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Shake-up of study committees meant to streamline process

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The internal changes to the Indiana Legislature’s interim study committee structure are not readily visible, but majority and minority leaders are optimistic the alterations will make the process more efficient and control the workload.

Under key provisions of a bill approved during the 2014 session of the Indiana General Assembly, the number of topics has been reduced and the Legislative Council has more control over what issues are studied.

The bill also alters the composition of the committees. Legislators now appointed to the interim committees will be drawn from the standing committees that review similar topics during the session. Any lay members appointed now must be authorized by the Legislative Council.

bosma-brian-mug Bosma

“First of all, I think it’s going to streamline the process of appointing the committees,” Indiana Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said of the change in structure. “It has already streamlined the process of getting agreed upon topics before the committees.”

Working under Senate Enrolled Act 80, the Legislative Council met May 14 and unanimously approved the resolution that assigned about 37 topics to 15 interim study committees.

The Personnel Subcommittee of the Legislative Council sifted through about 90 topics submitted by legislators for further review by the interim committees. Bosma emphasized the selection process was bipartisan and that every member of the subcommittee had topic proposals rejected.

Interim study committees exist to examine matters that come before the General Assembly but are too complex to handle in a single legislative session. The committees can study the issues and make reports as well as recommendations which the Legislature can then use.

However, some legislators felt the number of interim committees and topics had become too unwieldy. As Bosma explained, upwards of 70 topics were being assigned and the committees did not have enough time to adequately study them.

The purpose of the bill “was really to organize the topics in a reasonable fashion,” Bosma said. “It seemed like the fall-back position for every unsuccessful initiative was to require a study by the interim study committee and that’s what we said last year we were going to get away from.”

Steele Steele

Speaking after the May 14 meeting, key members of the Legislative Council were supportive of the changes.

“Well, I’m a very positive person and I don’t see alligators in mud puddles,” said Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford. “So I will not express any concern as of yet. If it turns out that there’s something wrong there, then I’ll be the first to be yelling about it.”

Committee members

The new bill enables the Senate president and the House speaker to each appoint four members from the Legislature to every committee while the minority leaders in both chambers can each name three members.

In addition, only the Legislative Council can authorize the addition of individuals who are not state representatives or senators. Lay members will be a part of four committees including the Interim Study Committee on Corrections & Criminal Code and the Interim Study Committee on Courts & Judiciary.

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane acknowledged the number of lay people involved in the interim study process will probably be reduced. Not every committee previously had non-legislative members but some had as many as 15 which, the Anderson Democrat said, was too much.

“So we did reduce the numbers, but we did, I think, want to preserve that support and have lay members involved in certain committees,” Lanane said.

The Indiana Judges Association had asked the Legislative Council to retain the two judicial members who had been on the former Commission on Courts and put them on the courts and judiciary interim committee.

“We asked for the chief justice and a trial court judge to be members of the committee,” said IJA President John Pera of Lake Superior Court. “We think it is important if you’re going to look at and make recommendations about the judiciary, then judges should be allowed to provide input.”

Bosma noted lay persons will not be shut out of the process. If they are not members of an interim committee, they can still testify and let the policymakers hear their voice.

Preapproval

The interim study committee structure bill, authored by Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and sponsored in the House of Representatives by Bosma, established 17 committees under broad categories like agriculture and natural resources, environmental affairs, government and public health, behavioral health, and human services.

Lanane does not anticipate problems under the new committee structure.

“I think the Senate bill made some positive changes just in terms of how administratively do we establish the committees and we process the committees,” he said. “But I don’t think it disrupts what I think is the very important work of the interim study committees.”

Many of the topics assigned for the upcoming interim session arose from legislation that was considered during the 2014 Legislature. Among the committees and their topics are:

• Interim Study Committee on Corrections & Criminal Code: autism spectrum disorders of defendants, juvenile justice issues and changes to the criminal code;

• Interim Study Committee on Courts & Judiciary: digital privacy, nonparty defense, adoption and requests for new courts or changes in the jurisdiction of existing courts;

lanane Lanane

• Interim Study Committee on Education: pre-kindergarten and student discipline including the suspension, expulsion or exclusion of a student from school.

The chairs of the study committee will not be able to introduce additional topics without the approval of the Legislative Council’s Personnel Subcommittee. Bosma reiterated this provision is meant to control the number of topics. Without the preapproval process, he said, the concern is the issues not assigned would be submitted directly to the chairs of the committees to pick up.

During the 2013 interim session, Steele’s Commission on Courts had been assigned the sole topic of reviewing the need for a new magistrate in Vanderburgh Circuit Court, but he filled the agenda with additional topics regarding bail bonds and the use of psychiatrists.

Although he will now have to get thumbs up before assigning new topics, Steele does not believe he will have a problem getting preapproval of any topic he wants to study.

If changes need to be made to the new interim committee structure, Bosma is confident the legislative leaders will make adjustments on a bipartisan basis.

“This is a new process for all of us,” Bosma said, “so we’ll let it shake out a little bit, put a few miles on it and see if the tires need to be rotated.”•

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  1. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) End of Year Report 2014. (page 13) Under the current system many local registering agencies are challenged just keeping up with registration paperwork. It takes an hour or more to process each registrant, the majority of whom are low risk offenders. As a result law enforcement cannot monitor higher risk offenders more intensively in the community due to the sheer numbers on the registry. Some of the consequences of lengthy and unnecessary registration requirements actually destabilize the life’s of registrants and those -such as families- whose lives are often substantially impacted. Such consequences are thought to raise levels of known risk factors while providing no discernible benefit in terms of community safety. The full report is available online at. http://www.casomb.org/index.cfm?pid=231 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) US Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs United States of America. The overall conclusion is that Megan’s law has had no demonstrated effect on sexual offenses in New Jersey, calling into question the justification for start-up and operational costs. Megan’s Law has had no effect on time to first rearrest for known sex offenders and has not reduced sexual reoffending. Neither has it had an impact on the type of sexual reoffense or first-time sexual offense. The study also found that the law had not reduced the number of victims of sexual offenses. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/publications/abstract.aspx? ID=247350 The University of Chicago Press for The Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Law School Article DOI: 10.1086/658483 Conclusion. The data in these three data sets do not strongly support the effectiveness of sex offender registries. The national panel data do not show a significant decrease in the rate of rape or the arrest rate for sexual abuse after implementation of a registry via the Internet. The BJS data that tracked individual sex offenders after their release in 1994 did not show that registration had a significantly negative effect on recidivism. And the D.C. crime data do not show that knowing the location of sex offenders by census block can help protect the locations of sexual abuse. This pattern of noneffectiveness across the data sets does not support the conclusion that sex offender registries are successful in meeting their objectives of increasing public safety and lowering recidivism rates. The full report is available online at. http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/658483 These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of conclusions and reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. People, including the media and other organizations should not rely on and reiterate the statements and opinions of the legislators or other people as to the need for these laws because of the high recidivism rates and the high risk offenders pose to the public which simply is not true and is pure hyperbole and fiction. They should rely on facts and data collected and submitted in reports from the leading authorities and credible experts in the fields such as the following. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 0.8% (page 30) The full report is available online at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Adult_Research_Branch/Research_Documents/2014_Outcome_Evaluation_Report_7-6-2015.pdf California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) (page 38) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 1.8% The full report is available online at. http://www.google.com/url?sa= t&source=web&cd=1&ved= 0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F% 2Fwww.cdcr.ca.gov%2FAdult_ Research_Branch%2FResearch_ documents%2FOutcome_ evaluation_Report_2013.pdf&ei= C9dSVePNF8HfoATX-IBo&usg=AFQjCNE9I6ueHz-o2mZUnuxLPTyiRdjDsQ Bureau of Justice Statistics 5 PERCENT OF SEX OFFENDERS REARRESTED FOR ANOTHER SEX CRIME WITHIN 3 YEARS OF PRISON RELEASE WASHINGTON, D.C. Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The full report is available online at. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm Document title; A Model of Static and Dynamic Sex Offender Risk Assessment Author: Robert J. McGrath, Michael P. Lasher, Georgia F. Cumming Document No.: 236217 Date Received: October 2011 Award Number: 2008-DD-BX-0013 Findings: Study of 759 adult male offenders under community supervision Re-arrest rate: 4.6% after 3-year follow-up The sexual re-offense rates for the 746 released in 2005 are much lower than what many in the public have been led to expect or believe. These low re-offense rates appear to contradict a conventional wisdom that sex offenders have very high sexual re-offense rates. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/236217.pdf Document Title: SEX OFFENDER SENTENCING IN WASHINGTON STATE: RECIDIVISM RATES BY: Washington State Institute For Public Policy. A study of 4,091 sex offenders either released from prison or community supervision form 1994 to 1998 and examined for 5 years Findings: Sex Crime Recidivism Rate: 2.7% Link to Report: http://www.oncefallen.com/files/Washington_SO_Recid_2005.pdf Document Title: Indiana’s Recidivism Rates Decline for Third Consecutive Year BY: Indiana Department of Correction 2009. The recidivism rate for sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05%, one of the lowest in the nation. In a time when sex offenders continue to face additional post-release requirements that often result in their return to prison for violating technical rules such as registration and residency restrictions, the instances of sex offenders returning to prison due to the commitment of a new sex crime is extremely low. Findings: sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05% Link to Report: http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/RecidivismRelease.pdf Once again, These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. No one can doubt that child sexual abuse is traumatic and devastating. The question is not whether the state has an interest in preventing such harm, but whether current laws are effective in doing so. Megan’s law is a failure and is destroying families and their children’s lives and is costing tax payers millions upon millions of dollars. The following is just one example of the estimated cost just to implement SORNA which many states refused to do. From Justice Policy Institute. Estimated cost to implement SORNA Here are some of the estimates made in 2009 expressed in 2014 current dollars: California, $66M; Florida, $34M; Illinois, $24M; New York, $35M; Pennsylvania, $22M; Texas, $44M. In 2014 dollars, Virginia’s estimate for implementation was $14M, and the annual operating cost after that would be $10M. For the US, the total is $547M. That’s over half a billion dollars – every year – for something that doesn’t work. http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08-08_FAC_SORNACosts_JJ.pdf. Attempting to use under-reporting to justify the existence of the registry is another myth, or a lie. This is another form of misinformation perpetrated by those who either have a fiduciary interest in continuing the unconstitutional treatment of a disfavored group or are seeking to justify their need for punishment for people who have already paid for their crime by loss of their freedom through incarceration and are now attempting to reenter society as honest citizens. When this information is placed into the public’s attention by naive media then you have to wonder if the media also falls into one of these two groups that are not truly interested in reporting the truth. Both of these groups of people that have that type of mentality can be classified as vigilantes, bullies, or sociopaths, and are responsible for the destruction of our constitutional values and the erosion of personal freedoms in this country. I think the media or other organizations need to do a in depth investigation into the false assumptions and false data that has been used to further these laws and to research all the collateral damages being caused by these laws and the unconstitutional injustices that are occurring across the country. They should include these injustices in their report so the public can be better informed on what is truly happening in this country on this subject. Thank you for your time.

  2. Freedom as granted in the Constitution cannot be summarily disallowed without Due Process. Unable to to to the gym, church, bowling alley? What is this 1984 level nonsense? Congrats to Brian for having the courage to say that this was enough! and Congrats to the ACLU on the win!

  3. America's hyper-phobia about convicted sex offenders must end! Politicians must stop pandering to knee-jerk public hysteria. And the public needs to learn the facts. Research by the California Sex Offender Management Board as shown a recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders of less than 1%. Less than 1%! Furthermore, research shows that by year 17 after their conviction, a convicted sex offender is no more likely to commit a new sex offense than any other member of the public. Put away your torches and pitchforks. Get the facts. Stop hysteria.

  4. He was convicted 23 years ago. How old was he then? He probably was a juvenile. People do stupid things, especially before their brain is fully developed. Why are we continuing to punish him in 2016? If he hasn't re-offended by now, it's very, very unlikely he ever will. He paid for his mistake sufficiently. Let him live his life in peace.

  5. This year, Notre Dame actually enrolled an equal amount of male and female students.

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