Child Safety and Welfare 2013 Session Preview: Recommendations from interim committees

2013 Session Preview: Recommendations from interim committees

Dept. of Child Services reform

The Dept. of Child Services Interim Study Committee was convened during the 2012 interim and charged with reviewing the operations of the state’s Department of Child Services. The committee heard extensive testimony from the agency and from the public. In addition to the official committee hearings, two public forums were hosted by members of the committee in South Bend and Evansville. Among the many complaints heard from the public, the statewide child abuse hotline, which moved all reporting from local offices to one Indianapolis-based call center, received extensive criticism. Recommendations were made to change the hotline operations, establish a DCS committee for ongoing oversight, create a new Commission on Improving Status of Children, and increase action by child fatality review teams. Read an in-depth look at the DCS Study Committee’s recommendations>>

Children in need of services: 

Over the summer, the Commission on Mental Health and Addiction assessed services available to children with mental illness.  The Department of Child Services used to allow prosecuting attorneys to determine if a child is a threat to themselves or others due to mental illness and access Department services without a claim of abuse. These would be services provided to a family proactively seeking help for their at-risk child before a criminal situation develops. However, the Department no longer allows prosecuting attorneys this option.  The committee voted in favor of returning this ability to prosecuting attorneys for the next two years.  A bill reinstating this ability is expected in the 2013 legislative session.  

Child support

Certain inconsistencies in a new law (SEA 18-2012) that reduced the age of emancipation to 19 for child support purposes were brought to the attention of the Child Custody and Support Advisory Committee this year by Sen. Karen Tallian. The inconsistency is if a child is born out of wedlock, there is specific language permitting the child to petition for educational support until the child turns 21. If the child was born to a marriage, the language does not specifically say the child may petition for education support, though the law permits a court to order educational expenses for the child. By a vote of 8-0, the Committee recommended a bill to clarify the law by adding the same language in the dissolution statute that was added into the paternity statute and to make the change retroactive to July 1, 2012, the date that SEA 18-2012 became effective.

Child care

The Committee on Child Care completed a series of meetings evaluating how the state should regulate child care centers, including religiously affiliated centers that receive tax dollars.  Currently, because child care ministries are considered religious organizations, they are regulated to a lesser degree than other child care centers.  The committee recommended possible legislation for the 2013 legislative session that would require a child care provider to use a curriculum approved by the Division of Family Resources as a condition of eligibility for tax dollars, specify health and safety requirements for child care ministries, and require care givers at certain child care providers to undergo a national criminal history background check. (Download the Committee Report>>)

Tax credit for hiring veterans

The Commission on Military and Veterans Affairs made no official recommendations, but members of the commission are expected to pursue legislative proposals discussed during meetings held this year, including a tax credit incentive for businesses hiring veterans. In 2012 a measure was offered (SB 318-2012) that would provide a $1,000 state tax credit to an employer who hires a returning veteran. “Returning veteran” was defined as individual who was deployed on active duty service in a branch or reserve component of the United States military within two years of the hire date. This idea will likely resurface in 2013. Read more>>

State contracts for veteran-owned businesses

Thirteen states currently provide state contract preferences for veteran-owned businesses. Two options are on the table this year, both designed to increase public contract dollars going to veteran-owned businesses. One option is to give a price preference to bids from veteran-owned businesses, or a percentage by which offered contract prices are reduced for purposes of bid evaluation. The second option is a set aside program. Under this option, the state would establish a goal to set aside a certain percentage of procurement to be from veteran-owned businesses. The Commission on Military and Veterans Affairs did not officially recommend this as a legislative draft, but it will likely be proposed by commission members in 2013. Read more>>

CDL fast-track for veterans

Returning veterans who have operated commercial vehicles while in the military service may soon be able to receive a “fast tracked” Commerical Drivers License (CDL) in Indiana based on their military experience. According to testimony given in the Interim Study Committee for Drivers Education, the BMV is working with the military and the Indiana State Police to allow CDL licensing to be done administratively by the end of 2012. The committee recommended that if not the BMV is unable to make the change administratively, legislation be introduced in the 2013 session to allow for this.

Local food promotion

During the 2012 legislative session, House Enrolled Act 1312 was approved to require the establishment of an interim study committee to review obstacles to local food producers and to identify ways to increase connections between Indiana farmers and local consumers. This charge was taken up by the Interim Committee on Agriculture where local food producers, processors and distributors shared testimony on how the state could better serve their industry.  The committee discussed efforts to improve communication between local health departments and growers, the aggregation of local food products, educational opportunities for consumers regarding local foods, the economic impact of the local foods industry, and incentives for public institutions to purchase locally grown foods. No specific recommendation was made by the committee, but legislation informed by the discussion will likely be offered in 2013.

Criminal sentencing reform

A working group of the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission suggested a change to the state’s sentencing scheme with six levels of felony and murder. Since the full committee was provided little time to review the suggested changes at the Oct. 31 meeting, many commission members were uncomfortable with this going into the final report with more time for consideration. The end result is that the final report contains a recommendation for offenses to be established on a 1 to 6 level of sanction but there is no definition of what those levels are. More work is expected on this topic during the 2013 session.

The commission also recommended that the rape statute be modified to include same sex assault. Currently, Indiana law defines same sex assault as criminal “deviate conduct.” Deviate conduct and rape are punished at the same level. The commission voiced some concern regarding the actual language in the draft but concluded it should be left and addressed during session.

Drug free zones:

Finally, the commission recommended that drug free zones be reduced from 1,000 feet to 500 feet. Current Indiana law enhances penalties for dealing controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, public park, family housing complex or youth program center. In urban areas, these zones can encompass neighborhoods several blocks from those facilities.

Sex offender registry: 

The Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee made the following key recommendations with respect to the sex offender registry:

  • Dept. of Corrections to remove information relating to a sex or violent offender who is deceased or no longer required to register from the public portal of the sex offender registry.
  • Persons convicted of kidnapping and criminal confinement to register only if a court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the offense was committed for a sexual purpose.
Criminal history background checks

The Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee made the following key recommendations with respect to criminal history providers under IC 24-4-18:

  • Specifying that the clerk of a court is not a “criminal history provider.”
  • Permitting criminal history providers to report on pending charges and not just convictions.
  • If a criminal history provider violates the law, it should be deemed a deceptive act.
  • Repeal a requirement for a clerk to restrict disclosure of an infraction five years after it has been satisfied and including new language to permit a person to petition a court to restrict disclosure of an infraction five years after it has been satisfied.
Pain control centers

The Health Finance Commission took up the issue of pain control centers operating in Indiana. Specifically, the committee heard testimony on the use of opioid drugs in the treatment of chronic pain and the societal harm caused by the abuse of these drugs. Indiana is one of only two states without regulations, laws, or medical board rules on the prescribing of opioids.

The committee heard testimony from local community members about concerns from the location of the centers. One group of residents described their experience with the Clark County Wellness Center located in their neighborhood. According to the committee report, “They described a cash-based business using armed guards with attack dogs to patrol outside the facility and cars with license plates from mainly eastern Kentucky but also from as far away as Florida parking on the streets while the occupants await an appointment. ”

The committee considered a legislative proposal that would require pain control centers to be certified by the state’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction. The committee decided, however, to allow time for more work on the proposal and did not official endorse it before the report deadline. With time for more work on the bill before January, tighter regulation of the centers is still expected to be taken up during the 2013 session. (Download the Committee Report>>)

Specialty license plates

The Interim Study Committee on Special Group Recognition License Plates was established this year in response to a controversy over how special group plates were being issued by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. There are currently 21 special group plates in Indiana. The committee met only once to hear from interested parties and made no findings or recommendations. (Download the Committee Report>>)

Outdoor stage safety

The Outdoor Stage Equipment Safety Committee proposed legislation that would authorize the Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission to adopt rules to regulate outdoor stage equipment and the executive director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security to adopt rules governing emergency action plans or emergency response plans for outdoor performances where outdoor stage equipment is used.

Indiana courts

The Commission on Courts is charged, in part, with the review and report on all requests for new courts or changes in jurisdiction of existing courts. The commission was additionally charged with the study of a centralized department of administrative law judges (ALJ) within the Office of the Attorney General.

With respect to the ALJ question, it was decided that the commission would send a survey to over 300 state agencies to gather more information concerning the administrative adjudication system in Indiana.

The commission recommended that legislation be enacted to:

  • Allow the Hamilton Superior Court judges to jointly appoint a new magistrate.
  • Allow the Hendricks Superior Court judges to jointly appoint two new magistrates.
  • Allow Owen County to add one new judge as part of a unified circuit court with two judges beginning January 1, 2015.
  • Allow the study of the administrative adjudication system in Indiana be continued during the 2013 interim.
Probate and estates

The Probate Code Study Commission recommended the following legislation (Download the Committee Report>>):

  • Defining an “estate lawyer” and specifies that an estate lawyer represents only the personal representative and does not have a duty to anyone else. Specifies that an estate lawyer is not liable for any loss suffered by the estate, except to the extent that the loss was caused by the lawyer’s breach of a duty owed to the personal representative. (PD 3188)
  • Removing a provision stating that the fee of a surrogate attorney is included in the costs and expenses of administration if certain requirements are met.  (PD 3196)
  • Providing that a personal representative may acquire an interest in real property from the estate if the transaction is authorized by an order of the court after notice and hearing to all interested persons to ensure that the estate receives adequate consideration for the interest acquired. (PD 3197)
  • Providing that the term “probate estate” denotes property transferred under the decedent’s will or under the laws of intestacy, in the case of a decedent dying intestate. Specifies that a personal representative’s duty to prepare an inventory applies only to the decedent’s probate estate. (PD 3199)
  • Specifying that the court shall conduct a hearing on each verified account filed on a guardianship. Authorizes the appointment of a guardian ad litem to review the accounting if the protected person does not have a spouse, an adult child, or a parent; or the same individual served as the guardian of the protected person before the protected person’s death and is the personal representative of the protected person’s estate. (PD 3200)
  • There was additional legislation recommended concerning martrimonial trusts, property tax deductions and the authority of probate courts.