Getting back to work: Lawmakers focus on tax changes, child sex crimes

GREENFIELD — When Hancock County’s lawmakers return to the Statehouse on Wednesday, they’ll go armed with a list of bills they say will benefit those they represent.

The legislative session launches this week, but lawmakers have a few more days to decide what bills they’ll pitch, hoping there is enough support for them to become law.

Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, and Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, have spent months meeting with constituents, hearing from state and county leaders and working with the Legislative Services Agency to draft bills concerning a variety of state and local issues.

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Senate bills must be filed by Friday, while members of the Indiana House of Representatives have until Jan. 9.

Cherry said he’ll spend the first few days of the session meeting with other lawmakers to narrow down his list. If someone else is considering a bill similar to one he’s drafted, he doesn’t need to file his, he said.

Meanwhile, Crider already has filed a handful of bills. Here’s a look at some of the proposals Cherry and Crider are considering:

Special income tax increase

Local officials have asked Cherry to carry legislation enabling Hancock County to increase its income tax to pay for the construction of a new county jail as well as renovations to other criminal justice buildings.

The legislation would allow Hancock County to raise the tax — taken out of Hancock County workers’ paychecks — without having to split the revenue among Hancock County’s cities and towns.

Cherry said he has a bill specific to Hancock County ready, but he’s hopeful another lawmaker’s proposal — which would give all counties the ability to increase their tax without permission from the Legislature to support a countywide project — will become law.

Internet crimes investigation fee and fund

Crider plans to propose a bill to establish the Internet Crimes Investigation Fund. The money would be generated by a $10 Internet crimes investigation fee, charged to people convicted of a felony or misdemeanor in Indiana courts.

The Indiana State Police department would oversee the fund, reserving up to half the money to be given to county, city and town law enforcement agencies that investigate Internet crimes against children.

The money could be used to purchase equipment or to train officers or to cover expenses accrued by investigating those crimes.

Statue of limitations for child sex crimes

Another bill Crider is proposing would expand the list of offenses that can be prosecuted any time before the victim reaches 31 under the state’s statue of limitations law.

That statue of limitations for sex crimes committed against children — child molesting, vicarious sexual gratification, child solicitation, child seduction and incest — expires after the victim turns 31. Crider’s bill adds sexual misconduct to that list.

Insurance coverage for survivors

A proposal Crider pitched in 2017 is getting a second chance.

His bill would require employers — such as cities and counties — to continue paying for insurance for the families of public safety officers killed in the line of duty, ensuring there’s no lapse in coverage.

The surviving spouse would receive health insurance indefinitely, and children would be covered through their 18th birthday or 23rd birthday if they’re enrolled in college.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.