Tuesday to delete that and the rest of a list of victim characteristics in hate crimes.
But other supporters say Thursday's vote at least keeps the issue alive. Alting's co-author, Michigan City Republican Mike Bohacek, says if he'd wanted the bill to look like this, he'd have written it that way, but says the vote to remove it -- and the possibility of restoring it later -- are part of the process.
Indianapolis Republican Aaron Freeman, who introduced the amendment getting rid of of the list, says he did so because he feared the bill would die otherwise. He notes that's what happened in the Senate the last two years, and says he wasn't willing to just do nothing. And he notes the House has never given the issue a hearing it all, leaving senators to grapple with it each year. He says he believes his version protects all Hoosiers, and says passing something out of the Senate forces the House to take a stand.
House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) has said for weeks he believes a generic version has the best chance of passing, and has recommended a similar bill introduced by Avon Representative Greg Steuerwald, who will sponsor Bohacek's bill in the House. Governor Holcomb has said the catchall version is inadequate.
The mood on the Senate floor was notably more subdued after Tuesday's often angry and anguished debate, which ended with Democrats walking out in protest. Senators in both parties and on both sides of the issue made a point of attempting to mend fences with colleagues during the floor debate, emphasizing that their differences over the proper policy shouldn't be read as personal disrespect. But Indianapolis Democrat Jean Breaux says the issue can't help but be personal for African-American legislators who have experienced targeted attacks themselves. She insists a law taking a stand against it shouldn't be a difficult vote.
Indianapolis Republican Mike Young says the problem with the list is figuring out who is and isn't included. He says people have been targeted over what should be considered freedom of association, and left open the possibility of discussions to reintroduce a more wide-ranging list.
Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis, left) displays photos of graffiti and hate graffiti, arguing they shouldn't be treated the same way. (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)