In the last five years, bias crimes proposals have been introduced each year in the Senate with no success—many failed to even be heard in committee. This year, it is our hope that the General Assembly finally produces a comprehensive bias crimes law that protects all Hoosiers. Please read below to follow the history of bias crimes bills in the Senate.
In 2014, Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) authored Senate Bill (SB) 400—a bias crimes bill that included protections for an individual’s actual or perceived race, color, creed, disability, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. It required law enforcement officers to receive bias-motivated crimes training. Republicans did not give this bill a committee hearing.
In 2015, Sen. Taylor authored SB 180, which was identical to his SB 400 in 2014. Republicans, again, did not give this bill a committee hearing.
In 2016, Sen. Taylor authored SB 263, which mirrored his 2014 SB 400. Again, Republicans chose not to give this bill a committee hearing. During this year, Senate Republicans authored their own bias crimes bill, SB 220, that included a list of protected individuals. SB 220 was the only bias crimes proposal to pass out of the Senate and did so with a vote of 34-16. House Republicans failed to give the bill a hearing and it died.
In 2017, Sen. Taylor authored two bias crimes bills. His first, SB 333, mirrored his 2014 proposal. The bill died after Republicans failed to give it a hearing. His second proposal, SB 336, was similar to SB 333 only changing court sentencing for bias crimes to an aggravating circumstance rather than a criminal enhancement. Like SB 333, It was also not given a hearing. Another bias crimes proposal, SB 439, was introduced in 2017. The bill, which was authored by Senate Republicans, was supported by Senator Lonnie Randolph (D-East Chicago) and Sen. Taylor who sign on as co-authors. While the bill was heard and approved in the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee with a vote of 6-3, the author never called down the bill in front of the full Senate, effectively killing the legislation.
Last year, Sen. Taylor’s SB 271 again mirrored his original 2014 proposal and Republicans, mimicking their previous behavior, did not give the bill a hearing. That year, Republicans also put forth a bias crimes bill SB 418. The bill was scheduled for a committee hearing, but on the final day the committee could vote, Republicans pulled the bill from the calendar in front of dozens of individuals who came down to testify on the proposal.
In 2019, Senate Republicans assigned all bias motivated crimes bills to the Senate Rules Committee, where bills typically go to die. During the final week of committee hearings, one of those bills, SB 12, was moved into the Senate Public Policy Committee for a hearing. The bill was amended during committee with changes requested by Senate Democrats, removing protections based on group affiliation, political affiliation, status as a public safety official, relative of a public safety official or a member of the armed forces. After several hours of committee testimony and debate between legislators, the Senate Public Policy Committee approved the proposal with a vote of 9-1.
SB 12 still has a long way to go, including amendments offered by any member of the Senate and a vote in front of the full Senate. It also has to go through a repetition of the entire process in the House of Representatives.