Emergency, license, Safe Haven bills progress


As the Indiana General Assembly moves closer to the end of the session, legislators are remaining active in bills they support for approval.

State Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, reported recently on some bills he was supporting.

House Bill 1123 would give the Legislature more oversight in certain fiscal and emergency matters, including convening in an emergency session in certain state-of-emergency declarations.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, I've heard from many Hoosiers in Senate District 48 who are frustrated by the long-term restrictions on their livelihoods and their lack of recourse or voice in the matter,” Messmer said.

The bill would create the Legislative State of Emergency Advisory Group that would consult with and advise the governor during emergencies that the Legislative Council determines to have statewide impact. If the governor declares an emergency that has statewide impact, the legislative council could convene an emergency session of the General Assembly.

The bill would also direct that federal stimulus money the state can spend at its discretion be placed in an Economic Stimulus Fund and subject to legislative oversight.

“It makes sense,” Messmer said, “especially during emergencies that last several months, for Hoosiers to have all branches of their state government involved in decisions that could affect the lives of millions.”

The bill passed the House and Senate, but some Senate amendments were not agreed upon by the House. That means the bill will move to a conference committee. Four legislators — two from each chamber — and advisors from both chambers will work on a compromise; if that is accomplished, the compromise will be taken back to the House and Senate for approval.

Messmer also supports a bill that would allow the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles to reinstate certain suspended licenses that were revoked for certain financial reasons.

House Bill 1199 would allow those licenses that were revoked because of reasons like failure to appear or pay, failure to maintain insurance or failure to pay child support to be reinstated if the person provides proof of future financial responsibility and agrees to a payment plan.

"Driving on a suspended license is the No. 1 most common misdemeanor in the state of Indiana, and 80% of those suspensions relate to failure to appear, failure to pay or failure to maintain insurance," Messmer said. "[This bill] would provide an opportunity for those who qualify to have a second chance to legally get back on the road and return to work so that they can pay back their licensure fees."

The Senate passed the House bill on Tuesday with some amendments. The amended bill has been sent back to the House.

A bill that will expand the Indiana Safe Haven Law has been approved by both chambers.

House Bill 1230, which Messmer sponsored in the Senate, would allow a patient to anonymously surrender their baby at a hospital or medical facility after the baby is delivered as well as allow parents to call 911 and anonymously surrender their baby; that baby would have to be less than a month old.

“The idea of abandoning a newborn baby is unimaginable for most people, but the unfortunate reality is that some parents believe it's their only option,” Messmer said. “Offering more ways to help safely surrender babies will ultimately save them from abandonment and neglect.”

The Indiana Safe Haven law was passed in 2000 and allows a person to give up their infant anonymously without fear of arrest or prosecution.

The law expanded in 2017 to allow for the installation of baby boxes at limited locations, including hospitals. In 2018, fire stations with 24/7 emergency medical service were allowed to have baby boxes.

EMS providers are immediately alerted when a baby is left in a baby box, which are incubators.

There are currently 53 baby boxes in the state, including one in Ferdinand.

The House and Senate have approved House Bill 1230, and the chambers’ leaders are in the process of signing the measure so that it can be sent to the governor for his signature.

Parents who need to talk to a counselor or need help finding a baby box location can call the 24/7 Safe Haven Hotline at 1-866-99BABY1 or by visiting shbb.org/locations.

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