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What the attorney general is watching

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The session is about halfway over, but there are still several bills making their way through the General Assembly that the Indiana Attorney General's Office is watching.

The Attorney General's Office is typically neutral on the majority of bills that move through the legislature, but it does watch bills that may affect the office, such as bills dealing with the criminal justice system. The office also has two deputy attorneys general who are at the House and Senate every day as a resource for legislators and to advocate for bills that the AG's office supports or has a point of view on, AG public information officer Bryan Corbin said.

There are several bills moving this session that the AG's office does support. The centerpiece of the AG's legislative agenda this year is Senate Bill 405, a gaming bill. The office has interest in only one provision of the bill - the one that would provide transparency for Local Development Agreement entities that receive casino revenue. It stems from a situation in East Chicago in which a for-profit local development company receives a cut of casino money under a LDA. Because it's for-profit, there's no telling as to where the money went and has led to years of litigation.

"We feel this is a protection that the public needs to have transparency and accountability so you don't see the type of abuses that occurred in East Chicago occur in other places around the state," Corbin said.

That bill has made it out of the Senate and on to the House for consideration.

The AG's office is also interested in House Bill 1226, which will crack down on repeat offenders of Medicaid fraud. The bill will also clarify that the AG's office's ID theft unit is the one to call when someone discovers abandoned medical records or other records containing personal information. HB 1226 is before the Senate for consideration.

Another bill the attorney general is interested in is SB 394, which passed through the Senate and moved to the House. It would update state law so that local courts, instead of the parties, would have to notify the AG's office whenever a plaintiff files a declaratory-judgment suit seeking to declare a law unconstitutional. Corbin said there have been five or six cases over the last few years where someone had filed a constitutional challenge and the office didn't receive timely notice of it.

Another part of the bill would allow the attorney general to file an amicus brief in any lawsuit in the state without seeking the court's permission first. In the federal appellate court system, the attorney general has the right to file amicus briefs without seeking leave from the court first. Currently in Indiana, appellate rules require parties who wish to file an amicus brief, including the attorney general, receive permission from the court.

Corbin said the legislation attempts to have congruity between state and federal courts and that the office is pursuing the proposal first through a statutory change instead of through a rule change with the courts.

"No one can predict how often the AG's office would tender amicus briefs in Indiana trial court cases ... perhaps not very often. But the attorney general is the lawyer for state government, and so his legal argument could be useful and relevant to a trial court in a local case," he said.

SB 394 is in the House for consideration.

The Indiana Attorney General's Office also supports HB 1332, which deals with mortgage fraud, credit services, and property fraud; SB 356, a professional licensing bill; and HB 1083, which would allow property to be considered abandoned after three years and thus then can be reclaimed through the Unclaimed Property Program. These bills have moved through their respective houses and are in the other for consideration.

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