Indiana News

Bills on time zone, cigarette tax among those dead for 2019

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Dozens of proposed bills are technically dead a few days into the second half of the 2019 Indiana legislative session. 

News 8 had some people and lawmakers weigh in on the bills that have little or no chance in 2019.

Time zone

One of bills would have moved the entire state into the Central time zone.

“I’m from Chicago, so that works for me,” Amy Braunlich of Indianapolis said. “I think we should be more on the Eastern.” 

Carol Armbruster of Indianapolis said, “I’d rather have Central, but I’ll take Eastern.” 

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The state runs on two times zones, Eastern and Central, with 12 counties in northwest and southwest Indiana on Central time. The entire state has observed daylight saving time since April 2006. 

It’s clear the clock will keep ticking on this debate. 

Immigrant students

Another controversial proposal that did not move on: making Indiana’s undocumented immigrant students eligible for in-state tuition.

“The way I look at it, yes, they should” get in-state tuition, said Devon Ellis of Indianapolis.

Rep. Earl Harris Jr., a Democrat from East Chicago, said he wanted to make what he estimates are thousands of undocumented students in Indiana eligible for in-state tuition. 

In August, Melba, an immigrant who came to the U.S. legally and did not want News 8 to use her last name, said she disagreed with Harris

“It would be unfair to legal residents of this country or to citizens to allow someone who is not completely qualified to get in-state tuition,” Melba said.

Melba and her family came to the United States from Cuba in 1962 when she was 8 years old. Her father waited 15 months in Cuba for his visa while she was in the U.S. They started over again from scratch.

“We waited our turn,” Melba said. “There are hundreds of millions of people that would love to be here but can’t. That includes family members I still have, who have been trying for years to come here.”

Harris’ bill didn’t get a hearing in the House Education Committee. 

“It wasn’t just an open free-for-all,”  Harris said Monday. “They would have to graduate or get a GED from an Indiana high school, attend high school in Indiana at least 3 years. Also, if they weren’t in the process of becoming a citizen, file an affidavit that they will work on becoming an American citizen.” 

Harris said it’s possible his proposal could be added to another bill this session, but added, “I don’t have a lot of confidence we’re going to have that happen this session. But, believe me, we will continue to work on this.”

Cigarette tax hike

Smokers can snuff out the idea of paying more in cigarette taxes. 

Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer‘s bill would’ve raised the cigarette tax by $2 per pack.

“A tax would perhaps dissuade individuals from smoking — and having healthy pregnancies, No. 1 — and just overall health of Hoosiers is the most important aspect of the bill.” the Indianapolis Republican said Monday.

Carol Armbruster of Indianapolis said Monday. “I’m in public health, so I’m upset that didn’t happen to be honest with you.”

Kirchhofer said she hopeful that senators considering tobacco measures can make the tax increase happen this year. 

Smoking age

Hoosiers have to be at least 18 in Indiana to buy tobacco. Sen. Jim Merritt wanted the smoking age to go up to 21. The Indiana Senate Health Committee voted 8-2 on Feb. 6 to advance the bill raising the minimum age to buy cigarettes, other tobacco products or e-liquids. The bill was then assigned to the Senate Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy, where the measure never got a hearing.

“I think it’s important that we say to our kids this is something we know is dangerous, that is harmful to your health,” the Indianapolis Republican said. “I think with the drinking age at 21, I think the smoking age should be there as well.”

Smoking with child in car

Another Merritt bill that went up in smoke could have slapped a fine of roughly $1,000 on anyone convicted of smoking in a car with a child. 

“I wanted to make a point that those kids are innocent bystanders, and we should do something about it,” Merritt said Monday. 

More dead bills

A state website shows displays bills in gray once they are dead while measures displayed in blue remain active.