Committee hearings have come to a close as the Indiana General Assembly works toward a March 14 legislative session deadline. Legislation that moves through the second house without amendments will proceed to the governor for final consideration. Bills amended by the opposite chamber must return to the house of origin for consideration of changes made. This summary highlights some of the House bills that have gained approval in Senate committees or by the full Senate.
Statewide smoking ban
The Senate Public Policy Committee has approved HB 1149
, a bill that would establish a statewide smoking ban in most public areas and places of employment. Exclusions in the bill include certain gaming facilities; cigar and hookah bars; fraternal, social and veterans’ clubs; tobacco stores; and cigar manufacturer facilities. Bars and taverns would have until September 15, 2013, to become smoke-free. The bill would make it a Class B infraction to violate the smoking prohibition or a Class A infraction if the person has committed three prior violations for smoking in restricted areas. In addition, the bill would prohibit firing or refusing to hire a person for reporting a violation, or exercising any right or performing any obligation under the smoking prohibition. Over the past several years, the smoking ban bill has passed the House, but never made it past Senate committee deliberations. HB 1149 now proceeds to the full Senate for further consideration.
New Family Friendly School Designation Program
Achieving student success through more parental involvement in schools is the goal of House Bill (HB) 1150
. The bill seeks to urge parents to become more involved with student success by encouraging meaningful engagement in schools. HB 1150 would establish the Indiana Family Friendly School Designation Program and require the Department of Education to develop a program for designating certain schools as being “Family Friendly.” Any school could voluntarily seek the designation by demonstrating that the school provides multiple opportunities for parents to engage in educational activities and programs offered by the school that foster high student achievement. The bill will now advance to the Senate floor for consideration by the full body.
Student suspension and expulsion from school
would allow schools to suspend or expel students whose conduct, either on or off school property, interferes with school purposes or educational functions even if the student’s activity is lawful. Current law allows students to be suspended or expelled if they are involved in an unlawful activity that interferes with a school function, even if that activity occurs outside of the school day, or if the student’s removal is necessary to restore order or protect persons on school property. The measure would allow schools to make a more subjective decision on suspensions and expulsions for student behavior off campus and outside the normal school day. The bill will now advance to the Senate floor for consideration by the full body.
Multiple student count days for more accurate school funding
gained the approval of the Senate Appropriations Committee and would ease school funding issues regarding student transfers. The legislation would provide that a school’s per student funding be based on multiple student count dates during the school year instead of only one. The bill provides that an average daily membership count of students enrolled in a public school in grades K-12 must be taken in September and February. Currently, one student count occurs each year during September. Further, the bill would require that state tuition support must be distributed based on the latest count of students, and require the state tuition support distributions to be made every month rather than every 40 days. The bill will now advance to the Senate floor for consideration by the full body.
Delinquent property taxes
The Senate unanimously approved legislation to allow a county auditor to remove real property from a tax sale if the county treasurer and the taxpayer agree to a mutually satisfactory arrangement for the payment of delinquent taxes. HB 1090
would provide that the fiscal body of a county may adopt an ordinance to require waiver of penalties on delinquent taxes on real property in the county if part of the delinquent taxes were first due and payable prior to January 1, 2010, and all of the delinquent taxes are paid after June 30, 2012, and before July 1, 2013. This authority is currently applied only in Lake County and has successfully been used to reduce the number of properties on the county’s delinquent tax list. The bill now returns to the House for review of amendments made by the Senate.
Home energy assistance
A measure that would restore the state sales tax exemption that expired in 2009 for home energy assistance acquired through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has been approved by the Senate. HB 1141
would allow more of the program’s funds to go directly to utility assistance instead of tax collection by exempting state sales tax collection for home energy acquired through LIHEAP. The LIHEAP program is primarily federally-funded and makes utility costs and weatherization assistance available to low-income households. HB 1141 now returns to the House of Representatives for consideration of amendments made to the bill by the Senate.
Home improvement contracts
The Senate has approved a bill aimed at protecting consumers against unscrupulous contractors who prey on those with home repair problems. Often coming into a community following a serious storm, the contractors will offer to provide home improvement services such as roofing repairs covered by insurance proceeds. HB 1237
would require the contractor to furnish information concerning cancellation of the contract to the insured consumer if the work includes exterior home improvement, and require the contractor to have a presence in Indiana or a previous business relationship with the customer. In addition, the bill would prohibit certain activities by the contractor intended to induce a person to enter into a contract or otherwise purchase goods or services. For example, any gift, prize, referral fee or monetary kickback for displaying a sign or advertisement on the residential property would be prohibited. The legislation now returns to the House for consideration of Senate amendments.
News from the House
Outdoor stage equipment:
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs and Public Safety has approved Senate Bill (SB) 273
, a bill to strengthen Indiana’s regulation of outdoor stage equipment similar to the concert rigging equipment that collapsed in 2011 at the Indiana State Fair. Specifically, the legislation would establish statewide standards for the installation and inspection of such structures, and institute a permit process to ensure the safety and functionality of these structures. The House committee amended the bill to extend the state authority over outdoor stage equipment only until January 1, 2014, and to require the General Assembly to conduct a summer study committee this year to examine upcoming reports related to the collapse of the stage at the State Fairgrounds. The 2013 General Assembly would then consider findings and recommendations made by the study committee to formulate thorough and permanent legislation. The bill now goes to the House floor for further consideration.
Investment in Iran
Legislation aimed to limit state dollars from investment activities with Iran has unanimously been approved by the House. SB 231
would provide that public entities could not enter into contracts with any person or company operating investment activities in Iran. Under this proposal, state agencies, state educational institutions and political subdivisions could not invest with persons or financial institutions that invest in Iran. In addition, the Indiana Department of Administration would be required to make public a list of companies that engage in such investment activities. Those companies would be prohibited from renewing or starting new contracts with any state department. SB 231 now proceeds to the governor for final consideration and possible enactment.