This is the seventh weekly installment of the Legislative Update for the 2013 legislative session. If you are interested in reading the text of any bill introduced this session, you may find the bill information at the link below:
This week Senate and House committees heard the following bills of interest to the judiciary:
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard Sen. Waterman’s SB 460 on foreign law. This bill prohibits the enforcement of a law, rule, or legal code or system established and used outside the jurisdiction of the United States if the enforcement would violate a right granted by the Constitution of the State of Indiana or the Constitution of the United States. This bill also provides that a provision in a contract or agreement that calls for the application of foreign law is void if the provision cannot be modified, unless the contract explicitly states that it will be interpreted in accordance with foreign law. It also prohibits a court from granting certain motions to transfer a case to another jurisdiction if the transfer is likely to affect the constitutional rights of the nonmoving party. The bill passed, 6-1.
The House Judiciary Committee heard HB 1394, authored by Rep. Steuerwald and Rep. Koch, on various business law matters. This bill makes various changes to provisions concerning corporations, partnerships, limited partnerships, nonprofit corporations, and limited liability companies. An amendment taken by consent makes various technical changes. The amended bill passed, 9-0.
The Senate Appropriations Committee heard SB 245, authored by Sen. Wyss and Sen. Arnold, on the collection of DNA samples from certain arrestees and fees. The bill was amended to increase the DNA processing fee from $2 to $4 to provide additional funding to offset increased expenses for taking and testing samples from all persons arrested for burglary, residential entry, a crime of violence (as defined in Ind. Code § 35-50-1-2), or a sex offense (as defined in Ind. Code § 11-8-8-5.2). The bill passed as amended 7-4.
The House Ways and Means Committee resumed consideration of HB 1006, the criminal code reform bill making various changes to the criminal code. Members discussed the potential impact of the bill’s change in credit time earning rates from a credit for each day served to a day of credit time for every three days served. Author Rep. Steuerwald noted that the impact of the credit time change could not be accurately estimated, but that the bill aims to offset the longer time served on more serious offenses with reduced imprisonment for lesser offenses, for which probation and community correction will be used extensively. Chairman Rep. T. Brown noted that the Courts and Criminal Code Committee had amended the bill to prohibit the restoration of any earned credit time revoked for misconduct. An amendment, adopted by consent, deletes this language so that revoked credit time “may” be earned back. The Committee also adopted an amendment clarifying that the bill’s credit time changes apply only to persons convicted on or after July 1, 2014. Another amendment was also adopted changing the provision on funding for the probation improvement fund so that the funds come directly from the state general fund rather than the Department of Correction. Rep. Brown stated that the probation improvement fund will be funded at the 1.9 million dollar level initially. The bill passed as amended 20-0.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard SB 202, authored by Sen. Bray and Sen. Broden, on petitions to modify custody and visitation. This bill provides a person seeking or modifying a guardianship, visitation or child custody case must indicate if the person or the child have been the subject of a CHINS case. The bill was amended to change “investigation” to “assessment,” to be consistent with current law. The amendment also adds informal adjustments to the proceedings subject to the disclosure, changes the wording on the petition to require the petitioner to reveal what he or she knows, and maintains the confidentiality of any information given to the court. Sen. Bray indicated that the amendment is an attempt to bring the bill’s language in line with HB 1041. The bill passed as amended, 6-0.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard Sen. Steele’s SB 171 on grandparent and great-grandparent visitation. This bill allows grandparents and great-grandparents to seek visitation with grandchildren if the grandparent or great-grandparent had meaningful contact with the child but the parent terminated the child’s visits due to an estrangement. The bill was amended so that the court would have to determine grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ rights based on clear and convincing evidence, added the word “significant” to describe the meaningful contact, and added a factor for consideration that the termination of the child’s visits was unreasonable. The amended bill failed to pass, 3-3.
The House Ways and Means Committee heard Rep. Bacon’s HB 1061 on magistrates. The original bill allowed the judges of the Warrick circuit and superior courts to jointly appoint a magistrate. The amended bill adds Rep. Speedy’s HB 1384 on converting Marion Superior Court commissioners to magistrates. Judge Certo explained that amended language is a part of an ongoing conversion of 20 Marion Superior commissioners into magistrates (of the 20, conversion of 4 has already been authorized by statute). Judge Certo observed that the amended bill allows for the conversion of 4 additional commissioners to magistrates in 2013 and 8 more commissioners to magistrates after 2013. The bill passed as amended 19-0.
The House Ways and Means Committee considered HB 1393 on the Judicial Technology and Automation Committee (JTAC). An amendment increases the JTAC oversight committee membership from seven to nine, by adding a court clerk from a non-Odyssey county and a member affiliated with a taxpayer organization, both appointed by the governor. Another amendment increases the “automatic recordkeeping fee” from $5 to $7, $3 less than the $10 in the introduced version of the bill. Pursuant to the amendment, all of the $2 fee increase imposed in Odyssey counties will go to JTAC, but in non-Odyssey counties $1 of the increase will go to JTAC and the remaining $1 will go to the county. The amendment also provides that the fee increase sunsets at the end of the biennium following implementation based on the proposition that the expenses necessitating the fee increase are one-time Odyssey or INcite program installation costs, so that after extension of Odyssey to counties awaiting it and completion of current INcite projects the increase will no longer be needed. Rep. Dermody inquired about reports that there is a very large balance in the JTAC fund. Rep. Braun said that the budget has been in the $7 million range, and the fee increase under the amended bill would provide an increase of $1.3 million. Rep. Thompson asked for a list of the counties (approximately 20) waiting for Odyssey installation. Rep. Leonard observed that, while he supports JTAC, he has heard there is a 10 million dollar balance in their funds and cannot support a fee increase with that kind of balance. Rep. Steuerwald said that a number of counties are getting ready to come on with Odyssey and that may explain a significant balance. Rep. Huston said he does not like the fee increase, but approves of the bill’s addition of an oversight board; he observed he does not think it is good from a “competitive” standpoint to have fee money going to JTAC from non-Odyssey counties. Rep. Braun replied that the fee increase is only for the biennium, noted the frustration in counties which have decided to go with Odyssey at having to wait and pointing out the fee increase will help with the conversion of the “backlog” of courts wanting Odyssey. He also noted that the INcite programs are critical for “cross information” between government agencies. The bill passed as amended, 14-7.
The Senate Pensions and Labor Committee continued discussion on SB 527 pertaining to judges’ pensions. Author Sen. Boots offered an amendment removing the introduced bill language and inserting language urging the legislative council to assign the study of the retirement, disability and death benefits of judges and magistrates to the Pension Management Oversight Commission. The amended bill passed, 7-0.