A state senator accused of having a conflict of interest over a bill he filed that seeks to eliminate the state’s child labor laws has essentially withdrawn the proposal from consideration this year.
Republican Sen. Chip Perfect’s (R-Lawrenceburg) bill would have removed work permit requirements for minors and removed restrictions on hours that 16- and 17-year-olds can work. Perfect is the CEO of Perfect North Slopes, which employs 300 to 400 minors.
During the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee meeting on Wednesday, Perfect requested to amend the bill so it recommends the issue be studied in a summer committee rather than make any changes this year.
Perfect said he authored the bill because it’s a topic he’s knowledgeable and passionate about—something he believes citizen legislators are encouraged to do.
“My experience is certainly in business,” Perfect said.
He said he had previously been told he did not have a conflict of interest in pursuing the legislation. After The Indianapolis Star published an article questioning whether it was an ethics violation, Perfect requested the Senate Ethics Committee review his involvement.
Indiana Senate rules say a lawmaker should consider whether a bill has a "unique, direct and material effect" before voting on it.
The ethics committee decided earlier this week that he did not have a conflict of interest.
“I really failed to consider the new normal that you’re now guilty until you’re proven innocent,” Perfect said.
Supporters of the bill say the current law is outdated and difficult to navigate. They note that federal law includes protections for minors, such as a minimum wage, restrictions on dangerous jobs and hour limits for workers younger than 16.
Opponents of Perfect's bill say completely eliminating the state's child labor laws isn't the right solution to the system's problems.
Perfect admitted that the optics of having someone from his own business testify at a hearing on the bill last week were not good.
“That was a shortcut and a distraction,” Perfect said. “I apologize for that.”
He said his involvement in the bill has become a distraction, so he decided to recommend it for a summer study committee rather than move forward with it this year.
Other senators on the committee defended Perfect during the hearing, including Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Syracuse, who was the only lawmaker to vote against amending the bill in hopes of advancing it as originally proposed.
“Sen. Perfect has the expertise in dealing with this,” Doriot said.
The committee amended the bill and passed it to the full Senate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.