INDIANAPOLIS — As the Indiana General Assembly begins its third week of the 2021 session, a plethora of new bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate.
With the chambers both past the bill filing deadlines, more than 1,000 bills have been introduced, dealing with topics ranging from the state budget for the next two years to the designation of popcorn as the official state snack. Many address challenges related to the COVID-19 outbreak, but the bills also tackle more familiar issues, such as criminal justice reform and decriminalization of marijuana.
House members started the Indiana General Assembly’s 2021 session Jan. 4
Many businesses fear lawsuits from individuals who may be exposed to the virus on their property. Senate Bill 1 offers protection to these businesses. A similar bill in the House has also been introduced; both bills have been through the committee stage and are moving toward passage.
Criminal justice reform
In the wake of the events and protests of 2020, criminal justice reform is proving a critical issue. Rep. Carolyn Jackson, D-Hammond, drafted HB 1015 to require a publicly accessible database of law enforcement misconduct listing officers who engaged in misconduct, were suspended without pay, or were demoted or discharged.
Jackson stressed the importance of transparency when law enforcement officers who have stepped down or been fired due to misconduct are seeking a position with another police department.
“The first thing they tell you is, ‘We had no idea that we had hired an individual who had this long history of complaints and disciplinary procedures that came from elsewhere,’” she said. “So this, in a sense, will not only protect the citizens, but it will also protect the law enforcement departments all over the state.”
HB 1006, a bill requiring Indiana’s law enforcement training board to mandate training in de-escalation, has received more attention and has already moved through a House committee.
Decriminalization of marijuana
Two bills related to the decriminalization of marijuana were filed in the House: HB 1028 and HB 1026. Similar bills have been filed in past sessions but did not advance due to opposition from House and Senate leadership, even though some neighboring states have already legalized marijuana’s use.
HB 1028, authored by Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, would seek to decriminalize possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana or five grams or less of hash oil or hashish by making the violation a Class D infraction.
The goal of HB 1026 is to establish a program administered by the Indiana State Department of Health, which would supply valid permits for “cultivation, processing, testing, transportation, and dispensing of medical marijuana.”
This is Lucas’ third year introducing similar legislation, but as he notes, it has yet to result in a committee hearing. Citing the hit to the state budget this year due to COVID-19, he points to the use of valuable resources he sees when it comes to prosecuting Hoosiers who use cannabis, especially those using one ounce or less.
“It’s very frustrating that the state is not even having the most basic of conversations about an incredibly important issue, and that issue being cannabis. Until we can start having those big talks, I thought I’d start off with a piece of legislation at a lower level and deal with possession of one ounce or less and taking it from criminalizing otherwise innocent, responsible Hoosiers and just making possession, one ounce or less, a D infraction.”