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Indiana legislative round-up

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The following is a snapshot of key points from bills heard in the 2012 legislative session. All enrolled acts were signed by the governor by March 20.

Civil rights

Senate Enrolled Act 1 specifies that a person may use reasonable force against any other person in certain circumstances. Provides that a person is justified in using reasonable force against a public servant if the person reasonably believes the force is necessary to protect the person or a third person from unlawful force, to prevent or terminate the public servant’s unlawful entry into the person’s dwelling, or to prevent or terminate the public servant’s criminal interference with property lawfully in the person’s possession. This legislation was spurred by the Indiana Supreme Court decision Barnes v. State of Indiana.

House Enrolled Act 1003 provides that a court may impose a civil penalty against an officer, management-level employee, or a public agency for violating the public records law if the officer, management-level employee, or agency continues to deny a request for a public record after the public access counselor has issued an advisory opinion that instructs the agency to allow access and denies the request with the specific intent to unlawfully withhold a public record that is subject to disclosure.

Courts and trial procedures

SEA 152 allows the judge of the Allen Circuit Court – beginning July 1, 2013 – to appoint a second full-time magistrate.

SEA 246 requires a prosecuting attorney who intends to introduce a laboratory report into evidence to file a notice of intent at least 20 days before the trial, and requires a defendant who wishes to cross-examine the laboratory technician who prepared the report to file a pretrial demand for cross-examination not later than 10 days after receiving the notice from the prosecutor.

HEA 1092 adds a fourth judge to the Johnson Superior Court as of January 1, 2015. Prohibits the auditor of state from paying the part of the total salary and benefits that would otherwise be paid by the state for the fourth judge of the Johnson Superior Court until the auditor of state receives a resolution of the board of county commissioners of Johnson County that sets forth the board’s determination that a building in existence on January 1, 2012, has been rehabilitated and is ready as a place for the new court to hold sessions. Provides that the Wabash City Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Wabash Circuit Court in civil cases where the amount in controversy does not exceed $1,500.

Education

House Bill 1326 contained many provisions, including one which would have required the Department of Education, in collaboration with other agencies and organizations having expertise in criminal gang education, prevention, and intervention, to identify or develop model education materials and develop a model policy to address criminal gangs and criminal gang activity in schools. A Senate committee recommended an addition to this bill that would have allowed undocumented immigrant students who were already enrolled in a state university as of July 2011 to continue paying in-state tuition. Soon thereafter, the bill failed after making it through the House and second reading in the Senate.

Energy and environment

SEA 133 allows the solid waste management board to adopt rules and establish requirements for underground storage tanks in conformance with the delivery prohibition program under 42 U.S.C. 6991k. Allows the commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to enforce the delivery prohibition program if an owner or operator of an underground petroleum storage tank fails to register the tank or pay annual registration fees, and requires the commissioner to provide notice before issuing such a temporary order.

Health

HEA 1269 authorizes Indiana’s participation in a Health Care Compact, whereby states could collectively seek permission from Congress to suspend all federal laws, regulations and orders concerning health care that are inconsistent with the laws and regulations adopted by the member state under the compact, to the extent allowed under the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of the member state.

Juvenile justice and family law

SEA 19 lowers the age at which a parent’s obligation to pay child support ends – from age 21 to age 19 – with exceptions for higher education expenses. The bill brings Indiana’s law into alignment with support laws in most other states.

SEA 190 creates a study committee to determine whether parental rights should be terminated for rapists whose criminal act produces a child.

SEA 286 creates a Department of Child Services Interim Study Committee to examine how the DCS operates and responds to hotline calls. It also stipulates that a telephone call to the child abuse hotline is confidential and may be released only upon court order. An audio recording of a report of child abuse or neglect that is the subject of a complaint made to a prosecuting attorney under Indiana Code 31-33-22-3 shall be released without a court order to the prosecuting attorney upon written request of the prosecuting attorney.

Labor

Senate Bill 346 (FAILED) would have required the Worker’s Compensation Board, not later than January 1, 2013, to adopt rules to establish reimbursement rates for charges for medical services, treatment or supplies provided by a medical services facility to an employee for purposes of determining the pecuniary liability of an employer or an employer’s insurance carrier for a specific service, treatment or supply covered under worker’s compensation or occupational diseases compensation, and would have increased benefit amounts for injuries and disablements occurring on and after July 1, 2012.

HEA 1001 makes it a Class A misdemeanor to require an individual to become or remain a member of a labor organization; to pay dues, fees, or other charges to a labor organization; or to pay to a charity or another third party an amount that represents dues, fees, or other charges required of members of a labor organization as a condition of employment or continuation of employment.

Probate

SEA 293 phases out the inheritance tax over nine years, beginning in 2013. It reclassifies transferees, and increases the inheritance tax exemption amount for Class A transferees from $100,000 to $250,000 with respect to taxable transfers resulting from the deaths of individuals dying after Dec. 31, 2011.

HEA 1258 makes several changes to probate law, including eliminating authority to file a recovery claim against the estate of the recipient’s spouse. It also authorizes foreign wills to be probated after the expiration of the probate deadlines for the same limited purposes for which Indiana wills may be probated after the deadlines. It provides that costs of administration include the fee of a surrogate attorney to determine the priority of claims when an estate’s resources are insufficient to pay all claims.

Pro bono

SEA 235 stalled in committee, but Sen. Brent Steele was able to amend HEA1049 to include language originally contained in the bill. As of July 1, 2012 – and until July 1, 2017 – a fee of $1 assessed on any civil filing will benefit the Indiana Bar Foundation in order to supplement dwindling interest on lawyer trust accounts that fund the state’s pro bono districts.

Sentencing and criminal code

SEA 4, signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels on Jan. 30, went into effect before the Super Bowl, for the purpose of preventing human trafficking. The revision to Indiana code provides that recruiting, harboring or transporting another person to participate in sexual conduct by force, threat of force, or fraud constitutes human trafficking. It also provides that a person who recruits, harbors or transports a child less than 16 years of age with the intent of engaging the child in forced labor, involuntary servitude, prostitution or sexual conduct commits promotion of human trafficking of a minor, a Class B felony.

HEA 1033 allows a court to convert a Class D felony conviction to Class A misdemeanor, depending on the nature of the offense and the offender’s criminal history.

House Bill 1036 (FAILED) proposed making intimidation a Class C felony instead of a Class D felony if the person to whom a threat is communicated is a judge or bailiff of any court. It also would have made intimidation a Class C felony instead of a Class A misdemeanor if the person to whom a threat is communicated is a prosecuting attorney or deputy prosecuting attorney.

Tort law

SEA 273 allows the Indiana Department of Homeland Security’s Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission to adopt rules to regulate outdoor stage equipment used in connection with an outdoor performance as a Class 1 structure. It also creates an interim committee to study the regulation of outdoor stage equipment and recommend permanent legislation.

House Bill 1234  (FAILED)  proposed increasing the liability cap in the tort claims act to $1.3 million per person and $22 million per occurrence for causes of action accruing on or after July 1, 2011.•

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  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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