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Bias crimes bill delayed for gender identity issue

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By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

With just under five weeks to go in the Indiana General Assembly session and three to go before action on bills must be completed in the House and Senate, two local representatives weighed in on the session.

Rep. Cindy Ziemke, R-Batesville, represents all of Fayette County and some of Franklin, Rush, Decatur and Ripley counties. Rep. Randy Lyness, R-West Harrison, represents all of Union County and parts of Franklin and Dearborn counties.

Ziemke serves on the House Courts and Criminal Codes Committee, which is scheduled to hear Senate Bill 12, the Sentencing and Bias Crimes Bill.

Delaying the hearing is an issue that arose when the Bureau of Motor Vehicles dealt with an option for a third choice for gender identity on driver’s licenses or state identification card, Ziemke said Friday. The BMV had a court order to put an X on a driver’s license because a birth certificate had an X on the gender line.

She did not know if the issue before the House is a result of that BMV issue or it involved someone who had undergone sex-change surgery.

The House has added an amendment to SB 324 that deals with disabled veterans parking placards to require BMV to issue licenses with only male or female designations for gender, she said. The BMV would have to have a birth certificate that reflected a change of gender. Birth certificates cannot be changed without a court order.

Still, the bias crimes bill moves forward.

“Bias crimes will have language that I believe will get us off ‘the list’ and I would expect that, hopefully, from what the speaker (Brian Bosma) said in his media availability. I think we will hear that in Courts and Criminal Codes but that has not been scheduled,” she said. “All our committees are so jammed up because the Senate sent over so many bills.”

Ziemke serves on the Ways and Means Committee, which should be receiving the gaming bill that proposes to move riverboat casino licenses in Gary and to allow sports betting.

She is the House sponsor for Sen. Jean Leising’s SB 170 to require the Department of Child Services to file “a report concerning child fatalities in Indiana” by Dec. 31 each year including information about whether the death occurred while the child was placed in foster care or after the child who had been in foster care was returned to a natural parent.

Another bill would allow using tax increment financing districts for residential areas to increase affordable housing, she said. SB 566 would be limited to cities less than 100,000 in population. The Rush County Economic and Community Development Corp. testified in favor of the bill.

Lyness said a couple bills got passed out of a committee he sits on that he did not support although he voted in favor in the committee to send it to the full House.

One of those bills was House Bill 1625 to require a county or a municipality to prepare an analysis if a proposed regulation may increase or decrease the cost of housing.

“I felt it was a lot of work for cities and counties that I didn’t feel needed to be done,” he said. “It is a bill that if an agency does something to affect the cost of a house, you have to report how much that would change the price of a house and the state would have to keep track of it.

“To me, it didn’t accomplish anything and was a lot of work for everybody. Homeowners, chambers of commerce, Habitat for Humanity and a few other people were for it and I looked at it and thought, ‘This is just more government.’”

It passed out of the House 52-47 and has been referred to the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee.

He is as House sponsor for SB 342 to encourage an interim summer study committee on employment of minors. Minors have a lot of hoops to jump through to gain employment, he said. The law has not been updated in several years.

The last two weeks of the session is conference committee time when bills that have been changed in either house go to conference, consisting of a Democrat and Republican from each body. They work out the differences in language and present it to the full House and Senate for approval.