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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is talking about the need for a state hate crimes law during his State of the State speech.

The Republican governor gave his third such speech Tuesday evening before a joint session of the Indiana House and Senate.

Holcomb says Indiana needs to adopt a law specifically against crimes fueled by biases over race, religion and sexual orientation.

“Indiana is one of five states that does not yet have a bias crimes law. It’s time for us to move off that list,” he proclaimed.

“At heart, this has to do with people’s dignity and how we treat one another,” Holcomb explained. “Standing strong against targeted violence motivated to instill fear against an entire group is the right thing to do.”

Holcomb also discussed education funding.  While the governor has proposed just a 2 percent funding increase for public schools each of the next two years, he acknowledged “we can and we must do more.”

In order to make teacher pay competitive with surrounding states, he proposed having the state pay off a pension liability that schools currently pay. Holcomb said doing so would save all local schools $140 million over the next couple of years.

“I believe local school districts should allocate 100 percent of the $140 million to increasing teacher paychecks,” he said.

Additionally, Holcomb announced the creation of a Teacher Pay Commission to develop a plan to improve teacher pay in time for the 2021 legislative session.

Holcomb and Republican legislative leaders have talked about the importance of boosting teacher salaries, but Democrats have wondered why it is taking so long to do so.

In addition, Democrats say Holcomb must do more to garner support from his side of the political aisle if the anti-hate crime proposal is to become law.

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Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody issued the following statement in response to Holcomb’s speech:

“That Governor Holcomb continues to think small, to tinker rather than tackle our state’s critical issues is proof he just doesn’t have a vision beyond keeping the seat warm. Indiana faces real challenges and Holcomb has the legislative muscle to pass a bold agenda. Now, in year three, it isn’t that he can’t advance a bold vision, it’s that he chooses not to. Holcomb took to the stage tonight and made the case to tread water. His budget doesn’t allocate one dime specifically to raise educators’ pay, nor does it mention preschool. Not once. If you’re unable or unwilling to take on our state’s biggest problems, what are you getting up to do every day?”

This is Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch’s response:

“Our governor Eric Holcomb continues to build upon the successes the legislature and previous administrations have made. His plans to increase teacher pay and develop a skilled workforce will pay dividends for future generations of Hoosiers.

“It is imperative we are keeping on the path of taking Indiana and those who call it home to the Next Level, and I look forward to working with our governor to meet our goals.”

The president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce issued this statement:

“We’re encouraged – as many Hoosiers are* – by the continued forward-looking approach taken by Gov. Holcomb and his administration. Investments to grow and attract Indiana’s current and future workers are required to allow our state to achieve at the highest levels.

“An unfortunate omission, however, is the absence of support for improving the health of our citizens by embracing the agenda to reduce smoking (Indiana now ranks 44th among the 50 states in its percentage of smokers). Hoosiers strongly back a cigarette tax hike and increasing the smoking age to 21, as well as addressing the growing vaping crisis among teens.

“In regard to the bias crimes issue, we are pleased to see the Governor continue to emphasize its importance. It is imperative this year to find a way to remove Indiana from the short list of states without a bias crimes law.”