General Assembly wrap-up

Laura McPhee

Members of the Indiana General Assembly passed nearly 150 pieces of legislation during the legislative session that ended March 15. Here are just a few of the ones that didn't make the headlines.

Bad News for the Forest and the Trees: The DNR can move full-steam ahead with its ambitious logging plan to increase timber production some 500 percent with added help from Senate Bill 0354. The new law exempts state forest logging projects from environmental review under the Indiana Environmental Policy Act. And it provides that environmental impact statements do not apply to forestry management practices of the Division of Forestry.

Funeral Protests a Felony: Senate Bill 0005 makes protesting at a funeral a Class D disorderly conduct felony instead of a Class B misdemeanor if it: (1) is committed within 500 feet of the location where a funeral, burial, memorial service, funeral procession or viewing is taking place; and (2) adversely affects the funeral, burial, memorial service, funeral procession or viewing.

Domestic Violence: With the passage of House Bill 1281, domestic battery becomes a Class D felony if: (1) the person who committed the offense has a previous unrelated conviction for a substantially similar crime in Indiana or any other jurisdiction; or (2) it is knowingly committed in the presence of a child less than 16 years of age. The law also makes strangulation a Class D felony.

Easier Targets: Senate Bill 0077 reduces the minimum required distance of a shooting preserve to one mile (changed from five miles) of a state-owned game refuge or state public hunting ground.

"Various homeland security matters": With Senate Bill 0247, state government will establish the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center to collect, maintain and analyze intelligence information and other information relating to criminal activity or terrorism. It also establishes a Counter-Terrorism and Security Council (CTASC) and the Fusion Center as criminal justice agencies.

Downsizing Executions: The number of witnesses at an execution has been reduced with Senate Bill 0160. The new law reduces to five the number of friends and relatives of a convicted person who may be present, and permits up to eight adult members of the immediate family of the victim to be present at an execution.

A Prayer for the Road: After years of trying, Republican lawmakers have finally kept their campaign promise to allow Indiana residents to purchase "In God We Trust" license plates with the passage of House Bill 1013.

Don't Sue the Messenger: House Bill 1113 grants immunity from civil liability for certain persons in the food and beverage industry, including advertisers, marketers and advertising media, as to a claim concerning weight gain, obesity, a health condition associated with weight gain or obesity or a generally known condition allegedly caused by or allegedly likely to result from the long-term consumption of food or beverages.

Thanks

In addition to passing nearly 150 new laws over the past several months, members of the Indiana General Assembly also passed nearly that many non-bidding resolutions. These range from forming study committees, to honoring Indiana soldiers who have died in the Iraq war and recognizing the unique contributions of Miss Indiana to the state.

In the Senate, however, a number of resolutions were also passed to express appreciation to individuals and groups kind enough to provide members of the Indiana General Assembly with free stuff while they were doing the business of the state. Not coincidentally, many of the gift-givers who received special recognition with an official Senate Resolution are also big contributors to political campaigns.

Here are just a few examples of the special honors bestowed upon benefactors of the Indiana Senate this past session and their corresponding campaign contributions over the past five years.

SR 19: To express appreciation to Brian Breslin and Meijer

"Whereas, enacting legislation requires a clear mind and a healthy body ... [and] water is refreshing and has helped provide the members and staff of the Senate with hydration and fortitude; and Brian Breslin of Meijer has generously kept the Senate supplied with bottled water throughout the session ... be it resolved by the Senate of the General Assembly of the State of Indiana, the Indiana Senate extends its deep appreciation to Brian Breslin of Meijer for the provision of bottled water to the Indiana Senate."

Breslin has personally contributed $10,000 to the campaigns of Indiana Republicans since 2000, and made no donations to Democrats. Additionally, Meijer had made approximately $38,000 in total political contributions, with nearly $13,000 going to senators. Senate Republicans have received $11,000 (85 percent) and Democrats $1,750 (15 percent).

SR 22: To express appreciation to Douglass J. Simmons and the SDS Group

"Whereas, Senators spend many hours in committee hearings, meetings, and in session, which sometimes makes finding time for meals difficult; and the popcorn supplied to the Senate has been enjoyed and appreciated by the members and staff ... be it resolved that the Indiana Senate expresses its sincere appreciation to Douglas J. Simmons and the SDS Group, LTD for their generosity."

Simmons and SDS have contributed more than popcorn over the past few years. Individually, Simmons has donated approximately $1,000 to Republican candidates, none to Democrats. SDS Group has donated a total of $9,500 to state office holders, with more than two-thirds going to Republicans. In the Senate, Republicans have collected $3,900 (93 percent) and Democrats $200 (7 percent).

SR 33: To express appreciation to Robert Kraft of the Indiana Farm Bureau

"Whereas, enacting legislation requires a clear mind and a healthy body ... [and] milk is an excellent source of calcium and nutrients, is refreshing, filling, and has helped provide the members and staff of the Senate with stamina and fortitude; and Robert Kraft of the Indiana Farm Bureau has kept the milk machine filled by delivering a considerable amount of milk to the Senate each week."

Farm Bureau has donated $100,000 to Indiana politicians since 2000, with 73 percent being given to Republicans and 23 percent to Democrats. In the Senate, Farm Bureau has spent a total of $16,000, with 75 percent of the contributions going to Republicans. Kraft has personally added another $900, all going to Republicans.

SR 24: To express appreciation to Joe Lackey and the Soft Drink Association

"Whereas, enacting legislation can be an arduous process, requiring many hours in committee hearings, meetings, and in session ... the soft drinks supplied to the Senate by Joe Lackey and the Indiana Soft Drink Association have been enjoyed and appreciated by the members and staff. Therefore, the Indiana Senate expresses its sincere appreciation to Joe Lackey and the Indiana Soft Drink Association for their generosity."

There are no contributions on record made to members of the Senate from Lackey or the Soft Drink Association since 2000. However, nearly $20,000 in contributions was made to the campaigns of Republican candidates Mitch Daniels and Todd Rokita in the last election.

SR 25: To express appreciation to Brent Shay and Eby-Brown

"Whereas, Senators spend many hours in committee hearings, meetings, and in session, which sometimes makes finding time for meals difficult; and the candy supplied to the Senate by Brent Shay and the Eby-Brown Company has been enjoyed and appreciated by the members and staff ... be it resolved that the Indiana Senate expresses its sincere appreciation to Brent Shay and the Eby-Brown Company for their generosity."

It is unclear if the candy Shay and Eby-Brown donated was consumed by Republicans only, but their campaign contributions certainly were. One hundred percent of the total $2,000 in contributions went to Republicans in the last election, about half that amount to Republican senators.

SR 39: To express appreciation to John Livengood and the Restaurant & Hospitality Assoc.

"Whereas, enacting legislation requires a clear mind and a healthy body; [and] milk is an excellent source of calcium and nutrients, is refreshing, filling, and has helped provide the members and staff of the Senate with stamina and fortitude ... be it resolved that the Indiana Senate extends its deep appreciation to John B. Livengood of the Restaurant and Hospitality Association of Indiana for the provision of milk to the Indiana Senate."

The Restaurant and Hospitality Association has given a little more than half of its contributions to Republicans over the past five years, donating a total of $25,000 throughout the state. Nearly $10,000 was contributed to senators since 2000; Republicans have received $7,100 (74 percent) and Democrats $2,600 (26 percent).

SR 18: To express sincere appreciation for the "Doctor of the Day" program

Given to the Indiana Medical Association for providing "competent and experienced physicians who have donated their time and expertise." According to the resolution, "[the] program is invaluable in that the presence of a physician contributes to the smooth operation of the Indiana Senate which results in quality legislation on behalf of the citizens of the State of Indiana."

The Indiana Medical Association has contributed $165,000 to the campaigns of Indiana politicians since 2000, split nearly evenly between Republicans and Democrats. Nearly half of those contributions have been made to members of the Indiana Senate, with Republicans receiving $67,000 (76 percent) and Democrats receiving $21,000 (24 percent).

SR 55: To express sincere appreciation for the "Chiropractor of the Day" program

Given to the Indiana State Chiropractic Association for providing "competent and experienced chiropractors who have donated their time and expertise by providing on-the-spot chiropractic care to the members and staff of the Legislature ... "

In addition to free chiropractic care, the cleverly-named BACK PAC has donated more than $50,000 to Indiana politicians over the past five years, including more than $15,000 to senators. Republicans received $8,500 from chiropractors (57 percent), and Democrats took in $6,500 (43 percent).

Lmcphee@nuvo.net

Legislative information from www.in.gov/legislative

Contribution information from www.indianacampaignfinance.com

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