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Hoosier Action Coalition sounds the alarm on controversial child labor bill

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Posted at 10:13 PM, Feb 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-28 22:20:09-05

INDIANAPOLIS — The legislative session is coming to an end but one bill moving forward is causing the Hoosier Action Coalition to sound the alarm.

They gathered at the statehouse Wednesday to advocate for preventable drug overdoses, safe housing for all and child labor restrictions.

The organization discussed House Bill 1053, which would have made fentanyl test strips legal.

Right now, in Indiana code, Overdose Lifeline says it’s unclear if they are legal mainly because some think they test how strong illegal drugs are.

The organization says that isn’t true. They simply let a user know if there is fentanyl present in the drug they are about to use.

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Jennings Tennery knows first-hand how lifesaving these strips can be. She used to be addicted to opioids.

She typically used by herself, but once she overdosed while with someone else. The drugs they took were tested with a fentanyl test strip and came back positive.

She says it’s a good thing she wasn’t alone that time because she overdosed but was able to live to tell her story.

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“It didn’t tell me how strong the fentanyl was,” Tennery said. “It didn’t tell me the potency or strength. All it said was, yes there was fentanyl present and that gave me a decision to change the course of my life.”

That bill passed out of the house but didn’t get a committee hearing in the senate.

When it comes to safe housing for all, the organization discussed Senate Bill 277, which would have allowed tenants to put their rent in an escrow account if there were issues with their unit and the landlord wasn’t fixing the problem.

This type of legislation has been discussed for several legislative sessions.

Christopher Rutan is a property manager in Columbus, Indiana. He says he can only do so much as a property manager and has witnessed landlords take advantage of tenants in the past.

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“I have seen landlords that do not upgrade their property and still up their rent,” Rutan said. “There is no enforcement of these landlords.”

SB 277 didn’t get a committee hearing and is dead this legislative session.

One bill that is still alive is House Bill 1093, which would allow minors to work longer hours and make changes to their employment in agricultural settings.

The bill is something the Hoosier Action Coalition is concerned will harm kids.

Kimberly Freeman is a mom of two. Her great grandmother worked from the time she was 14.

Freeman told the story of how she never had the education to support herself and was always reliant on other people. She doesn’t want the same fate for her kids or other kids across the state.

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"It will affect marginalized communities, a lot of Immigrant families will be affected by this,” Freeman said. “So, people that are already struggling are just going to end up struggling more."

The author of the bill, State Rep. Kendall Culp, says that's not the case. He says kids want to work and current regulations are making it harder for them to do so.

"As we looked into the regulations, we found that Indiana is much more restrictive in teenage workforce law than what the federal government requires,” Culp said. “So, this bill just simply brought us in line with federal regulations."

HB 1093 has a committee hearing on Thursday. Hoosier Action Coalition hopes lawmakers will vote against it.