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Illegal entry, nepotism & smoking ban signed

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Gov. Mitch Daniels signed bills Monday that will ban smoking - statewide in most workplaces, prohibit local government nepotism and conflicts - of interest and allow judges to fine public officials who fail to release - public records.
  • Lesley Weidenbener, Statehouse File
  • Gov. Mitch Daniels signed bills Monday that will ban smokingstatewide in most workplaces, prohibit local government nepotism and conflictsof interest and allow judges to fine public officials who fail to releasepublic records.

A compilation of stories by Lesley Weidenbener and Samm Quinn

Indiana became the 38th state to prohibit smoking in most workplaces – but not bars, private clubs and casinos – Monday when Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a ban bill into law with key lawmakers sitting by his side.

The ban will take effect July 1.

The governor's end-of-the-session signing frenzy over the last two weeks also included his endorsement of toughened state open records laws, an anti-nepotism law and a law that gives Hoosiers the right to use force against police officers who are entering their homes unlawfully.

By the time he was finished, the governor signed 161 legislative initiatives. A full listing with links to the full bills is posted on the state's Bill Watch page.

Daniels used four pens to sign the smoking ban and then distributed them to key supporters, including the bill's authors and sponsors. He offered special congratulations to Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, who has been pushing a smoking ban for years and voted for this year's ban despite exemptions he despises.

"You've worked so long and so tirelessly on this and never gave in," Daniels said. To the group of lawmakers he said, "I hope you feel a sense of accomplishment."

Smoking will still be permitted in bars, private clubs, casinos and some home-based businesses. But it will be banned in restaurants, laundry mats, bowling alleys and most other workplaces.

The final legislation passed the House 60-33 and the Senate 28-22 earlier this year. It's a compromise between a stricter ban originally crafted by the House and one full of exemptions that the Senate originally passed.

Some health advocates and lawmakers complained that the bill still had too many exemptions. But after signing the bill into law, Daniels said supporters "got absolutely as much as was possible at this time."

"I personally think when you can get 90 percent coverage — or 90 plus percent of an important goal — it's better than zero," Daniels said. Discarding the bill the bill out of frustration this year "might have meant Indiana waited many years before Indiana had the energy to try it again. It's a question of tactics on which people can differ."

Targeting nepotism

Also on Monday, Daniels signed bills into law that will generally ban local government employees from serving on elected boards that control their salaries and prohibit public officials from hiring relatives they will supervise.

And Daniels signed House Enrolled Act 1003 into law, which eliminates several state boards and commissions. It will also permit members of surviving boards and commissions to participate in meetings electronically under certain conditions.

"In an effort to help cut costs and increase transparency HEA 1003 should also provide more opportunities for Hoosiers living in the corners of our state to participate in state government," said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.

The newly signed law will also allow judges to impose $100 fines on public officials that don't release public records.

Illegal Entry

The final bill emerging from the 2012 legislative session to receive Daniels' signature gives Hoosiers the right to use force against police officers who are entering their homes unlawfully.

Senate Enrolled Act 1 is state lawmakers' reaction to a controversial decision last year by the Indiana Supreme Court that stripped Hoosiers of what had been seen as a common-law right to resist anyone — including law enforcement — trying to enter their homes illegally.

The House approved the bill 67-26 and the Senate passed it 38-12, and originally Daniels had said he wasn't sure whether he would sign the bill or veto it. He called it "a close call" on Monday.

In a statement, he said Wednesday that he decided to sign the bill after hearing from advocates and opponents. Daniels said the law makes clear that only in narrow circumstances — when police are breaking the law and when they threaten serious bodily injury to a citizen — can that person try to use deadly force.

He said in the real world, there will almost never be a situation where "these extremely narrow conditions are met."

Opponents, however, say they fear the new law's existence will provide less protection to both law enforcement officers and Hoosiers, and Daniels said that may be because Hoosiers will misunderstand the law.

"What is troubling to law enforcement officers, and to me, is the chance that citizens hearing reports of change will misunderstand what the law says," he said.

Strong opposition to the law came from the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police. Its president, Tim Downs, sent Daniels a letter warning of the law's potential consequences, calling it a "recipe for disaster."

He said the measure allows "untrained citizens to subjectively judge the circumstances" and decide for themselves whether they consider an officer's attempt to enter their homes lawful or not – decisions made in tense moments that potentially involve drugs or alcohol.

"It will lead to victims waiting for help to arrive, police officers being forcibly denied entry and needless altercations between police and citizens. It will lead to senseless loss of life to police and citizens alike," he wrote.

Daniels warned Hoosiers that the new law specifically restricts when an individual can use force and when he or she may not and if they break the law, they'll be in more trouble.

"This law is not an invitation to use violence or force against law enforcement officers. In fact, it restricts when an individual can use force, specifically deadly force, on an officer, so don't try anything," he said. "Chances are overwhelming you will be breaking the law and wind up in far worse trouble as a result."

He also encouraged Hoosiers to cooperate with law enforcement in every possible way.

"Indiana's outstanding law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to protect all Hoosiers. The right thing to do is cooperate with them in every way possible," he said.

TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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