INDIANAPOLIS – Republican Indiana lawmakers are considering bringing back a proposal that could open librarians to criminal prosecution.

Senate Bill 12 failed earlier this session after it was passed by the Senate – mostly along party lines – but didn’t get a hearing in the House. Now Republican lawmakers are looking at potentially putting the proposal in another bill that’s still moving forward.

Right now, librarians in Indiana have a defense against criminal prosecution for providing books or other items considered inappropriate to children. Librarians and schools can argue they have an educational purpose, but Republican Indiana lawmakers had proposed taking that option away.

“If I can’t pass it out, the teacher shouldn’t be able to pass it out either and neither should the public library,” said Rhonda Miller, president of Purple for Parents Indiana.

Miller’s group has been a big advocate pushing for the legislation.

“We’re not banning books… Put it away in a separate section of the library,” she said. “Put it away from minors.”

But librarians are pushing back.

“We’ve heard a lot of that in testimony this session that we have porn in our libraries – that’s just not the case,” said Chad Heck, advocacy co-chair for the Indiana Library Federation.

Heck, who is a school librarian in Indianapolis, argues the legislation would have a chilling effect on librarians.

“We want to really make sure that we represent all perspectives in our community, including LGBTQ materials and sex ed materials and things that our patrons need to be educated,” he said.

The author of Senate Bill 12, State Sen. Jim Tomes (R-Wadesville), declined our request for comment on the legislation’s possible return this session.

When speaking with reporters last week, Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) maintained there would be transparency through the process if it does come back.

“There will be a conference committee report if that happens,” Bray said. “There certainly is a conversation of trying to bring that forward. And then the House and Senate will both debate it and vote on it publicly.”

Democrats like State Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) say they’ll continue to fight the legislation.

“It’s a bill that’s harmful to librarians who don’t harm our minors,” DeLaney said.

Lawmakers haven’t unveiled what the legislation could look like if it does return. The bill debated earlier this session only applied to school libraries.

The Indiana General Assembly has until Saturday to finish up the session.