Representative’s comment draws remarks in session

A comment from Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, about hate-crime legislation pending in the Legislature drew a jeer Monday from some audience members at a Third House session.

Smith was answering a question from Michael Greven, Columbus, about the hate-crime legislation, which would address Indiana’s status as only one of five states nationwide without a hate-crime law.

The legislation doesn’t create a new statute, but would let judges consider imposing tougher sentences on crimes motivated by a victim’s perceived or actual race, religion, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation, The Associated Press reported. Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, introduced the bill.

When Greven asked Smith to support the bill, Smith replied that Indiana allows judges discretion for mitigating circumstances and allows them to increase sentences for offenses that might be considered a hate crime.

But it was when Smith asked “What crime doesn’t have some level of hate in it?” when murmurings of dissent erupted in one corner of the room.

Smith, taken aback by the outburst, said he had not encountered something like that in his 11 years as a legislator.

He asked people in the audience to be “respectful of our differences.”

Sen. Greg Walker said he did vote for the hate-crime bill introduced at last year’s session, wishing to give judges full discretion when it comes to sentencing of individuals involved in such incidents.

Last year’s hate-crime legislation proposal failed in the House last year without a hearing in the Senate, but Glick told The Associated Press she hopes this year’s legislation will be more successful.

The bill was approved 6-3 in committee Feb. 7 with an amendment that adds protections to off-duty law enforcement officers who are targeted because of their jobs, The Associated Press reported.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.