Legislation to create a permanent Indiana drug task force heads to the House floor after a committee approved the measure Tuesday.
The bill has support from both parties, but some Democrats want language to ensure diversity on the task force.
Governor Mike Pence created the Drug Enforcement, Treatment and Prevention Task Force last summer to respond to the state’s drug crisis. Lawmakers and the governor’s office now want to make the task force permanent with a bill establishing the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse. Task force member and bill author Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) says the commission can break down barriers to ensure the entire state is moving in the same direction. “We need better communication, better coordination with all the strengths that we have in state government, along with working with the local government,” Merritt says. The commission would consist of judges, lawmakers, attorneys and various agency leaders. Rep. John Bartlett (D-Indianapolis) says he supports the idea -- but is worried about a lack of diversity on the commission. That’s a problem, says Bartlett, when Indiana has, in his words, “painted the face of crime black.” “When you look at who’s going to be making the appointments then African-Americans are left out, not having a seat at the table,” Bartlett says. The bill’s author and sponsor say they’ll work with Bartlett on his concern.