Holcomb signs bill allowing regional public defender services

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Public defender reforms, including allowing public defenders in multiple counties to pool resources, were signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Senate Enrollment Act 488 allows regional or multi-county public defender services and reforms county public defense boards. The bill had strong bipartisan support among lawmakers and was among the top legislative priorities for public defenders.

State Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, one of the authors of the proposal, hailed the legislation.

“Getting this proposal passed this year was a priority,” Taylor said in a statement Thursday. “After a yearlong study of the public defense system, the Indiana Task Force on Public Defense gave several recommendations on how to reform and improve our system; SEA 488 directly seeks to meet two of the five recommendations put forth in the initiative. This legislation will bring about necessary reform that will strengthen and improve our public defense system.”

Advocates for public defense were unable to persuade lawmakers to address other areas of concern, including reimbursement for misdemeanor defense and establishment of a statewide appellate public defender agency.

However, another priority was met. The Indiana Public Defender Commission received a funding increase in the state budget bill of $4.47 million annually in its base budget for each of the next two fiscal years.

Taylor’s co-authors on SEA 488 were Republican Sens. Michael Young, Indianapolis, and Eric Koch, Bedford.

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