Indiana News

Indiana's new laws, plus prospects for a special session

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) -- Promising bills died on the vine as the clock ran out of time.

The result after midnight Wednesday: Some say this year's Indiana legislative session ended in chaos, with work left on the table in both chambers.

So, how did the session as a whole go? That depends on who's talking.

On Thursday, Gov. Eric Holcomb hinted at the possibility of a special session.

"The General Assembly adjourned Wednesday with many accomplishments that will matter to people: Hoosiers will get training for high-demand jobs. People struggling with addiction will have more treatment options. Moms will deliver babies in hospitals equipped to meet their needs. But, there's still work to be done. After meeting with Speaker (Brian) Bosma and Senator (David) Long, I'll look at all that can be done to complete unfinished business - whether that's by administrative or legislative authority, if needed."

State Sen. John Ruckleshaus, an Indianapolis Republican, said, "When you have a flurry of bills that come down at the end, people are trying to find signatures to get final compromises done, it's not uncommon."

Some of the bills that died after the clock struck midnight included ones addressing driverless vehicles, school safety, guns at schools and on church property, and a plan for Ball State University to take over Muncie Schools.

Ball State sent a letter out Thursday calling the death of that bill "disappointing."

In the letter, Ball State University President Geoffrey Mearns, said:

"This result is very surprising, because both the House of Representatives and the Senate had approved this bill in recent weeks by very substantial margins. Apparently, the General Assembly simply ran out of time to consider the conference committee's report, which was virtually identical to the bills both chambers had previously endorsed."

Mearnes added that the "result is also disappointing because it means that, for the next several years, MCS (Muncie Community Schools) will be governed by an emergency manager as a 'distressed' public school system. I am concerned that we may have squandered an historic opportunity to change the trajectory of MCS."

Rucklehaus said, "Some folks, I was one of them, was not very comfortable with not having some elected school board representation."

Otherwise, Republican-champion bills passed. Those included ones addressing workforce development, education funding and opioid addiction.

Ruckelshaus said, "I think it was a success. We looked at some really good things this year."

Some Democrats at the Statehouse completely disagreed.

State Rep. Terry Goodin, the House Minority Leader, said, "The session seems like a Twinkie. It fills you up, but there's nothing of real substance or value to it."

In a statement, Goodin also said, "This session wasn't a complete waste. Doing something to guard against sexual harassment in government would not even have been an issue this year without the input of Democrats in both the House and Senate."

Democratic leaders, slamming the Republican supermajority in both chambers, said nothing solid was done about redistricting reform or changing the state's Department of Child Services.

State Sen. Tim Lanane, the Senate Minority Leader, said, "Add to the list that Indiana will remain again one of five states without any bias-crimes legislation on the books. We just can't seem to get it done."

The governor's office said he signed 32 bills on Thursday.

According to a Senate deputy press secretary, here is a short list of bills passed by the Legislature during the 2018 session:

Improving workforce development

House Bill 1002 helps Indiana's workforce by expanding eligibility for the Workforce Ready Grant, which provides financial aid for industry certification programs, and creating a grant program to reimburse employers for the cost of training workers in high-need fields.

Senate Bill 50 reforms Indiana's workforce-development governance by creating the Governor's Workforce Cabinet to oversee state policy and to establish a statewide career coaching program for high-school-age and adult students.

Additional school funding

HB 1001 increases school funding to account for higher-than-expected statewide enrollment so every school in Indiana can receive the per-student funding allowed by the 2017 budget.

Fighting the opioid epidemic

SB 221 phases in a requirement for doctors to check Indiana's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program when prescribing opioids so they can know if patients already have another opioid prescription or a history of abusing opioids.

HB 1007 allows the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration to approve up to nine new hospital-based opioid treatment programs throughout the state. Once these facilities open, every Hoosier will be less than an hour's drive from an opioid treatment program.

HB 1359 increases the criminal penalty for drug dealing that results in a person's death.

Sunday alcohol sales

SB 1 allows the carryout sale of alcohol from noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

Diploma and testing reform

HB 1426 adjusts Indiana's high school diploma system to give students more pathways into college or the workforce, and to ensure all graduates are counted in the federal graduation rate.

The House bill also requires Indiana to use an off-the-shelf college entrance exam like the SAT or ACT as the statewide assessment for high school beginning in 2022.

Expanding access to computer-science education

SB 172 requires every Indiana public school to offer computer science starting in 2021 to support the continued growth of the high-tech economy in our state.

Addressing the teacher shortage

SB 387 helps address the ongoing teacher shortage by giving schools more flexibility to offer competitive raises to teachers in high-need subjects. The bill also was designed to help new teachers by making it easier for those with strong professional backgrounds to get a teaching license. This bill does not allow any school to hire unlicensed teachers.

Upholding the dignity of human life

SB 340 requires annual inspections of abortion clinics and expands Indiana's Safe Haven Law by allowing fire stations to install "baby box" incubators with 24-7 monitoring.

SB 203 expands Indiana's current legal protections for unborn children so that criminal charges can be brought for the murder or manslaughter of a fetus at any stage of development. The previous law allowed such charges with fetal viability only.

Authorizing the use of CBD oil

SB 52 allows Hoosiers to buy and sell non-intoxicating hemp extract, or cannabidiol (CBD) oil, which has been shown to have health benefits, if it has been verified to contain no more than 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Changes to civil forfeiture laws

SB 99 changed Indiana's laws on civil forfeiture, an important tool for seizing property used by criminals. The goal was to better balance law-enforcement needs with property owners' constitutional rights.

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