Last week I spent about an hour in the law office of State Representative Greg Steuerwald, a Republican who wanted to talk about something “incredible.” It was HEA 1006, a sprawling police reform bill that was passed and signed by Governor Eric Holcomb without a single dissenting vote.
The next day, I met U.S. Representative Victoria Spartz at a Carmelite cafe, asking this freshman Republican what her first impressions of Congress were. “I didn’t have very high expectations of Congress, unlike most Americans,” Spartz said. “The reason I say that is, I thought it was going to be like high school. I was talking to a coworker recently and I said, ‘It’s more like college. “
Before moving on to other topics, she compared Congress to the antics of preschoolers. “It’s awful right now,” said the former state senator who was elected to the 5th Congressional District last November. “A huge amount of power is centralized with the speaker. Even Democrats don’t have much input into what’s going on. There is no committee work, no deliberation, no debate. All of them. important laws go from his office to the classroom. “
The contrast between Spartz’s account and that of Steuerwald was striking.
In May this year, following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, cities across the country sparked protests and violence, including Fort Wayne and Indianapolis. In a conversation shortly thereafter with Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds, who is president of the Indiana Sheriffs Association, Steuerwald explained, “The discussion about George Floyd took place and Dave said: ‘You know, Greg, it all starts with training. Everything we do begins with proper training. ‘”
This conversation led to a conference call with a number of sheriffs and police chiefs. “Sen. Eddie Melton was on that call, ”Steuerwald said of Democrat Gary. “It’s sort of the start of the whole conversation.” As the summer wore on, he had conversations with the Indiana State Police Superintendent. Doug Carter, Representatives of State Shackleford and Earl Harris Jr., Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, as well as the Fraternal Order of the Police.
This resulted in HEA 1006, which will produce $ 30 million in matching grants for universal cameras for police and bodywork crews, $ 70 million to enhance de-escalation training at Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, a redefinition of “chokes” in the context of use of force; and a new process to revoke certification of “wandering officers”. Currently, a police officer facing discipline can simply quit and then look for a job in a county or two. The new law allows law enforcement agencies to share an officer’s employment record and provides immunity to sharing agencies.
Steuerwald’s mantra was, “As long as I can say on the ground that law enforcement is supporting whatever we do, really reinforcing that wandering agent thing, I think we’re going to get there.”
HEA1006 went 96-0 in the House and 49-0 in the Senate. “I think it went through all the committees, the Senate appropriations, the Senate floor, the House Penal Code, ways and means and the floor without a single negative vote,” Steuerwald said.
This, in the context of the fallout from the murder of George Floyd (the trial of Officer Derek Chauvin was ongoing during the HEA 1006 debate), was extraordinary.
“This proposal is the culmination of months of work within a bipartisan group of state policy makers and local and state police departments,” Steuerwald said. “Our public safety officials risk their lives to protect our communities and they need the tools to continue to keep us safe. From improved training and increased accountability to eliminating those who delegitimize the profession, these improvements would help Hoosier police officers better serve and protect us.
“I can’t give law enforcement enough credit, and I can’t give the Black Caucus enough credit, either. They were very good partners, ”said Steuerwald.
Senator Melton called the legislation “historic,” adding: “As a black man from Indiana, seeing this proposal pass with unanimous and overwhelming support gives me hope for our future, and I will continue. to support and fight for legislation that works to improve our justice system. “
Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor added, “The HB1006 is a testament to what we can do when we work together in the best interests of the Hoosiers rather than in politics.”
The obvious difference between the Indiana General Assembly and Congress is that the former is dominated by Republican super majorities, while in Congress, Democrats have tiny majorities in the House and Senate. But even when Congress was led by large Republican majorities under Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump, great things rarely happened. There were scores to be settled as the shade constantly reigns.
Representative Spartz recounted her trip to the Tex / Mex border in the company of “liberal Democrats” who had invited her. “The crisis did not happen overnight, but it has worsened over the past six months,” she said. “I’ll tell you why: the situation has been debated and it has been politicized for too long and has not found solutions.”
In the context of governance, state legislatures are often viewed as bush leagues compared to Congress as “major leagues”.
The Indiana General Assembly can be dysfunctional in many ways. But on this topical and dramatic issue, bipartisanship and bringing together all the major stakeholders is a real public service that is so lacking in Washington DC.

The columnist is editor of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.