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Weekly Statehouse Update: Abortion Regulation, Clearer Voice For Foster Parents

The Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis

(Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

A Senate committee advanced legislation to empower foster parents. Anti-abortion bills are on the move. And the House passes a vaping tax.

Here’s what you might have missed this week at the Statehouse.

Clearer Voice For Foster Parents

A Senate committee-approved bill requires the Department of Child Services to help give foster parents a clearer voice in court. And it requires judges to more carefully consider what those parents have to say. But lawmakers also pulled back from a provision that holds DCS accountable if it doesn’t comply with court orders on termination of parent/child relationships.

Preventing Overprescribing Foster Youth

A bill to better regulate psychotropic medicine for youth in Indiana’s foster system passed out committee Monday. The proposal aims to prevent overprescribing medication to young people for depression, anxiety or ADHD. 

Children in foster care are prescribed psychotropic drugs at higher rates than other children. 

Abortion Regulation

A House committee took hours of testimony on a bill that would largely ban a second trimester abortion procedure. Bill supporters call the procedure barbaric, while opponents say it’s the safest option for women at that stage of pregnancy.

Legislation in the Senate would allow pharmacists to deny women access to abortion-inducing drugs. Physicians already have a right to refuse to provide abortions, but this year’s bill would expand that to nurses, physician assistants, and pharmacists. 

Vaping Tax

And the Indiana House approved a bill to impose a tax on e-cigarettes – 4 cents for every milliliter of vaping product. Supporters say their burgeoning use among young people requires action. But opponents say the product’s use as a smoking cessation tool means the tax is a punishment.

Stand Your Ground Expansion

House lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday to expand Indiana’s “Stand Your Ground” law to cover civil lawsuits.

The “Stand Your Ground” law says you can use force – even deadly force – to defend yourself, someone else, and your property. That protects you from criminal charges.

The bill extends those protections into civil court. It passed 80-13.

Teacher Firearm Training

A bill to create specialized firearm training for teachers and school staff, and allow state funds to pay for it, was approved Monday morning by an education committee.

School already have the authority to arm teachers. This bill establishes a 40-hour voluntary firearm training program.

Amendments to the bill clarified that not only teachers could receive this training but all school staff, and the program is not required. 

Hate Crimes Bill

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) says his chamber won’t be influenced by what the House will support when it comes to hate crimes legislation.

That’s as House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says his caucus doesn’t like the bill a Senate committee will consider in the next week.

Gaming Debate

A Senate gaming bill would allow Gary to move its existing casino off the waterfront to a more desirable location in the city. And it would allow an unused license in the city to go to Terre Haute, for a new casino there.

But Sen. Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen)’s bill says the other license could move anywhere in the state, as chosen by the Indiana Gaming Commission.

Mishler says he’ll work with the author of the other gaming bill to try to make the measures gel.

Child Sex Abuse Civil Suit

The Indiana Senate will consider a bill giving victims of child sex abuse a limited window to file civil lawsuits against their abuser – even if the statute of limitations has expired.

Victims of child sex abuse can sue their abusers in civil court. But they can only do so within either seven years of when they were abused or four years after they’re no longer a dependent of their abuser.

A proposed bill would open a three-year window – through 2022 – when the victims can sue, regardless of whether the statute of limitations expired.

Sex Offenders Providing Child Care

The Indiana Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would close a gap in state law concerning sex offenders.

Sexual predators and those who commit offenses against children are barred from working or volunteering on school property or at a public park. But state law doesn’t stop them from being child care providers, or living with someone who is.

The bill closes that loophole. It passed unanimously and now goes to the House.

Jail Overcrowding

The Indiana House approved legislation Monday whose author says will, as he puts it, “ease the pressure” on overcrowded jails.

The bill would allow overcrowded county jails to move low-level, nonviolent felons to regional facilities run by the Department of Correction. About half of the state’s county jails are over capacity.

The House approved the bill 74-17. The measure now goes to the Senate.

School Referenda

Lawmakers backed off a proposal Monday that would have forced school districts to share referendum dollars with nearby charter schools.

Part of a bill sponsored by House Education Committee Chair Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) would have required traditional public school districts to share funding from voter-approved property tax increases with the area’s charter schools.

Behning offered an amendment for the committee to remove that language from the bill.

Postsecondary Student Outcomes

School accountability in Indiana could focus, in part, on what students do after high school under a plan in the House, as lawmakers seek to align the state’s school accountability system with new graduation pathways.

The Indiana State Board of Education approved new graduation pathways in 2017. The pathways stress the importance of schools preparing students for life after high school whether they go to college or jump straight into the workforce.

Now a bill moving through the House says as the state board crafts new school accountability rules, members should focus on metrics to reflect the new pathways.

CFO Regulation Dies

bipartisan bill to place more regulations on large farms called confined feeding operations — or CFOs — failed in a House committee Wednesday. There are more than 1,800 of CFOs in Indiana — the larger of which are called CAFOs or confined animal feeding operations.

The bill would have given the Indiana Department of Environmental Management more power to deny permits for CFOs.

Short-Term Rental Taxes

Short-term rental owners would have to pay sales and innkeeper taxes under legislation approved by a Senate committee Tuesday.

The measure follows up on last year’s bill to regulate those who rent their homes.

Statewide Dementia Plan

proposal to address Alzheimer’s disease in Indiana may be considered by Indiana lawmakers. The last time the state outlined a strategy for action was in 2012. 

Former-Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the legislation that plannedways to better connect care, raise awareness and enhance data about Alzheimer’s disease in Indiana. A new bill aims to create an updated state plan.

But that bill has not received a hearing – and the deadline for committees to hear bills is next week.

Indy Eleven Stadium

Supporters of a new Indy Eleven soccer stadium are wondering whether there’s acceptable legislation that would help fund the facility.

The bill Sen. Jack Sandlin (R-Indianapolis) authored that would help fund a new Indianapolis soccer stadium is unlikely to get a hearing. However, the Senate Appropriations Committee heard another bill Thursday that could be amended to include the stadium proposal.

That bill deals with the Marion County Capital Improvement Board and Professional Sports Development Areas, PSDAs, which already include Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It also includes extending the Indiana Pacers’ contract to stay in Indianapolis for another 25 years.

Lake Michigan Shoreline

Two state Senate bills that help define the boundaries of Lake Michigan’s shoreline passed in committee Monday.

The Indiana Supreme Court took up that case last year. It said that two Long Beach property owners didn’t have the right to prevent the public from using the beach in front of their homes for recreation. But the court left it up to the legislature to define “recreational use.”

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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