State legislators listen, interact

Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen, talked intently with teachers from Triton School Corp. in Bourbon in the hall at one point. He even brought his daughter, who is in college studying to be a teacher, along for the day. Triton has students from Marshall and Kosciusko counties.

“I feel like he more understands where we are coming from,” special education teacher Jenny Mevis said. “There are misconceptions about what we see in the classroom versus what legislators are told.”

Read Full Article at The Journal Gazette


Playing Defense

The game of football is a good analogy for mechanics of our legislative session. The last week of February was “halftime.” Now that we are in the second half of the legislative session, the House is looking at bills that made it through the Senate, while the Senate is working on bills that made it through the House.

As a legislator, sometimes I play offense and sometimes I play defense. It looks like I’m going to be in a defensive role with several of the incoming Senate bills.

I’m going to do everything I can to kill what I call the “thought crimes” legislation, Senate Bill 12. This bill simply needs to die in the House. I will also oppose any efforts to insert this type of “thought crime” language into any other bill. If I’m successful, if it dies, then I’ve extended liberty — on this topic — one more year. I’ve written about thought crime legislation multiple times. There are many reasons why I oppose this bill.

First, it is unnecessary because judges can already use bias as an aggravating circumstance when it comes to determining sentence, based on Indiana Supreme Court precedent.

Second, there are some interest groups who want to specify only certain categories of people who would be covered by the legislation, thus denying other Hoosiers equal protection under the law. This is unconstitutional.

Third, legislation like this can easily become a weapon for the government to criminalize the thoughts and words of Hoosiers, especially those who are not favored by the political class.

Some who argue for thought crime legislation are saying Indiana needs to pass this law to join other states, which have taken this unwise “politically correct” action.

By contrast, I seek to kill this bill because Indiana already has better public policy than the other states that have passed similar legislation.

With our current law, when any Hoosier who has been the victim of a crime which a judge deemed was magnified by hate, the criminal penalty can be modified due to that hateful motivation. The point is, all Hoosiers are treated the same, which is required by the Constitution.

Indiana has one of the best legislative standards in the country for judging hate crimes. We should be heralding the strength of our public policy in this area, rather than seeking to copy other states with politically correct laws. Laws are not simply passed as “tokens” or “gestures.”

Our current law is constitutional. Many states have enacted unconstitutional laws to give special treatment to certain classes of people.  We should not follow their lead.

As I represent the voters of House District 22, I use the Indiana and the U.S. Constitution as the measuring stick. In this second half, I’m hopeful I can prevent SB12 (or any other version of “thought crimes” law) from scoring.

As always, please feel free to reach out to me on this or any other issue that concerns you by emailing


Nisly: Working For You

Recently, I highlighted several of what some may consider important bills moving through the legislature, including those on protecting life at conception and establishing hate crimes. While these are the issues that garner the most attention, I also authored bills on four issues that I would like you to know about.

House Bill 1390: All-terrain vehicle safety.

Imagine a family outing where a 2-year-old is strapped into a car seat in an ATV, side-by-side with a roll cage. The current Indiana law requires this 2-year-old to wear a helmet. How is that going to work? Not well. If this became law, my bill would add some common sense to this family outing, and the 2-year-old would not be required to wear a helmet.

House Bill 1469: “Don’t Tread on Me” license plate.

There are 11 states currently using this plate, which commemorates the founding of our nation. My bill makes this iconic, coiled snake image one of the three, free plates available to Hoosiers.

House Bill 1512: Local public questions.

Under current Indiana law, it is possible for voters outside a school district to vote to raise the property taxes on individuals within that school district. If enacted, this bill would require that votes that would impact a specific municipality to be taken during general elections or an election only within the specific municipality impacted. This brings more fairness to the votes on public questions.

House Bill 1550: Passenger boat inspection requirements.

Indiana law requires a periodic underwater inspection for boats carrying passengers for hire. In House District 22, this negatively impacts the S.S. Lillypad II. The current law also requires an expensive dry-dock inspection for this two-story, 70-foot boat. My bill gives the owner the option of either a dry-dock or underwater inspection. Either method works well for regulatory needs.

A guiding principle I use in writing and evaluating legislation: Does it reduce the size of government and/or provide more freedom? That is how I strive to serve our community.


Nisly: Are some more equal than others?

Last week, I started a discussion on a topic that is buzzing around the Statehouse: does Indiana need a hate crimes law? I stated that I opposed this notion, and this week, I will be explaining two House bills and why I am opposed to both of them.

House Bill 1020 would make an aggravating circumstance for the purpose of sentencing if the offender committed a crime against the victim because of an individual’s: “race, religion, color, gender, gender identity, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, status of being a law enforcement officer or status of being a member of the armed services whether or not the person’s belief or perception was correct.” This bill is unconstitutional because in Indiana, everyone is to be given “Equal Justice Under Law.” This proposal is saying that some people will receive more justice than another because of certain criteria.

House Bill 1093 is attempting to put into law what was previously established by judicial precedent. The Indiana Supreme Court already ruled in Witmer v. State that courts can consider bias as an aggravating circumstance when determining a sentence.

In Witmer v. State, it was because the victim was black and the offender was white. Courts already have the ability to use bias or hate in determining sentencing in Indiana. This bill is completely unnecessary because if we do nothing, courts will still have the ability to use bias or hate when sentencing in the wake of a crime.

George Orwell’s classic book, Animal Farm, includes a relevant quote, “All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.” Whereas, Founding Father Thomas Jefferson said that “All men are created equal.” Which is it going to be? Are we all equal or are some more equal than others?


Nisly: Why the outcry for a hate crimes law?

I do not know how many times I have told my kids, “Just because everyone else does it, does not mean you have to.” Sound familiar? This is a common Hoosier parenting principle.

As we face Indiana’s latest controversial “hate crime bills,” we hear how 45 states are doing it … so we should, too. Let us think about this.

Currently, Indiana is one of five states that do not have a specific hate crimes law. The other states offer penalty enhancements for some forms of bias; however, only 13 states offer enhancements for crimes based on bias for someone’s race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or age.

We are being told if Indiana does not imitate these other states, it will be detrimental to our business community. We are told it is difficult to attract new companies to our state because we do not have this legislation. I question this rationale.

The reality is businesses are coming to Indiana. Businesses like us. We are a good environment for businesses. Business works in Indiana. We are head-and-shoulders above our peers. Are we supposed to believe we have a problem?

We cannot have it both ways. Either businesses are coming to Indiana because Indiana is good for business, or businesses are avoiding Indiana or leaving because of our hostility. Which is it?

Two bills moving through the house, House Bill 1020 and House Bill 1093, are supposed to solve our “problem.” In a follow-up column, I will dig into each of these proposals. Keep in mind current Indiana law already allows judges to consider racial bias in crafting judgments.

Hoosiers are loving people and we have a great culture. If we base our laws simply upon what others are doing, I do not believe it would improve our state. The truth is, we are heading down a bad path when we expect more and more laws and more and more “fixes” every year. As President Ronald Reagan said, “Man is not free, unless government is limited.”


Protection At Conception

It is my privilege to serve the people of Indiana House District 22. I am proud of our district and what we contribute to the State of Indiana.

Now into my fifth year of serving our community, I am still committed to being the voice of District 22 in Indianapolis, not the other way around. When I walk up the steps of the Statehouse, I always make it a point to think of the people from our community who sent me there. When I vote, I am voting for the people of our district. My voting has not always been well-received in Indianapolis, but I consistently find support here at home. That is what counts.

When I talk to voters, the number one issue has always been ending the practice of abortion. Having now filed “Protection at Conception” for the third straight year, I would like to give you my perspective as we begin this legislative session.

“Protection at Conception,” House Bill 1430, has started a discussion in Indiana. The Indiana Code already declares that life begins at conception. My bill simply brings consistency to the Indiana Code. The code says one thing—life begins at conception—and then implements other laws to accommodate aborting that life. My bill has forced a discussion. That discussion is expanding.

At the federal level, there is a bill in Congress that defines life beginning at conception. It has 117 sponsors, including three of Indiana’s nine members of the House of Representatives. A number of other states are active with versions of this type of legislation.

As I have talked with constituents over the last year, I was encouraged by how many people told me they supported my effort to end abortion. When abortion ends in Indiana, it may not be HB 1430 that does it; however, our district is leading the State of Indiana in a very healthy discussion about human life and how to protect it. Thank you for allowing me to represent you in that discussion.