WRAPPING UP OUR LOOK AT NEW STATE LAWS INTENDED TO IMPROVE THE LIVES OF HOOSIERS
STATEHOUSE – In the past two columns, we’ve reviewed new state laws that went into effect this summer. This week, we conclude that list of key legislation easily missed during the turbulent, final days of the legislature’s 2009 session and special session:
Autism Training: All firefighters and law enforcement personnel will now receive training on interacting with individuals with autism under legislation passed by the Indiana General Assembly. House Enrolled Act 1455 also requires the Indiana Department of Education to create a guide to assist school employees in learning more about autism and the behaviors students with autism may exhibit.
School Bus Safety: Hoosier school children should be safer when entering and exiting school buses thanks to House Enrolled Act 1021 increasing the penalties up to a $5,000 fine and a year of jail time for drivers who ignore school bus stop signals.
Tracking Criminals by GPS: Lawmakers and public safety experts agreed that violent criminals who violate restraining orders should wear GPS tracking devices in order to monitor their movements and detect if they enter restricted areas. House Enrolled Act 1578 allows courts to take such action against these repeat offenders.
Body Armor for Police Officers: House Enrolled Act 1331 helps smaller communities equip law enforcement personnel with body armor, giving them the flexibility to use cumulative capital improvement funds for these purchases. Small communities sometimes don’t have the resources to offer these protections; yet police runs and traffic stops in and around small towns can be just as dangerous as those in larger communities.
School Safety, Discipline: Concerned for the safety of Hoosier students, lawmakers approved House Enrolled Act 1462 requiring national background checks for all school corporation employees, including
educators, janitors, bus drivers and coaches. The legislation also includes a provision providing school employees legal protection for maintaining order in Indiana classrooms by providing qualified immunity for disciplinary action taken in good faith under a school corporation’s discipline policy.
Silver Alerts: Modeled after the successful Amber Alerts for missing children, Senate Enrolled Act 307 will not only help endangered adults but also their families and law enforcement. A Silver Alert system gives law enforcement additional tools, like electric highway signs, to alert the public of a missing senior citizen or endangered adult. Families may give consent to media broadcasts of the search information through radio and television reports.
High-Speed Internet: In an effort to bring high–speed Internet to rural areas, lawmakers passed House Enrolled Act 1561 directing the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to create a map outlining where high-speed Internet is available across the state. Mapping Internet availability would help high–speed providers and policy makers to focus their efforts on areas not yet served by broadband.
Purple Heart Recipients: To help honor the personal sacrifices of veterans injured in the line of duty, lawmakers approved Senate Enrolled Act 39 providing Hoosier Purple Heart recipients free tuition to state college and universities.