Lawmakers advance ‘buffer zone’ and tax task force bills

Legislative Roundup

By: and - February 15, 2023 6:00 am

A view of the Indiana Statehouse on Feb. 1, 2022. (Leslie Bonilla Muñiz/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

The Indiana House on Tuesday approved a bill creating a 25-foot buffer zone around law enforcement officers that bystanders can’t cross.

Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville. (Photo from Indiana House Republicans)

“This is an officer safety measure that will give Indiana police officers the necessary reactionary gap to protect themselves and the public from harm,” author Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, said on the floor.

But some didn’t like the implications for those who record police-citizen altercations.

Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, said a friend of his videotaped police officers from his porch and was subsequently arrested and charged with several crimes — but was found not guilty of all.

“Police have enough now to protect themselves,” Bartlett said. “God knows that I certainly want every police officer to be able to go home at the end of the day, but I also want our public to have the right to videotape.”

McNamara said Bartlett’s story was a “perfect example” of the escalation her bill seeks to avoid.

Lawmakers passed the bill 75-20, largely along party lines; Marion County Sheriff’s Office Capt. and Rep. Mitch Gore, D-Indianapolis, joined Republicans. Two Democrats who supported the bill in committee reversed course and opposed it – Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis, and Rep. Ragen Hatcher, D-Gary.

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

Action across the Indiana Statehouse

Senate committees were also busy Tuesday.

One unanimously passed a bill creating a task force to study Indiana’s tax system, as previously suggested by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle.

After announcing the initiative would have two non-legislative members, Holdman said he received 13 requests from various organizations to join the effort. Rather than choose, Holdman amended the bill to remove the two positions, saying that the organizations could participate in various subcommittees instead.

“We think there will be ample opportunity for [others] to participate on subcommittees,” Holdman said. “We’re trying to cover the whole array of taxes in the state.”

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle. (Photo from Indiana Senate Republicans.)

Senate Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, will still appoint an economist from one of the state’s public higher education institutions.

In addition to analyzing property taxes, sales taxes and income taxes – each of which Holdman said warranted its own subcommittee – the task force will take a look at homestead exemptions.

The bill includes language for the task force to meet behind closed doors in an executive session, but Holdman said he couldn’t think of a reason why the task force would chose to do so.

The General Assembly will foot the $100,000 bill to cover staff and per diem costs. The task force must meet at least four times in 2023 and 2024, which doesn’t include the subcommittees.

Another Senate committee unanimously approved a picketing bill that makes it a Class C misdemeanor to protest outside someone’s home with the intent to harass. Before arresting an individual, law enforcement must approach and order the protester to “immediately and peaceably disperse.”


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Whitney Downard
Whitney Downard

A native of upstate New York, Whitney previously covered statehouse politics for CNHI’s nine Indiana papers, focusing on long-term healthcare facilities and local government. Prior to her foray into Indiana politics, she worked as a general assignment reporter for The Meridian Star in Meridian, Mississippi. Whitney is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University (#GoBonnies!), a community theater enthusiast and cat mom.

Leslie Bonilla Muñiz
Leslie Bonilla Muñiz

Leslie covers state government for the Indiana Capital Chronicle with emphases on elections, infrastructure and transportation. She previously covered city-county government for the Indianapolis Business Journal. She has also reported on local, national and international news for the Chicago Tribune, Voice of America and more. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from Northwestern University.