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In the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller proposes, recommends or supports legislation that protects the public and consumers. The Attorney General’s legislative team attends select committee hearings and floor votes of the Indiana House of Representatives and Indiana Senate involving bills supported by or that would impact the office or based on legislators’ requests. The team testifies at hearings and works to inform legislators about the impact on Hoosiers that bills would have if they become law. Deputy Attorney General David Miller and Chief Deputy Attorney General Matt Light lead the legislative team. The following are bills proposed, recommended or supported by the Attorney General:
The Attorney General’s Office’s Consumer Protection Division investigates frauds, scams and deceptive sales practices. Based on some of the most common types of consumer complaints, the Attorney General and CPD have proposed bills to fill legislative gaps. Harassing phone calls from debt collectors – often when there isn’t a legitimate debt – are a frequent cause of consumer complaints. The bill would supplement federal law by requiring debt collectors to disclose the details of the debt upon initial communication with a consumer. To reduce confusion in the debt collection process, debt collectors would be required when contacting the consumer to immediately identify themselves as a debt collector and immediately disclose who the debt collector purchased the debt from or is collecting on behalf of in order to seek collection. More information: http://bit.ly/1yKJTd7
Bill Status: Assigned to Senate Civil Law Committee.
Home repair scam contractors prey upon a homeowner’s misfortune and need for immediate repair after storm damage, and complaints often involve inflated prices and poor or incomplete workmanship. This bill would create a voluntary registration system for home improvement contractors administered by the Attorney General’s Office and available to the public online. To be listed on the registry, a contractor would be required to post a performance bond to cover customers if the contractor later violates Indiana’s Home Improvement Contract laws or the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. More information: http://bit.ly/1yKJTd7
Bill Status: Assigned to Senate Commerce & Technology Committee.
This bill would extend the protections of the 2013 Senior Consumer Protection Act to provide similar protections to veterans, spouses of deceased veterans and the disabled. More information: http://bit.ly/1yKJTd7
Bill Status: Assigned to Senate Commerce & Technology Committee, approved 10-0 in committee on Jan. 15 and advanced to full Senate; approved 50-0 by full Senate on Jan. 26; advanced to Indiana House.
Military service members and their families are often targeted by and can fall victim to scammers taking advantage of deployments and frequent relocations. This bill, the Indiana Service Member’s Civil Relief Act, would provide state remedies for violations of the federal version of the Service Member’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which allows current serving National Guardsmen and Reservists to suspend or postpone certain obligations, such as debt collections, foreclosures, evictions, judicial and administrative proceedings, and certain lease or service terminations. Supplementing the federal law, this state version of the legislation would also include protection from additional state-specific obligations, and also would guard against companies attempting to scam military members. More information: http://bit.ly/1FA1YOI
Bill Status: Assigned to House Judiciary Committee, approved 10-0 in committee on Jan. 26 and advanced to full Indiana House; eligible for second reading.
Created by Attorney General Zoeller, the Public Integrity Coalition is a group of officials from state, city, county and township governments and schools that seeks to educate and train elected officials and government employees on the best practices for managing and handling taxpayers’ money. Through training, deterrence and earlier detection, the Coalition’s ultimate goal is to reduce the instances of misappropriation of public funds that the State then must try to recover. More information about the Coalition’s recommendations: http://bit.ly/1Dth9Hy. The legislation includes
-SENATE BILL 394: WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTIONS. To encourage public servants within government to contact authorities and confidentially report suspected misappropriation others commit, the bill would protect whistleblowers against job retaliation. If terminated, demoted or discriminated against, the whistleblower who exposed misappropriation could obtain civil relief, including reinstatement, double back pay and attorneys’ fees.
Bill Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee.
-SENATE BILL 393: PUBLIC OFFICIAL SURETY BONDS.
-Bonds and Insurance Coverage. Elected officials already must obtain $30,000 surety bonds, which serve as a type of insurance policy against employee theft. If an audit discovers misappropriation, bonds can be redeemed to reimburse the public treasury for the loss. Under the coalition proposal, any employee in a public office or school corporation who handles public money, including clerical personnel, would also have to be covered either by a bond or a crime insurance policy. Like an insurance premium, the cost of a bond is usually a fraction of the face value of the bond.
-Searchable bonds. Officials’ bonds now are filed at local county recorder’s offices, but to improve transparency, the bill would require that copies of bonds also be filed with State Board of Accounts. The public then could more easily search bond records to see if an official is indeed bonded as required and thus determine if the elected office has coverage for lost funds.
-Better chance of full recovery, earlier. So that full reimbursement of misappropriated amounts is possible, the bill would clarify the annual and per-term bond coverage that public officials need to have in place: $30,000 a year for each year the official is in office.
Bill Status: Assigned to Senate Local Government Committee.
-SENATE BILL 514: CLERK-TREASURER VACANCIES. In case of a vacancy in the office of town clerk-treasurer – the elected official who handles public money in town governments -- it might be difficult for a small municipality to find a local resident qualified and willing to be appointed to serve out the term. The bill would solve that by allowing the town to sign an interlocal agreement with another town to utilize the services of their clerk-treasurer temporarily, until the next election, or to contract with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to fill the vacancy on an interim basis until a new clerk-treasurer is elected.
Bill Status: Assigned to Senate Local Government Committee, scheduled for hearing at 1:30 PM June 28 in Statehouse Room 130.
The Attorney General’s Office operates the Identity Theft Unit that investigates data breaches of consumers’ personal information from retailers and medical providers. The Attorney General recommends a bill to tighten Indiana’s laws that govern data collection and guard against identity theft:
-Safe data storage. Online operators would be required to store consumers personal or financial data securely; delete or not retain data beyond what is necessary for business purposes; share or sell data only when authorized by law or consumers are informed in advance.
-Data breach harm reduction. Indiana’s Disclosure of Security Breach Act would be enhanced to require prompt and more informative notification of affected consumers so they can take action to protect themselves in case of a data breach. The Act would be expanded to cover breaches of paper and handwritten records rather than electronic records only.
Bill Status: assigned to Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee.
Because of concern about the increase in use by young people of nicotine-delivery devices called e-cigarettes that deliver inhalable nicotine in a vaporized liquid form, the Attorney General’s Office and smoking cessation groups are advocating a bill that would regulate e-cigarettes much the same as tobacco cigarettes. The bill’s proposals include:
-Requiring licensing of “vape shops” that sell e-cigarettes, which would give the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission more authority to cite for violations of law, including selling the products to minors.
-Taxing e-cigarettes similarly to traditional tobacco products. The tax would be charged to retailers at the wholesale level, and it would be up to the Legislature to determine how to direct the additional tax revenue collected.
-Indiana’s statewide smoking ban would be expanded to include e-cigarettes, meaning they could not be used in certain indoor public places.
-Requiring child-resistant packaging of e-cigarette liquid containers to discourage accidental, potentially fatal poisoning through children consuming the liquid.
More information: http://bit.ly/1rYIuNG
Bill Status: Assigned to House Committee on Public Policy
The 2-1-1 service is a comprehensive telephone information and referral service that connects more than 400,000 people a year to needed help. 2-1-1 provides referrals for seniors, veterans, victims of domestic violence and natural disasters, and others needing referrals to social services and agencies, and it also takes call pressure off emergency 911 police dispatchers. The Attorney General joined a bipartisan group of legislators along with the United Way of Central Indiana and the Glick Foundation as part of a coalition seeking the Legislature’s support for partial state funding of the 2-1-1 program to supplement its existing private funding.
Bill Status: Assigned to House Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee, scheduled for hearing 8:30 AM Jan. 28 in Statehouse Room 156A.