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Lawmakers vote on COA panel, Lake County fee

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Both houses of the Indiana General Assembly took action on court-related legislation Thursday.

The Senate moved forward with Senate Bill 35, authored by Sen. Richard Bray, R-Martinsville, that would create a sixth Indiana Court of Appeals panel. No amendments were offered on the second reading Thursday, and it's expected to get a final third reading for adoption next week. If approved, this would be the first expansion since 1991 and would bump the number of intermediate appellate judges from 15 to 18 starting in January 2010.

Despite doubt that the bill would get enough support this session because of tough economic times and difficult budget balancing, the legislation that carries an estimated price tag of $1.3 in its first year and $2.2 million afterward is moving swiftly so far. SB 35 received unanimous consent from both the Senate's judiciary and appropriations committees.

If approved by the full Senate before its deadline to do so next week, the bill would move to the House of Representatives for consideration before the session concludes in late April.

Meanwhile, the House passed a bill that would add a $10 fee onto Lake County court cases to pay for the eventual construction of a centralized judicial center.

Lawmakers voted 53-41 in favor of House Bill 1435, authored by Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, which would establish a fund aimed at financing, constructing, and equipping a new facility in or near Crown Point. The fund for a consolidated judicial center comes on the heels of a 2007 study recommending many ways that the local government could be more efficient, including the idea of centralizing into one location.

If enacted, a $10 fee would be charged on any civil filing in Lake's Circuit or Superior courts, and in criminal cases where someone is convicted of an offense, required to pay a pretrial diversion fee, or found to have committed an infraction or ordinance violation.

With more than 100,000 cases filed in Lake County, this $10 fee could bring in an estimated $800,000 a year.

Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, objected to the bill and said a centralized judicial center would disenfranchise residents far from Crown Point, particularly lower-income residents without adequate transportation options. Lawson told him that the city courts in Gary and Hammond would remain open, but Brown wasn't satisfied and voted against the proposal.

The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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