Gov. Eric Holcomb signed 167 new state laws approved by the Republican-controlled Indiana House and Senate during the 2020 legislative session, which ran between Jan. 6 and March 11.
While a few "emergency" laws took effect immediately, such as Senate Enrolled Act 2, holding schools harmless from the impact of lackluster student performance on the new ILEARN standardized test, most of the new statutes enacted by the Republican chief executive take effect July 1.
Here's a look at notable new laws Hoosiers should know about:
Lake Michigan — The shoreline of Lake Michigan up to the ordinary high-water mark is, and always has been, owned by the state, and Hoosiers have a right to use the shoreline for walking, fishing, boating, swimming and any other recreational purpose for which Lake Michigan ordinarily is used. Adjacent private property owners are not entitled to exclusive use of the beach or the water. (House Enrolled Act 1385)
Smoking age — Hoosiers under age 21 are prohibited from buying or possessing cigarettes, electronic cigarettes or vaping products under state law, as well as federal statutes. Indiana retailers who sell tobacco products to underage purchasers may face fines of between $400 and $2,000, double the previous fines. New tobacco retailers cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school. (Senate Enrolled Act 1)
Teacher evaluations — A state mandate that annual teacher evaluations and linked pay increases be largely based on student ILEARN test results is eliminated. (HEA 1002)
Out-of-state prescriptions — Indiana pharmacists are obligated to fill a prescription issued by an advance practice registered nurse or physician assistant licensed in another state, just as they would fill a prescription written by an out-of-state physician, podiatrist, dentist or veterinarian. (SEA 21)
Abortion — Women completing a pill-induced abortion away from a clinic or hospital are encouraged — but not required — to collect the embryonic remains and return them to the abortion provider for burial or cremation. (SEA 299)
Indigency — Judges in all 92 counties must consider the same criteria — assets, income and necessary expenses — to determine whether a criminal defendant lacks sufficient financial resources to hire a private attorney and is entitled to use the public defender. (SEA 302)
Gary schools — The Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board may suspend the $550,000 in monthly debt repayments of the Gary Community School Corp. to the state's Common School Fund and instead use the money for school building repairs or demolition. (HEA 1065)
Griffith — The town of Griffith has until June 30 to voluntarily join either North or St. John townships, otherwise Griffith automatically becomes part of North Township. The town's voter-approved transfer out of Calumet Township becomes final Jan. 1, 2022. (SEA 365)
RDA transit — Three members are added to the board of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority solely to vote on issues relating to transit development districts. The new members — one each from Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties — are appointed by the governor from a list of candidates nominated before July 1 by the commissioners in each county. (SEA 367)
School water — Officials responsible for a school building must have its water fountains and taps tested for lead by Jan. 1, 2023, unless it previously has been tested and found in compliance since 2016. In Lake County, the water equipment in every school building must also be tested for lead at least every other year starting in 2023. (HEA 1265)
911 fee — The Statewide 911 Board is authorized to increase the fee paid by all telephone users for access to 911 emergency services to $1.10 per month, from $1. (HEA 1235)
Microchipping — Employers are prohibited from mandating the implantation of any identity or tracking device in a worker or job candidate, unless the person voluntarily consents to having something put into his or her body. (HEA 1143)
Unemployment — Indiana businesses will continue paying the same unemployment insurance rates to the state through at least 2025, instead of the rates automatically being reduced sometime after July 1, 2021. (HEA 1111)
Health pricing — Hospitals, same-day surgery centers and urgent care clinics are required by March 31, 2021 to post on their websites the costs of their most frequently used services. The Indiana Department of Insurance is directed to begin the process of creating an all-payer claims database to improve health care pricing transparency. (SEA 5)
Online eye exam — Hoosiers between ages 18 and 55 may procure a prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses through telemedicine, so long as they've undergone an in-person eye exam and/or contact lens fitting in the previous two years. Only two online eye exams are permitted in a two-year period before a subsequent in-person exam is required. (SEA 19)
Child sex crimes — The statute of limitations for filing charges against perpetrators of sex crimes against children can be extended five years beyond the victim's 31st birthday if prosecutors discover new DNA evidence, a recording of the crime or the perpetrator confesses. The deadline for victims to seek assistance from the Violent Crimes Victim Compensation Fund also is extended. (SEA 109)
Resource officers — School corporations and charter schools must annually report to the Indiana Department of Education the number of school resource officers they employ for building and student protection. The department also is required to compile a statewide total of school resource officers. (SEA 132)
Sex assault victims — Victims of sexual assault have a statutory right to a no-cost forensic medical exam, the right to speak with a victim advocate or social worker during a hospital visit for the exam, and a law enforcement officer investigating the assault must provide notice of those rights to the victim. (SEA 146)
Chinese tech — Every state agency and department, including universities, and every local unit of government in Indiana, is barred from spending public funds to purchase services or products, including 5G networking equipment, produced or provided by Huawei Technologies or ZTE Corporation, due to their alleged surveillance and espionage work on behalf of the Chinese government. (SEA 197)
Cancer screening — Health insurance companies, in most circumstances, are obligated to cover colorectal cancer screening beginning at age 45, instead of 50, in accordance with a recent recommendation by the American Cancer Society. (HEA 1080)
Marriage — The minimum age to marry in Indiana is increased to 16 years old from 15. Children ages 16 and 17 only can marry if their partner is no more than four years older and a juvenile court judge grants permission for the marriage. (HEA 1006)
Medical billing — Most health care providers must prepare, upon request, a good faith estimate of the costs of nonemergency health care services ordered or scheduled for a patient to minimize surprise medical bills. The requirement takes effect July 1, 2021, though providers may voluntarily comply sooner. (HEA 1004)
Breast prostheses — Health insurance sold in Indiana that provides coverage for mastectomies must also provide coverage for custom fabricated breast prostheses, including one additional breast prosthesis per breast affected by the mastectomy. (SEA 239)
Insulin — A prescription no longer is required to purchase insulin in Indiana beginning Jan. 1, 2021. (SEA 255)
Organ donation — Hoosiers may indicate intent to donate their organs upon death on a state-issued hunting, fishing or trapping license, in addition to a driver's license, state identification card or donor registry. (SEA 288)
Small claims — The maximum value of a case eligible for judgment in a small claims court is increased to $8,000 from $6,000. (HEA 1313)
VALPARAISO — A former Porter County police officer convinced a judge Wednesday to lift an order barring him from having any contact with his two young sons, including one he is accused of battering and leaving disabled with a much shorter life expectancy.
But 50-year-old Curtis Jones still has another hurdle to overcome in family court if he is to follow through with plans to visit his boys via the telephone or by video conferencing.
The family court must approve the visits per the terms of his divorce settlement, according to Porter County Deputy Prosecutor David Urbanski.
One of the attorneys representing Jones, John Vouga, said his client will be petitioning the family court for the visitation rights.
"It is clearly not in his children's best interests to remain completely isolated and apart, especially in our modern age of technology which allows for safe and appropriate access," according to a motion filed on behalf of Jones.
The motion argues that the court-ordered, no-contact order was "unjust and unnecessary and potentially violative of Defendant's constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment."
Jones, who now is living and working in Florida, is accused of injuring his then-7-month-old son July 24, 2016, and is charged with felony counts of battery resulting in serious bodily injury to a person less than 14 years of age, aggravated battery and neglect of a dependent.
A doctor at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago said the child suffered "the worst brain injury I have ever seen," according to court documents. The doctors determined the injuries were consistent with being shaken and must have occurred during the time he was in the care of Curtis when his former wife and the boy's mother was at her overnight nursing job.
Curtis Jones left the Porter County Sheriff's Department more than a decade ago.
He was in court Wednesday, along with his attorney and a courtroom responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by requiring everyone, including the judge, to wear face masks and remain in designated seating marked at a distance from one another.
Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford said he was leaving in place a no-contact order for the boys' mother and Jones' former wife.
The motion filed on behalf of Jones claims that there are several of the children's maternal family members willing to supervise the proposed visits, who would stop them immediately if they became inappropriate, the motion reads.
But Urbanski said Wednesday he was told there are no family members willing to supervise the visits.
Jones is seeking two, half-hour visits each week with each child.
The underlying criminal case is set to go to trial over eight days beginning Feb. 2, which will be more than four-and-a-half years after the alleged offense.
MORGAN TOWNSHIP — "That is stupid high," a 39-year-old DeMotte man reportedly told Porter County police after he was stopped while driving as fast as 100 mph and his blood-alcohol count was found to be nearly four times the legal limit.
Thomas Barr was taken into custody shortly after the 9 a.m. traffic stop Tuesday and faces misdemeanor charges of "driving while intoxicated endangering another person" and two other drunk driving counts, according to Porter County police.
Police said Barr was first seen speeding east on Ind. 8 near County Road 150 West. After passing up Smoke Road, he pulled a U-turn and headed north on Smoke Road and police reportedly had to drive upwards of 100 mph in the 45 mph zone to catch him.
After his vehicle was stopped, police found that Barr had opened a container of gum and he told them he was running late for work and knew he was "doing 80" down Smoke Road.
He at first denied he had been drinking alcohol, but then said he had a few beers the night before, police said. When asked how many, he said something to the effect of, "hopefully not enough to get me in trouble."
"I asked Thomas if he felt hungover and he stated he felt all right," police said. "I replied, 'You look hungover,' to which he then replied, 'True.'"
When asked if he would submit to a blood test, Barr pleaded to be allowed to continue on to work and said he did not want to go through the process of another drunk driving charge, police said. Barr has a previous conviction from 2013 for driving while intoxicated, police said.
Barr was reportedly shocked by the level of the test results and said he drinks alcohol every day, police said. Barr told police the doctor handling his case told him that "basically" he is a functioning alcoholic.
CROWN POINT — A local eatery has closed its doors after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Square Roots, a gastropub at 108 N. Main St., announced it would be closed for the next 24-48 hours after an employee didn't pass a health screening before clocking in.
Square Roots Co-owner Kyle Ropac told The Times on Wednesday after the employee failed a health screening on Saturday, they tested positive for COVID-19.
The employee who tested positive for the coronavirus failed a health screening administered at Square Roots, and was subsequently sent home for testing. The employee has not returned to work since, Ropac said.
Since reopening in May, Ropac said employees have had their temperatures taken and been asked a series of questions prior to starting their shift.
The eatery has 65 employees, all of whom have been asked to get tested, Ropac said, adding leadership has provided employees with three locations that provide free COVID-19 testing.
Before returning to work, Ropac said employees are required to provide a negative test result.
So far, eight employees have tested negative for the coronavirus, Ropac said, adding he's not sure if additional staff members have tested positive.
Ropac said it's possible the restaurant's reopening could be delayed if it doesn't have enough staff reporting negative results within 24-48 hours.
The restaurant was professionally sanitized on Wednesday, Ropac added.
The response following the gastropub's Wednesday morning announcement has been overwhelming, Ropac said.
"We talked with partners last night. We just felt it was the right thing to do to get ahead of it," Ropac said, adding there has been "good feedback from all the customers (who) supported us during tough times."
"As hard as it was to make the decision to close, we felt that it was the right move to make."
Ropac added he was surprised to see the caring reactions and positive comments under the Facebook post, but "it meant a lot," considering, "65 people count on this as their livelihood."
Neighboring restaurant Provecho Latin Provisions also commended Square Roots for its efforts.
"This is a scary and realistic scenario we all have to face moving forward. Thank you for being a great neighbor Square Roots!" Provecho said in a Facebook comment.