This is the fourteenth 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 Environmental Affairs Committee heard SB 346 sponsored by Rep. Wolkins on the environmental legal action statute of limitations. The bill was presented by author Sen. Gard with the help of environmental attorney John Kyle of Barnes & Thornburg. Mr. Kyle explained that the “knew or should have known” standard for the statute of limitations does not work well in the field of environmental actions, and that this bill will only affect cases filed after the effective date of the bill. The bill clarifies the statute of limitations for environmental legal actions, so that a person may seek to recover costs incurred for a removal action, a remedial action, or a corrective action for ten years before the date the action is brought, even if the person or any other person also incurred costs more than ten years before the date the action is brought, and the costs incurred on or after the date the action is brought. Additional testimony was heard in support of the bill. The bill was amended with a technical correction by consent. The amended bill passed 10-0.
The Senate Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters Committee continued discussion on 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. An amendment was adopted specifying, among other items, that fire departments may enter into agreements with one another for the reimbursement of costs when multiple departments respond to an incident. The amended bill passed 9-0.
The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee heard SB 19 concerning public voyeurism sponsored by Reps. Foley and L. Lawson. Author Sen. Wyss presented the bill which makes it a Class A misdemeanor for a person to peep at the private area of an individual and record an image by means of a camera. The bill increases the penalty to a Class D felony if the person (1) has a prior conviction; (2) publishes the image; (3) makes the image available on the Internet; or (4) transmits or disseminates the image to another person. The bill provides a defense to prosecution if an individual deliberately exposed the individual’s private area. Steve Johnson, Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, testified that the bill clarifies current statutory language. The bill passed 12-0.
The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee heard SB 57 on synthetic cannabinoids sponsored by Reps. Yarde, T. Brown, Truitt, and Klinker. The bill makes possessing, dealing in, manufacturing, or delivering synthetic cannabinoids the equivalent to possessing, dealing in, manufacturing, or delivering marijuana, hash oil, or hashish. Author Sen. Alting introduced an amendment making possessing, dealing in, manufacturing, or delivering of salvia divinorum the equivalent to possessing, dealing in, manufacturing, or delivering marijuana, hash oil, or hashish to mirror HB 1102. The amendment also revised the definition of “synthetic cannabinoid” to include six additional chemical compounds. The amended bill passed 11-0.
The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee heard SB 90 sponsored by Reps. Foley and L. Lawson establishing the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee as a permanent interim committee. The bill passed 11-0.
The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee heard SB 262 concerning competency examinations sponsored by Rep. Koch. Author Sen. Steele explained that this bill authorizes a court to appoint psychologists to conduct competency evaluations in response to the shortage of available psychiatrists. The bill removes the current requirement that at least one of the persons appointed by a court to examine a defendant who raises an incompetency claim must be a psychiatrist and permits a physician to examine a defendant who raises an incompetency claim. The bill also requires that a psychologist, psychiatrist, or physician appointed to examine a defendant have expertise in determining competency. Testimony in support of the bill was heard from the Indiana Psychological Association, Family and Social Services Administration, and the Indiana Public Defenders Council. Testimony in opposition to the bill was heard from the Indiana State Medical Association and the Indiana Psychiatric Society. The bill passed 9-1.
The House Public Policy Committee heard SB 292 on preemption of local firearm regulation. Sponsor Rep. Speedy introduced the bill which prohibits a political subdivision from regulating the ownership, registration, possession, use, transportation, carrying of, storage and lawful discharge of firearms, ammunition or firearm accessories. An amendment was adopted that makes technical changes to the bill, defines “lawful discharge,” and reinserts current law prohibiting the sale of firearms within 200 feet of a school, among other provisions. Lengthy committee discussion and public testimony both for and against the bill was heard, including comments from the Indiana Association of City and Towns, Association of Indiana Counties, Indiana Library Federation and National Rifle Association. The amended bill passed 6-1.
The House Public Policy Committee heard SB 590 on numerous illegal immigration matters sponsored by Reps. Koch, Burton and Wolkins. Author Sen. Delph introduced the bill noting that enforcement of immigration laws is an economic issue that requires the state to take action because the federal government has failed to do so. Four amendments were adopted by Committee consent. One of the amendments significantly changed a number of the enforcement aspects of the bill and was well received by the Committee members and the public. Public testimony and Committee discussion for and against the bill was heard for more than three hours. Some Committee members expressed concern that not enough time was provided to thoroughly discuss the bill amendments. The amended bill passed 6-5.
The Senate Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters Committee heard and passed HB 1211 urging the Legislative Council to assign the topic of expungement of conviction records to an interim or a statutory study committee for study during the 2011 legislative interim.
The Senate Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters Committee heard and passed HB 1502 urging the Legislative Council to assign the topics of unlawful ingestion of controlled substances by pregnant women, and whether the penalty for unlawful use of a controlled substance should be based on the amount of active ingredient contained in the controlled substance, to an interim or a statutory study committee for study during the 2011 legislative interim.
The Senate Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters Committee heard SR 70 urging the Legislative Council to direct the Sentencing Policy Study Committee to study the effects of potential changes to marijuana policy in Indiana. The resolution passed 7-2.
The House Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee considered SB 34 on the Interstate Compact for Juveniles to amend and vote on the bill. Chair Rep. Noe introduced an amendment to remove Section 5 from the bill (the $10 travel permit fee for probationers), which was approved by consent. The bill passed as amended 8-0.
The House Judiciary Committee heard SB 463 sponsored by Reps. Karickhoff, Turner, Foley and VanNatter on a mandatory retirement age for trial court judges. This bill repeals or removes all provisions that establish a mandatory retirement age for superior court and county trial court judges. The Committee passed the bill with a vote of 7-0. The House adopted an amendment to the bill introduced by Rep. Burton on second reading to add a fourth judge to the Johnson Superior Court, effective January 1, 2015.
The House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee heard SB 526 on government matters sponsored by Rep. Hinkle. This bill contains a number of provisions providing for the transfer of township offices and functions to the city and county government in Marion County, including the operations of the township small claims courts beginning January 1, 2012. The bill provides that: (1) the small claims courts operate independently from the circuit and superior courts; (2) except for adopting the budget and approving salaries, the city-county council does not have authority over a small claims court judge and the operations of a small claims court; (3) the executive committee of the superior court does not have authority over a small claims court judge and the operations of a small claims court; and (4) if any funds remain from the county’s share of small claims court administration fees after the payment of expenses of operating the small claims court, the remaining funds may be used to fund public safety programs in the county as set forth in an ordinance or resolution adopted by the city-county council. An amendment making a number of technical changes was adopted. The amended bill passed 10-3.