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In the 2012 session of the Indiana General Assembly, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller recommends or supports consumer-friendly legislation that protects the public. The Attorney General’s legislative team attends committee hearings and floor votes of the Indiana House of Representatives and Indiana Senate. The team testifies at hearings and works to inform legislators about the impact on Hoosiers that bills would have if they become law. Deputy Attorney General David Miller leads the legislative team. The following are bills recommended or supported by the Attorney General. The bills listed below were all eventually signed into law by Governor Mitch Daniels.
Foreclosure Multistate Settlement and Home Energy Assistance - House Bill 1141
Bill Status: Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee, passed in committee 20-0 January 25, passed on third reading in the Indiana House 94-0 January 30, moved to Senate. Assigned to Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee, passed committee 12-0 February 14, passed as amended in the Indiana Senate 50-0 February 21, returned to House. Conference committee report adopted March 8; final version of the bill passed 93-3 in the House and 49-0 in the Senate; bill now moves to the Governor's desk.
Indiana was one of 49 states that joined in the federal government's settlement with five major mortgage lending banks and mortgage servicing institutions. The $25 billion multistate settlement resolved allegations the banks engaged in "robo signing" of court documents in mortgage foreclosures of homes nationwide. Attorney General Greg Zoeller's office participated in the multistate negotiations. Indiana's share of the settlement is $145 million, much of which will be used to assist Indiana borrowers who lost their homes due to foreclosure or to refinance distressed borrowers.
The Attorney General has made available $28.8 million of the settlement money to the Legislature to establish a Home Energy Assistance fund. The money would be available to assist low-income Hoosiers in financial difficulty to pay their utility bills so they are not disconnected from heat or electric service. Eligible homeowners would be those who already qualify for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Block Grant program, or LIHEAP. Under House Bill 1141, a new trust fund created out of the multistate settlement dollars will be used to pay for a state level home energy assistance program. The amount of energy assistance the State will make available for low-income homeowners transferred out of the settlement fund will be equal to the amount of tax revenue generated from sales tax that LIHEAP recipients pay on their energy bills.
Human Trafficking - Senate Bill 4
Bill Status: Assigned to Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters, passed 9-0 January 5, moved to the full Indiana Senate, passed 48-0 January 10. Assigned to the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code, passed 9-0 January 20, passed 93-0 by the Indiana House January 27, signed into law by the Governor January 30.
Human trafficking can include the recruiting, harboring or selling of a person, especially a child, for purposes of prostitution, commercial sex acts, forced labor or involuntary servitude. Senate Bill 4 makes several updates to existing law prohibiting human trafficking.
Since trafficking is often committed by criminals who are unrelated to their victims, the bill closes a loophole in statute so that any non-relative who victimizes a child in this way can be prosecuted, rather than a parent or guardian only. Also, the bill would more effectively define the crime of “promotion of human trafficking of a minor” so that prosecutors could bring charges against traffickers even if no force was used, and for situations involving prostitution and involuntary servitude of minors.
Large sporting events are associated with human trafficking; and law enforcement, victim-advocacy groups and the Attorney General urged that the Legislature pass Senate Bill 4 prior to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis on February 5. It is now law.
Public Access Issues - House Bill 1093 and House Bill 1003
Bill Status: House Bill 1093 assigned to the House Government and Regulatory Committee; passed 11-0 as amended January 17; passed 90-4 in the Indiana House January 27; moved to the Indiana Senate and assigned to the Senate Local Government Committee. Eligible for consideration in conference committee as part of another bill, House Bill 1003..
In 2011, Attorney General Zoeller and the Hoosier State Press Association conducted a series of Public Access Seminars around the state for attorneys, local government officials and the public. The consensus of those training sessions was that Indiana’s current public records and open meetings laws are difficult to enforce since there is no meaningful penalty for violating them. Legislation on public access issues would create penalties that courts could impose of $100 for the first violation of open meeting and public records laws, and $500 for additional violations, and specify the official in charge of the office or agency would be held responsible. Such penalties could be imposed if an agency denied public access to records or meetings after the Indiana Public Access Counselor issued an opinion finding them to be public. Also, the legislation would require local governments to provide meeting notices online or by email to those who request them.
Lab Technician Testimony in Criminal Cases - Senate Bill 246
Bill Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee and passed 10-0 January 25; passed 48-0 on third reading in the Indiana Senate January 31. Moved to the Indiana House, assigned to the Indiana House, assigned to the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code, passed 11-0 February 23. Passed 95-0 in the Indiana House without amendments, sent to the Governor's desk..
In October 2011, Attorney General Zoeller’s annual Criminal Justice Summit focused on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that had a significant impact on the use of expert witness testimony when introducing crime lab evidence in criminal trials. The Supreme Court’s 2011 decision requires that the actual laboratory analyst who performs forensic tests on blood or other evidence must personally testify in the defendant’s trial -- rather than substitute testimony by a supervisor or expert witness who interpreted the lab results, which had been the common practice. Prosecutors and courts expressed concern that requiring live witness testimony will create significant backlogs and burdens on the testing system.
Senate Bill 246 would streamline the process to comply with the Supreme Court. It requires a prosecutor who intends to introduce a lab report into evidence to notify the court 20 days before the trial, and requires the defendant who intends to cross-examine the lab technician to file a demand within 10 days of getting notice. If the demand is properly filed, then the laboratory report would not be admissible in court unless the lab technician is personally made available to testify and be cross-examined by the defense. If the demand is not properly filed, then the defendant’s opportunity for cross-examination would be waived.
Administrative Law Judge Study - House Bill 1273
Bill Status: Assigned to the House Judiciary Committee; passed 7-0 January 20, approved 93-1 in the Indiana House January 30; moves to the Indiana Senate, assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, passed 7-0 February 16. Passed by the full Senate 50-0 February 21. House concurred 87-1 on Senate amendments March 6. Sent to the Governor's desk.
State agencies typically conduct administrative hearings in which enforcement actions and other types of official proceedings take place under administrative law. At such a hearing, the presiding officer is an attorney who serves as administrative law judge, or ALJ. Some ALJs are attorneys provided by the Attorney General’s Office, others are hired by state agencies directly. House Bill 1273 would conduct a summer study committee to examine whether a centralized department of administrative law judges should be created within the Attorney General’s Office. The study committee’s conclusions could then be considered by the 2013 Legislature.
Immunity for Certain Alcohol Offenses - Senate Bill 274 and House Bill 1245
Bill Status: Senate Bill 274 assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee; approved 10-0 as amended January 18, passed 50-0 January 24 in the Indiana Senate; sent to Indiana House. House Bill 1245 assigned to the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code, passed the committee 11-0 February 9, passed 96-0 in the Indiana House February 14, Senate concurred on House amendments 47-0 March 1. Sent to the Governor's desk.
Because of concerns that underage drinkers might not seek help for an intoxicated person in medical distress out of fear of being arrested themselves, college students from Purdue University, Indiana University and other campuses have proposed the "Indiana Lifeline Law." If the legislation is passed, a person would be immune from being arrested for underage consumption, public intoxication or other misdemeanor alcohol offenses, if he or she had requested emergency assistance for another person who needs medical attention due to alcohol intoxication. Intended to encourage prompt first response for medical emergencies and prevent alcohol-related deaths, the immunity would mean the prosecutor would not file criminal charges against the person who requests help for another.
Medicaid Fraud Study - Senate Resolution 66
Resolution Status: Introduced and adopted in the Senate March 1.
The Indiana Attorney General's Office enforces laws against providers who commit fraud against the Medicaid program. Under this resolution the Senate Joint Commission on Medicaid Oversight would be assigned to conduct a summer study of various topics: Analysis of any amendments needed to the False Claims and Whistleblower Protection Act; analysis of any modifications to subpoena power; analysis of using federal matching funds for conducting data-mining activities; analysis of surety bond requirements for Medicaid transporation providers; and analysis of designating Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigators as special investigators. Any recommendations of the Commission from the summer study could then be considered as legislation in the 2013 Legislature.