INDIANAPOLIS-The second regular session of the 117th Indiana General Assembly has concluded. Of the 815 initiatives introduced in January, 175 made it through the second half of session. Bills that were not amended by the opposite chamber advanced to the governor for final review and possible signature into law. Others languished in conference committees where compromises were sought up until the very end of session. This brief summary highlights some of the final action taken by the Senate.
Due to the improving economy, an on-target revenue forecast, an estimated state surplus in excess of $1.7 billion by June 30, 2012, and $320M in found corporate income tax revenue, lawmakers had an opportunity to make some appropriations this session. House Bill (HB) 1376 provides $6 million in additional compensation for victims of last year's State Fair tragedy, and $80 million to fully fund full-day kindergarten next year.
In addition, the projected surplus will allow for an automatic taxpayer refund that was approved during the 2011 session. Taxpayers could receive up to a $50-per-taxpayer credit toward their 2013 tax returns. The bill was approved by both chambers and the governor is expected to sign the bill into law.
A proposal to phase-out the state's inheritance tax has gained approval. SB 293 will start the phase-out of the tax retroactive to January 1, 2012 and gradually phase it out over 10 years. The bill was approved by the House by a vote of 78-17 and the Senate 48-0, and now proceeds to the governor for final review.
Statewide smoking ban
State lawmakers have approved legislation that will establish Indiana's first statewide smoking ban standardizing smoking restrictions across the state. HB 1149 calls for the prohibition of smoking in most public places including restaurants and places of employment. Exemptions include gaming facilities; cigar and hookah bars; fraternal, social and veterans clubs, with certain requirements; certain tobacco stores; bars and taverns; cigar manufacturer facilities; and cigar specialty stores. HB 1149 makes it a Class B infraction to violate the smoking prohibition and a Class A infraction if the person has committed three prior violations. The legislation also prohibits firing, refusing to hire, or retaliating against a person for reporting a violation or exercising any right or performing any obligation under the smoking prohibition. In addition, the legislation permits stricter local smoking ordinances allowing some to remain in place. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 28-22 and the House voted 60-33. The bill now advances to the governor for final consideration.
HB 1134 will prevent school corporations from charging a fee for transportation to and from school. However, a fee may be charged for transportation to and from an athletic, a social, or another school sponsored function. The bill was approved by both chambers and awaits final action by the governor.
In an effort to strengthen childhood learning, SB 268 will require the Indiana Education Roundtable to establish an advisory committee on early education to begin work on a statewide pre-kindergarten program. Putting such a program in place will increase the readiness of young children to learn and have a long-term positive impact on their education as well as the state's education system. SB 268 is eligible for final consideration by the governor.Legislation aimed at protecting children from sexual abuse is headed to the governor for final consideration. SB 267, also known as "Erin's Law," will utilize educational resources to help protect students from sexual abuse. The law aims to inform teachers how to identify and report suspected abuse of students and encourages children to reach out for help. The state Department of Education will have the responsibility of providing schools with educational materials, response policies and reporting procedures for grades two through five. The bill is similar to "Erin's Law" enacted last year by the state of Illinois in respect of Erin Merryn, a former child abuse victim and current advocate for child abuse education. SB 267 has advanced to the governor for final review.
With the cost of higher education continuing to rise, lawmakers approved HB 1220. The measure sets a limit on the number of credit hours required by public colleges and universities for an associate's degree program at 60 hours or a bachelor's degree program at 120 hours. Included in the bill is an exception for programs that require extra credits for national accreditation. In addition, HB 1220 stipulates that universities must seek permission from the state Commission on Higher Education to increase the 120 credit hour limit. Additionally, the bill requires the commission to review credit requirements every three years. The bill was approved by the Senate by a vote of 39-11 and the House 62-21. The legislation now advances to the governor who is expected to sign it into law.
Legislation that will help individuals to re-enter society once they've paid their societal debt and help them return to the work force has been approved. Under HB 1033, co-sponsored by Hume, persons with a Class D felony, after three years served, could appeal to the court to have their crime reduced to a Class A misdemeanor. The felony reduction would only occur if the person was not a sex or violent offender, the crime was a non-violent offense, the person had not been convicted of perjury or misconduct, and the person has not been convicted of a new felony. Another provision provides that if the person is convicted of a felony within five years after the appeal, the prosecutor could petition to have the misdemeanor converted back to a felony. In addition, HB 1033 requires a criminal history provider to update its records every 60 days to remove inaccurate information and information that has been expunged, restricted, or limited. The House approved the bill by a vote of 78-11 and the Senate 45-3.
Legislation on its way to the governor provides that if there is a contested election for any office of a municipality, all candidates for each office must be on the ballot. SB 233, co-authored by Hume, reverses legislation enacted last year considered to be a cost savings measure that raised controversy among voters who felt all candidates should be listed on an election ballot. In addition, in districts where there are no contested races, the bill provides local election boards the option of not printing a ballot upon unanimous approval. The bill was approved by the Senate by a vote of 39-9 and the House 96-1.
SB 98 pertains to county highway maintenance funding. With the passage of the bill, a county will be able to use property taxes and the county general fund for maintenance of county highways. Current law provides that property taxes can only be used for highway maintenance in the event of an emergency. The bill has been approved by both chambers and awaits final action by the governor.
Visit the Senator's web site at www.in.gov/s48 and subscribe to receive periodic e-mails about action taken on major issues. Senate Democrats offer up-to-date information at http://www.senatedemocrats.in.gov/ and also provide multimedia updates on activities in the Senate at The Briefing Room - and Twitter updates at @INSenDems.
Personal contact with constituents is vitally important. Use the contact information below to express your comments and concerns regarding new laws or if you need assistance:
Mailing address: Statehouse, 200 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204
Telephone: Call direct: 317-232-9523 or call toll-free: 800-382-9467, ext. 2-9523
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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