This is the thirteenth 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.
The House Judiciary Committee heard SB 67, on procedures in administrative proceedings. Sponsor Rep. McMillin explained that the bill amends the Administrative Orders and Procedures Act (“AOPA”) to introduce basic fairness and formalities into the administrative process. The bill amends AOPA in the following ways: (1) allows electronic filing by any method approved by the Indiana Trial Rules except for the original petition and the initial determination; (2) sets up specific time frames in which administrative law judges must issue decisions; (3) establishes additional grounds for disqualification of an administrative law judge and replacement procedures; (4) provides that the proceedings before an administrative law judge are de novo; (5) conforms summary judgment procedures and electronic service procedures in an administrative proceeding to the procedures under the Indiana Trial Rules; (6) provides that settlement of an administrative matter results in the issuance of a final order that effectuates the settlement; and (7) provides that an environmental law judge has the same authority and responsibilities as an administrative law judge. Testimony was heard in support of the legislation. The bill passed 11-0.
The House Judiciary Committee heard SB 146 regarding the disposition and interment of human remains sponsored by Rep. Foley. Author Sen. Steele explained that the bill amends a law passed last year in order to clarify the rights of family members to determine the disposition of human remains. The bill includes provisions requiring that a cause of action disputing the disposition of human remains must be brought in the county where the decedent resided. Testimony in favor of the bill was heard from the Indiana Funeral Directors Association. The bill passed 11-0.
The Senate Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters Committee heard HB 1365 pertaining to volunteer fire department recovery of costs sponsored by Sen. Zakas. The bill authorizes a volunteer fire department to recover attorney’s fees and costs incurred by the department in an action to recover unpaid service charges. The bill was held for further action until the next committee meeting.
The Senate Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters Committee heard HB 1432 concerning the disinterment of human remains sponsored by Sen. Bray. This bill permits a court to authorize the removal of the remains of a deceased human from a cemetery for certain purposes if the: (1) consent of the owner of the cemetery cannot be obtained; or (2) identity of certain individuals from whom consent is required cannot be determined. The bill also includes provisions requiring that a cause of action disputing the disposition of human remains must be brought in the county where the decedent resided. An amendment was adopted making technical corrections to ensure language consistency throughout the bill. The amended bill passed 8-0.
The House Public Policy Committee heard SB 94 sponsored by Reps. Lehman and Eberhart concerning the purchase of rifles and shotguns. The bill provides that it is a Class C felony for a person to knowingly or intentionally give false information on certain forms or offer false evidence of identity in purchasing or otherwise securing delivery of a firearm. The bill passed 11-0.
The House Public Policy Committee heard SB 503, sponsored by Reps. L. Lawson and Foley establishing an instant tracking system for the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Author Sen. Yoder stated that the bill is intended to combat the methamphetamine problem in Indiana. Testimony in favor of the bill was heard from the Indiana State Police and the Indiana State Medical Association. Testimony against the bill was heard from law enforcement officials who believe that a prescription system for products containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine is the better method for combating methamphetamine manufacture. The Committee passed the bill 8-2.
The House Public Policy Committee heard SB 506 sponsored by Reps. VanNatter, Eberhart, and Morris on handgun possession. The bill provides a person can carry a handgun without being licensed to carry a handgun if: (1) the person is in or on property, or in a vehicle, that is owned, leased, rented, or otherwise legally controlled by the person; (2) the person is lawfully present in or on private property that is owned, leased, rented, or otherwise legally controlled by another person, if the person has the consent of the owner to have the handgun on the premises, is attending a firearms-related event, or is receiving firearms-related services; (3) the person is lawfully present in a vehicle, that is owned, leased, rented, or otherwise legally controlled by another person; (4) the person is carrying the handgun at a shooting range, while attending a firearms instructional course, or while engaged in a legal hunting activity; or (5) the handgun is unloaded and securely wrapped. The bill further specifies that a person who has been convicted of domestic battery may not possess or carry a handgun unless the person’s right to possess a firearm has been restored by a court. The bill was amended to reaffirm the current state of Indiana and federal law regarding who is prohibited from possessing, carrying, or buying a handgun. The Committee passed the bill with a vote of 10-0.
The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee heard four and a half hours of testimony on SB 561, the corrections and sentencing bill sponsored by Reps. Foley and Steuerwald. The hearing was conducted to hear testimony only. The committee will consider amendments and vote on the bill at a future meeting. There was no significant testimony in opposition to the bill’s reduction of penalties for lower grade drug and property offenses or its provision for the use of evidence-based practices at all stages of the criminal justice process. A majority of the testimony focused on the merits of the Senate’s addition to the bill expanding the credit restricted, “six for one” credit time earning class to include most A felons. Department of Correction representatives presented estimates of the billions of dollars in additional correctional expenditures that will be necessary twenty to thirty years after the credit restricted change takes effect, with more modest increases in the millions forecasted over the next seven years. Prosecutors testified that they supported the addition of the credit restricted increase because (1) they had expected the bill to be a comprehensive reform of the criminal justice system, with consideration given to the need for increases in some punishments as well as reductions, when in fact the bill turned out to be exclusively a cost-saving bill to reduce lower-end offense punishments, (2) they have experienced difficulties accurately advising crime victims of the expected length of time to be served by convicted offenders, due primarily to the educational credit time provisions, and (3) “balance” is needed in the bill to provide for more serious sanctions for the worst criminals, a feature they consider necessary in any full-scale revision of the penal code and one which would not be as likely to be given serious consideration if they let it be deferred to the study committee process rather than raising it now. Testimony in favor of the bill as originally filed, without the credit restricted A felony changes, focused on the bill’s aim to increase community supervision, promote public safety through offender rehabilitation, and allocation of resources to programs which evidence-based analysis shows to be effective. Among those testifying in favor of the bill as filed were Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck, Larry Landis of the Public Defenders Council, witnesses from the Council for State Government, Indianapolis Public Safety Director Frank Straub and Don Travis, Howard County Chief Probation Officer and POPAI president.
The Senate Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters Committee heard HB 1068 regarding public safety officer personal information sponsored by Rep. Merritt. The bill provides that a person who knowingly or intentionally uses an interactive computer service to post, publish, or otherwise disseminate the residential address of a law enforcement officer or firefighter if the person knows or reasonably should know that the posting, publishing, or disseminating the residential address poses an imminent threat to the safety of: (1) the law enforcement officer or firefighter; or (2) a spouse, child, or parent of the law enforcement officer or firefighter, commits endangering a public safety officer, a Class D felony. The bill was held for further action until the next committee meeting.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard SR 68 authored by Sen. Bray on retention of evidence in criminal cases. The resolution urges the Legislative Council to assign to the Interim Sentencing Policy Committee or the Commission on Courts the study of ways to improve the retention of evidence in criminal cases. The resolution passed with a vote of 6-0.
The House Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee heard SB 465 sponsored by Reps. McNamara, Noe, and VanDenburgh on Department of Child Services. The Committee heard and accepted an amendment which adds “alleged fathers” to the definition of parent for the purposes of CHINS proceedings (IC 31-34-1, IC 31-34-8, IC 31-34-16, IC 31-34-19, IC 31-34-20 and IC 31-35-2), permitting the CHINS court to order the alleged father to establish paternity, allowing the courts to resolve the issue of paternity early in the case, ensuring the due process rights of alleged fathers, and accelerating the path to permanency for children who are adjudicated CHINS. The Committee passed the amended bill with a vote of 9-0.
The Senate Judiciary Committee continued discussion on HB 1201 sponsored by Sens. Steele, Zakas, and Broden on the release of adoption information. No further testimony was taken. The bill passed with a vote of 7-0.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard HB 1316 sponsored by Sens. Steele and Arnold concerning parental reimbursement for juvenile services. The bill permits a juvenile court to order a parent or guardian of the estate of a child to pay or reimburse: (1) the Department of Correction for the costs incurred by the Department of Correction for a child who is committed to the department of correction; and (2) a county for the payment of costs or services for the placement of a child in need of services or a delinquent child. A technical amendment to the bill was introduced. The bill passed as amended with a vote of 9-0.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard HB 1427 sponsored by Sens. Bray and Taylor on claiming a child as a dependent for tax purposes. The bill requires a court to specify in a child support order which parent of a child may claim the child as a dependent for purposes of federal and state taxes. An amendment was adopted by consent to provide that a parent may only claim the child as a dependent for tax purposes if the parent has paid at least 95% of the parent’s child support obligation for the year. The amended bill passed with a vote of 8-1.
The House Judiciary Committee heard SB 169 on probate, trusts, and transfer on death transfers. Sponsor Rep. Foley explained that the introduced version of this bill was prepared by the Probate Code Study Commission. The bill includes provisions concerning the transfer of title to motor vehicles and water craft as transfer on death transactions, later discovered wills, rules on discretionary trust interests, and marital property. A representative of the Probate Section of the Indiana State Bar Association testified in favor of the bill. The bill passed 11-0.