[r63] Messmer Report: Protecting Hoosier Freedoms

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, March 2, 2012

The legislative session is coming to and end and many bills are in their final stages before either being signed into law by the governor or being dead for the year. This past week we discussed and debated several topics that have been talked about often across the state in many communities. A statewide smoking ban passed the Senate, and in the House we passed SB 1 that provides more protection for Hoosiers by enforcing our right to defend against unlawful entry into our homes.

Smoking bans are becoming increasingly instituted across the country and across Indiana. Evansville recently implemented a city-wide smoking ban that includes all bars and only exempts the casino floor. In the General Assembly we are also considering a smoking ban that could be implemented statewide.

For the last five years the House has considered a statewide smoking ban and this is the first year the Senate has discussed the issue. However, the current version of the bill, the way the Senate passed it, includes many exemptions. Some feel the bill is too watered down, while others are pleased to see multiple exemptions for places such as bars and nursing homes. The bill will now go to conference committee with members of the House and Senate to see if amendments can be agreed upon.

This summer the court case of Barnes vs. Indiana received a lot of attention. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled that Hoosiers could not resist police officers who enter their homes without warrants under any circumstance. Because of this, SB 1 was authored this session that will put Indiana law regarding the castle doctrine back to where it was prior to the Barnes decision. Hoosiers must have the right to protect themselves against the unlawful actions of others.

This bill, if signed into law, would not provide immunity for anyone’s criminal behavior, but it would help protect Hoosiers against bad actors- criminals and rogue police officers alike. This is an issue of freedom and ensuring Hoosiers have the ability to defend their homes, and is consistent with over 200 years of common law in this country, and clarifies the intent of the legislature in laws passed in 1976 and again in 2006.

This week the bill passed the House in a bipartisan 74-24 vote, and previously in the Senate 45-5.  Since it was amended in the House, the Senate can either concur to the House changes, or it could go to conference committee so that members of both chambers can concur on amendments. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the status of this bill.

The end of the legislative session is always very busy, but also productive. My colleagues in the General Assembly and I have been working hard to make Indiana a better place for all Hoosiers to live and work. Thank you for your continued support.