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Key Senate committees meet during first week

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This story was published in Capitol Watch, a supplement to Indiana Lawyer daily.


In the first week after the Indiana General Assembly returned, lawmakers addressed several bills during two key committee meetings particularly relevant to the state's legal community.

On Tuesday, the Senate Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters committee met for the first time and discussed four bills:

- SB 26, targeting the child solicitation penalties when someone displays intent to physically meet with a child in person or by a computer; that bill was withdrawn because of its fiscal impact, but Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, plans to reintroduce it this session.

- SB 29, which protects county clerks from being personally liable for acts or omissions occurring while they're doing their duties, as long as negligence or intentional disregard for their responsibilities wasn't in play. The committee passed it 10-0 and sent it to the full Senate for consideration. 

- SB 71, which targets the unlawful termination of a pregnancy in cases where someone operates a vehicle while intoxicated and causes the fetus' death. Senators unanimously referred the bill to the Corrections and Criminal Matters subcommittee for further review.

- SB 81, which creates a 20-member Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee that would take effect in July to replace the current Sentencing Policy Study Committee set to expire at the end of 2010. The bill passed 7-3, though Sen. Richard Bray, R-Martinsville, didn't attend to vote, and Sens. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, Michael Delph, R-Carmel, and Brent Waltz, R-Indianapolis opposed it. They expressed concerns about how much authority the governor should have in appointing some committee members, such as judges who might sit on the panel.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee met for the first time this session and discussed at length one single piece of legislation: SB 163, a catch-all bill aimed at tweaking state statutes on the child support collection process. Several components include matching state statute with what federal law says on income withholding and participating in family assistance programs.

The bill also addresses medical costs in relation to how child support is calculated, and allows various state agencies or boards to suspend licenses if payments aren't made. Most aspects involve the Indiana Department of Child Services. Of the various provisions, the most controversial aspect of the legislation involves a "gaming interference" provision that would allow the state to seize delinquent child support on certain larger casino wins. The bill would put casinos in charge of checking gamblers with single-game winnings of at least a certain amount - possibly ranging from $1,200 to $1,500 - against a list of parents who are at least $2,000 behind in child-support payments.

Currently, about 165,000 noncustodial parents fit that description and owe more than $2 billion in back child-support payments, according to the state agency handling most of the child support collection task.

DCS Director James Payne told lawmakers that the legislation would be a similar setup to how all banks are currently required to do periodic checks against a database for anyone who owes child support, and how the insurance industry voluntarily participates in a similar check when handling insurance award payouts. Other states, such as Colorado, use this method, and lawmakers questioned whether this would be beneficial to the state or overly burden the gaming industry.

"We recognize this could be a burden on the gaming institutes... but this is important to make sure these kids get the support legally owed to them," Payne said.

The Casino Association of Indiana feels the legislation unfairly targets the state's gaming industry and would cause a 2-minute delay on casino floors while names of winners are checked against an electronic list of people who owe child support. That could mean more than 13,000 work-hours annually, just for the checks. This would result in widespread waits and could cause gamblers who might be impacted by this bill to go outside Indiana to gamble, according to the group's director Mike Smith.

"With our tax burdens, we are paying our fair share to have the privilege of operating in Indiana," he said. "We just ask not to be additionally burdened."

Some lawmakers suggested increasing the amount of winnings that would trigger a database search. Sen. Bray said he wants to get this legislation to the floor for consideration as soon as possible, though it's currently scheduled for more discussion at the Jan. 13 meeting.

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  1. Bill Satterlee is, indeed, a true jazz aficionado. Part of my legal career was spent as an associate attorney with Hoeppner, Wagner & Evans in Valparaiso. Bill was instrumental (no pun intended) in introducing me to jazz music, thereby fostering my love for this genre. We would, occasionally, travel to Chicago on weekends and sit in on some outstanding jazz sessions at Andy's on Hubbard Street. Had it not been for Bill's love of jazz music, I never would have had the good fortune of hearing it played live at Andy's. And, most likely, I might never have begun listening to it as much as I do. Thanks, Bill.

  2. The child support award is many times what the custodial parent earns, and exceeds the actual costs of providing for the children's needs. My fiance and I have agreed that if we divorce, that the children will be provided for using a shared checking account like this one(http://www.mediate.com/articles/if_they_can_do_parenting_plans.cfm) to avoid the hidden alimony in Indiana's child support guidelines.

  3. Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

  4. Indiana up holds this behavior. the state police know they got it made.

  5. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

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