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DIGGING DEEPER: Hearing set for HB 1341, which needs committee vote to advance

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) – A bill that would increase the penalties assessed to companies that violate safety guidelines, resulting in death, will get a committee hearing next Tuesday.

Whether it gets the vote it needs to advance is still uncertain.

On Thursday, the chairman of the House Labor Committee told ABC21’s Alexis Shear that he has scheduled the hearing for HB 1341 — a measure addressing concerns raised in a recent Digging Deeper series of reports.

The “Dying on the Job” investigation identified what many consider to be weaknesses in Indiana’s workplace safety and compensation system, including limits on penalties that put the state well below the national standard.

Among the changes, HB 1341 would require a penalty of $100,000 per employee killed due to company misconduct and would remove the opportunity for a negotiated fine reduction when a company is found to have disregarded safety concerns.

Indiana has not, as of yet, taken steps to match the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration penalty structure that was introduced in 2015.

HB 1341 was introduced by Fort Wayne Republican State Rep. Martin Carbaugh.

Though the bill has the support of Indiana’s Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana Manufacturers Association has shared concerns with the chairman of the Labor Committee, Republican State Rep. Heath VanNatter.

State Rep. Heath VanNatter

The IMA is a potent lobbying group — one that has donated extensively to members of the state legislature. That includes Vannatter, who told ABC21 on Thursday that any contributions would not influence how HB 1341 is handled.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “If it was up to the IMA, I wouldn’t even be hearing this bill. I’m going to do what is right.”

The committee meets at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday for the hearing. The public is invited to attend and participate in testimony.

HB 1341 must be approved next week to advance for consideration by the full Indiana House of Representatives.

ABC21 will be at the meeting to report on developments.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Digging Deeper – Dying on the Job

Jonathan Shelley

Jonathan Shelley is the news director at WPTA TV, which he joined in 2016 following nine years in a similar role in New Orleans and previous news management positions in Oklahoma City and Las Vegas.

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