Legislative proposals on the forefront

KPC News Service

Indiana legislators always caution that we can’t expect too much from their 10-week “short session” that comes in even-numbered years.

But they’re usually up to more than they let on.

The short session began Jan. 5 and runs through March. The big issues expected to dominate the session are highway funding, methamphetamine and civil rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.

That’s not everything legislators will deal with, however. Here are some proposals that are flying under the radar, with our comments:

Senate Bill 79 outlaws most uses of a cellphone while driving except for three that it mentions specifically. Current law prohibits only texting while driving. For drivers at least 21 years old, the update would allow telephone calls, using a “geolocation information service” or software to find a gasoline station. The existing law is nearly impossible to enforce, because it’s hard to distinguish texting from other smartphone uses.

Senate Bill 89 expands the state’s lifeline law, which shields people who report medical emergencies involving minors who drink too much. Under current law, immunity applies only to those who report or assist in reporting an emergency.

The change would extend protection to the person requiring medical attention and the person who owns the property where the medical emergency occurs. It adds offenses for which a person cannot be prosecuted in a lifeline law situation: unlawfully furnishing alcohol to a minor, unlawfully providing a location for a minor to consume alcohol and, for a person younger than 21, unlawful possession of paraphernalia or a controlled substance.

We would be interested in hearing the logic for exempting a property owner who did not help report the emergency.

Senate Bill 135 is authored by a Democrat, which means it may get little attention, because Democrats hold so little clout in the Statehouse. It’s worth mentioning because it aims at improving Indiana’s woeful voter turnout statistics. It would empower a county election board to extend voting beyond 6 p.m. to as late as 8 p.m. It would allow a voter to register at the polls on Election Day or while renewing a driver’s license. Finally, it proposes a study of voting by Internet.

Senate Bill 137 would eliminate the statute of limitations for rape. It could be inspired by the difficulty — until last week — with prosecuting comedian Bill Cosby for allegations by women that date back several years.

Senate Bill 8 would allow the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays by package liquor stores. It appears to phase out the sale of liquor on any day by drugstores.

Senate Bill 16 is another bill that would allow selling carryout alcohol on Sundays — in this case under a newly created “supplemental dealer’s permit.” The new permit would not be needed by package liquor stores, farm wineries or microbreweries.

We wonder why it’s necessary to set up all sorts of special rules for selling alcohol on Sundays, favoring some retailers and confusing Hoosiers. Why not just say everyone who now sells alcohol can do it in the same way on Sundays?

Senate Bill 36 would repeal references to “alcohol abuser” in applying for a license to carry a handgun. During an interview or on an application form, an applicant could not be asked about criminal convictions for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

Driving while intoxicated by itself may not be a reason to deny a handgun permit, but it certainly shows a tendency to make reckless decisions.

Senate Bill 9 would remove a requirement that charter schools report “certain data” to the Indiana Department of Education. The bill’s early form is not specific, but since charter schools are funded by taxpayers, why shouldn’t they report how they’re spending our money?

Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.