News and Tribune

April 26, 2013

Indiana legislature has busy last day

Online sales tax push fails

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Here’s a look at some of the legislative activity at the Indiana Statehouse on Friday.

Sentencing overhaul gets OK

An overhaul of Indiana’s criminal sentencing laws aimed at sending fewer nonviolent offenders to prison has been approved by the Legislature.

The Senate voted 34-15 on Friday in favor of the bill that the House approved Thursday.

Provisions of the bill would require most felons to serve at least 75 percent of their sentences. Current law allows most inmates with good behavior in prison to be released after serving half their sentence time.  

The overhaul includes many penalty changes for many property and drug offenses, directing many convicted of those crimes to work release and other local programs. The changes won’t take effect until July 2014 and supporters say they expect the Legislature will make adjustments next year.

The bill now goes to Gov. Mike Pence for consideration.

Online sales tax push fails

An effort to require and some other online-only retailers to start collecting Indiana’s 7 percent sales tax this summer has failed in the Legislature.

The House twice voted this session in favor of the requirement. But Senate leaders blocked the proposal because they don’t want to interfere with a deal that former Gov. Mitch Daniels brokered with Amazon for it to start collecting the tax starting in 2014.

Rep. Tom Dermody of LaPorte said Friday he couldn’t overcome those Senate objections and had to pull the online tax requirements from a compromise version of a bill he sponsored.

The proposal’s supporters argue the Amazon deal is unfair to traditional retailers who must charge sales taxes.

Bill banning secret videotaping stumbles

A proposal aimed at making it illegal to secretly take videos or photographs that could make a business look bad has stumbled in the Indiana Legislature.

The House sponsor withdrew the bill Friday after a lengthy debate during which several opponents criticized it for exposing industrial whistleblowers or even unhappy restaurant customers to possible criminal charges.

The bill would make it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail to commit “an act ... with the intent to harm” a business on the property.

Bill sponsor Sen. Travis Holdman of Markle says the bill is needed to protect factories and farms from “vigilantes.”

The fate of the bill is uncertain ahead of Friday’s end of the legislative session. Senate approved the bill in a 29-21 vote Friday.

Legislators back new school safety grants

Indiana legislators have agreed to start a grant program to help school districts hire police officers and buy safety equipment.

The bill was approved Friday by the Senate and a final vote was expected later in the House. The state budget plan includes $10 million a year toward the grant program.

The bill advanced after the Republican-controlled House pulled earlier provisions that would’ve required all public schools to have gun-carrying employees during school hours.  

Legislative negotiators established a special committee to study school security issues and make recommendations by year’s end. New provisions in the bill also specify that anyone other than a police officer must have a school board’s permission to possess a gun on school property.

Democrats call GOP-backed tax cut plan a sham

The top Democrats in the Indiana Legislature say the Republican-backed state tax cut plan is a sham that won’t help the middle class.

House Democratic leader Scott Pelath said Friday that the state’s economy won’t benefit much because the 5 percent income tax cut will give little extra money to most people and won’t begin until 2015.

Pelath says the Republican budget plan also shortchanges public schools with only 2 percent and 1 percent increases over the next two years. He says that doesn’t make up for funding cuts made by former Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Senate Democratic leader Tim Lanane says the Republican-controlled Legislature failed to take steps to address the state’s 8 percent-plus unemployment rate and low wages for average workers.