This is the eleventh weekly installment of the Legislative Update for the 2011 legislative session. Below are the summaries of the bills of interest to the judiciary heard this week in committee.
If you are interested in reading the text of any bill introduced this session, you may find the bill information on Access Indiana at: http://www.in.gov/apps/lsa/session/billwatch/billinfo.
Several members of the House Financial Institutions Committee reviewed Sen. Tallian’s SB 582 concerning settlement conferences in residential foreclosures sponsored by Rep. Burton and Rep. Riecken. Rep. Burton explained his intent to propose amending several provisions of HB 1181 concerning residential foreclosures into this bill. As amended, the bill would establish an interim study committee on nonjudicial foreclosures and make several changes to the statute governing settlement conferences in residential mortgage foreclosure actions. For the purposes of the settlement conference statute, the bill defines a “loss mitigation package” as a set of documents the debtor must provide in order for the creditor to make underwriting decisions and authorize the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority to specify the components of documents required. The bill provides that the loss mitigation documents and the debtor’s contact information cannot be disclosed under the Public Records Act. If a debtor requests a settlement conference, the debtor is instructed to submit the loss mitigation package to the creditor and the court thirty (30) days before the settlement conference, and requires the creditor to send the debtor (by certified mail) a payment record substantiating the default and an itemization of all amounts claimed by the creditor as owed on the mortgage. Furthermore, the court may issue an order requiring the debtor to continue to make monthly payments if the debtor continues to occupy the mortgaged dwelling; payments must be held in trust for the parties by the clerk of the court or in an attorney trust account and only disbursed upon order of the court. The amendment would also permit, if a mortgage is delinquent for at least forty-five (45) days, the creditor to visually inspect the property to determine whether the property is vacant or abandoned, and contains several provisions related to the vacancy and abandonment determination. Testimony was received. Rep. Burton explained that the hearing was for informational purposes only, and the committee took no formal action on the bill.
Several members of the House Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee met to review SB 34 on the Interstate Compact for Juveniles sponsored by Rep. Foley. Author Sen. Zakas presented the bill and Indiana Judicial Center Executive Director Jane Seigel testified in favor of the bill. The bill adopts the model language of the Interstate Compact for Juveniles, making Indiana a member state. Committee Chair Rep. Noe explained that the hearing was for informational purposes only, and the committee took no formal action on the bill.
Several members of the House Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee reviewed SB 465 sponsored by Rep. McNamara and Rep. VanDenburgh concerning the Department of Child Services. Author Sen. Lawson introduced the bill containing over 50 sections of text and a brief stylistic technical amendment. The Indiana Association of Residential Child Care Agencies spoke in favor of the bill. A DCS representative spoke in favor of some of the provisions of the bill including support for lowering the number of children in a foster family to 5 with certain exceptions, as well as notice to DCS if a legal guardianship is dismissed. No action was taken on the bill.
The Senate Judiciary Committee resumed discussion of HB 1107 sponsored by Sen. Buck and Sen. Lanane regarding preventive programs for at-risk children. Author Rep. Richardson introduced the bill by noting that a prevention program provides a local community the chance to help children before they are in the court system. Rep. Richardson also introduced an amendment addressing concerns raised at the previous hearing on the bill. The amendment: (1) removes the references to the GAL/CASA and replaces them with “early intervention advocate;” (2) clarifies that the program is voluntary; (3) provides immunities to certain statements the child, parent, guardian or custodian makes while in the program; and (4) provides for an individualized plan for the child in the program which may include counseling, tutoring, or mentoring. The mayor of Westfield and Judge Steven Nation, Hamilton Superior Court, testified in support of the bill and discussed Indiana’s only existing prevention program in Hamilton County. Judge Nation explained that the courts are involved in the prevention program in order to get the “players in the system to come to the table” and emphasized the voluntary nature of the program. The amendment was adopted by consent. The bill was held for further discussion at the next committee meeting.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard HB 1201 concerning the release of adoption information sponsored by Sen. Steele, Sen. Zakas, and Sen. Broden. Author Rep. Karickhoff introduced the bill which: (1) provides requirements about requests for information about pre-adoptive siblings; (2) requires DCS, a local office of family and children, child placing agency, professional health care provider, attorney and court to send a copy of a written consent, any writing which withdraws or modifies consent to a release of identifying information and a nonrelease form to the state registrar; (3) requires the DCS to provide, at least once a month, a list to the State Department of Health of the names of all children less than 21 whose birth parent had their parental rights terminated while a CHINS was pending; (4) prohibits the state registrar, DCS, county OFC, child placing agencies, attorneys, or a court from releasing identifying information if the adoptee is less than 21 and the adoptee is on the list from the State Department of Health or the Registrar; and (5) repeals a provision that permits a person to submit a request for the release of identifying information which would ask the State Registrar to search the death certificates for an adoptee or birth parent. The bill was held by the committee.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard HB 1558 sponsored by Sen. Zakas regarding unauthorized adoption facilitation. The bill amends current law to provide that a person who knowingly or intentionally provides, engages in, or facilitates adoption services to a birth parent or prospective adoptive parent who lives in rather than resides in Indiana commits a Class A misdemeanor. The bill provides this crime does not apply to a licensed child placing agency or an attorney in Indiana or another state, the DCS, or Division of Family Resources or a similar agency with similar responsibilities in another state and is effective upon passage. The bill passed 9-0.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard HJR 6, sponsored by Sen. Kruse, Sen. Banks and Sen. Tomes on marriage. The resolution proposes to amend the Indiana Constitution to ban same sex marriages and civil unions. No additional testimony was taken at this hearing. The resolution passed 7-3.