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Revised bias crime proposal wins Senate approval, advances to Indiana House

State Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, presents Senate Bill 12 Thursday, even though the bias crime legislation no longer contains Bohacek's definition of bias or a list of protected classes. The revised measure was approved 39-10 and now goes to the House.

INDIANAPOLIS — After controversially deleting a list of protected classes, the Indiana Senate voted 39-10 Thursday to approve legislation allowing judges to enhance a prison term when the underlying crime is motivated by bias.

State Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, fulfilled his duty as sponsor to present Senate Bill 12 to the chamber, even though it no longer matches his preferred policy since it does not define bias or specifically cover groups traditionally targeted for hate crimes.

"If I wanted the language to look like that, I would have put it in that way," Bohacek said. "But that's OK. The process works, and we're going to send it to the House, and the House is going to have to do something."

All nine Democrats in attendance and state Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, chairman of the Public Policy Committee that shaped the comprehensive bias crime legislation Monday, voted no on the revised proposal that was gutted Tuesday on a 33-16 Senate vote.

Speaking against the measure, state Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as he told his colleagues that history will not forget what happened this year in the Indiana Senate.

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"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter," Melton said. "Indiana is becoming more diverse. The nation is becoming more diverse. This is not going anywhere. This is going to come back in some shape or form."

State Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, who led the effort to delete all but two words and a comma from Bohacek's proposal, suggested that contrary to the villain image he's since acquired on social media, he's really the hero of the story.

"My amendment is trying to treat everyone equally. I'm not trying to pick winners and losers," Freeman said. "I would suggest to you that a handshake would be great, and say, 'Senator Freeman, thanks for keeping the issue alive.'"

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and a coalition of business and community groups known as Indiana Forward didn't share that sentiment.

"This legislation is not a real bias crime law," said David Sklar, Indiana Forward co-chairman.

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