General Information

February 6, 2015 | Category: General

This is the fifth weekly installment of the Legislative Update for the 2015 legislative session. If you are interested in reading the text of any bill introduced this session, you may find all of the bill information here.

This week the Senate and House committees heard the following bills of interest to the judiciary:

Civil Law

February 6, 2015 | Category: Civil

The Senate Labor and Pensions Committee heard Sen. Randolph’s SB 133, on protective orders and employment, providing that an employer cannot deny unemployment benefits based on the filing of a protection order. Section 1 was deleted by a voice vote of the committee. The second section of the bill passed, prohibiting an employer from discriminating against an employee, including termination of employment, based on the filing of a protection order. The legislation permits an employee who was discriminated against in violation of this statute to bring a civil action against the employer. A representative of the AFL-CIO supported the bill as amended as did the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  The Indiana Manufacturer’s Association objected to the new private cause of action created in the legislation, as did the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The bill passed as amended, 7-4.

The Senate Civil Law Committee heard Sen. Messmer’s SB 361, on defense to liability concerning propane suppliers. This bill provides that the seller, supplier, handler, or transporter of liquefied petroleum gas that was used in liquefied petroleum gas equipment or a liquefied petroleum gas appliance, involved in causing bodily injury or property damage has an assumed risk affirmative defense. The bill passed 5-1.

The Senate Civil Law Committee heard Sen. Zakas’ SB 524 on tax deeds and conveyance documents. A representative of the Indiana Land Title Association explained that this bill provides that when a county auditor sends out certain notices for a tax sale by certified mail, the notices must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested. It also requires that a verified petition for a tax deed to real property acquired in a tax sale must include copies of various notices sent by the petitioner, copies of certified mail receipts, copies of certified mail return receipts, and evidence used by the petitioner to ascertain the owner of property and any other persons with a substantial property interest of public record in the property. This bill provides that a tax deed is not prima facie evidence of the validity of a tax sale, if the petitioner for the tax deed fails to include with the petition the copies of notices, copies of mailing receipts, and copies or descriptions of the evidence used to ascertain the owner and other persons having a substantial property interest of public record in the property. Provides that a mortgage that does not comply with certain filing requirements is validly recorded, regardless of when the mortgage is recorded. Representatives from the Probate, Trust, Real Property Division of the Indiana State Bar Association and from Indiana Land Title Association testified in favor of the bill. A technical amendment was adopted by consent. The amended bill passed 8-0.

The House Judiciary heard HB 1358, concerning garnishment of tax refunds, authored by Reps. Cox, Steurwald, DeLaney, and Dermody. This legislation provides that if a debt has been reduced to a judgment in Indiana and the judgment has not been satisfied, set aside, or discharged in bankruptcy, the judgment creditor may garnish a state tax refund otherwise due to the debtor. Further, it specifies the procedures that the judgment creditor must follow in obtaining the garnishment from the Department of State Revenue, and allows a writ of garnishment to be electronically filed with the Department of State Revenue. A representative from the United Way wanted to ensure the bill follows the Fair Debt Collection Act provisions, and a representative from the creditors bar testified in support of the bill.  Rep. Cox introduced an amendment requiring the writ of notice to be electronically sent to the Department of State Revenue. The amendment was adopted by consent, and the bill passed 7-0.

The House Judiciary heard HB 1469 concerning wage payment and wage assignment, authored by Rep. Ober. This bill provides that an employer who fails to make timely payment of wages or withholds wages in bad faith, may, in addition to the wages due, pay liquidated damages, court costs, and a reasonable fee for the employee’s attorney. It provides that an employee may assign wages for: (1) the purchase, rental, or use of uniforms or equipment necessary to fulfill the duties of employment; (2) reimbursement for education or employee skills training; (3) an advance for payroll or vacation pay; and (4) meals eaten by the employee at a location provided by the employer. Rep. Ober introduced an amendment addressing when an employer fails to make payment of wages in bad faith, the employer is liable for triple damages, and a establishing wage assignment cap of $2,500 for uniform purchases. The amendment passed by consent and the bill passed 6-1.

Criminal Law

February 6, 2015 | Category: Criminal

The Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee heard Sen. Tomes’ SB 285 on inmate correspondence. This bill provides that the DOC shall provide, without charge, an inmate with a reasonable method and opportunity for correspondence, and shall permit an inmate to purchase additional opportunities for correspondence, such as email. Sen. Tomes testified that more correspondence with family is thought to reduce recidivism and that email will be easier to monitor. An employee and former employee of DOC testified against the bill because most inmates’ families do not have email, and this would decrease access to sending mail. The amendment allows inmates to choose a method of communication other than mail.  The amended bill passed 9-1.

The Corrections and Criminal Law Committee heard SB 313 regarding the definition of “sexual conduct” authored by Sen. Head. This bill expands the definition of “sexual conduct” (IC 35-42-4-4(a)(4)) by including the exhibition of a female breast for the purposes of the law on child exploitation and child pornography. Sen. Head testified that this portion of the definition was inadvertently removed in the 2014 criminal code revisions. The Prosecuting Attorneys Council testified in support of the bill. The Motion Picture Association of America brought issues of concern with the current statutory language and the bill to the Committee’s attention. The bill passed 9-0.

The Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee heard Sen. Broden’s SB 363, on child molesting. This bill defines “dangerous sexually transmitted disease” and increases the penalty for child molesting from a Level 3 felony to a Level 1 felony if the offense results in the transmission of a dangerous sexually transmitted disease. An amendment adopted by consent denies guardianship to anyone that commits a Level 1 or 2 felony. Testimony was heard from someone whose son was infected with a sexually transmitted disease by a sexual molester. A representative of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council testified in support. The amended bill passed 10-0.

The Corrections and Criminal Law Committee heard SB 532 authored by Sen. Head on human trafficking and indecent nuisances. The bill expands the definition of “indecent nuisances” (IC 32-30-7-1) to include a public place in or upon which human trafficking is conducted, permitted, continued, or exists, and the personal property and contents used in conducting and maintaining the place for such a purpose. The bill also specifies that 50% of the money and property confiscated under this law shall be distributed to the county general fund and 50% deposited in a new fund, the human trafficking collections account, administered by the jurisdiction’s prosecuting attorney’s office.  The human trafficking collections account funds shall be used for: (1) human trafficking victim services, (2) law enforcement investigations concerning human trafficking, and (3) human trafficking prevention programs provided by community based organizations, within the county. The bill was held for further discussion.

The House Public Health Committee heard HB 1269 on mental health matters authored by Reps. Clere and Steuerwald. This bill addresses a number of mental health issues including: (1) authorizing the DOC or jail to serve as a representative of inmates for the purposes of applying for Medicaid eligibility, (2) requiring the DOC or jail to assist inmates to apply for Medicaid prior to release from incarceration, (3) requiring a person who is arrested and taken into custody to be assessed by a qualified and licensed mental health or addictions professional to determine if the person has a mental illness or substance addiction, establishing required reporting of assessment results and providing for re-assessments until release, and (4)  appropriating $22,000,000 to the forensic diversion account on an annual basis and providing that this account is established to fund the custodial assessments following arrest. Extensive testimony was heard in support of this bill from the Association of Community Mental Health Centers, Mental Health America of Indiana, Recovering Kids and Families, the Office of the Attorney General and the Prescription Drug Task Force, Indiana Sheriff’s Association, Indiana Minority Health Coalition, Children’s Coalition of Indiana, Indiana School Counselor Association and Universal Health Services. The bill was held for further discussion.

The House Public Health Committee heard HB 1448 authored by Reps. Davisson and Clere pertaining to mental health drugs and coverage. The bill includes inpatient substance abuse detoxification services as a Medicaid service. The bill also prohibits the Office of Medicaid Policy and Planning from requiring prior authorization for a non-addictive medication assistance treatment drug prescribed for the treatment of substance abuse. The bill also requires the Indiana Judicial Center to provide judges, the Prosecuting Attorneys Council to provide prosecutors and the Public Defenders Council to provide public defenders with information and training concerning diversion programs or other probationary programs available for individuals with an addictive disorder, including information on medication assisted treatment within these programs. Testimony was heard in support of the bill from the Association of Community Mental Health Centers, a practitioner, Indiana School of Medicine, Indiana Psychological Association, the Office of the Attorney General and the Prescription Drug Task Force, and Mental Health America of Indiana. The bill passed 13-0.

The House Public Health Committee heard HB 1449 authored by Reps. Davisson and C. Brown on opioid treatment programs in community mental health centers. This bill authorizes certified community mental health centers to operate opioid treatment (Methadone) programs. Testimony in support of the bill was heard from the Association of Community Mental Health Centers, Midtown Community Mental Health Center, and the Office of the Attorney General and the Prescription Drug Task Force. The bill passed 13-0.

Family & Juvenile Law

February 6, 2015 | Category: Family/Juvenile

The Senate Family and Children Services Committee heard SB 364, concerning Department of Child Service Reporting, authored by Sen. Broden and Sen. Grooms.  The chair presented the bill, which amends the definition of “near fatality” for confidential records purposes involving such cases.  The new definition means a severe childhood injury or condition that results in a child receiving critical care for at least 24 hours following admission to a critical care unit.  An amendment was presented to maintain the confidentiality of police records in a near fatality investigation and adopted by consent.  The Department of Child Services testified regarding some concerns with the proposed amended definition and its expansion of covered cases.  The current definition is consistent with the federal definition and carries specific reporting requirements for the state.  If the definition conflicts with federal laws, then funding could be placed in jeopardy. The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council and the Hoosier State Press Association testified in support of the amended bill. The bill was held for further consideration.

The Senate Family and Children Services Committee heard SB 485 concerning psychiatric crisis intervention authored by Sens. Crider and Becker. The bill amends the date for FSSA to report on comprehensive psychiatric crisis intervention services and requires DMHA to establish a psychiatric crisis intervention pilot program in at least 3 locations in rural and urban areas.  DMHA is also responsible for evaluating the pilot programs based on recidivism, sustainability, resource investment, cost effectiveness, clinical outcomes, ability to provide 24-hour walk-in crisis services, and ability to provide mental health and substance use disorder inpatient services. The bill also requests appropriations for these programs. Those testifying in favor included: Executive VP of Behavioral Health with Community Health Network; doctor and Director of Operations for Community Health Network; Criminal Justice Director for NAMI; Indiana Community Mental Health Center Network; Mental Health America of Indiana; VP Indiana Hospital Association; and the Indiana Psychological Association. The bill passed 6-0 and was recommitted to the Appropriations Committee.

The Senate Family and Children Services Committee heard Sen. Zakas’ SB 564 concerning the waiting period for dissolution of marriage. The bill extends the waiting period to 180 days for a final hearing if there are children of the marriage that are less than 17 years old, and extends the waiting period to 120 days if an objection to the dissolution is filed by either party. The bill maintains the 60-day waiting period if either party to the dissolution matter asserts that the other party engaged in domestic violence against the petitioning party or the party’s child.  An amendment was adopted by consent that would require the assertion of domestic violence to be made under oath or affirmation and the asserted violence could be against either party to the dissolution in addition to the children. After taking supporting testimony and hearing the concerns from the Indiana State Bar Association Family and Juvenile Law section, the bill was held for further consideration until the next meeting.

The House Judiciary heard HB 1196 concerning CHINS and delinquent child dual jurisdiction.  Author Rep. McNamara presented the legislation requiring the intake officer to screen for a dual jurisdiction child. The Committee adopted an amendment outlining the dual jurisdiction process and clarifying the process could be utilized both before and after adjudication. Once screened, the court decides if the juvenile should be fully assessed as a dual jurisdiction child.  The dual jurisdiction assessment team would recommend to the court services and supervision for the child. The court would then determine the lead agency (DCS or probation) for the child.  Judge Mary Willis, President of the Indiana Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, spoke in favor of the bill. She gave examples when it would be useful and noted it embraced the vision and builds on the JDAI initiative. Judge Charles Pratt, Co-Chair of the Dual Jurisdiction Task Force, Commission on Improving the Status of Children also spoke in favor of the legislation and noted it is based on national reform models already in existence.  The program coordinates services for both CHINS and delinquents. Larry Landis, Indiana Public Defender’s Council and David Powell, Indiana Prosecuting Attorney’s Council also spoke in favor of the bill. The bill passed as amended, 8-0.

The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee heard HB 1304 on various criminal law issues for juveniles. Since Representative McMillin was still working on additional amendments, only two of the four of the amendments heard the previous week were adopted by consent of the committee. The amendment permitting use of Vivitrol and the amendment broadening the definition of “runaway” to include leaving a specific location designated by a parent, guardian or custodian in addition to leaving home without consent were adopted by voice vote. The bill was held for further amendment.

Judicial Administration

February 6, 2015 | Category: Administration

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard SB 90 concerning address confidentiality authored and presented by Sen. Steele.  The bill was amended by the Committee and includes judicial officers within the definition of a law enforcement official for purposes of these provisions to allow law enforcement officials the ability to require public agencies, via an application, to keep the official’s home address confidential, provides limited exceptions to permit address disclosure, permits the official to substitute a P.O. Box on documents issued by the public agency, provides for the expiration of such applications.  After taking supporting testimony on the amended bill from Indiana State Police and Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the bill passed as amended 8-0.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard SB 150 authored by Sen. Lanane creating an additional Madison circuit court magistrate. Madison Circuit Court Judges Clem and Happe testified to the need for an additional judicial officer to handle the circuit court’s workload. Sen. Tallian offered an amendment adding a magistrate position to the Porter Circuit Court. The amendment was adopted by consent. Both magistrate positions were approved by the Interim Study Committee on Courts and the Judiciary. The amended bill passed 8-0.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard SB 292 concerning St. Joseph County courts authored and presented by Sen. Zakas.  The bill adds additional magistrates for the circuit court and superior court.  The Committee adopted an amendment by consent to section 1 of the bill to provide that political affiliation could not be considered in appointing the magistrates.  Judge Jenny Pitts Manier, St. Joseph Superior Court, testified in support of the bill, which the Committee passed as amended 8-0.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also heard SB 409 concerning court fees authored and presented by Sen. Merritt. The bill reinstates the mortgage foreclosure counseling and education court fee of $50 until July 1, 2017.  Elizabeth Dalton, Division of State Court Administration, testified in support and explained to the Committee how a portion of these fees provide court facilitators.  After receiving other supporting testimony, the Committee passed the bill 8-0.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard SB 547 on veterans and courts. Author Sen. Zakas testified that the bill makes appropriations to the Indiana Judicial Center to assist in the development of veterans’ courts statewide. The bill also authorizes (1) veterans’ courts to accept individuals from another county, (2) mandates the establishment of a veterans’ court in each judicial district, (3) requires the Judicial Conference of Indiana Board of Directors to adopt rules governing the transfer of veterans among jurisdictions for the purposes of participation in a veterans’ court, (4) requires designated state agencies to seek funding for veterans’ courts, and (5) authorizes courts to consider as a mitigating factor that an individual convicted of a crime is a veteran who has certain conditions that favor suspending the sentence. Jane Seigel, Executive Director, and Mary Kay Hudson, Director of Court Services, of the Indiana Judicial Center provided the Committee with the current status of veterans’ courts in Indiana. Madison Circuit Court Judge Clem, the Indiana Bar Association, the Military and Veterans Coalition of Indiana and the Disabled American Veterans testified in support of the bill. The bill passed 8-0.

The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee heard Rep. Richardson’s HB 1373 on circuit court clerks. This bill requires a fee for filing a petition with a court for the expungement of a person’s record of arrest or conviction. It also requires a person who requests a circuit court clerk to send an additional mailing by registered or certified mail to provide an addressed envelope with postage prepaid, the United States Postal Service forms for registered or certified mail, and the United States Postal Service fee for service by registered or certified mail. The bill provides that any fees collected by the circuit court clerk for preparing a transcript or copy of a record are deposited in the clerk’s records perpetuation fund (instead of the county general fund). Clerks representing the Clerks’ Association testified in support of the bill. The bill passed 12-0.

The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee heard HB 1425, authored by Rep. McMillin and Rep. Steuerwald, on court fees. The automated record keeping fee is currently $7, but will  decrease to $5 on July 1, 2015. This bill increases the automated record keeping fee collected after June 30, 2015 to $9. This bill also provides that 100% of the automated record keeping fee is distributed to the Auditor of State for deposit in the state user fee fund. This bill also increases the document storage fee from $2 to $4. Justice David and Judge Mathias testified about the importance of funding court technology, and that $9 is a necessary fee. Henry County Judge Mary Willis testified about the importance of Odyssey. County Clerks Association testified against the bill because of the how the fee is divided between counties. The owner of Doxpop, a private sector vendor, echoed the County Clerks Association’s viewpoint. CSI, another private sector vendor, testified about working with the State to connect data and that it is important that this bill move forward. Although the need for amendment was discussed, no amendments were heard. The bill passed 10-1 and was recommitted to Ways and Means.