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Old 03-04-2007, 07:54   #1
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Indy Star: Gun control bill DEAD


2007 legislature
Now to the obituary page . . .
Bills on gun control, abortion and hate crimes among those that most likely are dead

When Republicans and Democrats return to work Monday for the second half of the legislative session, they'll leave behind a number of bills that didn't pass in the first half.

Last week was the midpoint of the session and the deadline for the House and Senate to pass legislation before bills switch chambers. Most bills that fail to win support in the first half of the session aren't resurrected, though some could be amended into bills that are still alive.
Gov. Mitch Daniels' plan to increase the cigarette tax to pay for health-care insurance for the poor, as well as a property tax relief plan drafted by House Democrats, are the most high-profile initiatives that failed. But there were many other bills that languished in committees or failed in votes before the House and Senate and have little chance of being revived.
Here's a look at some of those proposals:
Rep. David Orentlicher, D-Indianapolis, pitched a bill that would have required all dealers at gun shows to undergo background checks. Despite controlling the House, Orentlicher's fellow Democrats never gave House Bill 1090 a hearing.
The legislation not only would have required the background checks to make sure felons didn't have access to guns at the shows, it also would have limited buyers to one firearm per month.
"We're at a point where we don't have substantial support for gun regulations on either side of the aisle," Orentlicher said. "So that makes it difficult to raise an issue when an overwhelming number of Republicans and a substantial number of Democrats prefer not to have the issue discussed."
Hate crimes
Rep. Gregory W. Porter, D-Indianapolis, backed a bill that would have changed Indiana's status as just one of five states that have not passed hate-crime legislation.
His HB 1459 would have allowed lawsuits to be filed against criminals if they selected their victim based on "color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or sex."
The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee voted 9-1 in February to pass the bill. But after Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Lakeville, proposed an amendment, the legislation stalled and was not called for a vote before the full House.
Walorski's amendment would have made the hate-crime legislation apply to a fetus. House Democrats decided not to call Porter's bill for a second reading to avoid discussion of the amendment.
Indiana Equality, a group that has pushed hard for the hate-crime legislation, called the move "political gamesmanship."
"The bottom line is, 45 other states have passed bias-crime legislation," said John Joanette, a lobbyist for Indiana Equality. "We're confident this is a valid thing for the citizens of Indiana, and we're certainly going to work to make sure this legislation will reappear at some point in the future."
Whether that can happen this session is unclear. The language would have to be amended into another bill before the Senate.
Conservative group Advance America has lobbied aggressively against the legislation, maintaining it would provide special protection for gays and create two classes of victims, those listed in the legislation and those who aren't.
Free textbooks
A bill that would have eliminated Indiana's practice of charging fees for families to rent textbooks also sputtered in the House.
Rep. Phil Hoy, D-Evansville, got HB 1029 passed through the House Education Committee by a 7-5 vote, but the legislation was reassigned to the House Ways and Means Committee, where it never received a vote.
The bill would have cost $95 million per year, the reason House fiscal leaders didn't move it further.
Porter, chairman of the House Education Committee, supported the bill because it would catch Indiana up with the majority of states, which cover textbook costs. Indiana is one of just 10 states that don't offer free textbooks.
Hoy has pushed for the bill in each of the past three sessions, but it's looking like he'll have to wait until next year once again.
Conservative Senate Republicans have pushed for a bill that would require doctors to tell a woman seeking an abortion that the fetus could feel pain and that life begins at conception.
But for the second straight year, the bill stalled in the Senate.
This session, an amendment offered by Sen. Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsville, changed the legislation by defining contraception as any drug or device approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration to prevent pregnancy.
Supporters of Senate Bill 135 disputed that definition, saying it allows abortion-causing drugs to be defined as contraceptives. Simpson and others have maintained that the federal government's definition of contraceptives is appropriate.
Sen. Patricia L. Miller, R-Indianapolis, the bill's author, worked to get Simpson's amendment removed but didn't have enough votes in the full Senate to do so.
"I thought the bill was a bad one anyway," Simpson said. "There was a big controversy whether the amendment should stay in, and in the end the votes weren't there to remove the amendment, so Senator Miller dropped the bill."
Cell phones
A bill that would have banned the use of handheld cell phones while driving also failed to receive a hearing.
Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, introduced the bill after he crashed his car while talking on the phone. SB 216 was assigned to Senate Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters Committee, chaired by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford.
Steele declined to hear the bill in committee.
"We just have too many other pressing issues to deal with this session," he said.

Call Star reporter Bill Ruthhart at (317) 444-2771.
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