SOUTH BEND — The fate of a hate crimes bill that has become a focal point of the Indiana General Assembly session may be up in the air amid a rift between Republican legislators and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.
Local state lawmakers suggest the bill might not see a full vote in the Indiana House after an amendment last month watered down provisions advocates insist are necessary to get Indiana off the list of states without bias crime provisions.
The amendment, which some said "gutted" the bill, raised the specter of the economic and public relations fallout experienced as a result of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015.
"Essentially there’s no bill right now," said Rep. Ryan Dvorak, D-South Bend who is on Courts and Criminal Code Committee, where the bill is currently assigned. "There’s one pending in committee, but it’s not scheduled for a committee hearing."
Originally, Senate Bill 12 would have given judges power to increase sentences for violent or property crimes because of a list of factors including the victim’s race, religion, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation.
But an amendment by Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, replaced that list with simply the word "bias."
That move led to broad criticism, including a public rebuke of the Indiana Senate from Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and opposition by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, civil rights groups and others. Removing those characteristics, they say, would make the law less enforceable and also not satisfy the Anti-Defamation League’s requirements to take Indiana off the list of five states without a law. The other states are Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Wyoming.