From towing to child support, area bills move

April 7, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS : Not every bill in the state legislature is as important as the budget or as high-profile as hate crimes and gambling.

But hundreds of bills pass every year that have a small but significant impact : and area lawmakers are in the thick of it.

Here is a look at what northeast Indiana legislators have been working on this year:

• Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, shepherded Senate Bill 201 through the process, and it is now before the governor. It allows pharmacists, nurses and physician assistants to refuse to participate in abortions.

“We respect the religious liberties of our citizens here in Indiana,” Brown said.

Doctors already have protection, and Brown said nearly a third of all abortions now involve prescription drugs.

• Sen. Justin Busch, R-Fort Wayne, authored Senate Bill 293, which is now awaiting a vote in the House. It delays the date by which the administrator of the Allen County substance abuse pilot program must raise local funds in order to be allowed to spend state funds. The program took longer than expected to get off the ground, so the bill extends the date to 2022.

• Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, pushed House Bill 1059 through the House and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee. It allows a spouse or dependent to collect a survivor benefit when a member of the public employees’ retirement fund or the Indiana state teachers’ retirement fund dies before retirement.

• Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, is awaiting a hearing in the Senate on his child support legislation. Under House Bill 1520, the duty to support a child ceases when the child turns 19 unless the child is a full-time student in a secondary school. Proper notice would have to be filed with the court to impose such child support. The bill passed the House 89-1.

• Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, authored a bill that would reduce several misdemeanor charges to the level of infractions. Some include selling a lottery ticket to a minor, setting off fireworks in an unauthorized location and leaving trash in a cave. Senate Bill 336 passed both chambers easily and is ready for a signature by the governor.

• Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, authored a bill allowing school districts to impose a new referendum to raise money for school safety purposes. Such a measure would be exempt from property tax caps. Senate Bill 127 passed the Senate 42-7 and is now on a second reading in the House. It is a key strategy that lawmakers are using to tackle school security.

• Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, has pushed for requiring students to pass a civics test to graduate : the same test that incoming U.S. citizens must take. His bill passed the Senate, but the House dialed it back substantially. It now says schools must administer the test as part of the government credit required for graduation, but it doesn’t say students must pass it or that teachers have to count it as a grade. Senate Bill 132 also requires “enhanced study” of the Holocaust in history courses. The Senate can accept those changes or negotiate further in conference committee.

• Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, is carrying a bill that would provide more consumer protection in towing services. House Bill 1183 would, for instance, provide inspection rights for vehicle owners, require itemized receipts of payment and set rules for towing companies in terms of hours of operation and returning telephone calls. It also requires “reasonable” fees. It passed the House 86-9 and is scheduled for action in a Senate committee this week.

• Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, authored House Bill 1343, regarding libraries, and it is up for vote in the Senate this week. The legislation gives a city, town or county council binding review and approval of the budget of a public library under certain circumstances. One of those circumstances is if the library has reserves exceeding 200% of its budget. Leonard is concerned about libraries getting additional tax revenue while sitting on cash.

• Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, has a bill requiring police to get a warrant before flying a drone over private property. It also allows police to use a drone over public ground without a warrant. Morris said House Bill 1358 would help police maintain safety during large events like the Three Rivers Festival or other public events. “It’s a valuable asset police should be able to use,” he said.

The bill passed the Senate with changes. The House can either accept those or negotiate further.

• Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, has a bill allowing wine and liquor to be sold from a golf cart at golf courses. House Bill 1462 passed the House 92-4 but hasn’t received a hearing in the Senate. Current law allows beer to be sold in this way but not other alcoholic beverages.

• Rep. Dave Wolkins, R-Warsaw, authored a bill that would give private citizens 150% of the appraised value of their property when it is being taken by eminent domain and given to a private developer. Current law sets the payment at 100% unless the property is owner-occupied. Wolkins said that in a recent case, a homeowner who was fighting an eminent domain proceeding then died. Because of the death, the amount of money the family stood to receive for the property plummeted because it was no longer owner-occupied.

House Bill 1411 is before the governor.

• Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington, has a bill that makes a small change in township mergers. Senate Bill 221 eliminates a requirement that one member of the township board of a merged township reside within each of the townships that merged. It passed both chambers in slightly different forms and could go to conference committee.

• Rep. Denny Zent, R-Angola, has a bill aimed at stopping Hoosiers from injuring animals as a ploy to get painkillers from veterinarians. House Bill 1295 limits an opioid prescription for an animal to seven days and allows a veterinarian to track the pet owner’s use of painkillers through the state prescription database as well.

The bill passed both chambers and is before the governor.

• Reps. Dave Abbott, R-Rome City; Curt Nisly, R-Goshen; Chris Judy, R-Fort Wayne; and Dave Heine, R-New Haven, have no bills still alive this session that they authored.