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Bill that would change military judicial system leads to concerns

House Bill 1076 would make it easier to court-martial and punish National Guard troops.

INDIANAPOLIS — Some people in the military believe Indiana House Bill 1076 could violate service members' constitutional rights. The bill is was authored by Rep. Chris Jeter (R-Fishers).

The bill could impact the military judicial process and would make it easier to court-martial and punish National Guard troops, while removing their right to demand a court-martial when presented with non-judicial punishment.

The Military Veterans Coalition of Indiana and American Legion, Department of Indiana legislative team would like to see the bill removed or amended. 

Under current state law, only the governor can convene a general court martial.

This bill would expand that power to a senior military official appointed by the governor.

This bill has some military members asking, "Why now?"

"Changing the law now seems to have a cloud over it where we have a, certainly, a number of circumstance over the past 50 years where this was not needed or necessary," said Jim Bauerle, vice president and legislative director for The Military/Veterans Coalition of Indiana. "Taking the rights away from the person - your Constitutional rights - that's a big time red flashing light." 

Others argue this bill could actually do more harm than good by possibly hindering people from reporting sexual harassment in the National Guard if they can't demand a court martial.

"It could be said that individuals can say anything they want and make any allegations because the alleged perpetrator can't defend themselves and have to take the punishment," said Lisa Wilken with the American Legion, Department of Indiana legislative team.

13News reached out to Rep. Jeter's office for his response to some of these concerns and learn more about his reasons for filing the bill, but had not heard back by Sunday night.

This bill is scheduled for a hearing at the Indiana Statehouse Tuesday morning.

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