Lawmakers advance ‘buffer zone’ and tax task force bills
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.
“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.”
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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