Photo: Noah Wesley (flickr)
More than 250 state laws went into effect Monday, July 1–the day laws typically go into effect to coincide with the fiscal year. The laws cover a wide range of topics, including the economy, education and criminal issues.
Many of the laws are complicated and narrow in scope, so we’ve made a list of just 10 bills you will likely want to understand and keep an eye on in the coming year:
1. The Budget
The Indiana legislature’s biannual budget increases expenditures to K-12 education, transportation and infrastructure and pays down some of the state’s long-term debt. The budget also includes a 5 percent income tax cut spread over three years, beginning in 2015, immediate elimination of the inheritance tax and continued reduction of the corporate tax.
2. Voucher Expansion
The law expands the state’s voucher program by making more students eligible for financial assistance. It requires students to attend at least a public kindergarten before receiving a voucher. That is different from the previous law, which requires one year of public school education after kindergarten. It is also different from the original version of the bill, that would have eliminated the public school requirement altogether. The expansion does allow students to skip public school entirely if their public school receives a failing grade from the state.
3. Criminal Record Expungement
The expungement bill will allow the criminal record of those convicted of a misdemeanor and some low-level felonies to be wiped clean five years after conviction if the person completes all the conditions of their sentence and is not convicted of another crime.
4. Banning “Look-alike” Drugs
This year was the third consecutive session with legislation outlawing synthetic drugs. The last two years, the legislature banned certain chemical compounds in the drugs. The bill’s author Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) says the new law bans “look-alikes,” anything that’s substantially similar to the banned drugs but does not necessarily contain anything on the state’s list of banned compounds.
The law is already facing a legal challenge. Four aromatherapy companies are suing the state, saying the law is too vague.
5. Restrictions on Purchases of Cold Medicine
The new law restricts anyone from buying within a year more than eight months worth of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, common ingredients in cold and allergy medicine that are used to make meth. The previous law only had weekly and monthly caps instead of yearly.
6. Child Care Background Checks
7. Career Education Laws
The governor signed into law two bills that aim to jointly improve the state’s career education system. One creates regional works councils that will work with the private sector and educational organizations to identify needs in the area’s workforce, create partnerships between schools and businesses for internships and apprenticeships and boost career and vocational education in high schools. The other creates a state career council to bring all of the state’s job creation and education efforts together at one table
8. Gaming Tax Breaks
A law seeking to improve the competitiveness of Indiana’s gaming facilities compared to those in nearby states. It provides tax breaks and credits to the state’s riverboats and racetrack casinos. It does not permit racetrack casinos to transition from electronic to live table games or allow riverboats to move their facilities entirely on land, as gaming advocates wanted.
9. School Safety
A new law allows school corporations to apply for up to $50,000 in state grants to increase security. Several legislators and the attorney general have expressed hopes that the money will be used to hire more school resource officers.
10. Legalizing Midwifery
The General Assembly passed a bill making Indiana the 28th state to legalize midwifery. Previously, midwives were only allowed to practice if they were also registered nurses. The law gives midwives a legal certification but also requires them to carry liability insurance.