Lawmakers Put Burden On Opposite Chambers In Bias Crimes Debate

Nov 22, 2017

Bias crime legislation’s chances at passage are perhaps better than they’ve ever been heading into the 2018 legislative session. But Republican leaders in both the House and Senate say it’s the other chamber that controls the fate of the bill.

A bias crimes bill passed the Senate in the 2016 session but died in the House, in part due to Committee Chair Rep. Tom Washburne’s (R-Inglefield) philosophical concerns. In 2017, the bill never made it out of the Senate after religious conservative groups protested.

But despite the fact the House has never even taken a vote on a bias crimes bill, Washburne contends the measure’s future is really up to the Senate.

“And so I think we need to take a look and see what they’re doing and what the objections over there are and how they deal with those objections to see what we do in the House,” Washburne says.

Sen. Sue Glick (R-LaGrange), who’s authored the bias crimes bill the last two years, says she has bipartisan support in both chambers for her legislation, which would increase penalties for those who commit crimes because of a victim’s characteristics.

But she says the real test in 2018 will likely be in the House.

“I just hope that we’ll be able to get the bill through quickly so we can move into the House with it, and then we can have meaningful discussion,” Glick says. “In the past, it’s passed the Senate with very little problem and always gets bogged down over there.”

Washburne says he still has philosophical concerns with the measure but will keep an open mind.