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Indiana Black Legislative Caucus announces legislative agenda

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Legislation proposed by members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) includes restrictions on cash bail for nonviolent offenders, discriminatory lending practices and efforts to get more African Americans working in the medical field. Members announced their agenda during a press conference Jan. 11.

Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis, said the bills aim to “dismantle” many of the systems which have historically marginalized African Americans and other people of color.

Rep. Ragen Hatcher proposed a bill, which has not yet been assigned a number, that would prohibit a court from requiring someone to pay bail as a condition for pre-trial release if the arrestee was not charged with a violent crime. This legislation comes as several Republican lawmakers want to prohibit bail assistance from third parties in the wake of controversy surrounding The Bail Project.

House Bill 1155, proposed by Rep. Cherrish Pryor, would allow law enforcement officers to issue a summons for someone to appear before the court if they’ve committed a nonviolent misdemeanor, reducing the number of people waiting in jail. The bill would also allow prosecutors to offer a pre-trial diversion program for nonviolent crimes.

“During the pandemic we saw law enforcement officers successfully use this framework across the state,” Pryor said in a statement. “Requiring law enforcement officials to utilize summons to appear will keep Hoosiers out of jails for petty crimes and address the state’s jail overcrowding issue. This bill is simply about keeping working Hoosiers with families from needlessly being kept in jail while awaiting trial.”

House Bill 1026, presented by Pryor, would establish a Fair Housing Practices fund for down payment assistance and grants. It would also require cultural competency and implicit bias training for appraisers to decrease the rate of discriminatory lending and appraisal practices in the state.

“These bills send the message that we will not settle for policies that perpetuate historical housing discrimination,” Pryor said. “The lack of equity in the housing market continues to deprive families of generational opportunities. Fair appraisals, property tax protections and outlawing redlining are changes that are long overdue in our state.”

Sen. Jean Breaux introduced Senate Bill 151, which would establish scholarships for minority students pursuing health care careers. The goal, Breaux said, is to not only get more Black Hoosiers working in the medical field, but to garner better outcomes for African Americans seeking medical care.

In Indiana, for example, Black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die giving birth. Breaux hopes that by increasing representation in hospitals and medical facilities will benefit the health care field twofold: African Americans will feel more comfortable accessing medical care, and the medical care they receive will be improved.

“When you see yourself represented in the doctors and nurses treating you, you feel more comfortable,” Breaux said. “You’re also more likely to be listened to and taken seriously.”

House Bill 1067, authored by Shackleford, would require the Division of Family Services to continue waiving copays for eligible families and to reimburse eligible providers using federal COVID-19 relief funds until the federal pandemic emergency ends.

Despite a shorter session this year – the session only runs until March 14 this year – members are optimistic that many of the bills proposed by the IBLC will be heard.

“I look forward to championing these long overdue policy changes in the 2022 Legislative Session,” Pryor said in a statement. “True justice requires us to evaluate our current practices and have a willingness to take action in abandoning the status quo.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848 or by email at breannac@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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