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2017 BillWatch: Legislation to watch at the Indiana Statehouse

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The 2017 Indiana General Assembly has convened at the Indiana Statehouse. There are hundreds of bills that have been proposed for consideration. The following is a list of bills that NUVO finds interesting for a variety of reasons. There are probably more interesting nuggets in the massive list that will likely be followed, so don't fret if you don't see a particular bill you are passionate about on this list.

HB 1002 // Transportation infrastructure funding
Next to the budget, this bill is considered to be the most important piece of legislation of the year, according to Republicans. The Democratic leadership agrees and is curious to see how Republicans will swallow the tax increase bill that is the embodiment of everything they have fundamentally been against the last two decades.

HB 1066 // Bias motivated crimes
Hate crimes have been on the rise this year, and Indiana still has nothing on the books that enhances penalties for criminal acts that are obviously motivated by bias and hate. One can only hope that this is the year that changes.

HB 1148/1252 // Cannabidiol
These bills would not necessarily make cannabidiol legal, but it would give those who possess it for medical reasons for themselves or their children a "get-out-of-jail-free-card" if the are caught with it. The biggest "wow" of is that these bills are authored and co-authored by members of the Republican Party. It may not be the decriminalization we ultimately want, but it is a tiny tiny step towards progression.

SB 273 // End of Life options
If this bill gets a hearing, it is guaranteed to bring controversy and debate to the Indiana Statehouse. Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, proposes allowing a terminally ill patient who is able to self-administer medication permission to seek out medications from a doctor that will grant him or her the ability for self-termination. Oregon has allowed this practice for several years now and other state legislatures are now considering the option. Interestingly, Randolph has also authored a bill that would eliminate the death penalty from the state's criminal code (SB 146).

SB 15 // Hemp oil registry for epilepsy
This legislation would establish a pilot study registry for doctors who want to study the use of hemp oil in the treatment of intractable epilepsy. Like a similar bill in the House, this legislation exempts patients and caregivers found in possession; and Republicans authored it. This bill would also encourage research. Maybe just maybe folks are realizing that there is more to hemp and cannabis than they realize. (A similar bill is was submitted in the House, HB 1177.)

SB 179/HB 1005 // Superintendent of Public Instruction selection
Last year this proposed legislation to change the office from an election position to an appointed one was seen as a direct attack against then-state superintendent Glenda Ritz. Now that the new governor and new superintendent are from the same party, the legislation may be viewed as unnecessary. Is it really necessary or is it in the best interest of the state? The answer remains to be seen.

SB 68 // Marriage
This bill makes official what the U.S. Supreme court determined was legal two years ago — same-sex couple have the right to marry. The bill would repeal language from the Indiana Code that currently states marriage is only between a man and a woman. Indiana Code should reflect what is legal in this state and currently it does not.

SB 34/HB 1079 // Teacher licenses and background checks
After a couple of years plagues with criminal activity involving teacher misconduct with students, legislators are hoping to provide further protections against young people by increasing the background and reference checks for those individuals working with students.

HB 1130 // Protections for student journalists
This bill would extend First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of the press protections to student journalists from kindergarten to high school and beyond to college. Because these journalists are typically underage, courts around the state and country have ruled that the First Amendment does not extend to them. This bill would require Indiana school corporations and state-sponsored institutions to honor that protection. AND it's a bipartisan bill?! Mind blown.

HB 1014 // Redistricting commission
This bill should be one of the most important bills to voters. It establishes a redistricting commission that would take on a nonpartisan responsibility of redrawing the district lines. The ultimate goal is to eliminated gerrymandering and create fairer elections and balanced representation.

SB 309 // Distributed generation
To read the bill or even the summary of the bill may make you go cross-eyed trying to understand the utility lingo. But the bottom line is that the bill would effectively take net metering for people who have solar panels for their homes off the table. Net metering allows homeowners to discount the cost of the energy they are pulling from their solar panels from what they get from the utilities. It helps create a culture for people to invest in cleaner energy. No net metering means no lowering of costs and no incentive to energize cleanly. The biggest argument environmental agencies have against this bill is the fact that legislators are dictating the rules of engagement (presumably at the request of the utilities) instead of experts employed by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.


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