2014 Indiana General Assembly

Senate limits rental inspections, Lake tourism oversight

2014-03-04T14:28:00Z 2014-03-04T21:50:11Z Senate limits rental inspections, Lake tourism oversightBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | The Republican-controlled Indiana Senate acted on 70 legislative proposals Tuesday, the final day for senators to approve or reject plans that previously were passed by the Republican-controlled House.

Nearly all those measures now go to House-Senate conference committees, where representatives and senators together will review the separately passed legislation and hammer out a compromise proposal that must be approved again by the House and Senate before March 14 to go to the governor for his signature or veto.

Here's a look at some of the items that won Senate approval:

Rental inspections — House Bill 1403 (34-12) exempts rental properties with more than five units that are managed by professional landlords from municipal inspection requirements and associated fees, if they hire their own inspectors. The Senate changed the measure Monday to require inspectors be employed independently of the landlord. Inspections must be limited to specific apartment features and structures; localities couldn't add items to the inspection list.

Hammond and other cities likely will have to shift the cost of their rental property registration and inspection programs if the measure becomes law, since it caps registration fees at $5 per property and bars inspection fees. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. has likened the proposal to allowing restaurants to self-inspect, and has questioned why state lawmakers want to make rental properties less safe.

Lake County tourism — House Bill 1380 (41-6) requires the annual budget and any spending by the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority be approved by the Lake County Council. State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, a co-sponsor of the measure, said he wants to ensure the work of the county tourism agency, especially its recent forays outside Lake County, is properly supervised by local elected officials.

Separately, the legislation would put a previously announced Indiana Department of Revenue rule into state law by requiring gay Hoosiers who are married in other states to file their Indiana income tax returns as individuals. While federal law permits joint returns for married gay and lesbian couples, Indiana still prohibits gay marriage and state lawmakers said the state tax code should reflect that prohibition.

Business tax cut — House Bill 1001 (33-15), exempts businesses with less than $20,000 in taxable equipment from the business personal property tax, permits localities to abate personal property taxes on new equipment worth more than $3 million and cuts the corporate income tax rate to 4.9 percent by 2022.

Schools and local governments statewide stand to lose about $7 million a year under the plan, and no replacement revenue is provided. State revenue will drop by $136 million a year when the tax cuts are fully implemented.

Welfare drug testing — House Bill 1351 (34-14) subjects Hoosiers with a prior drug conviction to mandatory drug testing as a condition of applying for and receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. Individuals who test positive still could receive TANF cash assistance, which averages $85 per month, provided they seek treatment to quit drugs and test negative on subsequent drug screens.

Recycling — House Bill 1183 (47-0), sponsored by state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, sets a state goal of recycling 50 percent of all municipal waste. The measure recommends a legislative study committee examine ways of meeting that goal. Charbonneau presented his proposal with the shortest Senate speech of the day, "Recycling is good and so is this bill," he said.

Criminal code — House Bill 1006 (45-2) makes final changes to the criminal code reforms that lawmakers enacted last year and are set to take effect July 1. The reforms are expected to shrink the state's prison population by reducing penalties for some crimes and rehabilitating low-level felons in community corrections programs. Significant increases in certain penalties, approved Monday by the Senate, are expected to be removed in conference committee.

Employment discrimination — House Bill 1242 (47-0) adds military veterans as a specific class protected against discrimination in hiring. Employers that refuse to hire a veteran due solely to his or her veteran status could be sanctioned by the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. An effort to bar hiring discrimination based on an applicant's sexual orientation was rejected Monday by the Senate, 36-11, on a party-line vote.

Road funding — House Bill 1104 (48-0), sponsored by state Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, directs the Indiana Department of Transportation to contract for a study of how to pay for future road and bridge construction, other than the gasoline tax. One option required to be looked at is a per-mile charge for motorists.

Traffic lights — House Bill 1080 (47-1) permits the operator of a motorcycle, moped, scooter or bicycle to drive through a red light at an intersection after waiting two minutes for the light to change and ensuring it is safe to proceed through the intersection.

Dental practice — House Bill 1061 (48-0) enables dental hygienists to provide dental treatments without a supervising dentist present, so long as the patient has been examined by the dentist in the past 45 days and the hygienist has at least three years experience.

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