Top CEOs urge key lawmakers to overhaul bias-crimes legislation

More than 20 CEOs from some of the biggest companies in Indiana sent a letter to top Republican lawmakers Wednesday urging them to restore a list of victim characteristics in bias-crimes legislation being considered by the Indiana General Assembly.

The Indiana Senate passed a bias crimes bill earlier this month that makes crimes motivated by bias eligible for stronger penalties, but the Republican-controlled chamber removed the list of specific characteristics, such race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, before voting on it.

Indiana Forward, a coalition of business and not-for-profit leaders throughout the state, has been lobbying lawmakers to pass a bill that includes such a list as it seeks to get Indiana off the roster of five states without a bias-crimes law.

“Being on this list is damaging to the state’s image, which in turn is harmful to our businesses and employees,” the letter says. “We face daily global competition for talent, and human capital is vital to our continued success. When talented people choose not to come to Indiana or remain in Indiana for work, it puts the future of the state at risk.”

The letter, sent by some of the members of the coalition, was sent to House Speaker Brian Bosma, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray and Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon. Steuerwald is the author of another hate-crimes bill that also does not include a list of victim categories, and the language from that bill could be adopted into the Senate version.

“The bill in its current form is unacceptable, unenforceable and harmful to the state’s economy,” the letter says.

The letter is signed by leaders from Cummins Inc., Eli Lilly and  Co., Salesforce, Old National Bank, Simon Property Group, Anthem Inc., IU Health, Emmis Communications Corp., Roche Diagnostics Corp., Elanco Animal Health, Hulman & Co., Hillenbrand, Corteva Agriscience, NCAA, AT&T Indiana, Pacers Sports & Entertainment, High Alpha, Butler University, Indiana Sports Corp., Indiana Chamber, Indy Chamber and United Way of Central Indiana.

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