New laws deal with abuse victims, sports betting

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Many new laws went into effect in the state today.

While many are technical changes or corrections, there are some that may interest Hoosiers, State Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, said.

One such law increases protections for victims of abuse in Indiana by addressing and closing several loopholes in current law. In particular, the changes help protect young Hoosiers from predators, including predators who try to groom youngsters for future abuse.

“Before, there was no legal action that could be taken against someone who was grooming a child,” Messmer said. “Now there is.”

Dubois County Prosecutor Anthony Quinn says that law — SEA 551 — specifically allows parents to seek a protective order against a person they believe is grooming their child for sexual activity. It also creates a provision so crime victims’ initials are not listed in court documents. Instead, victims will be identified by number only. The bill also creates enhancements for domestic battery charges that involve strangulation. Strangulation is one of the fastest rising charges that prosecutors are seeing statewide and is often a precursor to more violent acts in the future.

Another law applies the same rules to opioid prescriptions at a veterinary clinic as they do at a regular doctor. “Sometimes, veterinarians prescribe opioids to pets,” Messmer said. “And there is potential for someone with an opioid addiction to go to the veterinarian to get a prescription for their animal.”

Law enforcement officials brought this matter to the Legislature’s attention, he said.

Another law increases the amount of the disabled veteran property-tax deduction and raises the assessed-value limit for the deduction from $12,480 to $14,000 for veterans and people older than 65.

“That will help seniors and veterans keep a higher percentage of their hard-earned money,” Messmer said.

An update in gaming laws will allow sports betting at casinos and racinos. “They get their registrations and applications in place and processed,” Messmer. “They anticipate being ready by early September, in time for football season.”

In the past, a few states were allowed by federal law to have legalized sports betting, while the majority were not. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that as unconstitutional in 2018.

Also, police and fire departments can now take applications from people who live within 50 miles of the department’s coverage area, rather than being from the county or a bordering county.

“Most legislators believe this will benefit smaller communities by allowing them more access to people who would like to work in a community,” Messmer said. “A lot of times you can be in a non-contiguous county and be only 10 or 15 miles away from the place you want to apply. Not all counties are square-shaped; some have little arms sticking out here and there.”

Some other new laws that went into effect today:

• A law — HEA 1186 — allowing prosecutors to charge the abuse and trafficking of a synthetic drug as the drug it is designed to mimic. For instance, synthetic drugs designed to act like heroin will be charged at the same level as possessing and dealing heroin itself.

• SEA 186, which makes all Operating While Intoxicated Causing Death cases Level 4 felonies. In addition, it makes OWI Causing Serious Bodily Injury a Level 5 felony and creates a sentencing enhancement for “catastrophic injury.”

• SEA 240, which deals with intimidation, particularly threats to schools and school buildings. SEA 240 expands the intimidation statute to include threats made to any person that puts said person in fear that the threat will be carried out. The hope is that this bill will make it easier for prosecutors to charge those who make bomb or shooting threats to schools.

• SEA 198, which is a much-discussed bias crimes bill. The new law makes it an aggravating circumstance if a crime was committed due to the perceived or actual characteristics, traits, beliefs, practices, or associations of the victim, including but not limited to color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation. A judge would decide at sentencing if it is appropriate to apply this aggravator.

• Another law makes reforms to the Department of Child Services services and provides for better in-home placement processes to keep children in the most family-like settings possible, and provides greater support for foster families.

• A law letting people get a voter registration form at a police station while they are there to apply for a gun permit.

• A law allowing direct family members of returning veterans to be eligible for in-state tuition at Indiana public universities, even if they have never lived in Indiana before.

• A law establishing the parameters for the rural broadband grant program, to help service providers with the costs for installing the service in unserved or underserved areas.

• A law increasing the amount of equipment exemption a small business can have on its business personal property exemption from $20,000 to $40,000.

• A law setting up a new technical board in the state department of health to approve new septic system treatment equipment technology.

• And be aware when driving through Illinois, a new law there makes it a moving violation to have your electronic device in your hand, even if you’re not using it. A similar bill was introduced this year in the Indiana House of Representatives, but stalled in its roads and transportation committee.

The full list on legislation that went into effect in Indiana today can be found at the Indiana General Assembly’s website, www.iga.in.gov.




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