GREENFIELD — Hancock County’s representatives in the Indiana General Assembly are counting up their successes in the recent legislative session.
Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, was pleased with what he was able to accomplish during the short session, which began Jan. 6 and ended March 11. Seven bills authored by Crider were approved by both the House and the Senate. Six bills originating in the House that he sponsored in the Senate also passed.
Crider said he was particularly pleased with legislation he passed relating to mental health issues and with the passage of House Bill 1070, which he sponsored in the Senate and which bans the use of handheld electronic devices while driving.
He was also pleased, he said, with the passage of Senate Bill 109, which allows sex crimes against children to be prosecuted even if the victim is older than 31 if law enforcement finds DNA evidence of a crime; discovers a recording that provides evidence of a crime; or if a perpetrator confesses to a crime. Crider’s original version eliminated the statute of limitations for such crimes entirely, but he said the amended version that passed was a step forward.
“It will be a tool that helps more people get justice, so I’m pleased with that,” he said.
Rep. Robert Cherry, R-Greenfield, had less success with his legislative priorities. Only one of his bills, House Bill 1007, which dealt with fiscal matters, was approved in both the House and the Senate. (Cherry also authored one of several bills raising the legal age for buying or possessing tobacco products, e-liquids or electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21; another version was successful.)
“Of course, I’m disappointed that some things happened, and I’m also happy that other things happened,” Cherry said.
Cherry also filed legislation to allow Vernon Township to increase its property tax levy for fire and emergency medical services. Originally filed as House Bill 1202, the provision was later added as an amendment to another bill, but neither made it past the Senate.
Other local taxing entities would have lost out on tax revenue if the change went through, but had offered support for the legislation anyway. Cherry said that was still a cause for concern among state senators and was likely the reason the amendment did not pass.
“Hopefully, they don’t have any disasters in the Vernon Township area,” he said.
In order to meet its funding needs, Vernon Township might need to consider forming a fire district or territory with another municipality, Cherry suggested.
Cherry’s House Bill 1204 also did not pass the Senate; the legislation would have allowed high schools to count students who graduate early toward their average daily attendance, which determines much of school funding. Cherry said senators told him the change was not in the budget for this year but would be considered in the next legislative session.
“It didn’t make it across the finish line, but I know most of the legislature was on my side,” Cherry said.
The session was a victorious one for Gov. Eric Holcomb’s legislative priorities, including the new restrictions on vaping and tobacco and the handheld devices ban.
A bill that would have prohibited someone whose law license has been suspended for thirty or more days in the past five years from serving as Indiana’s attorney general did not make it out of committee in the Senate, despite passing the House and receiving Holcomb’s backing. The legislation was aimed at Attorney General Curtis Hill, who is facing disciplinary action related to allegations that he groped four women in 2018.
Cherry voted for the legislation in the House. Cherry said he thought senators were more comfortable leaving Hill’s political future up to the existing process.
“I think ultimately on the Senate side, we felt that the legal process should play out,” Crider said.
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Senate Bill 109: Allows sex crimes against children to be prosecuted if the victim is older than 31 if law enforcement finds DNA evidence of a crime; discovers a recording that provides evidence of a crime; or if a perpetrator confesses to a crime.
Senate Bill 132: Various provisions relating to the state Department of Homeland Security, including requiring the department to track the number of school resource officers employed by school corporations and charter schools in the state.
Senate Bill 209: Provides that a warrant authorizing a search, testing, or other analysis of an item is deemed executed when the item is seized and that a warrant return is sufficient if the return contains a statement indicating that the item was seized by a law enforcement officer.
Senate Bill 246: Requires school corporations and other schools to have an agreement in place with a community mental health center or provider to provide services to students in order to apply for a grant from the Indiana secured school fund.
Senate Bill 258: Requires the board of firefighting personnel standards and education to establish best practices to improve safety and health outcomes for firefighters.
Senate Bill 273: Creates the Indiana Behavioral Health Commission, which will look at issues affecting mental health in Indiana, and would issue reports in 2022 making recommendations regarding the state’s mental health protocols and funding.
Senate Bill 307: Requires the adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard to facilitate the state sponsored group term life insurance program for members of the Indiana national guard.