We always say that the last week of session is the most hectic of weeks—this year there is no exception to that. However, the conclusion of this year’s legislative session unfortunately isn’t the only story making headlines.
Radio and television stations continue to run updates on the devastating situations in Southern Indiana where a series of tornadoes hit on Friday. They have been updating the general public, while also providing information as to where people could donate in order to help our Hoosier friends down south.
When I came to the Statehouse on Monday, I thought the week was going to be more tiring due to the fact it was the last week of the legislative session— we would be casting votes, attending conference committees, making final decisions on important legislation, etc. However, I realized that even as tiring and stressful as the legislative session is, there are Hoosiers down south with limited resources, dealing with the loss of lives and property.
So before I delve into the happenings at the Statehouse, I would recommend to those that wish to donate, please do so. The locations taking donations are changing daily, so it may require you to do some research. You can also send a check or money order to the Indiana Disaster Relief Fund at 1950 North Meridian Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202.
Even during a trying economic time, a small donation can mean a lot to a family who lost everything.
As previously mentioned, this week’s we will work to continue our efforts on getting legislation through the legislative process. As of Monday morning, 18 bills had been signed into law.
Some of those include legislation allowing design-build contracts to reduce construction costs on projects; legislation cracking down on human trafficking; legislation requiring utility companies to provide contact information for purposes of highway and local improvement projects and utility facility relocation; and legislation that provides Hoosiers the freedom to decide whether or not to financially support a union.
As more and more bills are being sent to the governor’s desk each day, we still have a large amount being discussed in conference committees. These committees include members from both chambers and both parties that are assigned by the Speaker in order to work out the details of a bill.
We will be spending the majority of our time this week discussing bills that are coming out of conference committees. Once they make it through that process, they will head to the governor’s office to be signed into law.
One bill in particular that continues to cause some attention is Senate Bill 1. It passed out of the House last week and is expected to be assigned to a conference committee this week.
SB 1 deals with the Barnes vs. State decision that occurred last year. The details of the case are simple, but the issues surrounding the case are complex.
Barnes’ wife called 911 because of an altercation they were having. Officers came to the scene. His wife returned to the apartment and Barnes followed her, but refused to let officers enter the residence. An officer tried to enter the home and Barnes shoved the officer against the wall. He was then arrested and charged with, among other things, battery on a law enforcement officer.
He took his case to trial and was convicted. He appealed the decision based on a theory that the court should have allowed him to offer a jury instruction telling the jury that he had a right to reasonably resist an unlawful entry into his home.
The case ultimately reached the Indiana Supreme Court, who agreed with the trial court’s refusal to offer the jury instruction.
Under SB 1, if any person—regardless of whether or not they are law enforcement officer—is acting unlawfully against another person, then that person has the right to defend him or herself. It provides a preamble to the self‐defense law indicating the legislature’s intent that Hoosiers should be secure in their home against unlawful intrusions, and that they have the right to defend themselves from physical harm and crime.
We had concerns that this case set a misguided precedent by stating that an individual never has the right to forcefully resist the unlawful intrusion of a law enforcement officer. It was imperative that the General Assembly address this issue and restore the law that we have had for 236 years.
Not only have we restored the law, but we have made it better. We have defined how a person can lawfully protect their home and have put additional safeguards in place to protect police.
This legislation restores a property owner’s right to protect themselves against anyone who acts unlawfully as has always been defined by the law. Indiana’s self-defense statutes were created in 1976 and amended in 2006.
I think we can all agree that a person should be able to protect themselves against unlawful action. This bill honors that belief and upholds Castle Doctrine. This bill also recognizes the unique duty law enforcement has. It ensures that we are not providing criminals safe havens to conduct illegal activities.
Simply put, this bill puts Indiana back into a pre-Barnes position.
Again, this issue has received a lot of attention and I expect it to continue, and rightfully so. Any issues dealing with law enforcement should be well thought out and widely discussed.