Cummins joins leaders seeking comprehensive bias crimes legislation

Cummins Inc. Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger, along with a who’s who of Indiana business leaders and employers, called on state lawmakers to strengthen a pending hate crimes bill by reinstating a list of protected classes.

A joint letter signed by the leaders of a coalition of 22 organizations — ranging from the president of the Indiana Pacers to the president of Butler University — urged lawmakers to add back in a list of protected characteristics of people that was cut from the bill before the Indiana Senate passed it on Feb. 21. The bill is now pending in the Indiana House.

The initial language in the bill, initially included specific protections for disability, national origin, ancestry, race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and political affiliation, among other categories.

“We want specific protections in the legislation,” said Jon Mills, Cummins corporate spokesman. “That is what we and a lot of other business are pushing for. We think it is critical our success, the success of Indiana, and in order for us to recruit and retain top talent, we have to be a state that is welcoming to all people.”

Senate Bill 12 would allow courts to increase the sentence of a criminal convicted of a crime that was found to be committed with the “intent to harm or intimidate an individual or a group of individuals because of a perceived or actual characteristic of the individual or group of individuals,” according to the bill’s language.

Indiana is one of five states without such a law. Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Wyoming also do not have bias crime laws.

On Feb. 19, the Republican-held Senate amended the original bill, removing the specific protections.

Two days later, state senators approved the bill without the protected classes by a vote of 39-10. All Democrats voted against the amended bill, along with one Republican, state Sen. Ron Alting (R-Lafayette), who is a co-author.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, said on Wednesday he will attempt to ramp up public support for the initial language of hate crimes bill.

Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, who also signed the joint letter, said he was “extremely disappointed” with the bill that passed the Senate.

“They don’t yet see and understand the importance of this to our state and the ability of our employers to recruit talent,” he said.

The bill’s new language also drew the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which said the bill would result in a law that would be “ineffective and difficult to enforce.”

“The purpose of listing protected classes in any civil rights or hate crimes laws is to make sure that those who are targeted by discrimination and are most vulnerable, are protected,” the ACLU of Indiana said in a statement. “These laws are in response to violence based on immutable traits and identities, including race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.”

The bill’s supporters, however, say that Indiana judges already have the power to consider bias when imposing a criminal sentence.

State District 69 Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour,said he read about the testimony, but believes Indiana does not need such legislation because the state continues to see success in a number of areas without it. He said the state has seen growth and even record numbers in areas of tourism, job creation, companies relocating here and more.

Lucas said Indiana’s Constitution in Article I, Section 23 would prevent the state from passing a law because it says the state shouldn’t grant privileges or immunity to groups. He said he also has concerns if a bill would not protect political affiliation.

“We see what happened with the Covington kids and people being attacked for wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat,” he said. “I see a hate crimes bill as being divisive.”

Lucas said he would not foresee any circumstances where he’d support any bill for hate crimes legislation. He said he doesn’t believe legislators can put a level of offense on hate specifically.

“Hate is very strong, and how can you determine hate?” he said.

State Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, pointed to the 2003 Indiana Supreme Court case, Witmer v. State of Indiana, which he said “clearly defines” that judges can “to make that determination based on bias.”

The case stems from a racially-motivated murder in Elkhart of 19-year-old Sasezley Richardson, an African American, in 1999 by two white teenagers. After one of the convicted teenagers, Alex Witmer, challenged the severity of his 65-year sentence, the Supreme Court affirmed a trial court’s determination that “the perpetrators’ racial animus was a grounds for enhancing the sentence,” according to the Supreme Court’s decision.

Though Lauer would not say how he would vote on the bill in the House, he said the current language of the bill “could be acceptable to me.”

“In my opinion, the Senate bill is all encompassing for bias,” he said. “I trust our judges to understand when and where bias occurs.”

However, Lauer added that he is “open to debate.”

State Sen. Greg Walker (R-Columbus), who voted in favor of the amended bill, said his preference is for the bill to not list any specific characteristics, arguing that judges can already take bias into account.

“Judges have discretion to exercise aggravators based upon bias,” he said. “That’s their role. That’s their discretion.”

But Walker cautioned that the bill will likely be changed before it’s all said and done.

“I have no reason to believe that this is the final version of the bill,” Walker said. “This is the half-way point, not the final product.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Who signed” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

  • Tom Linebarger, Cummins Inc. chairman and CEO
  • David A. Ricks, Eli Lilly and Co. chairman and CEO
  • Bob Stutz, Salesforce CEO, Marketing Cloud and Chief Analytics Officer
  • Bob Jones, Old National Bancorp chairman and CEO
  • David Simon, Simon Property Group, chairman, president and CEO
  • Gail K. Boudreaux, Anthem, Inc. president and CEO
  • Dennis Murphy, Indiana University Health CEO and president
  • Jeff Smulyan, Emmis Communications Corp. chairman, CEO and founder
  • Jack J. Phillips,  Roche Diagnotics Corp. president and CEO
  • Jeffrey N. Simmons, Elanco Animal Health president and CEO
  • Mark Miles, Hulman & Co. president and CEO
  • Joe A. Raver, Hillenbrand president and CEO
  • Rajan Gajari, Corteva Agriscience, executive vice president
  • Mark A. Emmert, NCAA president
  • Bill Soards, AT&T Indiana president
  • Jim Morris, Pacers Sports and Entertainment president
  • Scott Dorsey, High Alpha managing partner
  • James M. Danko, Butler University president
  • Ryan Vaughn, Indiana Sports Corp. president
  • Ann Murtlow, United Way of Central Indiana president and CEO
  • Kevin Brinegar, Indiana Chamber president and CEO
  • Michael Huber, Indy Chamber president and CEO

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”The Letter” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

February 27, 2019

Dear Speaker Bosma, Senate President Bray and Representative Steuerwald:

We want to bring your attention to an issue that is vital to the Hoosier business community: passing a comprehensive bias crimes law with enumerated classes. Unfortunately, SB 12 as passed by the Senate last week is void of specific protections for race, religion, color, sex, gender identity, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation and age. The bill in its current form is unacceptable, unenforceable and harmful to the state’s economy.

We urge you to strengthen the bill by adding enumerated classes back into the legislation and establish a strong bias crimes law in Indiana. Indiana is currently in the national spotlight because we are one of five states without bias crimes protections. Being on this list is damaging to the state’s image, which in turn is harmful to our businesses and employees. We face daily global competition for talent, and human capital is vital to our continued success. When talented people choose not to come to Indiana or remain in Indiana for work, it puts the future of the state at risk. Taking proactive steps to improve the state’s image, like passing comprehensive bias crimes protections, is essential to addressing this problem.

Passing comprehensive bias crimes legislation the right thing to do for the state’s economy and it is the right thing to do for all Hoosiers. There are far too many incidents of hate and discrimination in our state and reported acts of hate crimes are increasing. Our neighbors are targeted because of the color of their skin, their religion or their sexual orientation. We condemn these acts of hatred and intimidation, which are not only an attack on the individual but an attack on the state. The Indiana General Assembly has an opportunity to address these despicable acts by passing legislation that signals hate will not be tolerated here.

We want to be clear that passing SB 12 without specific classes will NOT remove us from the list of states without bias crimes protections. Approving a bill without enumerated classes will do additional harm to our state’s image and economy. The only way to put this issue behind us and move our state forward is to pass comprehensive bias crimes legislation.

We need your leadership more than ever to address this critical issue. We urge you to work with the Governor and your colleagues in the House and Senate to pass comprehensive bias crimes legislation this session. Let’s send a message to the world that Indiana is welcome to all and open for business.

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Senate Bill 12″ ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Senate Bill 12 would allow courts to increase the sentence of a criminal convicted of a crime that was found to be committed with the “intent to harm or intimidate an individual or a group of individuals because of a perceived or actual characteristic of the individual or group of individuals.”

Disability, national origin, ancestry, race, religion, gender identity, sex or sexual orientation, political affiliation, status as a public safety official, status as a relative of a public safety official or service in the armed forces of the United States were initially listed as protected categories.

On Feb. 19, the Indiana Senate voted 30-16 to amend the bill and remove the list of characteristics. The Senate then passed the amended bill two days later in a 39-10 vote.

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For information about Senate Bill 12’s status, and other bills pending at the statehouse,  visit iga.in.gov.

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