[r72] A Clere view of the Statehouse: Many issues end in agreement (8/30/2010)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Start Date: 8/30/2010 All Day
End Date: 8/30/2010

A Clere view of the Statehouse:Many issues end in agreement

Last week, I focused on one important provision in a bill that didn't get much press.

To recap, House Enrolled Act 1086 will affect every Hoosier, yet it received little media attention. It was overshadowed by more controversial legislation. One of its dozens of provisions will help local governments balance their budgets without having to increase property taxes unnecessarily. That was the subject of last week's column. I pointed out that HEA 1086 passed the House 89-7 and the Senate 50-0.

There were many other good pieces of legislation that passed with strong - in many cases, overwhelming, even unanimous - bipartisan majorities. You probably haven't heard about most of it. I'm going to highlight several bills that may be of interest. Most of the new laws take effect July 1. After the title of each act, the first number is the final House vote and the second is the final Senate vote.

Senate Enrolled Act 64 - Display of Political Signs (96-0, 48-1)

I mentioned this one in a previous column, so I won't devote much space to it, but I expect there will be some confusion, so I want to highlight it again. Subdivision homeowners associations will be prohibited from restricting political signs from 30 days before an election until five days afterward.

HEA 1178 - Returning National Guard (95-0, 50-0)

National Guard members returning from conflict abroad will be required to participate in a face-to-face clinical interview with a trained health care provider. This will ensure they receive a proper physical and psychological evaluation.

SEA 71 - Involuntary Manslaughter and Pregnancy (97-0, 50-0)

Any person who causes the death of a fetus while operating a vehicle while intoxicated commits involuntary manslaughter.

SEA 316 - Dating Violence (82-14, 45-5)

I'm especially pleased with the outcome of this bill, because I was very involved with it at several points. After its initial passage in the Senate, it was assigned to the House Education Committee, of which I am a member. I voted for it in committee and then, later in the process, was appointed as a conferee on the bill. When the House and Senate pass different versions of the same bill - because of amendments in one or both chambers - a conference committee is appointed to work out the differences.  Many bills die at that point. I'm pleased I was able to play a role in making sure this one didn't.

As the vote totals suggest, the final product was a good, bipartisan bill. It requires the Department of Education, in collaboration with organizations that have expertise in dating violence, to develop or identify model dating violence educational materials and a model for dating violence response policies and reporting. The result will protect young people by empowering them to recognize dating violence and to speak out when they experience it or see it going on. According to data from Clarian Health, 11.6 percent of Indiana high school students report being hit or physically hurt in some other way by their boyfriend or girlfriend, and 13.2 percent of females and 3.2 percent of males report being physically forced into sexual relations.

SEA 163 - Various Child Support Matters (98-0, 49-0)

This law contains a number of provisions to increase child support collections. Among the measures is a requirement that casinos withhold payouts from winners who are delinquent in child support. The real winners will be parents and children who are struggling because of a deadbeat parent.

SEA 75 - Alcoholic Beverages (74-21, 28-17)

Microbreweries will be allowed to sell beer for carryout on Sundays. Under the premise that it's good for tourism, among other good reasons, Indiana wineries are already allowed to sell wine for carryout on Sundays. It makes sense for wineries, and it makes sense to include microbreweries, which, like wineries, boost our local economies.

Also, the sale of alcohol will be allowed on Election Day. With early voting, each one of the 30 days before an election is an election day. That's just one of several reasons the Prohibition-era ban didn't make sense. Other provisions make Sunday sales hours consistent with other days and address carding and server training.

HEA 1068 - Access to Handgun License Information (85-11, 48-0)

Handgun permit information will no longer be public information. This legislation was in response to two newspapers that offered users of their Web site the ability to search for permit holders by street or ZIP code. That didn't make anyone safer; the new law does.

You may wonder why the total number of votes on many bills is fewer than the number of members in each chamber of the legislature. (The House has 100 members and the Senate 50.) Especially on less controversial legislation - and, once in a while, on the most controversial issues - some members don't show up to vote. Others are excused from voting for various reasons. A member may be excused because of personal or family illness or other issues. Sometimes a member has a conflict of interest on a particular bill and asks to be excused from voting. And sometimes a member has a conflict of official duties, such as when a committee meeting runs long and overlaps with a floor vote.

Over the more than two months we were in session this year, we voted hundreds of times. In case you're wondering, I was present for every single vote, with no absences - not even an excused absence.