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Controversial gun, bail reform bills survive legislative session

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With the 2022 legislative session officially over as of March 9, bills which survived the state House of Representatives and Senate are now headed to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk to be signed into law. While many of the bills that garnered controversy — including House Bill 1134, which would have limited what Indiana school teachers were able to discuss with students — didn’t get enough votes (or a vote at all) to pass, several bills which could potentially become laws have been met with partisan gridlock and concerns from citizens.

Bail reform

Authored by Rep. Peggy Mayfield, R-District 60, House Bill 1300 prevents charitable bail organizations from bailing out anyone charged with a violent crime in Indiana, along with people with past convictions for a violent crime.

The bill was sent to a conference committee Feb. 28, where Senate Republicans were able to include parts of failed legislation — including a provision for Marion County which doubles the bail amount for someone accused of a violent crime with a previous conviction — into the bill.

The bill also limits charitable bail organizations from donating more than $2,000 for people in jail. People charged with a violent crime, or someone previously charged with a violent crime and now charged with a misdemeanor, would not be able to be bailed out by a charitable organization.

While The Bail Project — a nonprofit which helps those in financial need make bail — was never directly mentioned in any of the bail-related bills, much of the legislation seems to be in response to recent controversy surrounding the organization. In 2021, three people — out of 941 — the local chapter helped release went on to commit a violent crime while out on bail. Two were charged with murder; the other person stabbed two Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) officers.

Under House Bill 1130, nonprofits that provide bail for more than three people in a 180-day period will need to pay a $300 certification fee every two years. Groups that receive funding from the state or city governments are prohibited from providing bail money. The bill was signed into law by Holcomb on March 16.

Gun regulation

On the heels of a historically violent year in Indianapolis, legislation that would allow Hoosiers to carry a firearm without a permit is on its way to Holcomb’s desk.

During the final weeks of the legislative session, Republican lawmakers added language from House Bill 1077 — which never made it out of the Senate — to an unrelated bill on drug-scheduling during a conference committee report. Unlike state Democrats, Republican lawmakers didn’t stay to listen to testimony from Hoosiers. Perhaps the most outspoken critic of the move was Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter, who has said throughout the legislative session that this bill could potentially put police officers’ lives in danger. During his testimony in February, Carter also took aim at the issues a supermajority — in Indiana’s case, a Republican supermajority — can have on the legislative process.

“I never remember a time when outside influence of national associations or political posturing became the driving force behind any legislation in our great state until now,” Carter said. “I sure hope you choose to show deference to law enforcement professionals that understand the magnitude and the frontline effects of this legislation, rather than the possibility of getting reelected or elected the next primary.”

Transgender athletes in high school

Passing through both the House and Senate along party lines, a bill that would prohibit transgender girls from playing girls sports in grades K-12 could become law. The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 32-18.

If the legislation is signed by Holcomb, Katie Blair of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana said lawmakers will have exposed transgender students to increased harassment in schools.

“The Indiana legislature has voted to discriminate against trans youth, passing HB 1041, despite hearing hours of testimony from Hoosiers opposing this legislation and receiving tens of thousands of calls and emails,” Blair, public policy director for the ACLU of Indiana, said in a statement. “This bill singles out trans girls by banning them from participating in girls’ sports, jeopardizing their mental health, physical well-being and ability to access educational opportunities comparable to their peers. In Indiana, three in four trans youth will be harassed and bullied in school for being trans. By passing this bill, Indiana legislators have exposed trans kids to additional exclusion comparable to their peers.”

The bill garnered national attention as well, with the Human Rights Campaign condemning it as “regressive and damaging.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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