(INDIANAPOLIS) — The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus wants racism and implicit bias training
for House members after Thursday’s session turned ugly.
Caucus chair Robin Shackleford recommended bias training for House members last summer.
She argues those Republicans who booed and shouted down two Black legislators who brought up
segregation have shown why it’s needed. The caucus says House Speaker Todd Huston (R-
Fishers) needs to “rectify the behavior of his fellow legislators before the situation escalates
Huston calls Thursday’s exchanges “disappointing” and says he’ll continue conversations with the
caucus. He isn’t ruling out disciplinary action, but says he’s still trying to establish everything that
happened. The speaker was on a bathroom break when hecklers first cut off Indianapolis
Representative Greg Porter (D), though he was back at the rostrum when Gary Representative
Vernon Smith was interrupted by boos, followed by a walkout by some Republicans who took
umbrage at Smith’s accounts of his experiences with racism. And one shouting match took place
outside the chamber, where colleagues reportedly had to separate two lawmakers.
Thursday was the final day to amend 13 bills. Monday marks the deadline for final votes on those
bills and 23 others, including House Republicans’ version of a new state budget. Huston says
emotions often run high as deadlines approach, and says tensions have been worsened this year
by pandemic precautions, with the House meeting in a large conference room instead ot the
House chamber, and fewer opportunities for legislators to interact.
The IBLC credits Huston with attempting to enforce decorum on the floor but says he needs to
do more. The caucus says Republicans’ behavior was “aggressive and intimidating” in some
instances and showed “blatant disrespect.” A caucus statement charges Republicans
“continuously author legislation that targets minority communities, but every amendment, every
objection, every personal story of racism seems to fall on deaf ears.”
Huston and the IBLC sound one similar note, pointing out the 100 House members each
represent a unique constituency, and are there to serve as a voice for their voters’ interests.
The Black Legislative Caucus comprises 11 representatives and three senators from Indianapolis
and Lake County.