Matt Pierce

 

The House passed legislation that aims to crack down on heroin dealers and those who rob pharmacies. But critics argue the legislature is “backsliding” to previous, failed attempts to address the drug epidemic.

The bill increases penalties for robbing a pharmacy and dealing certain amounts of heroin. It also prevents a judge from suspending all or part of some heroin dealing sentences.

Thomas Hawk / https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/

Indiana judges will no longer be able to reduce sentences for serious heroin or meth dealers.  The General Assembly made this change in the law this past session -- but some lawmakers say the change begins to unravel the recent overhaul of Indiana’s criminal code.

Maycomb Paynes / https://www.flickr.com/photos/24730945@N03/

House lawmakers approved a bill Monday that regulates Indiana’s high-fenced deer hunting preserves, sending the measure to the governor. That comes more than a decade after the legislature first began working on the issue.

The state tried to shut down high-fenced hunting preserves more than 10 years ago.  A court battle finally ended last year with a ruling that said the state couldn’t regulate the facilities at all, under current law. 

Dimitris Kalogeropoylos / https://www.flickr.com/photos/dkalo/

Senate Republicans will push this session to make it easier for prosecutors to try to convict people as drug dealers. 

Indiana’s recent criminal code reform required prosecutors to have evidence besides just the weight of a drug to prove someone was dealing drugs – for instance, scales and plastic baggies. 

Senator Mike Young (R-Speedway) wants to eliminate that extra requirement if a person is caught with at least thirty pounds of marijuana or ten grams of other drugs. 

Young notes those amounts are just a starting point and could change.

State of Indiana

The governor’s office has unveiled a new website aiming to improving transparency and accountability in state government -- a one-stop shop for Hoosiers keeping tabs on state agencies’ performance.

The state’s previous transparency portal earned Indiana the title of most transparent state government site by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer watchdog organization. 

Jim Nix / https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimnix/5039079018

The Indiana General Assembly Tuesday made small tweaks to legislation passed earlier this year before it takes effect in July. 

Lawmakers and prosecutors discovered technical errors in the criminal code overhaul bill as the 2014 session drew to a close -- too late to fix the mistakes before the legislature adjourned. 

State lawmakers say the legislature could give Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne more autonomy and flexibility in funding and degree offerings. 

A legislative study committee was tasked this year with investigating the governance structure of the state’s regional university campuses.  And though its initial focus was broad, the committee has narrowed in on one location – IPFW, the state’s fifth largest college campus. 

Indiana took a major step toward overhauling its criminal code Friday as the Senate approved a bill four years in the making.

The revision bill is the result of work by the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission, a group of lawmakers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and law enforcement who analyzed the state’s entire code, line-by-line.  The legislation aims to make sentences for the worst criminal offenses more severe while reducing the penalties for low-level crimes, particularly first-time drug offenses.

State lawmakers say legislation overhauling the state’s criminal code has garnered broad support from criminal justice groups – including prosecutors and public defenders.  The comprehensive effort is now being considered by the full House.

The three-year effort – led by the state’s Criminal Code Evaluation Commission, composed of legislators, judges and attorneys – has produced a new sentencing structure.  Current law divides felonies into four levels, A through D.  Legislation would divide them into six levels, 1 through 6.