INDIANAPOLIS | School corporations can each seek up to $50,000 in matching state funds to hire local police as school resource officers under a new law signed Tuesday by Republican Gov. Mike Pence.
Senate Enrolled Act 1 creates a seven-member Indiana Secured School Safety Board to distribute a maximum of $20 million in school safety grants. The board is additionally tasked with developing "best practices" for safe schools.
"Let me say from my heart, we have no higher priority than public safety, and in public safety we have no higher priority than protecting our kids," Pence said.
At the same time, the new law removes a prohibition on firearms at off-campus school events, such as prom, and requires a legislative study committee to determine whether at least one individual in every school should be armed at all times.
The law was sponsored by state Sens. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte; Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso; Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake; Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago; and state Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond.
It was among 41 measures the first-year governor signed into law Tuesday. Pence has now enacted 202 proposals approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and vetoed zero.
Among the other laws signed by Pence, including those primarily sponsored Northwest Indiana lawmakers, were:
- Police dogs: House Enrolled Act 1093 requires judges to order any person convicted of injuring or killing a police dog to pay the dog's owner the full price of a replacement dog, including the cost of training. The law was sponsored by state Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point, along with Lawson, Arnold, Landske and Randolph.
- School superintendents: House Enrolled Act 1337 allows school boards to hire as superintendent any person with a master's degree in any subject, regardless of whether that person meets the state's training and experience requirements for superintendent licensing.
- Benefits fraud: Senate Enrolled Act 559, sponsored by Charbonneau and state Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, expands the power of the attorney general and state police to investigate welfare and Medicaid fraud. It also requires ATM operators block use of electronic benefit transfer cards at cash machines located in gaming facilities, liquor stores and strip clubs.
- IEDC transparency: Senate Enrolled Act 162 requires the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the state's commerce department, to make public all incentive agreements between the state commerce agency and businesses receiving incentives. The law, sponsored by state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, and state Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, also requires an independent auditor determine the number of actual jobs created through IEDC deals.
- School funds: House Enrolled Act 1110, sponsored by Charbonneau; and state Reps. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, and Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, enables schools to continue using money from their capital projects fund to pay for utilities and insurance through 2015. The existing authorization expired at the end of this year.
- Veterans: House Enrolled Act 1387, sponsored by Candelaria Reardon and Arnold, requires county and city veterans service officers be trained and certified by the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs. The law also creates a funeral honors ribbon for veterans who provide distinguished service at military funerals.
- Gangs: Senate Enrolled Act 352, sponsored by Hershman, Randolph and state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, obligates schools to train their students and staff in gang awareness, and requires school employees report to the principal and school safety officer any gang behavior they witness in school.
- Resident tuition: Senate Enrolled Act 207, sponsored by Rogers, Mrvan, Randolph and Candelaria Reardon, permits Indiana students attending a state university prior to July 1, 2011, to continue paying in-state tuition, even if they cannot prove legal citizenship or immigration status as currently required to qualify for the reduced tuition rate.
- Motorboats: House Enrolled Act 1564, sponsored Pelath and state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, exempts from Indiana registration requirements motorboats registered in another state that are moored in Indiana's portion of Lake Michigan for less than 180 days.
- School buses: Senate Enrolled Act 421, sponsored by Rogers, Randolph, and state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, requires drivers of school buses equipped with seat belts to instruct students how to use them at least once a semester.