Beyond Property Taxes, New Laws to Improve Consumer Protections, Education, Environment, Healthcare, Public Safety
(Statehouse) July 1, 2008 – Beyond historic property tax reforms, new Indiana laws going into effect on July 1 will help improve consumer protections, education, environment, healthcare and public safety for Hoosiers, says State Sen. David C. Long (R-Fort Wayne).
“We went into the session with property tax reform – cuts, caps and a constitutional guarantee – being job one,” Long said, “but many other matters of concern to fellow Hoosiers were addressed by lawmakers.”
In all, nearly 100 new state laws go into effect today, said Long, the Senate President Pro Tempore.
Here are some key pieces of legislation Long helped successfully shepherd through the legislative process earlier this year:
Pre-paid Funerals: HEA 1026 helps protect investments of Hoosiers with prepaid funeral policies by making it a Class C felony to fraudulently disburse funds from a funeral trust account. Class C felonies are punishable by up to 8 years of imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
Mortgage Lending: HEA 1359 extends protection to potential homeowners by establishing a mortgage fraud hotline for consumers to call, subjecting those involved in the loan process to federal criminal background checks and allowing the state to use a multi-state automated licensing system to track the actions of loan brokers who operate throughout the United States.
Insurance Schemes: HEA 1379 protects insurance consumers – namely senior citizens – from becoming prey to investors offering one-time cash payments in exchange for being named the beneficiary on life insurance policies. By making Stranger Originated Life Insurance Policies (STOLIs) unlawful in Indiana, investors are prevented from wagering on human life and profiting from the death of the insured.
Teacher Shortages: SEA 22 addresses the shortage of teachers in areas like math and science by allowing the Indiana Department of Education to grant initial teaching licenses to qualified Hoosier professionals with related post-graduate degrees and some teaching experience.
Experience, Savings: SEA 51 encourages retired teachers to return to the classroom in as few as 30 days, tapping valuable experience, filling critical positions and saving limited resources, because neither the district nor teacher must make pension contributions.
Adult Education: HEA 1193 creates a study committee in order to find ways to address funding shortages for adult education programs throughout the state. The legislation was written in response to funding shortages in one community resulting from local programs accepting students living outside the district. Further review during the legislative session revealed adult education programs throughout the state are facing budgetary shortfalls.
Online Learning: HEA 1246 creates a study of virtual online learning for K-12 schools to provide greater educational opportunities to students throughout Indiana. (Lubbers sponsor)
Free Tuition for Purple Heart Recipients: HEA 1249 allows post Sept. 11 military veterans decorated with the Purple Heart to pursue a bachelor’s or associate’s degree at state universities tuition free.
Our Great Lakes: SEA 45 adopts the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact to regulate use of the lakes. The compact prohibits most new and increased diversions of water from the lakes, while preserving existing agreements.
E85 Availability: SEA 360 gives retailers and local governments grants to invest in E85 pumps without spending state tax dollars. Greater access to E85 – a fuel blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline – promotes its use.
Vote Centers: HEA 1071 allows certain counties to continue piloting centralized voting locations at grocery stores, government and shopping centers. In 2007, vote centers streamlined election management, reduced costs and increased voter turnout.
911 Services: HEA 1204 increases 911 efficiency saves tax dollars and helps communities invest in the latest technology. The bill consolidates 911 dispatch centers, allowing two per county by 2015.
Highway Right-of-Ways: SEA 31 strengthens communication between INDOT and Hoosier landowners to save taxpayers and property owners unnecessary expenses. Advance notice of highway construction avoids developments that must later be purchased at market value.
Floodway Reconstruction: SEA 104 aligns state and federal regulations in order to allow many Hoosier homeowners to rebuild after a flood if the home is raised two feet above 100-year flood levels.
Lead Poisoning Prevention: SEA 143 prohibits Indiana retail stores from selling products with unsafe levels of lead paint and authorizes a committee to study ways to prevent lead poisoning in day care centers. Because of Indiana’s many older homes, the law also addresses repair and remodeling practices through the Indiana Lead Safe Housing Advisory Council – including a training program for contractors to work on these homes.
Online Medical Consumers: SEA 302 safeguards online medical consumers from unlicensed pharmacies selling unsafe products. To help Hoosier consumers ensure Internet-based pharmacies are valid and products are safe, licenses and reviews of accredited pharmacies will be displayed on their Web sites.
Priority Medicaid Waivers: HEA 1266 develops priority Medicaid waivers for developmentally disabled Hoosiers in emergency situations to receive immediate assistance. Individuals encountering the death of a primary caregiver, seeking emergency placement or facing abuse or neglect will be given priority in order to receive support in their home or community.
Spinal Cord and Brain Injuries: HEA 1318 repeals the $10 motorcycle registration charge and implements a 30-cent fee on all motor vehicle registrations to continue funding spinal cord and brain injury research. This worthwhile healthcare investment could raise over $1.6 million annually, create jobs and qualify Indiana for additional research dollars.
Domestic Violence: SEA 27 creates a “cooling-off period” in domestic violence cases by requiring suspects be held in custody for eight hours after the time of arrest and prohibits them from being released on bail during that time.
Sexually Violent Crimes: HEA 1276 requires a court hearing within 48 hours of the arrest of someone charged with a sexually violent crime to discuss the alleged perpetrator’s prior criminal history and determine if it is safe to release the defendant on bail. This legislation was passed in response to the murder of an Indiana girl last year by a convicted sex offender out on bail.
Motorist Duties: HEA 1052 requires passengers involved in auto accidents rendering the driver helpless to notify officers or provide reasonable assistance. Passengers over 18 and those with their learner’s permit will face Class C misdemeanors if they fail to help at the accident scene.
Hoosiers with Autism: HEA 1171 requires autism training for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel. Training would help responders identify signs of autism and effectively treat those individuals in high stress situations.
Pool Safety: HEA 1259 mandates manufacturers use ladders that are removable or can be locked to help prevent children from entering unattended pools. In 2006, 16 Indiana deaths occurred as a result of children swimming in unsupervised above-ground pools.
Hoosier Renters: SEA 26 requires landlords to install and maintain operational smoke detectors in all rental properties in Indiana. Property owners who fail to comply can be found guilty of a Class B infraction with a fine of up to $1,000.
Tornado Warning Systems: SEA 334 requires the Indiana Department of Homeland Security to establish uniform standards for severe weather sirens and study which areas across the state need additional sirens.
Theft of Copper, other Valuable Metals: SEA 343 requires the Sentencing Policy Committee to study issues related to the theft of copper and other valuable metals. The committee will study ways to heighten awareness among metal dealers because of the recent increase in thefts of valuable metals from homes and construction sites.
Impaired Drivers: HEA 1052 mandates that impaired drivers leaving the scene of an accident after causing serious bodily injury or death face a Class B felony with a possible 6 to 20-year jail term and $10,000 fine.