INDIANAPOLIS – Today Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller applauded the efforts of state legislators who recently passed bills addressing problems with pain clinics known as “pill mills,” enhancing consumer protections for homeowners and senior citizens, creating greater oversight of state child protection efforts and providing funding for school resource officers.
Today Zoeller thanked State Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, Sen. Jean Breaux, R-Indianapolis, State Rep. Woody Burton, R-Whiteland, Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, and Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, for their support of consumer-protection bills during the Legislature’s 2013 session.
“Lawmakers of both parties and both houses worked collaboratively to tackle complex issues facing Hoosiers: providing for the safety of our children, protecting homeowners and senior citizens from fraud and confronting the problem of prescription drug abuse. Before session my office made recommendations about new laws needed to protect the public; and we are grateful that legislators worked so diligently to consider, refine and pass these bills that will serve the needs of constituents,” Zoeller said.
SEA 246 and HEA 1465: Prescription drugs and ‘pill mills’
The Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, which Zoeller chairs, examined the problem of pain-management clinics that dispense addictive controlled substances with little oversight.
“The epidemic of prescription drug abuse is fueled by the irresponsible overprescribing of addictive painkillers to patients which leads to drug dependency, easy access for abuse and accidental overdoses, all with terrible consequences. The Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force determined that the state’s efforts to curb these harmful practices by ‘pill mills’ would be enhanced with new state laws, and I am grateful to the legislators who have invested long hours into crafting effective new statutes to help address the epidemic in Indiana,” Zoeller said.
Senate Enrolled Act 246 makes important changes regarding clinics that prescribe, dispense or administer controlled substances. If a clinic owner does not otherwise hold an Indiana Controlled Substance Registration (CSR), then the owner must obtain a CSR for each facility they own in Indiana. As part of registration, clinic owners have a responsibility for overseeing the operations in the clinic and ensuring that practitioners prescribe in a way that complies with law. Under SEA 246, through new rulemaking procedures of the Medical Licensing Board, the Attorney General’s Office can move more quickly in taking enforcement action against practitioners who overprescribe and in obtaining records for an investigation.
“Prescription drug abuse, addiction and overdose have become an epidemic in our communities, especially among young Hoosiers. The passage of SEA 246 represents cooperation between the Legislature and executive branch to provide a new layer of oversight for prescribers of controlled substances. This will help prevent these dangerous drugs from being overprescribed and then abused or sold illegally,” said Sen. Patricia Miller, one of the Senate authors of SEA 246. Sen. Breaux was co-author and Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill into law Tuesday.
Zoeller also thanked Miller, Breaux and other legislators for passing a related bill, House Enrolled Act 1465, which boosts the effectiveness of INSPECT, the state’s prescription drug monitoring program. INSPECT maintains a database of controlled substances dispensed by pharmacies, and physicians can access INSPECT to verify they are not overprescribing to addicted patients who might be drug-seeking. HEA 1465 allows prescribing physicians to electronically transmit prescriptions for certain controlled substances to pharmacies, to prevent forged prescriptions. It also creates an interim study committee that will make recommendations for future enhancements to the INSPECT program. The Governor signed it into law April 29.
SEA 382: Senior Consumer Protection Act
The Attorney General’s Office enforces consumer protection laws and has sought to educate and protect senior citizen consumers who often are targets of scams and frauds. Authored by Sen. Lanane, Senate Enrolled Act 382 -- also known as the Senior Consumer Protection Act -- enhances the existing consumer protection statutes involving victims age 60 and older, particularly involving situations of financial fraud committed by trusted individuals such as family members. SEA 382 increases the civil penalties for fraud and financial exploitation of senior citizens, to as much as $15,000 per offense. Sen. Patricia Miller was a co-author and the bill awaits the Governor’s signature.
“I am very excited to see this initiative moving forward and I thank the Attorney General for all his efforts. This proposal means increased protections, it means Hoosier senior citizens are more thoroughly safeguarded from these fraudulent claims and that a lifetime of savings and investments remain secure,” Sen. Lanane said.
HEA 1084: Homeowner Protection Enhancements
The Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Unit (HPU) within the Consumer Protection Division has filed numerous lawsuits against illegal foreclosure rescue consultants and other predators who defraud homeowners facing foreclosure. House Enrolled Act 1084, authored by
Rep. Burton, amends the foreclosure consultant law to prohibit consultants from misrepresenting themselves as being endorsed, sponsored or affiliated with any government agency or program. HEA 1084 also amends the law governing homeowner associations to create greater transparency and make a homeowner association’s financial records available to its members and to the AG’s Office. Rep. Torr was a co-author and the bill awaits the Governor’s signature.
“I appreciate the Attorney General’s support of House Enrolled Act 1084. This piece of legislation is designed to protect Hoosier homeowners against predatory lending practices and fraudulent real estate dealings. I have heard stories of Indiana residents who have become victim to predatory ‘foreclosure specialists’ since the housing market collapse in 2007. These foreclosure specialists claim to be experts in helping people keep their homes, however ultimately end up defrauding the homeowner after receiving money for services they cannot legally provide,” Rep. Burton said.
SEA 509: Human Trafficking
Prior to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis in 2012, Attorney General Zoeller urged the Legislature to pass Indiana's human trafficking law to combat criminal organizations that engage in trafficking of women and children for prostitution. That 2012 law was passed in time for the Super Bowl. To close a potential loophole, the Attorney General this year recommended updating the law. SEA 509 revises the statute to say that 16-and 17-year-olds can be victims of illegal child trafficking, which removes a potential legal defense for criminal traffickers. Sen. Breaux co-authored SEA 509 which the Governor signed into law.
“The measure the General Assembly passed before the Super Bowl was an excellent first step but fell short in protecting Hoosier children under the age of 18 against these situations. With the passage of this legislation we are a step closer toward eradicating child trafficking and ensuring those engaging in this despicable practice are prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Sen. Breaux said.
SEA 1: School Resource Officers
Zoeller thanked legislators for their passing Senate Enrolled Act 1, which allows schools to voluntarily apply for state matching grants of up to $50,000 to create or expand School Resource Officer positions. School Resource Officers or SROs are career police officers from local public safety agencies who have received special training in interaction with students, and who are assigned to schools to provide safety.
Originally proposed by Zoeller and Sen. Pete Miller in January, SEA 1 was based on a needs assessment study the AG’s Office conducted last fall – before the Newtown tragedy. The study found that school administrators and law enforcement officials would be interested in expanding School Resource Officer programs if funding were available. Under SEA 1, signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Pence, a state board will be set up to review grant applications from schools and distribute funds. Application criteria are expected to be announced this summer.
“The School Resource Officer grant program will further develop the existing working relationships schools already have with their local law enforcement agencies. The daily presence of highly-trained, career police officers and sheriff’s deputies in schools can serve to increase respect for the law by students and also deter the problems in schools of bullying and drug abuse that occur in schools every day. We are appreciative that legislators took the original Senate approach to the bill that gives schools the flexibility to decide whether to apply for SRO grants or not, in keeping with local control, and I am pleased that the Governor signed it,” Zoeller said.
“This is an excellent first step to protecting our most precious Hoosiers,” said Rep. Torr, who was House sponsor of SEA 1. “There have been several recent events across the United States that have heightened the need for improved safety in our schools. I believe the General Assembly worked together with the AG’s Office and the Governor’s Office to improve safety in Indiana’s schools. Senator Pete Miller did an outstanding job leading that effort, and the additional funding provided by SEA 1 will enable schools to maintain the protection they need.”
Zoeller expressed his appreciation to Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, for making the school safety bill a legislative priority this session. Zoeller also thanked Sen. Pete Miller, Rep. Torr, Rep. Pryor and other legislators for passing the final version of SEA 1 with Senate wording that emphasizes school resource officers.
SEA 125: Child Protection Oversight
Attorney General Zoeller supported Senate Enrolled Act 125, which creates a Commission on Improving the Status of Children to study issues, review legislation and cooperate with other entities concerning vulnerable youth. SEA 125 also creates a Child Protection Services Committee to review data from the Department of Child Services, make recommendations and establish local child fatality review teams in each county. The Attorney General’s Office currently works with prosecutors, courts and law enforcement and will represent DCS in appellate court proceedings. The AG’s Office will serve as a non-voting member of the Commission on Improving the Status of Children. Sen. Lanane was one of the bill’s authors.
Zoeller expressed his appreciation to legislators of both parties in the Indiana House and state Senate who passed by wide margins the bills on his 2013 legislative agenda. More information is available at this link: http://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/2472.htm
NOTE: The needs assessment study on School Resource Officers that the Attorney General’s Office conducted last fall is attached.