Protecting Indiana's children

Posted by: Kim Heffner  | Monday, April 13, 2015

We are nearing the end of the 2015 legislative session. There are plenty of bills left to consider, but we have already accomplished much for the well-being of our state. Along with high profile bills, such as the budget, the General Assembly has also passed many lesser-known bills that will benefit Hoosiers. Some are specifically aimed at protecting children in Indiana, and I would like to share the substance of a few of these bills with you.

In the Legislature, we value Hoosier children highly. We know that they represent the future of our state, and providing for their safety and well-being is an important part of our job as legislators. House Bill (HB) 1216, a bill I coauthored, addresses the topic of missing and trafficked children. The bill passed both the House and the Senate unanimously and if signed by the governor, will go into effect this summer.

The goal of the legislation is to increase awareness of the resources available for families dealing with cases of missing or trafficked children. The legislation requires that informational pamphlets about the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Runaway Safeline be distributed to law enforcement agencies in Indiana. The agencies will then provide the pamphlets to the families of missing children, which gives them a resource and more information to help them through this challenging time.

The missing and trafficked children bill also provides a child, who is a victim of trafficking, a legal defense against prostitution. Prostitution is illegal in Indiana, but this can cause a problem when children and others are victims of trafficking. Unfortunately, under current law, they can be prosecuted and punished for a crime they were forced into. As lawmakers, part of our job is to make sure that laws we pass do not prevent the courts from holding the real criminals accountable while providing protection for victims as well. This legislation is effective step towards that goal and gained unanimous support in the General Assembly.

Another bill that protects the well-being of Hoosier children is one that I authored about e-liquids, HB 1432. Smoking e-cigarettes, often called “vaping,” has recently grown in popularity. Up to this point, the liquids used for vaping have been unregulated, allowing dangerous ingredients to be included in some of the liquids. This bill requires a manufacturer of e-liquids to obtain a permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission before bottling or selling e-liquid. Part of this process includes a state or national criminal history background check by Indiana State Police.

My e-liquids bill also limits the ingredients that can be used in the liquid production. In addition, it institutes punishment for selling e-liquids to minors. Because e-liquids come in flavors that sounds appropriate for children, such as bubble gum and candy cane, it could be more tempting for them to want to try this form of smoking. Instituting minimal regulation on e-liquids will protect Hoosier children until they are of the appropriate age to make decisions about consuming these substances.

These are only a few examples of the many steps the General Assembly has taken this session to protect Hoosier children. I appreciate your comments and feedback regarding these and other matters that concern Indiana. I am in Indianapolis to represent your interests and your input is helpful as I work to make the best decisions possible for our district. I can be reached at 317-232-9509 or at h31@iga.in.gov.

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Rep. Mahan represents portions of Blackford, Delaware, Grant and Wells counties. He serves as Chairman of the Government and Regulatory Reform Committee. He also serves on the Family, Children and Human Affairs; and Insurance Committees.