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1/5/2019 12:57:00 PM
COMMENTARY: Marijuana, machine guns: 4 Indiana bills that aren't boring

Jon Webb, Evansville Courier & Press Columnist

Most legislation is horribly boring.

If you’ve ever sat down to read a bill, you know what I’m talking about. The dense language looks like something spewed out by a Federalist in the depths of an opium binge.

Of course, that’s how they get you. If something is boring, citizens are less likely to pay attention. And there’s no telling what kind of awful, citizen-forsaking donor-gifts state lawmakers will serve up in 2019. For example, the hate crimes bill debate is bound to get ugly.

But some bills buck the trend. Here are a few germinating in the Indiana legislature that are anything but dull.

Marijuana

Yeah! Coming hot out of the gate!

Senate Bill 213 would essentially legalize possession of less than two ounces of weed. Before, you could get charged for possession of marijuana if you were caught with any amount.

It would also eliminate possession as a felony offense.

Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes) proposed the bill. That isn’t surprising. She’s been working for years to ease Indiana’s ridiculous marijuana laws.

So far, she hasn’t had much luck.

“There are a lot of people here in the Senate who are just either very afraid of (marijuana legalization) or truly believe that, you know, it's the gateway to Hell,” she told me in 2017.

She has another bill that would establish a “cannabis compliance commission” that would regulate items such as CBD oil. It's possible it could also study the possible ramifications of marijuana legalization when we finally get around to it in 3012.

One "negative" aspect of the bill? According to the financial impact statement filed with the bill, it could lower the amount of superfluous fines local courts collect.

Huh. I may have found one reason why weed is still illegal.

Machine guns

Everyone, Sen. Jim Tomes (R-Blairsville) has proposed a form of common-sense gun control.

Senate Bill 119 would outlaw the sale or transfer of a machine gun to anyone younger than 18. If a minor gets a hold of a machine gun and uses it to commit murder, the adult who provided the gun could get slapped with a Level 3 felony.

Somewhere, there’s someone who’s against this. 

Beating up referees

Senate Bill 148 enhances battery charges for anyone who attacks a referee or umpire.

This may seem like a strange law, but if you’ve ever been to a basketball game around here you know it’s not far-fetched at all.

One questionable charging call is all it takes to transform the average Indiana sports fan into a red-faced, spittle-flinging monster.

Civics test

Yes, I know that sounds boring. But it's interesting to me.

Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) spent last year successfully allowing students to opt-out of sexual education. That seems like a shady idea for a state with above-average rates of gonorrhea, but hey, what do I know? 

His mission in 2019 is better.

Senate Bill 132 would require high school seniors to pass a civics test before graduating high school. It would be similar to the one folks take when they apply for U.S. citizenship.

Everyone should take a civics test. If you’d like to see if you could pass one, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offers practice quizzes online. Questions range from easy – “when do we celebrate Independence Day?” – to should-be easy – “who was the president during World War I?”

For the millions of Americans who have no idea who Woodrow Wilson is, let’s hope the bill isn’t retroactive.

Related Stories:
• Required civics test for graduation not favored by Indiana Department of Education
• Requiring U.S. citizenship test for high school graduation clears first hurdle
• EDITORIAL: Require citizenship test for high school graduation

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