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Bill that would impact Indiana National Guard heads to governor's desk

House Bill 1076 removes the option for guardsmen to ask for a court martial for minor offenses.

INDIANAPOLIS — A bill that's drawn a lot of attention from veterans and members of the Indiana National Guard is now headed to Gov. Eric Holcomb's desk.

The Senate passed House Bill 1076 Thursday by a vote of 34 to 13. The House passed it earlier this session.

If HB 1076 becomes law, it would mean changes for members of the Indiana National Guard accused of committing what lawmakers say are minor infractions — things like being late for duty or not having their uniform in order.

Right now, a guard member's commander can decide if they’re guilty and choose a punishment, which can include eight days of confinement or even the loss of some pay.

Under current law, a guard member doesn't have to accept their commander's decision or punishment. They can ask for a court martial, which is essentially a trial. House Bill 1076 would remove that choice.

MORE: Debate over court martial bill

It would also take away the commander's ability to punish a guard member with confinement. 

Right now, the governor oversees court martial proceedings, but HB 1076 would now also give that power to the adjutant general. 

The Indiana National Guard supports the bill. They issued a statement, saying it gives commanders "a better tool to maintain good order and discipline throughout the ranks." 

Those who oppose this proposed law, like military veteran Matt McNally, say it takes away a right that’s been given to those who have served this country since its birth.

"This is something that's been part of our military tradition for 247 years," said McNally, who served for more than 20 years in the United States Navy, Naval Reserve and Michigan Air National Guard.

McNally lives in Indiana now and has closely watched how HB 1076 has moved through the Indiana General Assembly. 

"Generally, most vets I've spoken with agree with 90% of the bill," McNally said. 

It's removing a guard member's right to ask for a court martial that some are not happy about. 

"Every veteran policy maker had the right to a court martial, and many of them voted to take that very right away from our own service members," McNally said.

In a statement to 13News, Indiana Legion Commander James Daube said, "We believe that this legislation will have negative consequences for our state and its service members ... nonjudicial punishment will only serve to hurt Indiana guardsmen."

The Indiana National Guard called HB 1076, "the best way to ensure and maintain good order and discipline of the organization while protecting the rights of all Guardsmen."

Lawmakers who support the bill say court martials are a drain on resources. 

"I'm not sure it's the best way to use resources to have a lot of court martials on these small things," said Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Roderic Bray (R-District 37).

According to a spokesperson for the Indiana National Guard, the Guard has never asked Holcomb to convene a court martial during his time in office. A spokesperson for the governor confirmed that.

Supporters of HB 1076 say guard members will still be able to appeal a punishment given by their commander to the person above them.

"With the passing of this bill, we expect the Adjutant General to call a general court martial as often as necessary until this issue can be revisited during the next general session," Daube said in his statement.

Opponents point out that the guard member would likely be appealing to the person who appointed the commander in the first place.

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