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2/9/2018 7:13:00 PM
Democratic minority in Indiana General Assembly likened to 'being stuck on island'

Scott L. Miley, Pharos-Tribune CNHI Statehouse Bureau

INDIANAPOLIS — Democrats in the Indiana General Assembly liken the current session to being on an island.

"It almost seems like in the House of Representatives this first half is the legislature's been stuck in a 'Gilligan's Island' episode," said House Minority Leader Terry Goodin, D-Austin.

"We've got all the tools we need. We've got the technology and the materials we need to move our state forward and make life better for Hoosiers, but it seems like the leadership just can't seem to put it together just like we can't get off the island," Austin said.

Charting some of the Democrats' course: the chance that Indianapolis could land Seattle-based Amazon's second national headquarters.

"We still refuse to talk about the bias crimes legislation which Amazon and 21st century corporations like Amazon say is a must before they come into areas," Goodin said.

A bill listing 10 categories, including gender identity, as motivating factors for crimes didn't have backing from a majority of senators, said Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, who announced the legislation would be withdrawn.

Critics of the bill say that Indiana judges currently have the ability to increase penalties to a convicted criminal's sentence based in part on motivation.

"What those categories say is that specifically as policymakers we are eliciting specifics as to what the judges should be looking at as far as aggravating circumstances, so it's an important policy statement," said Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson. "I think that's an issue Amazon is looking at carefully."

Nine of 50 senators are Democrats, as are 30 of 100 representatives.

The first half of the session, as well as most of the summer, was overtaken by discussion on the Sunday sales of alcohol, which is now progressing through the Legislature.

A Senate version of the bill, now facing the House, may likely see the governor's signature, Long said.

"I don't think they'll change anything, just move it through the House and move to the governor hopefully without any changes," Long said.

But Lanane said, "I hate to think that Sunday alcohol sales is more of a priority in the Indiana General Assembly than things like passing a hate crime (bill)."

Democrats were irritated that the House passed a bill allowing payday companies to charge an interest rate up to 200 percent on loans and another bill where only two of seven board members for the troubled Muncie school district would be required to live in the district.

“Those in charge have continued to do everything in their power to take local control away from our schools by passing legislation that pretty much removes your voice from the way your kids are being taught," Goodin said.

Democrats have long pushed for the creation of a commission to redraw General Assembly and Congressional districts.

Senate Bill 326, authored by Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, passed 42-6 out of the Senate and would establish a mathematical standard for redistricting to create "ideal district populations."

Walker also authored Senate Concurrent Resolution 30, which asks that the topic of redistricting be assigned to a legislative committee.

Amazon was cited, too, in the Republican-led workforce development realignment of education, training and jobs. The issue may dominate the second half of the session.

Lanane said, "I am somewhat surprised that we got such a late start on workforce development because it's key, a key to businesses like Amazon in providing the talent. It's definitely something that we're going to continue to work on in a bipartisan fashion."

He added, "It looks like we're headed towards a considerable comprehensive review of how we do workforce development and I do welcome that, but there's a lot of details yet to go in the second half."

Related Stories:
• Workforce development to take stage in Indiana House

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