When you choose to become a parent, you are taking on one of the biggest responsibilities one can have in life. As our children start to get older and we think back on their childhood, the one thing that stands out the most is time; time that we spent reading to them, laughing with them and teaching them everything from how to tie their shoes to some of life’s most valuable lessons. Likewise, in the Indiana General Assembly, we have chosen to dedicate a large portion of our time to focus on Indiana’s children because within them lies the key to our future success.
Last week, I discussed the state’s efforts to keep children safe in Indiana schools, but that is only a small part of our overall effort to protect Hoosier children. This session, I strongly supported a bill which seeks to balance the need to punish parents who do not pay court-ordered child support with the fact that those parents will ultimately be unable to pay child support if they go to jail.
Specifically, this new law changes the penalty enhancement for nonsupport of a child from a Level 6 felony to a Level 5 felony if the person has been previously convicted of nonsupport. Raising the penalty just one felony level increases the possible sentence time by as much as 3.5 years.
Under current law, there is a natural time barrier between convictions of nonsupport. Currently, $15,000 has to accrue and qualify as nonpayment before an individual can be convicted a second time. This bill removes that barrier and will afford individuals more incentives to pay child support. I particularly supported this legislation because it works to promote personal accountability while also ensuring that children receive the necessary support.
This session, we also tackled the very difficult issue of human trafficking. According to the Attorney General’s (AG) Office, human trafficking is tied as the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world, just behind drug trading. Many of you probably think of far-off, underdeveloped countries when you think of human trafficking, but you may be surprised to learn that this is an issue that we are dealing with in America and even in Indiana as well.
Across the Midwest, 20 percent of trafficking victims are minors, and the average age of American minors in the sex trade is around 13 years old. As a father of teenagers, I am appalled by this statistic. In order to enhance human trafficking laws that have been passed in recent years, this session we provided the AG with broader investigatory powers. Not only will the AG now have the same authority as law enforcement to access and maintain information regarding a violation of the human trafficking statute, but the AG will also be able to assist with the investigation and prosecution of such an offense.
For two weeks in a row now, I have chosen to focus on children, and that is because of the time we spent this session to improve the status of children across the state. Indiana legislators take the safety and well-being of Hoosier children very seriously and work hard to protect them, particularly during instances in which there is no one else willing or able to look out for them.
I consider both of these pieces of legislation to be solid investments in our children’s future, and I don’t mean “investment” in the monetary sense. In this instance, when I use the word investment, I mean an investment of time; whether it is taking the time to develop laws which encourage parental responsibility, or taking the time to study and crackdown on one of the most heinous crimes that is committed against young people. Time is truly invaluable, and I believe that time spent on our children is time that is never wasted.