INDIANAPOLIS | Military veterans who return or move to Indiana after completing their service are entitled to in-state college tuition under a new law signed last week by Republican Gov. Mike Pence.
Senate Enrolled Act 177 allows veterans to pay the reduced tuition rate at state colleges and universities if they begin taking undergraduate classes within 12 months of their honorable discharges, regardless of whether the veteran was originally from Indiana.
The veterans tuition benefit was among 64 new laws Pence signed last week. It was sponsored by state Sens. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond; Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago; and Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek.
Pence has now enacted 158 measures approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and vetoed zero.
Other laws signed by the governor since Tuesday that were primarily sponsored by Northwest Indiana legislators include:
• Utility rates: Senate Enrolled Act 560 allows electric and natural gas companies to temporarily charge their customers higher rates while awaiting permission for a permanent rate increase from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Utilities must issue customer refunds if the temporary rate exceeds the rate ultimately approved by the commission. The new law was sponsored by Hershman and state Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point.
• Child deaths: Senate Enrolled Act 125 establishes child fatality review teams in every county, and a statewide team, to assess the causes of unexplained child deaths and recommend prevention strategies. It also creates state committees to oversee the work of the Department of Child Services and to study the lives of children under the care of DCS. Randolph and state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, sponsored the measure.
• Port purchases: House Enrolled Act 1589 authorizes the Ports of Indiana to make construction-related purchases without using public bidding if the total is less than $150,000, effective May 15. The current mandatory bidding threshold is $25,000. The law, sponsored by Charbonneau, Randolph, and state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, also creates an expedited bidding process in emergencies.
• Schools: Senate Enrolled Act 422, sponsored by state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, and state Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, permits the Indiana Department of Education to designate schools "family friendly" if the schools actively promote parental involvement in the classroom. Senate Enrolled Act 345, sponsored by Mrvan and Randolph, establishes a commission to recommend when student restraints and seclusion may be used in schools.
• Intimidation: Senate Enrolled Act 361, sponsored by Randolph and state Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, makes it a Class D felony to threaten via social networks any employee of a hospital, school, church or religious organization. Interfering with the occupancy of a public building would be a misdemeanor.
• Student loans: Senate Enrolled Act 532, sponsored by Randolph and state Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, entitles the nonprofit Indiana Secondary Market for Education Loans Inc. to make direct loans to college students, instead of just buying student loans made by banks.
• Overweight loads: House Enrolled Act 1481, sponsored by Charbonneau, Randolph, Smith and state Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, empowers the state or local governments to permit truck loads of up to 120,000 pounds if the truck is carrying steel or other metals.
• Breast screenings: Senate Enrolled Act 414, sponsored by Brown, requires health insurance sold in Indiana to provide screening, exam or test coverage for women age 40 or older with high breast density, a condition where there's more tissue than fat in the breast.
• Animal donations: Senate Enrolled Act 364, sponsored by Charbonneau and state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, authorizes the Indiana Sportsmen's Benevolence Account to make grants to meat processors to pay for the preparation of hunted game donated to feed the hungry.
• Federal funds: House Enrolled Act 1067 allows local governments to exchange federal transportation funds for state funds to avoid having to meet federal standards for road projects.
• Elections: House Enrolled Act 1391 declares the secretary of state is to break ties when Indiana's Republican and Democratic election commissioners are unable to agree on budgetary or contractual decisions. The law was sponsored by state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, and state Sen. Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake.
• Outdoor stages: House Enrolled Act 1069 makes permanent the outdoor stage regulations and inspection requirements enacted following the 2011 stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair. The regulations were due to expire in 2014.
• Alzheimer's training: House Enrolled Act 1044, sponsored by Arnold and Randolph, requires the law enforcement academy to provide training on Alzheimer's disease and senile dementia to current and future police officers.
• Rabbit meat: Senate Enrolled Act 457 exempts from state inspection rabbits slaughtered at farms and sold at a farm, farmer's market or roadside stand, so long as the rabbit is frozen at the point of sale.