Indiana lawmaker seeks to eliminate state child labor laws

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana lawmaker’s efforts to eliminate the state’s child labor laws have raised conflict of interest concerns because he employs hundreds of minors at a ski resort.

Republican Sen. Chip Perfect’s bill would remove work permit requirements for minors and remove restrictions on hours that 16- and 17-year-olds can work, The Indianapolis Star reported. Perfect is also the CEO of Perfect North Slopes, which employees 300 to 400 minors.

Indiana Senate rules say a lawmaker should consider if a bill has a “unique, direct and material effect” before voting on it.

Perfect’s business interests means his involvement in the bill should be scrutinized, said Julia Vaughn, the policy director for political watchdog group Common Cause Indiana.

Perfect said the bill focuses on small businesses and that there’s no conflict of interest.

“It wouldn’t affect me directly because, as I testified today, we have invested an incredible amount of money and we are currently adhering to the laws,” Perfect said at a committee hearing last week.

The Senate’s Ethics Committee doesn’t review conflict of interest issues unless a review is requested, said Sen. Liz Brown, the committee’s chair.

Supporters of the bill say the current law is outdated and difficult to navigate.

“It’s an administrative burden on the school system, it’s an administrative burden on the parents and the students, and it’s an administrative burden on us, considering that (work permits) really serve no purpose,” said Matt Eckert, CEO of theme park Holiday World.

Bill supporters also note that federal law includes protections for minors, such as a minimum wage, restrictions on dangerous jobs and hour limits for workers younger than 16. The U.S. is also a member of the International Labour Organization , which enforces age standards and bans child slavery.

Opponents of Perfect’s bill say completely eliminating the state’s child labor laws isn’t the right solution to the system’s problems.

“We oppose this bill because we think it’s doing away with some laws that are appropriate and still suitable to make sure students do not work excessive hours, late hours,” said Terry Spradlin, executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association. “There is a need for these laws. They’re serving their purpose.”

About 72 percent of inspections of state businesses in fiscal year 2018 resulted in child labor violations, which led to almost $1.5 million in penalties, according to the Indiana Department of Labor.

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