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Indiana Black Legislative Caucus battle over two bills at the State House

By: Giavonni Nickson

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus speaks out strongly to reject proposals for Senate Bills (SB) 279 and 613 at the Indiana Statehouse.

Senate Bill 279

State Representative Robin Shackleford, chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC), issued a statement opposing Senate Bill 279, which would decrease the age courts can prosecute children charged with attempted murder from 14 to 12 years old.

According to Shackleford, “Passing this bill will have a disastrous impact on minority communities across the State of Indiana. This legislation would only serve to reinforce the fears so many minorities already have regarding a criminal justice system that we believe demonstrates a substantial prejudice against people of color. When Black youth in Indiana are placed in juvenile facilities at a rate about four times higher than white youth, those fears are honestly realized.”

The sentiments behind SB 279 were stirred by a 2018 school shooting in Noblesville IN, just outside of Indianapolis, IN. At Noblesville West Middle School, a 13-year-old student shot and injured a teacher and fellow student. The 13-year-old pleaded guilty and was sentenced to juvenile jail.

Opponents of SB 279 believe it demonstrates a need for greater attention to providing mental health services for youth to disrupt the cycle of violence that plagues communities.

State Representative Shackleford (D) said, “Those who support this bill must pause to consider the long-term implications of what is being proposed here. It paves the way for younger children to be inserted into the adult court and prison systems, rather than giving them the chance to receive treatment and rehabilitation.”

Senate Bill 613

While at the Statehouse the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, Indiana veterans’ groups, faith leaders, social service agencies, and community advocates sent a strong message to the Indiana House of Representatives to reject Senate Bill 613. This 69-page bill was unveiled after extensive amendments were made to the original 14-page bill.

Despite opposition from advocacy groups and a bipartisan group of state senators, Senate Bill 613 narrowly passed the Indiana Senate 26-23. This vote comes on the heels of the Senate’s rejection of Senate Bill 104 that would have limited interest rates on payday loans in Indiana.

Payday loans continue to stir controversy in the Statehouse. Last year, the Indiana House approved a bill to create a new tier of payday loans, but it did not survive committee.

If approved by the Indiana House, Senate Bill 613 will make massive changes to state laws involving the regulation of payday and subprime loan industries in Indiana.

Indiana State law currently defines any interest rate on a loan of more than 72 percent as felony loan sharking. This law has helped keep many installment loan companies away from Indiana. SB 613 will change the definition of criminal loansharking in the state.

Opponents of the bill see it as an attempt to legalize loan sharking. “As for SB 613, it should be labeled for what it is: legalized loan sharking in Indiana,” stated State Representative Robin Shackleford (D).

Other State Representatives join Shackleford to reject the SB 613.

“The payday loan industry is designed to take advantage of people who are forced into needing cash to pay for necessities in life: putting food on the table for their families, rent payments, car payments, and the like. Under the guise of offering a helping hand, these businesses loan people money at high interest rates that make it next to impossible for them to repay the balance before high-interest rates begin to accrue. SB 613 would essentially legalize loan sharking in Indiana”. -State Representative Carey Hamilton (D)

If passed SB 613 will enable payday and subprime lenders to charge interest rates on small loans at levels above 72 percent and add new longer-term and higher-value “small dollar loans.

“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.” -State Rep. Robin Shackleford (D)

Supporters of the bill subscribe to the notion that SB 613 will help provide more options for customers as “small dollar loans” serve to fill needed gaps between traditional loans and the payday loan industry. “What supporters fail to see is that those options mostly call for greater debts and even more financial trouble for people who can least afford it.” -State Rep. Robin Shackleford (D)

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, over 80 percent of payday loans are rolled over or followed by another loan within 14 days, and monthly borrowers are disproportionately likely to stay in debt for 11 months or longer.

“Put simply, these bills are wrong and they must be stopped. The IBLC will work to defeat them by educating our colleagues on what will happen if they become law.” – State Rep. Robin Shackleford (D).

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, comprised of 11 members of the Indiana House of Representatives and four members of the Indiana State Senate, is working to support legislation that promotes greater economic opportunities for all residents in Indiana.

Giavonni Nickson

Giavonni is a passionate freelance writer native of Gary IN. She covers business, politics, and community schools for the Chicago/Gary Crusader.

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