Legislative progress and frustration

February 18, 2019

MICHIGAN CITY – La Porte County’s legislative delegation discussed some of the bills they’ve been working on in the early days of the General Assembly session, which has been frustrating for the newest member of the group.

Hosted by the the Greater La Porte, Michigan City and Westville Area chambers of commerce, the Indiana Third House Legislative Event welcomed area legislators to discuss the work they are doing in Indianapolis.

In attendance were state Representatives Pat Boy, D-Michigan City; and Jim Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie; and state Senator Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores. State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, was unable to attend due to a family emergency.

Bohacek discussed some bills he said he’s “been working to get heard by the Senate,” focusing on Senate Bill 12, an anti-hate crime measure.

The bill pertains to crimes against victims due to bias by the perpetrator.

“Indiana is one of the last five states in the country that does not have a bias crimes statute, which more of you might know it as a ‘hate crimes’ bill,” Bohacek said.

The bill would allow a judge to increase the punishment for a crime if committed because of the victim’s “perceived or actual” characteristics. Those include race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, political affiliation, status as a public safety official, or service in the Armed Forces.

This will be the fourth attempt for a such a bill to reach the Senate floor, where it is expected to be heard on Monday and voted on by Thursday, according to Bohacek.

Pressel said one point of emphasis for him has been work on issues surrounding affordable housing, including expanding allocations for Section 42 housing with LIHTC credits, along with Habitat for Humanity Neighborhood Assistance Program credit increases.

Pressel has also been working to create new opportunities for rural workforce housing.

“We all know, and you’ve all heard the numbers, some 80,000 jobs are available in Indiana today, but we don’t have the housing inventory to put people in those houses. It’s an important issue that we really need to step up and do more with, and that’s what that legislation really focuses on.”

Pressel believes this can be achieved through a decrease in the regulatory standards that are currently in effect.

“Twenty percent of the cost of housing in Indiana goes to regulations and permitting. Part of the problem is we need to make local decision-makers aware of the decisions that they are making. If we continue to price people out of homes, how do we fill those jobs?”

Boy, elected to her first term in the legislature last November, got her first amendment to the House floor, a measure that clarified the definition of which organizations are qualified to receive the benefits of House Bill 1517, which deals with Charity Gaming.

Otherwise, the new state representative said she’s been discouraged by the number of bills that the Senate would not hear.

Boy fought for the Senate to abolish the state’s “Right to Work” law, believing doing so would strengthen and increase union-based jobs in the state, but her efforts were not fruitful.

Boy also introduced a bill to fund a study on the law and its effects, and said she remains hopeful on that one.

“I know that the Right to Work bill will not be heard, but possibly they will hear the study. This study, if conducted, will look at the effect on wages of traditional union jobs in Indiana compared to states that are not effected by the Right to Work law.”

In addition, Boy has introduced bills covering school start times, teacher salary increases, redistricting, medicinal cannabis use, voting by mail and passing an Equal Rights Amendment in Indiana, none of which will be heard by the Senate or the House.