Messmer to tackle crime, voting issues



State Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, is filing bills that will deal with retail theft, the rights of victims of crimes and straight-party voting.

Messmer has heard from cellphone retailers across the state about armed robberies from their stores. Individual and groups are stealing phones and reselling them.

“There’s nothing currently in our code that separates if someone is stealing because they need the item or somebody is stealing with the intent to resell it,” he said.

The state has seen this problem all across Indiana. “All of our neighboring states all have the retail theft for resale criminal enhancement penalties and our prosecutor association wants to get it enacted in Indiana,” Messmer said. “Because our penalties are not as high, the retail theft of items like that is statistically higher than our neighboring states.”

His bill would address the issue of theft with the intent to resell what is stolen.

“It would allow prosecutors to aggregate multiple smaller theft charges to get over the $750 limit that we have before a felony kicks in,” Messmer said. “It would also add some enhancements to the felony level if it it’s organized crime rings where they’re selling."

Another bill will remove the step of a chid abuse victim going through the deposition process.

“We want to eliminate the deposition process by the defense attorney because of the trauma that going through that would cause,” Messmer said. “Prosecutors say that if an aggressive defense attorney gets a child deposition, many times you can’t get the parent to agree to bring the child back to court because of the trauma of putting that kid through that process twice. In many cases that prevents (the abuse case) from going to trial, because they lose their witness.”

Messmer is also submitting a bill that stipulates that if a person selects a straight-party ticket, all the candidates on that ballot in that party are counted as getting that vote. In 2016, a law passed that stated that at-large seats are not counted on a straight-party ticket; that required those voters to also select at-large candidates on their ballot.

“Making that change defies logic to me,” Messmer said. “Either get rid of straight-ticket voting all together, or put the at-large candidates back with the same treatment as everybody else. But to leave them from not getting the same ballot count is just ridiculous.”

He’s not sure if he will get a hearing for the legislation, “but I’m going to file a bill to change it back,” he said.

Another bill Messmer plans to file will allow a person’s professional license to be transferred to Indiana, so long as the requirements to get that license in the other state are the same as Indiana’s requirements. He also will file a bill to add a magistrate to Gibson County’s court.

The legislative session starts today at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.

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