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INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mike Pence has signed a new law designating the Northwest Indiana Law Enforcement Academy a criminal justice agency, making the Hobart police training center eligible for federal grants.

Senate Enrolled Act 193 resolves an oversight that required the region police academy, which last year trained 58 new officers from 13 Northwest Indiana counties, to seek federal aid through the state, rather than applying directly to the federal government.

Most of the academy's $355,830 annual budget currently is funded by riverboat casino admission tax revenue.

The criminal justice agency designation also permits the academy to establish its own police force, with uniforms and emergency vehicles, empowered to conduct police investigations.

The new law was sponsored by state Sens. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, Earline Rogers, D-Gary, Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, and Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago; and state Reps. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, Julie Olthoff, R-Crown Point, and Chuck Moseley, D-Portage.

Pence also signed House Enrolled Act 1242, sponsored by Lawson and Randolph, requiring police reserve officers to receive the same training as full-time police on interacting with people suffering from mental illness, autism or senility, and how to identify human trafficking.

Other new laws recently enacted by the Republican governor include:

Lake waste board oversight — Senate Enrolled Act 390, sponsored by Niemeyer and state Reps. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, Charlie Brown, D-Gary, and Mike Aylesworth, R-Hebron, requires the 27-member Lake County Solid Waste Management District Board to get approval from two of the three Lake County commissioners before making major landfill decisions or borrowing money.

Microbreweries — Senate Enrolled Act 297, sponsored by Dermody and Randolph, triples to 90,000 barrels the amount of beer Indiana microbreweries, such as Munster's Three Floyds, can manufacture for distribution within the state. A beer barrel contains 31 gallons.

Rape -- Senate Enrolled Act 94, sponsored by Charbonneau, Arnold and Olthoff, allows prosecution for rape after the five-year statute of limitations has expired if the state finds new evidence through DNA testing, prosecutors discover a previously unknown recording of the crime or the perpetrator confesses.

School facilities — House Enrolled Act 1045, sponsored by Randolph, provides legal immunity from civil lawsuits to elementary and high schools, as well as state colleges and universities, for injuries suffered by a recreational user of school sports facilities, provided the institution posts rules for public use and maintains available equipment in good condition

School safety — House Enrolled Act 1414, sponsored by Randolph, permits schools to substitute an extra tornado or man-made disaster drill for the monthly school fire drill twice a semester, but not in consecutive months. Tornado or man-made disaster drills only are required once each semester.

Trespassing — Senate Enrolled Act 306, sponsored by Arnold, codifies Indiana's common law practice of not holding property owners responsible for injuries suffered by a trespasser, unless the property owner attacks the uninvited visitor. It provides for some owner liability if the trespasser is a child and the injury was reasonably foreseeable.

Water utilities — Senate Enrolled Act 474, sponsored by Charbonneau, Aylesworth and state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, requires the Indiana Finance Authority analyze the long-range needs of the water utilities serving Indiana's 15 most populous cities and five small towns to assess the state's water security.

Prison inmates — Senate Enrolled Act 173, sponsored by Randolph, Rogers and Tallian, authorizes the Department of Correction to establish a vocational skills program to train minimum security inmates nearing the end of their sentences for post-prison employment. Also Senate Bill 285, sponsored Dermody and Randolph, enables inmates to send two free email messages a month in lieu of receiving complimentary envelopes and postage for two handwritten letters.

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