[r51] Dodge's Column (1/25/2008)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Start Date: 1/25/2008 All Day
End Date: 1/25/2008

This past week at the Indiana Statehouse was the deadline for bills to pass out of committee, the beginning stage of the legislative process. The House of Representatives handed down 125 committee reports for bills that now are ready to be heard by the full House.

One that hits close to home for northeastern Indiana residents is House Bill 1052. The bill would require any driver and passengers over the age of 15½ and who are involved in an accident to contact emergency personnel and render reasonable assistance if a victim is trapped in a vehicle.

Current law requires only the driver of a vehicle to call emergency personnel if the accident results in the injury or death of a person. If the driver is physically incapable of making a call or offering assistance, the passenger would, under HB 1052, be required to do both duties.

This legislation was filed after a 2005 fatal car crash in Noble County. The crash involved Thomas Hoopingarner Jr., then 17, an Elkhart County resident. He died after a crash left his vehicle upside down in a pond. Two passengers, each 15 at the time, left the scene and did not report the accident to anyone. Hoopingarner's tragic death could have been prevented if his passengers would have called the authorities.  

Another bill involving the authorities is House Bill 1074, which deals with the disarming of law enforcement officers. The bill makes it a Class C felony if a person knowingly and intentionally takes a firearm or weapon from a law enforcement officer or from within the immediate proximity of the officer without the officer's consent while the officer is engaged in the performance of official duties. Our law enforcement officers work hard to protect Hoosiers, and they deserve every protection we can provide them.

Another group of Hoosiers working to protect the public is our military personnel. Since Sept. 10, 2001, the Indiana National Guard has deployed 9,570 soldiers, and 63 have received a Purple Heart.

Many of these veterans want to further their educations, but currently, only the children of Purple Heart recipients receive tuition exemptions. House Bill 1249, which passed out of committee this week, would provide Indiana Purple Heart veterans who entered active service duty after Sept. 10, 2001, with a tuition and fees exemption.

These bills are set to be heard by the entire House of Representatives. The deadline for bills to be moved from the House is Jan. 31.

I will do my best to keep you up to date as these bills move through the General Assembly. If you have any questions, concerns or comments regarding these bills or any other legislation, please contact me by phone at 1-800-382-9841, by e-mail at h51@iga.in.gov or by mail at 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204.