Details of Hate Crime Bill to be Hot Topic

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An assistant professor of political science at the University of Indianapolis says the specific details of potential hate crime legislation will be the big topic during this year's Indiana General Assembly. Governor Eric Holcomb is among many who have called for Indiana to adopt some form of hate crime legislation prior to the session kicking off today. Laura Merrifield Wilson says how sexual orientation plays into the potential bill will bring lots of discussion.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Wilson said that issue is part of the reason why Indiana is one of only five states to not have any sort of hate crime legislation on the books.

"You have to consider sexual orientation and one of the things legislators can do is say that that's not part of hate crime and we could have a bill that doesn't include it, but there's going to be a fight about whether or not that term should be included, whether or not that group of people should be included and, especially with a lot of the social conservatives in the House and Senate in Indiana, I think it's going to be hard to include that and to get it to pass in favor of them," said Wilson. 

The legislature has attempted to pass hate crime legislation in the past to no avail. Wilson says the public outcry after a Carmel synagogue was vandalized last summer will have lawmakers talking more about the issue.

This year's legislative session is a budget year and Wilson says, for the session to be successful, everyone will need to get something of what they want. "There's going to be a lot of competing priorities and I don't think if you look down party lines, nobody is going to get everything. If everyone's able to get something of what they want, if we're able to allocate enough money to the places that we truly need to, I think that's a success."

Some of the other hot topics during this session include medical marijuana, which Wilson does not expect to pass this year, as well as an increase in teacher pay.

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