Smoking ban defeated among many bills

Business continues at a fast pace as lawmakers work through lengthy committee hearings and floor calendars. This brief summary includes some of the legislative action recently taken by the State Senate and House of Representatives.

Statewide smoking ban defeated
Expressing concerns that there were too many exemptions included in legislation proposing a statewide smoking ban, and that the bill had morphed into only a partial ban, members of the Senate Public Policy Committee voted to defeat HB 1018. The measure was approved in the House by a vote of 68-31, but  was amended to include exemptions for bars, fraternal clubs, casinos, and nursing homes.

Alcohol sales

Legislation which would amend an unpopular law approved last year requiring retail clerks to request photo identification including birth dates for all customers purchasing alcohol for carry out is under consideration in both chambers. The Senate Public Policy Committee approved HB 1325 after amending the language to require clerks to card only those customers who reasonably appear to be younger than the age of 50. A similar bill, Senate Bill (SB) 78, is currently under House consideration. However, that bill stipulates an age requirement of 40.

House action

The House approved several bills which are awaiting final consideration by the governor. Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 47 would make several changes to Indiana’s laws regarding riverboat casinos, including the elimination of a requirement that the boats have motors and crews, allowing the boats to remain permanently docked. The measure would also allow casinos to host large card tournaments at hotels and other meeting sites located on property owned or leased by the casinos.

These changes would provide the riverboats more flexibility and allow them to be competitive with anticipated casino expansion in surrounding states.

SEA 549 would establish the Indiana Public Retirement System to administer and manage the state’s 10 pension funds.

Expected to be signed into law, the bill would create a nine-member Board of Trustees appointed by the governor to oversee and make investment decisions on state retirement funds for public employees, teachers, judges, prosecuting attorneys, excise police, conservation and gaming officers, police, firefighters and state legislators. Lawmakers expect SEA 549 will lower administrative and investment costs and generate higher investment returns.

The House Education Committee made substantial changes to SB 577, a bill pertaining to the state’s 21st Century Scholars program and another scholarship program designed to help the children of disabled veterans attend college. The 21st Century Scholars program provides scholarships for children of low income families. SB 577 included changes to the program which would have tightened up financial and academic requirements. Under changes made by the House committee, all language pertaining to that program was removed from the bill. For the children of disabled veterans, the bill now provides that scholarships issued must be used before age 32, all federal tuition aid must be used first, and parents must reside in Indiana.

The House Roads and Transportation Committee advanced SB 473, a bill dealing with public-private partnerships. The measure would provide the governor, along with the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Indiana Financing Authority, total authority to create or convert existing highways to toll roads.

The committee removed a provision that would have restored the need for legislative review as of July 1, 2015. Opponents of the bill expressed concerns about taking the legislature out of the decision-making process permanently. The bill now advances to the full House for its consideration.

New laws

Among the bills recently signed into law, House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1405 provides that a retail establishment that knowingly sells or distributes a dissolvable tobacco product to a person less than 18 years of age or a person who purchases a dissolvable tobacco product for delivery to a person less than 18 years of age commits a class C infraction. To see a complete list of bills signed into law, visit http://www.in.gov/gov/billwatch.htm.

Upcoming deadlines

April 18 - Deadline for Senate committee hearings on House bills

April 21 - Deadline for Senate to consider House bills

April 29 - By law, session must conclude business and adjourn by midnight

To stay informed about bills moving through the General Assembly or to track legislation, log on to www.in.gov/legislative. From this site, you can also watch House and Senate committee hearings and session floor debate.

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