GREENFIELD — An unruly patient who spits on a doctor or nurse would face felony charges if a bill that advanced in the Indiana Senate this week becomes law.
Senate Bill 362, written by freshman Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, made its way out of committee on Thursday. It’s the new senator’s first bill to pass a vote of any kind.
Activity was picking up for local lawmakers in the fourth week of the legislative session. Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, has had two bills advance out of the House. Crider’s other bills are being heard in committees.
The bill on battery by bodily waste stems directly from Crider’s background in law enforcement and health care
Crider is security manager at Hancock Regional Hospital, so the dangers faced by health-care workers is something he’s familiar with.
Under the bill, people who intentionally spit on a health-care provider or security officer, for example, could be charged with a Class D felony just like if it were to happen to a police officer.
“(If) you have a situation where a person is not cooperative, say the police or fire department is bringing them in; when you’re looking around the room at the folks that are present, the former statute covered everybody else for the enhanced penalty except for the hospital security, nursing staff and physicians,” Crider said. “That was an oversight that needed to be corrected.”
The bill would also enhance penalties for committing the offense if the blood or body fluid is infected with hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV or tuberculosis.
The Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law approved the bill unanimously Thursday, and the bill will now go before the entire Senate for consideration.
No date has been set for the bill to be heard.
Crider said based on the unanimous support he received this week and several more senators signing on as co-sponsors, he is optimistic about its chances.
He said his background in law enforcement – he was chief of enforcement at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources before retiring in 2010 – and his experiences at the hospital made the bill an obvious one for him to carry.
Crider has written another bill that would change the criminal definition of intimidation to include social media and Facebook if it is used against a hospital, church, school or religious group. The bill stems from an incident at HRH last year when a man threatened hospital employees on Facebook. That bill will be heard in a committee next week.
“That’s the real beauty of having a citizen legislature where everybody brings an individual perspective based on where their experiences have been,” Crider said.
While Crider said the pace is picking up in the Senate now that bills are being approved by committees, Cherry said the House has been busy for weeks.
“We came out of the chute running, and I think Speaker (Brian) Bosma has given pretty good direction to our committee chairs to hear bills, and we just don’t want to sit around and do nothing,” Cherry said.
A bill written by Cherry was the first to be approved by the House this year.
The measure on transportation for farming equipment would bring Indiana into compliance with federal law. Crider is a sponsor in the Senate.
Cherry also wrote a bill on outdoor stage equipment that was approved last week in the House.
The bill, which stems from the fatal 2011 stage collapse at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, extends temporary rules for outdoor stage equipment until 2016. Part of the bill changes how close people may sit to outdoor stages.
A bill co-written by Cherry related to write-in candidates was approved by the House Tuesday. Under the measure, people may not associate themselves with a political party if they are a write-in candidate.
Cherry said that stems from an issue in another county where a candidate did not run in a primary election, but later ran as a write-in candidate with the word “Republican” next to the name. Cherry said if the person did not run in the primary election as a Republican, they should not be allowed to associate themselves with the party afterward out of fairness to the other candidates.