[r85] The Pond Report (6/28/2007)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Start Date: 6/28/2007 All Day
End Date: 6/28/2007

July is here and with it comes some of the hottest temperatures of the year and changes to Indiana law. Most of us think about celebrating our independence during this time of year, but each year, July 1 is when majority of legislation passed during that year's session takes effect. Legislation that does not take effect in July generally takes effect January 1 of the following year, unless there are special circumstances.

As a former teacher, I am pleased to announce that July 1 brought improvements to school safety. In the wake of the devastating Virginia Tech tragedy, the General Assembly enacted legislation to require schools to complete additional safety training for students and faculty. School personnel will receive training for manmade disasters, shootings and hostage situations, and each school will be required to have at least one manmade occurrence disaster drill during each semester. Safety threats are rapidly changing. To ensure the safest learning environment possible, it is crucial that we prepare ourselves for every situation.   

Possibly the most publicized and noticeable change for Hoosiers is the new seat belt law, which requires all passengers to wear their seat belts, including truck and SUV passengers. Requiring all vehicle occupants to buckle up will save lives and make Indiana eligible to collect up to $15.7 million in new grants for highway safety initiatives, further reducing the loss of Hoosier lives on our highways.  In addition, this law also repeals the use of safety belt checkpoints by law enforcement to detect and issue citations for failure to comply.

Another hot topic this year was addressing the needs of our military members and their families. In recent years, deployment over seas has skyrocketed, leaving many families in a crunch to spend as much time with their loved one as possible before his or her departure. To alleviate some of the pressures of getting off work, Hoosier employees who are the grandparent, parent, sibling, or spouse of a soldier preparing for deployment will now be allowed to take an unpaid leave of absence for up to 10 days. Employees, who choose to take a leave of absence, must be restored to the position they held at the time the leave was taken.

One change that has not received much publicity is the new fishing license for senior Hoosier anglers. Previously, before July 1 senior citizens were exempt from fishing licenses, but this was creating an enormous financial burden for the Department of Natural Resources. The federal government provides states with $7.90 for each license sold, which adds up to $2.3 million after 10 years. This money is used to maintain fishing sites and to stock public waters to ensure Hoosiers will have plentiful fishing for years to come. Those who are presently 65 or older will continue to fish for free for the rest of their lives. Those turning 65 after July 1, will need to purchase a $3 license each year or the $17 lifetime license. Purchasing this license for a loved one would make a great birthday or Christmas present. I will follow up with more information on this topic in my next bi-weekly column.  

These are just a few of the laws that took effect July 1.  If you have any additional questions about these laws or any others please feel to contact my office at toll- free at 1-800-382-9841 or call 317-232-9753, or e-mail me at h85@in.gov. It is also possible to write me at 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204.

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