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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penalties when someone displays intent to physically meet with a child in person or by a computer; that bill was withdrawn because of its fiscal impact, but Sen.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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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