Apr 25, 2023 - Politics

State out to stop Indianapolis' "right-on-red" ban

Illustration of the Indiana state flag and the Indianapolis city flag with "vs" in between them.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

State lawmakers are scrapping an attempt by Indianapolis to ban drivers from turning right on red lights downtown.

Driving the news: On Monday, lawmakers at the Indiana Statehouse said a last-minute addition to House Bill 1050 that prohibits the city from adopting a "no-turn-on-red" ordinance will stay in the final bill — even though it was added late in the legislative process and without input from the public.

Catch up fast: Sen. Aaron Freeman introduced the amendment two weeks ago.

  • The Indianapolis Republican and former member of the City-County Council was responding to a proposal from current councilors who floated the idea earlier this month as a way to reduce pedestrian-related crashes.
  • The proposal would have applied to all intersections in the Mile Square, Mass Ave and St. Joseph Historic Neighborhood.

The big picture: Each of the past few years, it seems the legislature finds a bone to pick with Indianapolis — or, at least, Freeman does.

  • Previously, it's been the city's public transit plans or the policies of Marion County's elected prosecutor.

The other side: The legislature's move to stop Indianapolis from banning right turns on red lights shocked even some cynical Democrats who are accustomed to annual state intervention in everything from landlord-tenant relations to plastic bags.

  • "There's always that fear, but … it doesn't make sense that they would be interested in this at all," Zach Adamson, a City-County Council Democrat, told Axios.

Between the lines: As lawmakers narrow the scope of local governance, the constraints are causing a disconnect between residents increasingly voting for Democrats and the elected officials whose hands are tied.

Quick take: Republicans at the Statehouse often tout local control, but they have intervened in local matters a number of times this legislative session — including a prohibition on conversion therapy bans and blocking local efforts to curb puppy mills.

Yes, but: Freeman told FOX59 he's all for local control, until…

  • "I proudly will say it. I'll put it on a coffee mug. I'm all for local government until it's stupid, and that is stupid," Freeman said of the no-right-on-red plan.

What happens next: Indianapolis Democrats asked for the language to be removed from HB 1050, but it's expected to be in the conference committee report that lawmakers will vote on later this week.

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