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State senator reviews some new laws

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

Many new laws passed by the Indiana General Assembly earlier this year took affect July 1.

The budget bill, House Enrolled Act 1001, set the two-year budget at $34 billion with K-12 education receiving half, a $500 million increase.

State Sen. Jean Leising said many years there are big issues that received approval but this year many bills passed but none like the gas tax increase two years.

She cited the increase in funding for the state Department of Child Services, which has its hands full with all the problems with families across the state. DCS has received more calls than before and the decisions are becoming harder to make whether to remove a child from the home, she said.

“The track record has not been good and I think that is where there is a lot of pushback,” she explained. “We had 59 kids that died from abuse and neglect based on their last reporting period.”

She authored Senate Enrolled Act 170 to require DCS to provide reporting of deaths of children for a year by the end of the following year. The report must include whether the child died in the home or foster care.

The Indiana State Department of Health has created a fetal infant mortality coordinator as a result of SEA 278, another bill she authored. Indiana ranks seventh worst in the nation for infant mortality.

HEA 1005 moved up the date for the superintendent of public instruction to be appointed by the governor rather than elected from 2025 to 2021. Current Superintendent Jennifer McCormick has chosen not to seek re-election.

“I have serious concerns about the governor having eight of the 10 appointments to the State Board (of Education) and come 2021, he or whoever the governor is, will have the appointment for the new superintendent,” Leising said. “That makes it really heavy on the executive side for school administration.”

SEA 2 provides for suspension of a drivers license for passing a stopped school bus with an extended stop arm up to one year. It increases the penalty, from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor for an anyone who recklessly passes a stopped school bus. Also the penalty is increased from a Class A misdemeanor to a Level 6 felony for an individual if the action results in injury, and to a Level 5 felony if the action results in death.

That bill came after a driver passed a stopped school bus near Rochester, killing three and injuring another.

HEA 1284 allows someone to carry a gun to a worship service if the church is located on the same grounds as a school. Short-term carry licenses will be free starting in July 2020 but a fee will still be charged for a lifetime license. The four-year license will be increased to a five-year license.

SEA 132 would require each Indiana public high school to administer an exam to students in their U.S. government class that consists of material identical to the U.S. Civics Test given to those seeking U.S. citizenship.

HEA 1078 allows judges to sentence persons convicted of a Level 6 felony to a state prison if a person committed a violent crime or has two prior, unrelated felony convictions. The bill is an attempt to reduce overcrowding in local jails.

SEA 201 extends to pharmacists, nurses and physician assistants an exemption currently allowed for doctors from being required to perform an abortion, assist or participate in procedures intended to result in an abortion if the health care provider objects to the procedures on ethical, moral or religious grounds.

HEA 1015 provides for sports betting in the state. Locations can begin seeking licenses July 1 for betting on certain sporting events.