Lawmakers push controversial military trial rights bill through to governor

The Indiana Senate on Thursday passed a much-disputed proposal barring Indiana National Guard members from demanding a military trial—or court-martial—in lieu of non-judicial punishment.

Barring a veto from Gov. Eric Holcomb, House Bill 1076 will become law.

Across hours of committee testimony and floor discussions, proponents have argued that the guard doesn’t have the resources for unnecessary legal proceedings, and that members could take advantage of that to stall punishment. Opponents—including numerous veterans—worry members won’t get a fair shake before a neutral arbiter and have said the state should kick in more resources instead.

“To allow those kinds of petty offenses to then be asked for a court-martial, when you know that we do not have a courtroom, we don’t have the staff, we don’t have the resources to do that [trial], you are impeding the good order and care of the military,” Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, said Thursday.

Freeman, the Senate sponsor, emphasized that if members and their immediate superiors don’t get along, members can appeal punishments upward within the chain of command. He said members could even write letters to the guard’s leader asking for review.

He and others focused on minor offense, from being late to duty to a sloppy uniform. Non-judicial punishment can involve a variety of options, including a reprimand, loss of pay or rank, but not incarceration.

Some Democrats pushed back.

The bill “doesn’t allow [members] to have somebody impartially review discipline that happens to them when they are serving those people in the state of Indiana,” Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, told reporters afterward.

During session, Taylor repeatedly questioned Freeman on data for minor and major offenses, arguing there was no evidence the bill was necessary.

“I don’t have to know numbers to know that Houston, we have a problem, and we should change the law in Indiana,” Freeman retorted.

Asked if Indiana should give the guard the resources to hold courts-martial—rather than block members from demanding them—key lawmakers acknowledged some need, but to varying degrees.

“If the issue is that you don’t have the resources or locations, that might be something we need to look at,” Senate Pro Tem Rodric Bray told reporters Thursday. “I’ll tell you the other side … I’m not sure for these these minor issues that we really want our National Guard using their time and their resources to do that more lengthy process.”

“If this [bill] is what they want, I’m very happy to support it,” Bray added.

House Speaker Todd Huston congratulated Senators for passing the bill in comments to reporters. Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta said he hoped Holcomb would find room in the budget for trial resources.

Guard leaders said there had been four reported sexual assault cases last year, but didn’t ask Holcomb to convene courts-martial even for those cases, WFYI reported. It is unclear the outcome of those cases.

Senators passed the bill 34-13, with five Republicans joining eight Democrats in opposition. It passed the House in late January 74-24, with three Republicans defecting.

It hasn’t been amended, so the chambers have no differences to resolve. That means the bill can go straight to Holcomb, who can sign it, veto it or let it pass into law without his signature.

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.

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4 thoughts on “Lawmakers push controversial military trial rights bill through to governor

    1. With what, magic beans?

      Republicans at the state level control road funding. They take the money from Indianapolis/Marion County and give it to the rest of the state.

      There’s a reason that the Republicans running for mayor aren’t promising better roads.

      here’s Abdul’s idea:

      “Create the equivalent of an infrastructure-based tax incremental finance system for roads in economically challenged areas
      The city should work with the state to capture a portion of the gas tax collected in certain economically challenged areas that would be dedicated to roads, streets, and sidewalk repair.”

      Ask the state to allow us…

      Here’s Shreve:

      “It would be a false pretense to think that Republicans are going to come in and get a whole lot of money from the other end of (Market Street),” he said. “We’ve got to be efficient, targeted, and do a whole lot of things right with our own resources and our own municipal budget.”

      What does that even mean? Efficient and targeted?

      Lots of things are the fault of Joe Hogsett. Roads aren’t one of them.

    2. The best way to get our roads fixed is to build more bus lines because it brings in federal funding to upgrade infrastructure.

      Republicans like Freeman and Sandlin hate that dedicated bus lanes are part of the deal and constantly oppose IndyGo’s efforts to expand. That’s fine … if they can deliver more road funding to Indianapolis.

      If they can’t deliver, and they’ve had multiple budget cycles in which they’ve been impotent, they should stop opposing what IndyGo is doing.