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IBLC disappointed with bias crimes legislation

With the recent Florida school shooting that left 17 dead and the possibility of the numbers rising, Hoosiers should be interested to learn that legislation aimed at addressing public safety issues received little or not traction in the Indiana General Assembly.

At the halfway point of the 2018 session of the Indiana General Assembly, members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) shared their concerns on February 13, 2018 that many of their top priorities—particularly involving bias crimes and public safety—were not addressed.

The IBLC has identified four top priorities for the session:

Bias crimes (Senate Bill 271), authored by State Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis).

Diabetes reporting (House Bill 1175), authored by State Rep. Vanessa Summers (D-Indianapolis).

Study of African-American homicide victims (House Bill 1176), authored by Summers.

Seat belts on school buses (House Bill 1377), authored by State Rep. John Bartlett (D-Indianapolis).

“Only one of these proposals, House Bill 1175, has moved forward this session,” noted State Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis), IBLC chair. “We are pleased at this progress, because Rep. Summers’ diabetes legislation is designed to take steps to reduce the impact of this vile disease on so many Hoosiers.

“However, when it comes to other areas of concern for the IBLC, we are not seeing progress at all,” she continued. “There has been a lack of interest from the House and Senate leadership about these issues, which is disconcerting.”

Taylor said this is the sixth straight year that he has introduced bias crimes legislation in Indiana. With events in recent times in places like Charlottesville, Virginia, it becomes more embarrassing that Indiana is one of just five states that does not have hate crimes legislation on the books.

“I have made my feelings clear about my frustration at the complete lack of interest expressed by leaders in correcting this flaw,” Taylor said. “I simply do not know what it will take for us to remove this embarrassing mark from our record.”

Much like Taylor, Bartlett has been leading the fight to improve safety on school buses by requiring them to have seat belts.

“It seems that every few months, we hear another story about children who are injured or killed because they were not adequately protected by a seat belt,” Bartlett said. “I remain shocked that this simple plan to protect our babies continues to be ignored by those in control of state government. If a short session of the General Assembly is supposed to handle emergency items, what could be a greater emergency than saving the lives of young people?”

Summers’ proposal to seek a legislative study of African-American homicide victims reflects yet another area of concern raised by people across Indiana.

“Indiana has the second-highest African-American homicide rate in the country,” she said. “It is way past time for lawmakers to try to understand why this is happening. A study would consider the effects of this homicide rate on our African-American communities, and try to find solutions that can bring this carnage to an end.”

A similar study of the impact of diabetes among Hoosiers that was conducted last year at Summers’ request led to House Bill 1175, which calls for the establishment of work groups that will create plans to raise awareness of the disease. Such awareness would include the best practices for diabetes and pre-diabetes screening, treatment and prevention, and identification of the actions that need to be taken to reduce the impact of the disease.

“The need for this has been obvious for some time, and it has been good to see so many legislators recognize that action must be taken now, rather than later,” Summers concluded.

Pryor noted that IBLC members have had some successes in advancing proposals this session. Those include a requirement that lawmakers take sexual harassment prevention training (included by Pryor as an amendment to HB 1309), legislation authored by State Rep. Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis) that is designed to improve reporting of bullying in schools across Indiana (HB 1356), and a measure authored by State Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary) that asks lawmakers to study the growing number of pharmacy deserts in Indiana (HB 1382).


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