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March 26, 2013

DOC: Criminal code bill will spike prison numbers

Bill’s authors disagree with assessment

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS —

Steele and the bill’s House author, Republican state Rep. Greg Steuerwald of Avon, are committed to pushing it forward. It’s already passed the Republican-controlled House and has strong support from Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, who’s been at odds with Pence over the governor’s proposed income tax rate cut.

But the bill is also likely to undergo changes as it moves through the Senate. Steele said the bill may be amended to raise the penalties for marijuana crimes, which had been reduced from felonies to misdemeanor charges in the current bill. 

Last week, Pence surprised legislators when he announced his opposition to the bill during a press conference with TV and radio reporters. Steele had been told of the governor’s opposition earlier that day, but Steuerwald and the two Democrat authors of the bill had not. 

Pence told reporters he was unhappy with the bill’s provisions that would decrease penalties for entry-level drug offenses.  

“I think we need to work on reducing crime, not reducing penalties,” Pence said during the press conference. 

The bill’s backers argue that’s what the bill does, by diverting low-level offenders into local treatment and corrections programs aimed at reducing recidivism while keeping the worst offenders behind bars. 

“It’s not soft on crime, by any means,” Steuerwald said. 

— Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com

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