The Indiana General Assembly approved 161 new laws this year, many of which will become effective July 1. The changes in state law taking place this summer impact a variety of issues. Read on for a brief summary of some of the new laws taking effect July 1, 2012, and several that are already effective.
To see a complete list of new laws enacted and signed by the governor in 2012, visit the governor’s Bill Watch page. Additionally, the Senate Democrats’ 2012 Session Summary provides a breakdown of each bill approved this year (PDF>>).
“Erin’s Law” to prevent sexual abuse: Senate Enrolled Act 267 requires the Department of Education (DOE) to work with the Department of Child Services and other organizations to provide the public school system with a curriculum to educate teachers, school personnel and children about child sexual abuse and how to report suspected abuse of students. The DOE will provide schools with education materials, response policies and reporting procedures for grades two through five.
Early education advisory committee: Senate Enrolled Act 268 requires the Indiana Education Roundtable to establish an advisory committee on early education comprised of experts and advocates from around the state to provide input as to the necessary steps that need to be taken to improve educational outcomes for the children in Indiana. Under this new law, members of the committee will provide professional and technical assistance to the Indiana Education Roundtable, a state board of key education, business, community and government leaders charged with ensuring that the state has world class academic standards for student learning.
School busing fees: House Enrolled Act 1134 prevents school corporations from charging a fee to parents or students for transportation to and from school. However, a fee may be charged for transportation to and from an athletic, social or other school sponsored function.
Statewide smoking ban: House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1149, the statewide smoking ban, covers most public places, including restaurants. In addition, the new law permits cities, towns and counties to pass stricter standards and maintain ordinances already in place. The final version of Indiana’s first statewide smoking ban exempts bars and taverns, private and fraternal clubs, established cigar and hookah bars and gaming facilities.
Brain injury services: Senate Enrolled Act 15 requires the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) and the Office of the Secretary of Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) to study current brain injury services that are offered in Indiana, determine whether there are deficiencies in services, and determine how to implement additional services and neurobehavioral rehabilitation programs in Indiana. The new law also establishes an advisory committee to assist the ISDH and FSSA in the study, and requires these groups to report to the Health Finance Commission before October 1, 2012, regarding information about Indiana’s services and the feasibility and development of a risk-based managed care pilot program for aged, blind and disabled Medicaid recipients.
HIV testing: Senate Enrolled Act 52 allows a physician to test an individual for HIV if certain conditions are met unless the individual refuses to consent to the test. Certain circumstances allow a physician to order such a test without informing the patient or despite the individual’s refusal of the test, such as emergency circumstances where the test is medically necessary to diagnose or treat the patient’s condition or under a court order based on clear and convincing evidence of a serious and present health threat to others. This changes current law, which prohibits a physician from performing the test without the oral or written consent of the individual. The new law also requires the physician to notify the patient of the test results and to discuss the availability of counseling, treatment and referral options.
“Health Care Compact” for state-controlled health care: House Enrolled Act 1269 allows Indiana to join with other states in a national “health care compact” that would allow individual states to take over the federal Medicaid program. This legislation was very controversial during the 2012 legislative session due to the potential state cost of $10-15 billion annually to run the programs, if services were maintained at current levels. The compact would also allow member states of the compact to supersede all federal laws, regulations and orders concerning health care. Consent of the U.S. Congress would be necessary for the compact to take effect.
Senate Enrolled Act 18 provides that the duty to support a child, which does not include support for educational needs, will cease when the child reaches 19 years of age. Under current statute, child support payments must be paid until children reach the age of 21. Children whose support was established before July 1, 2012, can petition the court to receive educational support until age 21.
Senate Enrolled Act 293 provides for a 10 year phase-out of the state inheritance tax beginning in 2013. It would also reclassify a number of beneficiaries and increase the inheritance tax exemption amounts.
Tax incentive for data storage centers: In an effort to spur economic development and put more money in local economies, Senate Enrolled Act 302 provides for property tax exemptions for data storage centers in high-tech districts. This new law permits entities who lease space in a high technology district area to take advantage of the personal property tax exemption. Because data centers often locate in close proximity to each other, it is anticipated that this legislation will encourage more private sector investment and therefore create more high paying jobs. Some language in this new law is retroactive and has already become effective.
Indiana Dunes State Park development: House Enrolled Act 1054 contains language from legislation introduced by Sen. Tallian that is specifically designed to attract private operators to the Indiana Dunes State Park pavilion in Northwest Indiana. The new law provides that land controlled by the Department of Natural Resources may permit the retail sale of alcohol on the licensed premises of a pavilion located within the Indiana Dunes State Park, which has been bypassed by private operators in the past because of its no-alcohol rule.
Little Cal River Basin: House Enrolled Act 1264 addresses the flooding issues on the Little Calumet River by establishing a funding mechanism for needed repairs along the river basin. Repairs will be overseen by a new Little Calumet River Basin Project Advisory Board. Under the new law property owners in the boundary area will contribute to repair and maintenance funding through an annual special assessment based on the property classification for all parcels of land within the Little Calumet River and Burns Waterway watershed in Lake County. For residential properties, the assessment will be $45 per year. The repairs and improvements will help curtail rising flood insurance costs for property owners and spur economic development in the area by minimizing risk of future flooding.
Nepotism and conflict of interest positions in local government: House Enrolled Act 1005 aims to deter nepotism and conflicts of interest in local government. The new law prohibits public workers from hiring family members. In addition, the legislation prevents firefighters, police officers, park officials and other municipal employees from serving in an elected position on a county council or board of commissioners that sets agency budgets and salaries. The new law also stipulates that upon election, public officers must resign their employed position to serve in the elected office. Some language from this new law will not become effective until January 1, 2013.
Similarly, House Enrolled Act 1250 aims to deter nepotism and conflicts of interest in state government. The new law prohibits state employees from working in the same agency as a relative if that relative is in direct line of supervision or is the appointing authority of the agency. Jobs that match these conditions but existed on or before July 1, 2012 will not be affected. Further, the new law allows an individual employed in an agency for at least 12 consecutive months immediately preceding the date the individual’s relative becomes the appointing authority to remain under the agency and under the direct line of supervision of the relative.
Public meetings: House Enrolled Act 1003 permits governing bodies to allow public access to state agency meetings that are conducted by electronic communication. The new law includes language that will strengthen the Public Records Law and the Open Door Law. A provision specifies that a governing body may adopt a policy that allows the public to attend meetings conducted by electronic communication at a public place. Some language from this new law will not become effective until January 1, 2013.
Boating under the influence: Before now, Indiana had no law to address operating a motorboat under the influence of illegal drugs. Senate Enrolled Act 154 makes operating a boat under the influence of a schedule I or II controlled substance a Class C misdemeanor, bringing the penalty in line with automobile laws.
Indiana Lifeline Bill: Senate Enrolled Act 274 addresses serious issues related to alcohol consumption on college campuses across the country. In an effort to protect young lives, the new law provides immunity from certain alcohol-related charges to callers seeking emergency assistance for another person needing medical help. The legislation specifies that immunity will be provided to callers in instances of public intoxication or underage possession, consumption or transportation of an alcoholic beverage. People that drive under the influence of alcohol, are in possession of drugs or who act disorderly with emergency personnel will not be immune from penalties.
Nonviolent criminal records confidentiality: A 2011 law allowed old, nonviolent criminal records to be sealed by request. House Enrolled Act 1033 updates that law to prohibit employers from asking job applicants if they have a criminal record that has been sealed or restricted. The new law also allows persons with a nonviolent class D felony conviction can appeal to the court to have the conviction reduced to class A misdemeanor three years after the sentence is complete. The felony reduction could only occur if the person in question was not a sex or violent offender, had not been convicted of perjury or misconduct, has not been convicted of a new felony and is not subject to any pending criminal charges. Additionally, this new law provides that if the person is convicted of a felony within five years after the appeal, the prosecutor can petition to have the misdemeanor converted back to a felony.
Court actions against ag operations: House Enrolled Act 1091 addresses nuisance actions brought against agricultural operations. The new law states that if a court finds the prosecution or defense of a nuisance action brought against an agricultural operation to be frivolous, the court shall award court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees to the prevailing party.
Growing the state’s ethanol industry: House Enrolled Act 1128 enhances the availability and affordability of this renewable resource by repealing provisions concerning deductions to retail merchants under the E85 reimbursement program. The legislation also makes changes to requirements for membership of the Corn Marketing Council and establishes a formula to determine the maximum administrative expenses of the council.
Raw milk and other animal feed issues: House Enrolled Act 1129 calls for a study by the State Board of Animal Health of the issue of farmers selling unpasteurized milk to consumers. The board’s review and recommendations may produce legislative initiatives to be considered during the 2013 legislative session. The law also makes several changes to state laws regulating pesticide use and commercial feed production and sales, including an explicit prohibition of any animal feed being advertised or sold as human food unless the food meets all federal, state, and local health laws and labeling requirements for human consumption. The new law also provides the State Chemist with civil penalty authority under the agricultural ammonia law and subpoena authority under the commercial fertilizer law.
Small-scale poultry production: House Enrolled Act 1312 an interim study committee will be established to review obstacles to poultry production and to identify ways to increase connections between Indiana farmers and local consumers. Recommendations by the committee will be considered during the 2013 legislative session. Other language in this new law became effective in May and allows poultry farmers to sell more home-grown food products, such as frozen poultry, at their farms or at farmers’ markets. With only one processing location in the state, it is difficult for small poultry farmers to compete with sales by large poultry producers. Previous law presented another obstacle by limiting small farmers to only produce and grow food at their primary residence. Under this new law there are more options for these individuals by allowing them to also produce food at other properties they own or lease, encouraging farmers to produce and distribute locally grown food.
Military Relief Fund: House Enrolled Act 1059 extends from one year to three years the time that a service member or a service member’s dependent may be eligible to receive assistance from the Military Family Relief Fund (MFRF). The new law requires the Director of Veterans’ Affairs to annually provide a report to the State Budget Committee concerning the grant program funded from the MFRF.
Military custody and parenting time: House Enrolled Act 1065 requires a court, upon motion by a parent who has received military temporary duty, deployment, or mobilization orders, to hold an expedited custody or parenting time hearing and to allow a parent to present testimony and evidence by electronic means if military duties prevent a parent from appearing at a scheduled hearing. The legislation also allows a court to delegate parenting time to a person who has a close and substantial relationship with the child for the duration of a parent’s deployment, with the order terminating upon the parent’s return.
Low-income utility assistance: Home energy costs will be more affordable for low-income families under House Enrolled Act 1141. The new law dedicates $28.8 million in mortgage foreclosure settlement funds to aid families who rely on assistance from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to pay for high heating and air-conditioning bills. LIHEAP is a federal block grant program that offers financial assistance to qualifying low-income households who require support in paying their home energy bills. The program is administered through local community action agencies. Program funding comes from $46 million that Indiana received from the multi-state legal settlement concerning mortgage foreclosure issues.
Full day kindergarten and uses for the state surplus: House Enrolled Act 1376 changes how the state handles surplus revenue. Two one-time expenses out of the existing surplus were agreed upon under this legislation. First, $6 million will be used to provide additional compensation for victims of the 2011 Indiana State Fair tragedy. Second, funding will be provide full-day kindergarten to all students during the 2012-13 school year. Additional appropriations in the 2013 state budget will be necessary to continue statewide funding of full-day kindergarten for future years.
For future surplus management, the new law increases the trigger for use of excess reserves to 12.5 percent (rather than 10 percent under current law) of general revenue appropriations for the state fiscal year. The legislation also specifies that if the amount of the excess reserves is less than $100 million, all of the excess reserves shall be transferred to the Pension Stabilization Fund; and if the amount of the excess reserves is $100 million or more, 50 percent of the excess reserves shall be transferred to the Pension Stabilization Fund and 50 percent of the excess reserves shall be used for the purposes of providing an automatic taxpayer refund.
Police entry: Senate Enrolled Act 1 establishes guidelines under which a person may defend against unlawful police entry in rare circumstances. This new law is in response to Barnes v. Indiana, a state Supreme Court decision handed down in 2011. In Barnes, the Court ruled 3-2 that Indiana will not recognize the ‘Castle Doctrine,’ which is the common-law right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by a public servant into a citizen’s residence. Public outcry over the ruling prompted lawmakers to review current law regarding this issue. Concerns have been expressed on how the new law may be interpreted by citizens that could lead to dangerous scenarios for both the citizens and law enforcement officers.
Outdoor stage safety and regulation: Senate Enrolled Act 273 authorizes the state Fire Protection and Building Safety Commission to institute emergency rules for the inspection of outdoor stages. The new law establishes minimum state standards for the construction and inspection of temporary stage structures. While providing immediate action, the measure also establishes a temporary committee to review upcoming reports on the State Fair stage collapse. Based on the committee’s finding and recommendations, a proposal for a permanent safety regulation law for outdoor stage structures will be considered next session.
Property tax amnesty: House Enrolled Act 1090 waves the interest and penalties first due before January 1, 2012, on delinquent property taxes if the taxpayer pays the delinquent taxes before July 1, 2013. The new law is designed to jumpstart tax payment by leveling the playing field for those who have fallen behind. In addition to offering homeowners a one-time break on penalty fees, the new law will allow all counties the option to remove a property from tax sales if the county treasurer and the taxpayer agree to a mutually satisfactory arrangement for the payment of the delinquent taxes.
“Bath salts” criminalization: House Enrolled Act 1196 will help to restrain the local distribution of synthetic drugs–including “bath salts”–by banning more types of compounds that can be used as synthetic substitutes. By expanding the definition of synthetic drugs to include certain chemical compounds that are structurally related to already-listed synthetic drugs, this legislation closes loopholes that have allowed drug producers to find ways around the law.
Abandoned homes and municipal land banks: House Enrolled Act 1249 urges the establishment of an interim study committee to discuss possible improvements to Indiana’s land bank statute. The committee will take on a study of land bank issues and determine the use and effectiveness of current law. Other charges would include: the review of the creation of land banks at the municipal level as opposed to the county level; the implications that land banks would have for Indiana’s current tax sale process; and the effect of Indiana’s current tax sale process on the disposition of vacant and abandoned property.