Bills await possible death if committees don’t make a decision before Thursday
By Taylor Dixon and Carolina Puga Mendoza
INDIANAPOLIS—Thursday is the deadline for all House and Senate committees to vote on bills for this legislative session, meaning bills that are not approved will not move forward.
Some bills that are at risk of dying include one requiring a suicide hotline on student ID cards, another on the deannexation of schools in the South Bend area that led to discord in the Indiana House, and other allowing kids to set up lemonade stands without a permit.
Over 30 other bills face the same outcome because they are not scheduled to be heard in committee meetings Thursday morning. The two that have received some of the most attention during the legislative session are House Bill 1369, involving the licensing of firearms, and Senate Bill 141, which would cut funding for public transit in Indianapolis.
Authored by Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, HB 1369 would take away the need for a permit to carry a gun. Instead, those who own firearms could purchase a lifetime license to allow them to take their weapon across state lines. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee since it was referred there on March 11.
HB 1369 has received pushback from various members of the Indiana State Police and from mostly Democratic lawmakers.
Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, has been outspoken about his opposition to the bill.
“The people who are lawfully carrying are one shot away from being a mass shooter,” Taylor said. “Recently, several people who were lawfully able to carry committed mass murder.”
“We’re going through a pandemic right now, where people are having a lot of anxiety and things like that …We need to be cognizant of the fact that a lawful carrying person is just one shot away from being a mass killer.”
In March, there were seven mass shootings in seven days in the United States, in which 20 people died and many were injured. The most recent shooting happened in Atlanta, Georgia, where nine people were shot by a single gunman. Eight of them died.
More criticism was directed towards the projected funding loss that law enforcement could face. The Indiana State Police currently gets revenue from the permit fees; if removed, they would face a loss of up to $5.3 million in fiscal year 2023.
If HB 1369 does not make it past the Judiciary Committee, there’s a possibility that a bill with similar language could make its way to next year’s legislative session.
“While we can celebrate the fact that that bill is going to die, we also need to be cognizant of the fact that we still have other things that can come up,” Taylor said.
Senate Bill 141 would have cut funding for IndyGo, the public transportation system in Indianapolis, and would have caused problems in creating the Blue and Purple bus rapid transit lines.
SB 141 was sent to the House Roads and Transportation Committee on March 4 and was heard in committee on March 24. Nearly a dozen people testified on the bill in the two-hour meeting. Another 20 people had signed up to speak but did not get the chance due to time restrictions, according to an Indy Star article.
Roads and Transportation Committee chairman Rep. Jim Pressel, R-LaPorte, said in a statement, “Senate Bill 141 is complex legislation with passionate voices on all sides. Despite meaningful conversations among stakeholder groups and legislators, it’s obvious that consensus won’t be reached before the committee report deadline.”
IndyGo is thankful that SB 141 did not pass because this means it can start on projects like the Purple Line, which has already been delayed, without fear of running into funding issues.
“We are grateful that Chairman Pressel and the House Committee on Roads and Transportation has decided to not have another hearing on Senate Bill 141,” IndyGo said in a statement. “This bill has been a distraction as we have been focused on maintaining transit service and keeping our riders and employees safe throughout the pandemic, as well as advancing our major projects.”
However, provisions similar to those in SB 141 have shown up in previous legislation. A similar bill 2020 also died in committee, according to an IndyStar article from 2020.
FOOTNOTE: Taylor Dixon and Carolina Puga Mendoza are reporters for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.