Weekly Statehouse Update: Hate Crimes Research, Adoption Advertising

Mar 15, 2019

A new study shows hate crimes laws often aren’t utilized. House lawmakers change a school bus safety bill. And a Senate panel advances a bill to loosen restrictions on adoption advertising.

Here’s what you might have missed this week at the Statehouse.

Hate Crimes Research

New research from Indiana University’s Public Policy Institute suggests hate crimes laws aren’t used as often as they could be. Researchers analyzed more than 300 bias-motivated homicides around the country. And hate crimes charges were filed in fewer than a third of those cases.

House Speaker Brian Bosma says the data shouldn’t impact this year’s ongoing debate over hate crimes legislation.

School Bus Safety

A measure meant to more harshly punish drivers who illegally pass school buses faced changes this week as a House committee advanced it. The bill would install cameras on school buses to catch passing motorists, an effort that came after a deadly incident in Rochester, Indiana, last year.

The legislative panel added language that bars both schools and camera vendors from making profits off fines collected from enforcement of the increased penalties.

Child Adoption

A Senate committee unanimously passed a bill that ensures people aren’t committing a felony when they post online that they want to adopt a child. Current law only allows licensed adoption agencies and attorneys to advertise for adoption services.

Exonerated Prisoners

A bill to provide payouts for people who were wrongfully incarcerated faces significant changes.

The bill would create a fund that pays people imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit $50,000 for each year they were locked up. It also bars people from suing the state if they take from the fund.

A Senate committee will consider changes to the bill as early as this week.

Comprehensive Redistricting Reform

Time is running out for Indiana to enact comprehensive redistricting reform before state lawmakers are due to redraw legislative districts in 2021.

Such reform is essentially dead this session – and even modest changes are unlikely. The Senate narrowly approved a bill to create redistricting standards for lawmakers. That includes keeping communities together whenever possible and ignoring incumbent legislators’ addresses.

But lawmakers in the Senate aren’t fans of the bill.

Utility Infrastructure Funding

A controversial bill moving through the state Senate would make changes to a law that lets utilities more quickly recover the costs of certain projects from ratepayers. It involves the Transmission, Distribution, and Storage Improvement Charge or TDSIC. 

TDSIC allows utilities to recover the costs of a few infrastructure projects from ratepayers every year — instead of several projects in one big rate case. 

The Senate Utilities committee did not take a vote on the bill on Thursday, but plans to take up the issue again at its next meeting. 

Payday Lending

A coalition of veterans, church leaders and advocacy groups gathered at the Statehouse Monday to oppose legislation that would expand subprime lending in Indiana.

The bill, which narrowly passed the Senate, would create two new loan types with interest rates above the state’s felony loan sharking limit.

In the 2007 Military Lending Act puts a 36 percent cap on payday loans for active-duty military members.  However, Hoosier veterans say the law doesn’t protect them, reservists, or the Coast Guard.

School Funding

Senate lawmakers heard hours of testimony Thursday from teachers and education professionals urging the state to give schools, and ultimately teachers, more money

The House approved a budget proposal to boost school funding by a little more than 2 percent each year through 2021, but many who testified in the Senate’s school funding committee say current proposals are not enough for schools to increase teacher pay and still address basic needs.