Senate Democrats outline second-half agenda 

The Indiana State Senate chambers.

Senators Jean Breaux and Gregory Taylor, both Democrats from Indianapolis, on Thursday sent the following half-time update from the Indiana General Assembly:

As lawmakers move through the second half of the legislative session, they begin the review of bills already approved by one chamber. Among the legislation still being considered are bills that would establish a statewide smoking ban, mandate drug tests for the state's welfare recipients, and appropriate additional funding for full-day kindergarten. This brief summary highlights some of the House-approved bills now being considered by the Senate.

Health issues

Legislation that would enact a statewide smoking ban has been assigned to the Senate Public Policy Committee. House Bill (HB) 1149 would prohibit smoking in public places and places of employment. Current exclusions in the bill include certain gaming facilities; cigar and hookah boars; fraternal, social and veterans clubs; tobacco stores; and bars and taverns. The House of Representatives approved the bill by a vote of 62-34.

Several states including Indiana are considering legislation to stop the sale of "bath salts." This synthetic drug is not the same as bath salts added to a hot bath, but it is intended to be snorted, smoked or injected by drug users. According to poison control centers and law enforcement agencies, the effects of these salts are comparable to methamphetamine abuse. HB 1196 will be considered by members of the Senate Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters Committee. The bill seeks to add additional chemical compounds, including bath salts, to the definition of synthetic drugs. Further, the bill would allow the State Board of Pharmacy to adopt an emergency rule to declare that a substance is a synthetic drug. In addition, the legislation would enhance penalties for dealing in or possessing a synthetic drug.

Education issues

The Senate Education and Career Development Committee received testimony on several bills. HB 1134 provides that school corporations would not be allowed to charge busing fees if the corporation contracts out transportation services. HB 1047 would establish an interim legislative committee to study education issues including the feasibility of establishing a process by which residents within an existing school corporation could elect to annex into another school corporation or establish a new school corporation. HB 1058 would permit two or more school corporations to take final action for the adoption of property tax levies, property tax rates, and a budget for a reorganized school corporation after the voters approve a plan of reorganization in a general election. The corporations would be required to publish public notices and hold public hearings before the adoption of levies, property tax rates and the new budget. All of these bills were held over for final action by the committee at a later date.

Nepotism and conflict of interest issues

Members of the Senate Local Government Committee approved HB 1005, a bill designed to eliminate nepotism and conflicts of interest matters within local government. The legislation would halt public workers from hiring family members in local government offices. In addition, firefighters, police officers and other municipal employees could not serve in an elected position on a county council or board of commissioners that sets agency budgets and salaries. The bill further specifies that public officers would not have to resign their position until elected. Similar legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 170, was approved by the Senate last month and is now under consideration in the House.

Legislation addressing nepotism at the state government level gained the approval of members of the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee. HB 1250 provides that an individual may not be employed in the same state agency in which the individual's relative is employed or serving as an elected officer or a special state appointee. Both House bills now advance to the full Senate for further consideration.

Farmers' markets and roadside stands

HB 1312 would allow more homegrown food products at farmers' markets or roadside stands. The bill provides that an individual vendor of a farmers' market or roadside stand is not considered to be a food establishment if the food product is made, grown, or raised by the vendor at their primary residence or on other property owned or leased by the vendor. Further, the measure would allow poultry to be sold at farmers' markets or roadside stands as long as it was prepared under federal guidelines. The bill would require the State Department of Health to adopt rules to allow limited sales of home-processed, uninspected poultry at farmer's markets and roadside stands. Lastly, HB 1312 would require the Legislative Council to establish an interim study committee to study obstacles to local food production, processing, and distribution, and make recommendations for actions that would encourage the production, processing, and distribution of locally grown food. The Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee approved the bill and advanced the legislation to the full Senate for further consideration.

To stay informed about bills moving through the General Assembly or to track legislation, log on to www.in.gov/legislative. From this site, you can also watch House and Senate committee hearings and session floor debate.

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