We are all in agreement that the Indiana General Assembly has the ability to shape the business and economic culture of our state. This is why we pass bills like Senate Bill (SB) 7, a very popular bill approved by the Senate with a vote of 48-1. Just yesterday, this proposal was heard in the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. If this bill is signed into law, we would support a brand new Indy Eleven soccer stadium, increase funds for the Indianapolis convention center and keep the Indiana Pacers in Indy for at least another 25 years.
All of these goals make sense, right? We can all agree that it is important to invest in our city and increase the economic scope of our state. That’s why the bill passed the Senate with such bipartisanship. Since the General Assembly seems to be on the same page in regards to economic development, I have one question to pose. Why, then, are we ignoring some of Indiana’s largest employers when they call for a clear and inclusive hate crimes law?
Not two weeks ago, over 20 CEOs of major Indiana businesses signed a letter urging the General Assembly to approve a comprehensive hate crimes bill. Why is our business community outraged and speaking out? Because Senate Republicans ignored the calls of 74 percent of Hoosiers, numerous religious organizations, advocacy groups, countless businesses and even the governor himself when they stripped SB 12 of its inclusive list of protected characteristics.
I’m not surprised our state’s business community is appalled at what the Senate Republicans did to this bias crimes bill. They’ve already had to work through the ramifications of the damaging Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 2015, which pushed employers out of the state and threatened to cancel long-planned conventions. If we continue on this path of not having a meaningful bias crimes law on the books, I’m afraid that we will see a situation that could blow RFRA out of the water. Indiana CEOs know that a lack of bias crimes law will hurt our businesses. Our own governor knows the devastating impact of not passing an inclusive law this year.
Clearly, the General Assembly cares about economic development ⸺ about attracting larger and larger conventions to our state. That’s why the Senate already approved economic legislation this session such as SB 7 and SB 66. We have done our due diligence to invest in our state’s businesses, industries and economy. It would be a shame if all of that investment went to waste because of a failure to pass a tangible bias crimes law. Lost investments are a waste of taxpayer dollars. If the Republicans truly want to show that they support our business community and the majority of Hoosiers, then they will put the list of protected characteristics back into SB 12 and finally give the governor an inclusive bias crimes bill he can confidently sign into law.