(INDIANAPOLIS) — A debate over a school-boundaries bill frayed tempers in the Indiana House, with heckling inside the temporary House chamber and a shouting match off it.
The bill would allow the John Glenn School Corporation in Walkerton to break off and try to annex part of the South Bend schools. Indianapolis Democrat Greg Porter had just begun to argue against the bill, warning of a “slippery slope.” But when Porter referenced “discrimination and segregation,” several Republicans interrupted, with shouts of “no” and “c’mon, man.”
Porter abandoned the podium and walked off the floor, but when Gary Democrat Vernon Smith, who like Porter is African-American, picked up the thread, some legislators booed.
A handful of Republicans stalked out of the temporary House chamber, but that didn’t end the confrontations, as a loud argument broke out between two more legislators in the hallway outside the chamber.
House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers), who’s in his first full term as speaker after taking the gavel days before last year’s adjournment, says he’ll enforce the House’s rules more strictly. He implored legislators to listen respectfully to each other and not impugn one another’s motives, a prohibition explicitly included in House rules.
Huston urged legislators to remember they all come from unique backgrounds, and all have about 70-thousand Hoosiers they represent. He says restrictions adopted due to the coronavirus pandemic have made for a stressful session — he says he and Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) haven’t even had the opportunity to meet freshman members from the opposite party, an omission he pledged to address.