Republican, Democrat senators working to keep effort for Indiana hate crime law alive

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Greg Taylor (left) and John Ruckelshaus (right) (Photo courtesy of IndyStar)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Two Indiana lawmakers aren’t letting the conversation about hate crime legislation in the state end.

The Senators, one a white Republican and the other a black Democrat, promised each other to not let the conversation fizzle like an effort earlier this year to pass hate crime legislation did, our newsgathering partners at the IndyStar report.

Sens. Greg Taylor and John Ruckelshaus met Monday to work on a bipartisan bill for next year.

Their meeting comes a few weeks after an attack in Charlottesville in which one person was killed and 19 others were injured.

The crowd was counter-protesting a group of white-nationalists and other far-right groups who were on the University of Virginia campus for the “Unite the Right” rally. The purpose of the rally was to protest Charlottesville’s decision to remove relics of its Confederate past, such as a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The incident brought to Taylor’s mind the day in February when Republicans effectively ended an effort to pass hate crime legislation in the state.

Indiana is one of only five states that does not have a “hate crimes protection law.” House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said after Charlottesville that current state law allows judges to increase sentences for hate-related crimes.

“I think it’s time to label now what we have as hate crime legislation to dispel really the misconception that cannot be considered by a judge in sentencing because it can be,” he said.

After the effort failed, Taylor gave a speech.

“I just hope that one day we open up our eyes,” Taylor said. “I hope it’s not after something dramatic happens — and I’m telling you, it’s on the horizon.”

When he met with Ruckelshaus on Monday, he told IndyStar, “Some of us saw this coming. It shouldn’t take a young lady dying for us to come together and put this together. While I’m happy we’re moving forward, I wish that premonition hadn’t come true.”

Ruckelshaus said the violence in Charlottesville could change the game for hate crime legislation here.

“I don’t want to say it’s easier to sell to my caucus, but it’s more omnipresent in front of them, whereas they didn’t see it necessarily in their backyard. Now seeing what happened in Charlottesville, it’s out there. So let’s get to work,” he told IndyStar.

Ruckelshaus said he has more work to do than Taylor in working with Republicans, as Democrats have already been trying for years. He hopes his relationships from his time in the House will help.

The Monday meeting at a coffee shop is not any sort of formal deal, but it’s a way to get the ball rolling.

One idea is to pitch it as an issue of economic development.

“We have companies today that make decisions about coming to states — especially technology companies — based upon the quality of life and how they treat citizens,” Ruckelshaus said.

The legislative session begins in January, giving the two time to plan out their bill.

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