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Friday, May 29, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "Lawmakers won't study Indiana's anti-discrimination laws" [Updated]

Updating this ILB post from yesterday, Dan Carden reported this morning in the NWI Times:

INDIANAPOLIS | Hoosier lawmakers will meet in small groups over the summer to study 44 topics approved Thursday by the General Assembly's Legislative Council, but the issue that is almost certain to dominate the 2016 session didn't make the cut.

The Republican leaders of the House and Senate said there is no need for special review of Indiana's anti-discrimination protections or whether they should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

"I fully expect there will be some legislation coming next year and I expect we'll be talking about it, but there won't be a formal study committee on it this summer," said Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne. * * *

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said he was disappointed GOP leaders rejected his request to study how best to accomplish that, since the issue certainly is not going away and polls show a plurality of Hoosiers favor a nondiscrimination statute.

"Sooner or later, this issue needs to be discussed, debated, and in my opinion we need to amend our laws to protect the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity," Lanane said.

Study committee review is not required for legislation to be considered during the next meeting of the General Assembly. Still, more complicated issues typically undergo the extra scrutiny, often featuring testimony by outside experts, to speed consideration of proposals during the 10-week legislative session that starts in January.

The story goes on to list topics that will be studied, and includes a link to the 10-page Legislative Council study committee resolution (15-01):
Topics lawmakers will study this summer include: student testing and education data collection requirements, public records access to police body camera videos, medical malpractice caps, various issues relating to rape and child abuse, special education funding, access to broadband Internet service, reforms to solid waste management districts and the effectiveness of business tax incentives.

Also, whether to open old adoption records for now-adult adoptees to more easily find their birth parents, a review of post-prison employment barriers, agricultural property tax assessments, food and beverage taxes, the potential impact of a stronger statewide smoking ban, penalties for extra-long trains blocking street crossings and legislative redistricting, among others.

Also not making the cut was a recommendation in House Enrolled Act 1540, sponsored by state Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, to examine how local governments spend their gaming tax revenue.

[Updated 5/30/15]From Dave Bangert's column in the Lafayette Journal&Courier:
Even after the way the Religious Freedom Restoration Act blew up in their faces last spring, General Assembly leaders this week punted again on a chance to make a clear statement about appropriate and equal civil rights protections for gay and lesbian Hoosiers. The issue wasn't good enough to make the legislature's list up for study this summer. * * *

The summer study list is meaty. Up for discussion: the terminal mismanagement, overcharges and dubious auditing skills at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles; public records use of police body camera footage; possible regulations on e-cigarettes; a look at alternatives to the standardized ISTEP test used in Indiana schools; smoking regulations in bars; and more.

But when it comes to an issue that ground the legislature to a halt and put Indiana up to the white-hot spotlight of national ridicule, the Republican supermajority in the Statehouse finds no cause?

Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, told The Statehouse File's Keith Kassen not to read too much into the fact that anti-discrimination laws didn't make it into the summer study rotation. Long said discussions would "go on quietly through the summer."

Maybe so. But here's the thing.

Senators and representatives missed the optics of RFRA as the situation played out in real time. They ignored or misread warnings about how a bill they considered to be innocuous would be perceived — rightly or wrongly — as anti-discriminatory at best and pure payback for failed efforts to carve a gay marriages ban into the Indiana Constitution at worst. They perked up only after businesses threatened to leave; the NCAA railed against the bill that officials said would factor into decisions about Indianapolis' shot as a Final Four host, not to mention the future of NCAA offices in Indy; and big-time conventions considered other locales.

This is still about optics.

And what Republican leaders in the Statehouse don't see is that each time they ignore the easiest, most proactive way to make things right, it shows. And glaringly so.

If you don't agree that Indiana is in a hole on this one, take it from Gov. Mike Pence. As pro-RFRA as you can get, Pence is now willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars — and potentially more than $2 million by the time it's over, according to some estimates — on a New York City public relations firm to shore up Indiana's reputation as a welcoming place.

How does that not include signaling to the world that equal protection is in the works?

Indiana cities and counties already took those steps this spring with anti-discrimination resolutions of their own. Still, the city resolutions don't add up to much beyond public statements of community values. Cities and counties with human relations ordinances that include protections based on sexual orientation — early adopters Lafayette, West Lafayette and Tippecanoe County among them — don't have much enforcement power beyond mediation. The teeth of a state law would make it a different animal.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 29, 2015 02:10 PM
Posted to Indiana Government