NewsPublic Affairs / February 8, 2019

Weekly Statehouse Update: Gaming Bill, Sweeping Alcohol Law Changes

One of the biggest gaming bills in state history takes its first steps. House lawmakers grapple with sweeping alcohol law changes. And a Senate committee votes to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products. Here’s what you might have missed this week at the Statehouse.2019 legislative session2019-02-08T00:00:00-05:00
Article origination IPBS-RJC
Weekly Statehouse Update: Gaming Bill, Sweeping Alcohol Law Changes

Brandon Smith/IPB News

One of the biggest gaming bills in state history takes its first steps. House lawmakers grapple with sweeping alcohol law changes. And a Senate committee votes to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products.

Here’s what you might have missed this week at the Statehouse.

Gaming Bill

The gaming bill does three big things: it allows a Gary casino to move inland, off the waterfront. It allows a new casino to open in Terre Haute. And it legalizes sports wagering, including online.

The sports betting provisions have broad support. But the industry is divided on the casino changes. A Senate committee unanimously approved the bill.

Changes To Alcohol Law

The major alcohol bill before a House committee came out of a two-year, special study commission on the issue. It would, among other things, require clerks at grocery stores to be 21-years-old and go through training to ring up alcohol. It would force grocery stores to keep their alcohol in one area. And it would allow restaurants to let customers bring in outside bottles of wine, for a fee.

The House committee will consider amendments and vote on the bill in the next week.

Minimum Smoking Age

A Senate committee advanced a measure to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. It does exempt members of the military from that change – though veterans groups who testified before the panel oppose the exemption.

Several veterans testified in support of the bill, but without the military exceptions. Six states have enacted similar laws.

It now goes to the Senate.

Scaling Back Some Vaping Regulations

Indiana lawmakers are moving – reluctantly – to scale back labeling requirements for manufacturers of substances used in vaping, called e-liquids.

The General Assembly created regulations for e-liquid manufacturers and retailers in 2017, such as requiring tamper-proof packaging and labeling. Now, proposed legislation would eliminate some of the labeling requirements. That includes scrapping a rule that every e-liquid container have an identifiable, trackable product code.

Redistricting Reform

A Senate panel approved a bill Monday that once again tries to impose some standards on lawmakers when they redraw the state’s legislative district boundaries. 

A similar bill failed last year and like last year, many advocates want it to do more.

Some of the bill’s language says legislators should try to keep intact cities, communities, and neighborhoods when drawing new maps. And it says incumbent lawmakers’ addresses shouldn’t be considered.

Redistricting reform advocacy groups have long called for a bigger step: an independent redistricting commission to draw Indiana’s maps.

The measure now heads to the Senate floor.

Moms Demand Action

More than 200 red shirt-clad volunteers flooded statehouse hallways to support of gun safety legislation Tuesday.

Advocates included students and parents affected by the shooting at Noblesville West Middle School, and the mother of a 4-year-old who fatally shot himself after a babysitter left a loaded firearm unattended.

Gov. Eric Holcomb designated school safety a top priority for the 2019 legislative session. There are more than two dozen school safety related bills in the legislature this session, some filed in direct response to the Noblesville shooting.

Gun Legislation

A panel of House lawmakers unanimously approved legislation Wednesday that would allow guns in churches on school grounds.

The measure originally eliminated the fee for a lifetime handgun license – now, fees for short-term handgun licenses would be eliminated. The bill would change the period of those short-term licenses from four years to five.

On My Way Pre-K Expansion

Indiana’s preschool program could grow to serve nearly every county this year.

House Education Committee chair Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) is backing a bill that would expand the state’s On My Way Pre-K program to the entire state. Right now, only preschool providers in 20 counties with a level three rating or higher on the state’s Paths To Quality system can qualify.

But Behning’s bill would change the location limits for eligible providers.

The committee plans to vote on the bill in the next week.

Increased Penalties For Passing School Buses

Lawmakers are pushing to increase penalties against people who drive past stopped school buses, months after three children were killed in northern Indiana while crossing the street to get on their bus.

Under the proposed law, a driver who passes a stopped school bus could have their license suspended and face increasing fines for each violation.

The committee passed the bill unanimously, and it will proceed to the Senate floor.

Animal Dissections

Rep. Ragen Hatcher (D-Gary) proposed a measure that would require schools to provide an alternative to animal dissections for students who request it.

She says there are other, newer options that make more sense.

Hatcher’s bill has yet to be scheduled for a hearing in the House Education Committee. The deadline for committees to hear bills is in two weeks.

Incarcerated Parents

Proposed legislation would allow some incarcerated parents to better maintain involvement in their child’s life.

The bill would allow parents to appear in court to discuss the case involving their child. It would also give judges more flexibility to determine if termination of parental rights, after a certain period of time, is warranted or not.

The bill passed a committee on Tuesday and now heads to the full House.

Infant Mortality Review

Indiana consistently ranks near the bottom for infant mortality rates. Several bills being considered by Indiana lawmakers this session address the issue. Senate bill 278 would create a yearly statewide review process through 2024.

The bill recently passed a Senate health committee to establish a Fetal Infant Mortality Review Team that would report to the Indiana State Department of Health. The proposal would direct providers to report fatalities to be reviewed by the state team every year until 2024. The bill was advanced to the full Senate.

Drug Pricing Study

The high cost of certain medicines would be studied under a bill proposed at the statehouse. It would study why the price for drugs, like insulin, continues to increase.

In addition to advocates for affordable insulin, an Eli Lilly representative also spoke in support of a comprehensive study. The House Public Health Committee passed the bill, moving it to the full House. 

HIV Modernization

bill to modernize Indiana laws related to HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, was heard by lawmakers Wednesday. The proposal would update laws to reflect current science and medicine.

Indiana laws related to the transmission of HIV were written in the '90s. HIV modernization legislation can encourage testing, reduce stigma and eliminate barriers to effective treatment.

Amendments will be made to the bill before a committee vote.

Net Metering Bill

bipartisan bill in the state Senate would bring back higher rates for net metering in Indiana.

Right now, the power to bring back those higher net metering rates is in the hands of the Senate utilities committee — and its chair, Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis). He authored the original law to phase down net metering and will decide if the bill will get a hearing.

Merritt said in a statement Monday he would not hear the new bill, "as the bill would dismantle Senate Enrolled Act 309, which became law in 2017."

Farmland Preservation

A proposal hopes to stop farmland from disappearing in Indiana. The American Farmland Trust says more than 500,000 acres of farmland in the state was developed over the past 30 years. 

The bill would direct the Indiana Department of Agriculture to create a program that would let farmers preserve their agricultural land and keep it from being developed into a subdivision or for an industrial use. 

The bill passed committee on Thursday.



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