2013 Indiana General Assembly

Legislature meets into the night to complete its work

2013-04-26T23:00:00Z 2013-04-27T16:30:07Z Legislature meets into the night to complete its workDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
April 26, 2013 11:00 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Following four months of proposing, reviewing, bargaining, deal-making and voting, state lawmakers settled on final versions of legislation Friday for most of the remaining issues of the 2013 session of the Indiana General Assembly.

Still unresolved at press time, however, were plans to expand the state's private school voucher program, possible tax incentives for casino companies to add to their properties, the potential awarding or loaning of state tax revenue to improve the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a decision on whether to require welfare recipients take drug tests.

The legislature was expected to vote for or kill those measures as it continued in session late Friday night and into Saturday morning. Lawmakers planned to adjourn for the year Saturday.

The measures below were approved by the House and Senate and are now headed to Republican Gov. Mike Pence for his signature or veto.

Criminal code reform: A five-year project to rethink and revise how Indiana classifies and punishes felony crimes is perhaps the most significant accomplishment of the legislative session.

House Bill 1006 adds two more levels to the current four levels of felonies to ensure similar crimes are treated the same way and the most serious offenses get the toughest penalties.

Under the plan, punishment for many nonviolent crimes and other low-level felonies likely will be served in county jails, community corrections, home monitoring or other nonprison settings.

In-prison felons will be required to serve at least 75 percent of their sentences, up from 50 percent.

"(This) will be the scaffolding on which we build a new and better criminal justice system that is going to, most importantly, reduce crime overall, but ... we're going to salvage a lot of lives and make more people productive citizens, rather than people that sap our resources," said state Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington.

The revised criminal code does not take effect until July 1, 2014, to give judges, prosecutors, police, defense attorneys and others in the criminal justice system time to adjust.

Lawmakers also must decide next year how to pay for the increased use of alternative punishments.

School safety: Senate Bill 1 creates a matching grant program to help schools hire local police officers as school resource officers. An earlier plan to require armed personnel in every Indiana school did not make it into the final proposal, though lawmakers will study that topic this summer.

"The new grant program for school resource officers represents a big step forward in keeping our schools safe," said state Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon.

In response to a recent Indiana Supreme Court ruling, the measure also clarifies that a student ignoring the directions of a school resource officer cannot be arrested and charged with resisting law enforcement.

Porter County auditor: Senate Bill 517 imposes a $100,000 cap on the money a county auditor can keep as a result of ferreting out unlawfully claimed tax credits. The measure requires any additional revenue be deposited in the county's general fund.

Valpo schools budget: Senate Bill 517 also requires the budget set by the appointed board of Valparaiso Community Schools be approved by the Valparaiso City Council, and not the Porter County Board.

College scholarships: Senate Bill 1348, sponsored by state Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, limits state college scholarship awards, such as the Frank O'Bannon scholarship, to four years of college education. Dermody said limiting the scholarships will encourage on-time graduation.

Midwives: House Bill 1135 legalizes and regulates midwifery in Indiana. Midwives will be required to undergo four to six years of education or clinical training to be licensed, and new midwives must be assisted by a doctor for the first 20 babies they deliver.

School absenteeism: Senate Bill 338, sponsored by state Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, requires the Indiana Department of Education advise school corporations on how to reduce student absenteeism. Schools also would have to develop chronic-truant reduction plans.

Historic homes: Senate Bill 4, sponsored by Dermody and state Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, establishes a process for owners of homes designated "historic" to remove the designation. De-designation requires approval by the local historic preservation commission and the city/town council.

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