Photo: Jimmy Emerson (Flickr)
The Indiana General Assembly passed 224 laws this year, most of which go into effect July 1 to correspond to the fiscal year.
Some of these laws, like the reduction of the business personal property tax, are new. Others, such as the pre-k pilot program have been discussed in the past but never acted upon, and some laws, such as the criminal code overhaul, are updates to existing laws.
Below are 10 of those laws we think are important.
Did we miss any? If so, let us know in the comments section below.
The Family and Social Services Administration will select five counties to participate in the state’s new pre-k pilot program in July. The program could provide up to 4,500 low-income children with money to attend a high quality preschool — similar to the Choice Scholarship vouchers the state provides to K-12 students.
Legislation also created a comprehensive commission to examine the topic and a study of the pilot program that will track the children’s progress through third grade. The FSSA will consider proposals from 18 counties, to be whittled down to a final five. The program is expected to be fully launched by July 2015.
The overhaul of the criminal code, which aims to better match crimes to their sentences and to save the state money by keeping people out of state prisons, passed in 2013, but its implementation was delayed for a year. Lawmakers planned to work out additional details this year–particularly how to pay for additional local community corrections programs, which would be taking care of more offenders under the new law.
In addition to reconciling technical conflicts between last year’s bill and other criminal code laws, the bill allocates between $11 million and $13 million for county community corrections programs. The legislature will likely allocate more money next year during the budget discussions.
“It’s a question of really convincing the fiscal leaders of the General Assembly that these programs are effective,” says State Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington. “The battle in the last couple years has been how much money do you really anticipate saving by treating people in the local community versus taking them to the Department of Corrections and putting them in state prisons.”
The measure allows people to have guns in school parking lots if they are locked in a car and out of sight.
Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, who created that language, says loosening state restrictions will prevent parents who are picking up their children from school from unknowingly committing a crime.
Since the bill was passed, schools have begun to update their policies to align them with the new state law.
The bill requires physicians who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges in writing and have those documents sent to the state. A compromise to protect concerns about doctors’ privacy removes any identifying information before those documents are released to the public.
Previous legislation requires schools to tell parents about the possible risk of concussion in all sports, and if an athlete is suspected of having a concussion, he’s not allowed to return to play until he’s received a written clearance.
This year’s bill goes further, mandating concussion education for both high school and youth football coaches.
There were a few bills concerning veterans that become law July 1, but Senate Bill 180 is perhaps the most extensive. It does three things.
First, it establishes the veterans disability clinic fund which provides grants to law schools with a veterans disability clinic. Those clinics will be able to develop an educational outreach program to advise veterans of their rights in disability compensation and legal counsel.
Second, the department of health will consult the VA to study veterans with traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder. Not only will they study veterans but they will also look at what treatments would be best, what funding is available for the program and what the economic impact is of veterans with TBI and PTSD.
Finally the law suggests the formation of a committee to study veteran benefits. The committee would look at how to change Indiana veterans’ benefit services and how Indiana fares nationwide on veterans’ services like education, employment and health care.
The expansion of the Lifeline Law extends immunity to underage drinkers who seek help from police or emergency responders in the event of an overdose, sexual assault or any crime.
The original Lifeline Law provided immunity to minors who had been drinking and called the police or medical emergency responders for a friend who needed medical attention.
The same bill that expanded the LifeLine Law also orders the state to study the reasons for Indiana’s high rate of sexual assault.
Nearly one in five girls in Indiana is sexually assaulted before she graduates high school, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
This law eliminates Energize Indiana, the state’s program that was designed to encourage energy efficiency programs.
Gov. Mike Pence and other supporters of the law say they were concerned about an increase in utility costs, but Pence has reiterated several times that he is dedicated to energy efficiency and is seeking a new energy efficiency program to replace Energizing Indiana.
Two bills passed this year address Governor Pence’s call to reduce the state’s business personal property tax, a levy on business equipment.
HB 1001 allows counties to eliminate the tax on new purchases, while SB 1 allows counties to eliminate the tax entirely on small businesses.
The local options begin taking effect July of 2015. The bills also further reduce the state’s corporate and financial institutions taxes and create a study committee to investigate local taxation.
Brandon Smith, Rachel Morello and Casey Kuhn contributed to this report.