Indiana Senate passes psilocybin, lake safety, bail reform bills

The Indiana Senate passed an array of bills on Tuesday, which marked the deadline for the body to approve legislation originating in the Senate.

Senate Bill 139, which would establish a pathway for funding psilocybin research, and Senate Bill 253, which would mandate the installation of safety equipment along Indiana’s Lake Michigan shoreline, were both passed by the body unanimously.

“This bill provides hope to many individuals that are today in the hopeless situation,” SB 139 author Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, said of his bill, which he introduced after chairing an interim study committee that heard expert testimony on psilocybin’s ability to a variety treat mental health and neurological conditions.

SB 243, authored by Sen. Rodney Pol, D-Chesterton, is making its second journey through the legislature after it was passed by the Senate only to die in the House in 2023. The bill echoes the 2022 Lake Michigan Rescue Equipment Act passed in Illinois, which mandates the placement of rescue equipment at beaches and piers, requires warning signs in high-incident areas and sets out guidelines for reporting drowning deaths.

The Senate also advanced Senate Bill 70, which would establish a state commission tasked with reviewing potential bail reform measures and issuing recommendations to state officials. Authored by Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, the bill would require the commission to review data on bail reform’s relationship to violent crime and recidivism and the effectiveness of pretrial release measures at ensuring defendants show up for court dates, among other considerations. The 16-member commission, to include representatives from the governor’s office, the Indiana Department of Correction, and the Indiana Public Defender Council, would issue a yearly report on its findings until its expiration in 2026.

Two farther-reaching bail reform bills introduced this year in the Indiana House of Representatives did not receive a committee hearing. Authored by Representatives Vernon Smith and Ragen Hatcher, both from Gary, the bills would have eliminated cash bail in all or most cases. The legislation would have echoed a similar law passed in Illinois, which went into effect last year and made it the first in the nation to abolish cash bail.

All bills introduced in the Senate during the 2024 legislative session that have not been sent to the House will not be passed into law this year, but some measures could potentially be resurrected as amendments to existing legislation. So far, this year’s dead Senate bills include a Democratic-authored bill that would have banned carrying firearms at polling places and three separate attempts to legalize cannabis for either medical or recreational use.

A GOP-authored bill that would have banned free or reduced-cost rides on public transportation on election days, which drew criticism from region leaders and voting rights advocates, also died in the Senate.