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Statehouse Roundup: New rules for Bail Project adopted, bill targeting Marion Co. Democratic chair dropped

Posted at 9:09 PM, Mar 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-11 21:09:55-05

INDIANAPOLIS — They could come back in a special session later this year, but for now, the Indiana General Assembly is done with the work of trying to create new laws for the state.

Lawmakers took action this week on two bills directly targeting Marion County. One passed and another died as the clock on the session is running out.

One bill targets The Bail Project, the nonprofit that helps pay bail, largely for low-income, Black Hoosiers. House Bill 1300 was approved Tuesday and is now on Gov. Eric Holcomb's desk.

If signed into law, it would force the Bail Project and other nonprofits to adhere to new licensing requirements.

It would also bar them from bailing out anyone charged with a violent crime, plus someone who has a past violent crime conviction if that person is charged with a new felony.

The reason for the bill was recent incidents in which people bailed out by the bail project were later charged arrested for violent crimes.

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Officials with The Bail Project pushed back.

“Every citizen facing an allegation is presumed innocent until proven otherwise,” said David Gaspar, The Bail Project’s national director. “The problem nowadays is cash bail. Cash bail is the practice of asking someone to come up with a sum of money in advance, prior to them actually having their day in court in order to secure their freedom."

Holcomb has not said whether he will sign the bill.

One measure that did not pass before the end of the session made public a rift within the Marion County Democratic Party that's threatening to become a gulf in a midterm election year.

Kate Sweeney Bell is the Chair of the Marion County Democrats and the elected Marion County Recorder.

She is running this year to be Marion County Clerk.

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Because she is the party chair, Sweeney Bell was also in charge of the process known as slating — the official endorsement of primary candidates in every Marion County race.

Black elected officials in Marion county earlier filed a complaint with the state Democratic Party, accusing Bell of passing over Black residents and other people of color in the appointment of precinct committee people — those working at the grassroots level of the party.

Then, Black state lawmakers from Indianapolis pushed an amendment to Senate Bill 328, an elections bill that would ban a political party chair in Marion county from holding or running for elective office.

The amendment was approved, but with Republican support. Most white Democrats in the legislature voted against it.

Then, that amendment was dropped when the bill reached a conference committee. The two Democrats on that conference committee were both white.

Since the bill is dead, the next battleground in this rift will be primary election day — May 3.