The Indiana Citizen

The Crossroads of Civic Engagement

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ROBERT MORRIS

Republican Birth Date:

House District 84 takes in the suburbs of northeastern Fort Wayne, a mix of retail, midcentury tract homes and newer custom-built development bounded by the Ronald Reagan Expressway, which loops from I-69 on the north to I-69 on the south, bypassing the city entirely. Families in the district are generally middle income. The diversity is less and the strength of Republican candidates is greater than you might expect in such a large swath of the state’s second-largest city. Though Fort Wayne has annexed much of the area, many still identify as residents of St. Joseph Township, where baby boomers can still remember farm fields, gravel roads and a volunteer fire department.

The district is represented by Republican Bob Morris, owner of a small chain of nutrition-supplement outlets, volunteer coach with St. Joe Little League and possibly the only Indiana state legislator to have been profiled in The Atlantic Monthly. Now in his sixth term, the arc of Morris’ legislative tenure took a turn toward the end of his first, when he sent a letter to colleagues in the House explaining why he refused to sign one of the ceremonial resolutions that legislators routinely approve unanimously. The problem was that this one honored the Girl Scouts, described in Morris’ widely circulated letter as a radicalized organization promoting homosexuality, abortion and the destruction of family values.

Response from the national media was harsh – the Atlantic piece mocked his appearance, nutrition supplements and Midwestern state legislatures in general – and the reaction from then-Speaker Brian Bosma bordered on the dismissive. Morris chairs the House Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee. While not the stuff of newspaper headlines, three of the seven bills he authored in 2019 (regulating the handling of human remains, apprenticing plumbers and the use of drone searches by police) eventually were signed into law. Morris is a reliable yes vote for the conservative social agenda, but he does not carry the hot-button legislation that leadership tends to discourage.

Morris’ time in the national spotlight triggered a 2014 primary challenge that he survived by 250 votes, but he’s faced none since. Nor does he struggle to win general elections in a district that went decisively for Donald Trump in 2016; he won with 61% of the general election vote in 2020.– Kevin Morgan

CONTACT INFORMATION

(800) 382-9841
200 West Washington Street Indianapolis, IN 46204
http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/legislators/legislator_robert_morris_1021

EDUCATION

  • BS, Indiana University at Bloomington

COMMITTEES

Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development, chair; Employment, Labor and Pensions; Roads and Transportation.

KEY VOTES

SB 198-2019 (Sentencing, bias crimes). Allowed longer sentences in crimes based on personal characteristics, stripped of references to sexual orientation, gender identity and race. No

SB 516-2019 (Regulation of hemp). Allowed cultivation and regulation of hemp products in Indiana, did not change marijuana laws. Yes

HB 1001-2019 (State budget). Set funding for state agencies and services, including 2.5% annual increases for education, though not directly for teacher salaries. Yes

HB 1004-2019 (School safety). Increased access to funding for security systems and resource officers, was stripped of provisions for mental health screening. Yes

HB 1015-2019 (Various gaming matters). Allowed sports betting statewide and table games in more casinos, relocated a casino in Gary and authorizing a new one in Terre Haute. Yes

SB 1-2020 (Tobacco and vaping). Raised from 18 to 21 the legal age to buy tobacco or vaping products in Indiana. No

SB 148-2020 (Zoning and housing matters). Was amended to overrule local tenant protection measures like those in Indianapolis, Bloomington and Merrillville. Vetoed by governor. Yes

HB 1004-2020 (Health matters). Controlled surprise billing for out-of-network and other costs. Yes

HB 1070-2020 (Distracted driving). Made it an infraction to handle a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. Yes

HB 1414-2020 (Electric generation). Prohibited utilities from closing coal-fired generating plants without permission from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Yes

TOP CONTRIBUTORS

Indiana Bankers Association,  $1,500

American Electric Power / AEP,  $1,000

Comcast Corporation & NBC Universal,  $1,000

NiSource Inc,  $1,000

Reynolds American,  $1,000

RATINGS

Indiana Manufacturers Association Positions 100
Indiana Manufacturers Association Lifetime Positions 81
Indiana Chamber of Commerce Positions (4 Year Average) 83
Indiana Chamber of Commerce Positions 80
LEAP Forward Positions (Indianna) 25
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana Positions 44
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana Lifetime Positions 30
Indiana AFL-CIO Positions 30
Indiana Manufacturers Association Positions 85
Indiana Manufacturers Association Lifetime Positions 83

PROFESSIONAL CAREER

Business owner, Healthkick Nutrition Centers. President, Georgetown Merchant Association.

DISTRICT

Population: 65,290

Race/Ethnic Origin: 88.6% white, 5.6% black, 1.9% Asian, 1.5% other, 2.3 % two or more; 86.6% white non-Hispanic, 3.6% Hispanic.