2015 Legislative bills to watch

The 119th Indiana General Assembly is now in session at the Indiana Statehouse. wikipedia.org

The 119th Indiana General Assembly convened Jan. 12. The only order of business that is mandatory in this session is establishing the next biennial budget. There are also a few other bills that will capture — and keep — the attention of mainstream media, such as school funding. While all of those bills are important, NUVO has compiled a list of legislative bills we believe are of interest to our readership. Some could have a positive or negative impact. Some reflect the issues NUVO is dedicated to exploring like environmental or social justice issues. And some are just plain quirky. So here are the bills on NUVO’s list of 2015 LEGISLATIVE BILLS TO WATCH, each with a brief explainer on why they’ll be of interest.

Senate Bills

SB 6 (Sen. Ron Alting) - Makes it a Class B infraction to possess, purchase, sell, offer to sell, or use powdered or crystalline alcohol. Establishes exceptions.

Powdered alcohol, or Palcohol, is not available for purchase on the open market yet. It is expected to be commercially available later this spring. However, in anticipation of this new product states like Ohio, New York and now Indiana are trying to make it illegal.

SB 9 (Sen. Brent Steele) - Provides that a probationer or parolee may be subject to search or seizure by a law enforcement officer at any time, as long as the search or seizure is not arbitrary, capricious, or conducted solely for the purpose of harassment.

If a random search cannot be for the purpose of harassment — or is simply arbitrary — why take out the probable cause clause?

SB 14 (Sen. Lonnie Randolph) - Authorizes a county, city, or town to establish or designate an agency to act for the county, city, or town as a local air pollution control agency. Requires the commissioner of the department of environmental management to enter into a contract with a county, city, or town air pollution control agency that is willing to enter into the contract.

More people paying attention to air pollution is always a good thing.

SB 15 – (Sen. Lonnie Randolph) - Prohibits an employer from using a consumer report for employment purposes unless certain conditions apply. Allows a consumer to bring a civil action against an employer for a violation of this provision.

Using someone’s financial literacy or in some cases illiteracy against them when determining employment shouldn’t be allowed. Looks like this bill aims to change that.

SB 27 (Sen. Dennis Kruse) - Imposes civil penalties on railroad corporations for obstructions of grade crossings that exceed 10 minutes. Provides that the civil penalties are in addition to any judgments for infractions.

This bill made me laugh. Sounds like someone is a little impatient waiting for trains to go by.

SB 28 (Sen. Dennis Kruse) - Requires the written part of an examination for a learner's permit or driver's license be in English. Prohibits an applicant from using a translator to take the written part of the examination.

SB 342 (Sen. Earline Rogers) – Requires the bureau of motor vehicles to conduct in certain foreign languages the testing and demonstration of ability to operate a motor vehicle.

Watching these two bills progress will show just how the general assembly views those Hoosiers whose native language is not English.

SB 38 (Sens. Brent Steele and Mike Delph) - Provides that a court may not apply, enforce, or grant comity, res judicata, claim preclusion, or issue preclusion to a foreign law, ruling, or judgment if doing so would violate the fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the State of Indiana.

While I can imagine some situations where this would be a positive to Hoosiers (like divorced parents who normally would lose certain rights to their child in an international custody battle), the track records of the bill’s authors give some pause for concern.

SB 41 (Sen. Karen Tallian) - Increases the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.

Hopefully minimum wage discussions will begin to get some traction in this state.

SB 44 (Sen. Jean Breaux) - Provides that: (1) it is an unlawful employment practice to pay wages that discriminate based on sex, race, or national origin for the same or equivalent jobs; and (2) the civil rights commission has jurisdiction for investigation and resolution of complaints of these employment actions.

Anti-discrimination and equal pay? Sounds good to me!

SB 54 (Sen. Brent Steele) - Allows the holder of an artisan distiller's permit to: (1) sell liquor for carryout on Sunday; and (2) upon approval, conduct business at three additional locations that are separate from the premises on which the artisan distiller manufactures liquor.

Separates establishments like Hotel Tango Whiskey from your average liquor stores and allows them to grow as a business. Sounds like a good plan!

SB 64 (Sen. John Broden) - Allows a notary public to solemnize a marriage.

Anyone can be a notary public if they have $11.22 and can buy a $5000 insurance bond (which is often covered by their employer). Notary publics are often in car sales, accounts payable, or banking offices.

SB 114 (Sens. Philip Boots and Mark Stoops) - Designates the elegant sea lily (Elegantocrinus hemisphaericus) as the official state fossil of Indiana.

I know we have a state bird, animal, and pie … but a fossil?


SB 160 (Sen. Frank Mrvan) - After: (1) June 30, 2015, increases the minimum wage paid to certain employees in Indiana from $7.25 to $8.50; and (2) June 30, 2016, increases the minimum wage paid to certain employees in Indiana from $8.50 to $10; an hour. Makes technical corrections and corresponding changes. Removes outdated language.

Yet another approach to the minimum wage debate.

SB 201 (Sen. Mike Delph) - Removes a voter's option to vote for all candidates of a political party or an independent ticket at one time (straight ticket voting) in a general or municipal election, except for candidates for presidential electors. Repeals superseded statutes relating to straight ticket voting.

While every voter should be well educated on the choices before casting a ballot, taking away their right to choose how they cast that vote isn’t the answer. This would simply mean more time filling in the little bubbles.

SB 203 (Sen. Mike Delph) - Provides that any act, decree, injunction, law, opinion, order, rule, regulation, or statute of any branch of the federal government found by the general assembly to be inconsistent with the power granted to the federal government in the Constitution of the United States is void in Indiana. Provides that a resident of Indiana has a cause of action to enjoin the enforcement or implementation or the attempted enforcement or implementation of a federal act, decree, injunction, law, opinion, order, rule, regulation, or statute declared void by the general assembly. Provides that a plaintiff who prevails in such an action is entitled to reasonable attorney's fees and costs. Removes a statement that the common law of England and certain statutes of the British Parliament are governing Indiana law. Provides that a person who knowingly or intentionally implements or enforces, or attempts to implement or enforce, a federal law that is declared void by the general assembly commits a Level 6 felony.

This is the one of the scariest of all of the bills being presented in this legislative session. Read: “If we as a general assembly don’t like what the federal government says we are simply going to claim it doesn’t apply to Indiana. Oh, and if you as a citizen go ahead and do it anyway you could be convicted as a felon.” Why not just secede from the Union entirely?

SB 220 (Sen. Phil Boots) - Provides that a property owners association may not adopt or enforce a covenant, bylaw, or other rule that prohibits or restricts a member of the property owners association from displaying the flag of the United States, including displaying the flag of the United States from a flagpole. Provides certain exceptions concerning the regulation of displayed flags.

One would think that the display of an American flag would be a good thing. A group of people should not be able to tell one homeowner what they can or cannot do on land he or she is paying for.

SB 233 (Sens. James Smith and Dennis Kruse) - Provides that a school corporation may: (1) instruct students about the history of traditional winter celebrations; (2) allow the use of traditional greetings concerning the celebrations; and (3) display on school property scenes or symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations if certain conditions are met and the scenes or symbols do not include a message that encourages a particular religious belief. Requires the state board of education to develop guidelines to assist school corporations in developing appropriate instruction and displays. Provides that the legislative body of a city, including a consolidated city, or town may adopt an ordinance that: (1) allows employees to use traditional greetings concerning traditional winter celebrations; and (2) allows the display on city or town property scenes or symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations if certain conditions are met and the scenes or symbols do not include a message that encourages a particular religious belief.

The bill says “winter celebrations” but what they really want to say is CHRISTMAS! LET THE KIDS CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS AT SCHOOL! LET THEM SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS! I doubt their intent is to let schools dive into the history of Jewish oppression in the Middle East as early as 200 B.C. or how December 25 isn’t really the birthdate of Jesus Christ but rather was “moved” in order aid in Christian recruitment to appeal to pagans who celebrated the winter solstice, a day determined by science as the shortest day and longest night of the year.

SB 235 (Sen. James Smith) - Provides that the elected members of the governing body of certain school corporations are elected on a partisan basis, beginning after December 31, 2014. Makes conforming changes to related sections.

At a time when school corporations are criticized for having too much politics in the system, this bill wants to put MORE politics in by making school board candidates declare a political party. WHY?

SB 249 (Sen. Jean Leising) - Prohibits a county, municipality, or township from adopting an ordinance, resolution, rule, policy, or other requirement that prohibits a person who meets certain conditions from building or repairing an agricultural building or structure that is or will be used for livestock.

The perfect explanation of why this bill is on our radar can be found here in David Hoppe’s blog post.

SB 263 (Sen. Dennis Kruse) - Requires each public school and charter school to conduct at least 30 minutes of physical education each day for students, which may be done as part of a class activity. Lengthens the minimum school day by 30 minutes. Requires each school corporation and charter school to: (1) report certain student health data for students in grades 1, 6, and 12 to the state department of health beginning in the 2015-2016 school year; and (2) inform the students' parents of the collection of the data and the right to obtain the data. Requires the state department of health to: (1) develop materials for the school corporation to distribute concerning body mass index; and (2) publish an annual report summarizing the data collected by the school corporations. Requires the state department of health and the state board of education to adopt joint rules to implement these provisions.

Yes, childhood obesity is an issue in our state and our country and yes, physical activity is a one of many ways to combat it. However, this bill creates more questions and problems than answers and solutions. Most elementary schools have physical education and/or recess built into the curriculum and the school day. (Have you ever tried to make an 8-year-old sit still for six straight hours?) Physical education is also a graduation requirement at the high school level. And what about student athletes? Would they be exempt? Would waivers be granted for those students in dance or other extracurricular activities (both school sponsored and not)?

SB 276 (Sen. Jim Merritt) - Increases the number of barrels of beer that a small brewer may manufacture to not more than 90,000 (instead of not more than 30,000) barrels of beer in a calendar year for sale or distribution within Indiana. Makes conforming changes. Makes a technical correction.

SB 284 (Sen. Karen Tallian) - Establishes a medical marijuana program and permits caregivers and patients who have received a physician recommendation to possess a certain quantity of marijuana for treatment. Creates the department of marijuana enforcement (DOME) to oversee the program, and creates the DOME advisory committee to review the effectiveness of the program and to consider recommendations from DOME. Authorizes DOME to grant research licenses to research facilities with a physical presence in Indiana. Repeals the controlled substance excise tax and the marijuana eradication program. Makes conforming amendments.

Senator Tallian has proposed the decriminalization of marijuana for several years only to have her proposals fall on deaf ears. This new approach is a smaller step in that direction and one that the Democrat leadership says is worthy of discussion.

SB 297 (Sen. Ron Alting) - Changes the amount of the barrels of beer that a microbrewery may manufacture in a calendar year for sale or distribution within Indiana from 30,000 to 60,000. Makes conforming changes to brewery provisions. Makes a technical correction.

Microbreweries are becoming a great industry in Indiana. These changes would allow these industries to continue to grow and thrive. (Plus we REALLY like beer here at NUVO.)

SB 322 (Sen. Randall Head) - Establishes the food desert grant program within the division of nutrition and physical activity to assist new businesses and existing businesses to offer fresh and unprocessed foods within a food desert. Makes an appropriation.

Everyone deserves access to healthy nutritious food options. EVERYONE.

SB 331 (Sen. Phil Boots) - Provides that after June 30, 2016, a public school may not require a student to take a qualified standardized test. Removes the requirement that a school is required to administer a college and career readiness exam to identify students who may require remedial work at a postsecondary educational institution or workforce training program. Requires the state board of education to provide a report to the general assembly that includes recommendations as to how to reduce the number of standardized assessments administered to students.


SB 334 (Sen. Travis Holdman) - Prohibits a person from performing an abortion if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion because of: (1) the sex of the fetus; or (2) a diagnosis or potential diagnosis of the fetus having Down syndrome or any other disability. Makes it a Level 5 felony if a person knowingly or intentionally performs a sex selective abortion or an abortion conducted because of a diagnosis of Down syndrome or any other disability. Provides for civil relief.

This bill is an attempt to further restrict abortion as well as an invasion of privacy.


House Bills

HB 1026 (Reps. Sean Eberhart & Terri Austin) - Provides that a holder of an alcoholic beverage permit who is authorized by law to sell alcoholic beverages for carryout may sell alcoholic beverages for carryout on Sunday.

This bill isn’t new and has been proposed several times only to die in one chamber or the other. We will see how far the conversation gets this year.

HB 1031 (Rep. Milo Smith) - Provides that an individual who wishes to withdraw as a candidate must withdraw not later than noon September 1 before the election. (Under current law, a candidate must withdraw not later than noon July 15 before the election.)

This bill doesn’t seem like much now, but could have big ramifications in 2016 and the future. For instance, let’s say a Hoosier is on a short list to be a vice-presidential contender. His bill would allow that individual to stay on the ballot for their respective office until after the national political conventions with time to bow out if necessary.

HB 1038 (Reps. Alan Morrison & Kathy Richardson) - Moves elections of city and town officers to even-numbered years. Repeals superseded statutes.

Moving municipal elections to even numbered years could make for higher voter turnout in “off-year” elections or create leadership overload in gubernatorial and presidential elections.

HB 1143 (Rep. Jim Lucas) - Prohibits a state agency, including a state supported college or university, from regulating the possession or transportation of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories: (1) on land that is; or (2) in buildings and other structures that are; owned or leased by the state. Provides for certain exceptions. Voids, as of July 1, 2015, any rules or policies enacted or undertaken by a state agency before, on, or after June 30, 2015, concerning possession or transportation of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories on land or in structures owned or leased by the state. Allows a person to bring an action against a state agency if the person is adversely affected by a rule, a measure, an enactment, or a policy of the state agency that violates this law.

HB 1144 (Rep. Jim Lucas) - Repeals the law that requires a person to obtain a license to carry a handgun in Indiana. Makes conforming amendments.

Three letters – WTF?!

HB 1053 (Rep. David Ober) - Allows a microbrewery and a farm winery that occupy the same building to sell by the glass the microbrewery's beer and the farm winery's wine from the same service bar, without a structure separating the service of wine and the service of beer.

HB 1076 (Rep. Curt Nisly) - Provides that the alcohol and tobacco commission may not require a microbrewery that sells beer by the glass to furnish food.

Lifting restrictions can only mean two things – business growth and MORE WINE AND BEER!

HB 1169 (Rep. Clyde Kersey) - Adds use of an electronic cigarette to the definition of "smoking" for purposes of the laws that prohibit smoking in certain places.

This is one of a few bills addressing e-cigarettes, but could be the leader on how the other bills pan out on the restriction and regulation of e-cigarettes.

HB 1193 (Rep. Cindy Ziemke) - Requires the division of family resources to establish a pilot program that allows Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to be used only for food and beverages that have sufficient nutritional value, as determined by the division of family resources.

This is another bill that raises several questions. What will be the measurement for “sufficient nutritional value” and how will be that be known at the cash register? What if the recipient lives in a food desert and nutritional options are simply unavailable? Benefits have already been reduced for a number of people. This requirement could take out several more.


News Editor

Recommended for you