POLICE BODY CAMERAS
Legislation headed to the governor will give the public and the press more access to police body camera videos than they’ve ever had. A final compromise drew unanimous support for the bill in both chambers.
There was one issue remaining in the body camera bill – a provision that said, if a video potentially depicts excessive use of force or civil rights violations by police, it must automatically be released. Police didn’t like that, and so, despite the objections of press organizations, lawmakers took the provision out.
Still, Sen. Rod Bray (R-Martinsville), who helped craft the bill, says it has broad support.
“We’ve talked at length to members of the media and those who’ve been here in the legislative process watching it and we’ve talked extensively to law enforcement, as well,” Bray says. “Everybody seems comfortable with the language.”
Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) says the bill was made much better during the process by requiring law enforcement to prove in court why a video shouldn’t be released, rather than forcing the public and press to prove why it should. And he says lawmakers next session will have more work to do on police body cams.
“We’ve got to find a way to finance it so that many more agencies will adopt it,” DeLaney says.
The bill does allow police to charge up to $150 when providing copies of the videos to the public or the press.
House and Senate lawmakers Thursday sent a bill to the governor that codifies HIP 2.0, the state’s health care program. Even as it passed, some lawmakers expressed concern the measure limits the state’s flexibility to improve the program in the future.
HIP 2.0 went into effect last February. It uses money from the federal Affordable Care Act to provide health insurance to low-income Hoosiers. It’s early in the second year of a three year demonstration, approved by the federal government.
Rep. Ed Clere (R-New Albany), an ardent supporter of the program, says there’s still a lot the state doesn’t know about how HIP 2.0 is working.
“We know there are a lot of good things about HIP; we know there are a lot of things that are working,” Clere says. “But we know there are other elements that are either questionable or may leave opportunity for improvement.”
And Clere says that’s why the bill is a bad idea – he says it makes it harder to make positive changes. But Rep. Matt Lehman (R-Berne) says the legislation is about protecting HIP 2.0.
“It needs to be codified,” Lehman says. “It needs to be put in place so that those who say it needs to change and we need to make it change can’t, on a whim, make it go away.”
The bill, which is part of Gov. Mike Pence’s legislative agenda this session, now awaits his signature.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING / SCHOOL VOUCHERS
A bill containing controversial language about collective bargaining for teachers and school vouchers passed both chambers. The bill survived Thursday’s debate and now heads to the governor for approval.
House Bill 1005 allows for school districts to give Advanced Placement teachers bonuses without consulting the teacher’s union. Similar language already exists in state law for dual credit teachers and lawmakers say they wanted to align the two jobs.
Rep. Liz Brown (R-Ft. Wayne) says it’s important to reward teachers that have more schooling and teach tougher classes.
“It verifies how important we think our public school teachers are and how important these additional roles they take on are,” Brown says.
But many opposed this language saying it was too similar to previous bills that both the House and Senate killed because of their “anti teacher” perception.
This bill also sparked debate over the application deadline to apply for a state voucher to attend a private school. It allows students to apply twice during the year, and opponents say this will cause a higher enrollment in the program and cost the state more money.
The bill now heads to the governor before becoming law.
COLD MEDICINE PRESCRIPTIONS
House and Senate lawmakers Thursday sent a bill to Governor Mike Pence that puts restrictions on how much pseudoephedrine some Hoosiers can buy. Lawmakers opted to advance a slightly less restrictive bill than what they had a day before.
The main point of contention with the bill has been about balance – on one side lawmakers want to stop meth cooks and their friends from buying pseudoephedrine. On the other, they don’t want to inconvenience innocent customers.
A final change to the bill before it was approved by the House and Senate tilted that balance more in favor of the customer, allowing pharmacists to sell small amounts of pseudoephedrine not only to previous customers, but to any customer they are familiar with.
Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) says he trusts pharmacists to make that decision.
“I have a pharmacist in Auburn that I’ve known forever, and it’s not my regular pharmacy,” Smaltz says. “But if I went in, he’s known me since I was a kid, and he knows that I’m not making meth, and if I said ‘Hey Cam, could I get some Claritin-D,’ I want him to be able to say yes.”
A brand new customer looking for larger amounts of the drug would need to have a prescription.
The bill now heads to Gov. Pence’s desk.
A bill to streamline BMV fees is headed for Gov. Pence, after some last-minute fireworks in the House.
The bill eliminates more than 160 BMV fees and reduces fees for more than two-million people – primarily owners of motorcycles, trucks and buses.
The bureau says the main goal isn't reducing fees, but making them easier to understand and keep track of.
An audit blamed a tangle of sometimes contradictory BMV laws for millions of dollars in overcharges and undercharges which sparked a pair of lawsuits.
The Senate gave final approval 49-1, but the House vote fell along party lines, after Rep. Dan Forestal (D-Indianapolis), who co-authored the original bill, angrily accused House Transportation Chairman Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) of breaking a promise to keep the bill strictly focused on the BMV.
The final bill includes Senate amendments on railroad crossings, mobile homes and rental cars.
House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) had to scold both Forestal and Soliday to stop talking about each other in floor debate and focus on the bill itself.
Soliday notes the changes were discussed in a public hearing on the final compromise, and the only objection raised was from a railroad union representative.