Dozens of new laws are set to go into effect on July 1, ranging from cracking down on overdue child support to relieving overcrowded prisons, strengthening drunken driving penalties to protecting property rights, according to State Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso).
“Legislators achieved our top priorities by delaying $400 million in unemployment insurance premium increases to help avoid layoffs and create jobs, passing sweeping government ethics reforms, as well as allowing Hoosiers to have the final say on whether property tax caps should become permanent,” Charbonneau said. “In all, 115 bills were passed and signed into law benefitting children, taxpayers, employers and employees, homeowners, military troops and gun owners.”
Charbonneau offered a snapshot of new laws set to go into effect on July 1:
Child Support: In an effort to collect more than $2 billion in overdue child support payments, lawmakers passed a bill to withhold casino winnings from those who ignore their court-ordered obligations. The Indiana Department of Child Services estimates more than 165,000 “deadbeat parents” each owe more than $2,000 in support payments. Colorado passed a similar law in July 2008, resulting in more than $320 million in delinquent payments.
Drunken Driving: Legislation designed to stiffen penalties against drunken drivers also memorializes an innocent victim, an Indiana family’s unborn son. In 2007, Danielle Brookshire lost her unborn son in a car crash believed to be caused by a drunken driver. Lawmakers worked with Brookshire and local prosecutors on the bill’s language.
Costly, Crowded Prisons: Senate Enrolled Act 415 eases the burden on Indiana’s over-crowded correctional facilities and saves tax dollars. Every year of incarceration costs taxpayers at least $20,000 per inmate, and SEA 415 allows parole boards to consider early discharges for long-term, non-violent offenders who have been incarcerated for 21 consecutive years and have completed a four-year college degree or other approved community transition program.
Utility Co-Ops: Lawmakers passed a measure allowing rural telephone and electric cooperatives to merge into single co-ops. Supporters of Senate Enrolled Act 126 say merging co-ops could increase the utilities’ management efficiencies and streamline efforts to more cost-effectively bring service to Hoosiers in rural communities.
Independent Research: In an effort to make the legislative branch less dependent on lobbyists for research on public policy topics, Senate Enrolled Act 84 allows lawmakers and the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency to access state-funded research resources at Indiana colleges and universities. Feasibility of establishing a research and policy development division will also be explored.
Voting Accessibility: House Enrolled Act 1109 makes voting easier for those with disabilities and military personnel serving our country overseas. The new law ensures disabled voters have the same access to private, independent voting methods when casting ballots early or absentee as they do when voting on Election Day. It also provides more options for military personnel to cast a vote when serving overseas.
Property Rights: Aimed at protecting Hoosier homeowners’ rights to display political signs on their property, lawmakers approved a bill allowing homeowners associations to regulate but no longer ban the display of political signs during election seasons. Senate Enrolled Act 64 prohibits associations from adopting restrictive rules that outright prohibit the display of political signs 30 days before an election. Associations may still adopt and enforce rules restricting the size, number and location of signs.
Motor Vehicle Offenses: Senate Enrolled Act 93 seeks to protect roadside workers by stiffening penalties for drivers who fail to slow down and move over when approaching a stationary utility vehicle on the side of the road. Senate Enrolled Act 170 increases penalties for drivers who kill a law enforcement officer or law enforcement animal, like a K-9 dog, while driving drunk or resisting arrest.
Suicide, Violence Education: Senate Enrolled Act 226 establishes a study of teen suicide and prevention measures, including teacher training to recognize early signs of suicidal tendencies in youth. Senate Enrolled Act 316 requires the Department of Education to develop dating violence education materials, which can later be used to assist schools with preventive programming.
Gun Rights: House Enrolled Act 1068 aims to keep the names, addresses and other identifying information of more than 300,000 Hoosiers with handgun licenses – also referred to as concealed carry permits – confidential, like tax records. House Enrolled Act 1065 prohibits most businesses from enacting policies that prevent licensed gun owners from keeping legal firearms in their locked vehicles out of sight.
Rx Abuse: Lawmakers supported a bill aimed at combating prescription drug abuse in Indiana. Senate Enrolled Act 356 expands the data collected by Indiana’s prescription monitoring program (INSPECT) and allows INSPECT to release information on prescribers and patients to the state toxicologist, Medicaid fraud investigators and substance abuse assistance programs. This change should help better identify problem prescribers and ‘doctor shopper’ patients in an effort to reduce prescription drug abuse.
For more information on these new laws and other state matters, Charbonneau encouraged area residents to call toll-free 1-800-382-9467 or e-mail him at Senator.Charbonneau@iga.in.gov.