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General Assembly

Senate OKs bill to keep late ballot vacancies

– The Senate voted 47-2 Monday not to fill late ballot vacancies when a candidate dies.

Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, said with early voting and overseas ballots getting shipped early it has become more difficult – and expensive – to replace a candidate late in the game.

She used the example of a Democratic candidate for coroner in LaGrange County dying three weeks before the election. A caucus was held, and a new candidate was put on the ballot. That Democrat lost to an independent candidate.

Glick said the replacement candidate didn’t have enough time to campaign, and she noted the difficulty of making sure that absentee voters cast a ballot with the right candidates on it.

Senate Bill 227 provides that the dead person’s name will remain on the ballot if it happens after the 55th day before the election. If that person wins, the party of that candidate will have a caucus to fill the vacancy.

The timeline coincides with overseas military ballots.

The legislation now moves to the Indiana House.

School-building law tweaked

The Indiana House voted unanimously to loosen a state law limiting when public school districts can sell vacant buildings.

The original law required districts to hold onto the buildings for four years in case a charter schools wanted to lease the building for $1. Several lawsuits were filed in northeast Indiana regarding the law when districts had valid offers on the table and wanted to sell.

House Bill 1012 – authored by Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne – would drop the time period to two years. It also sets up a waiver process during that period for a district with a valid sales offer to sell the school unless a charter school objects. The legislation now moves to the Senate.

State employees’ death benefit raised

The Indiana Senate voted 47-2 to increase the death benefit for state employees killed in the line of duty.

Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, said public safety officers have a $150,000 benefit. But other state employees haven’t seen their benefit rise from the $50,000 set in 1988. The bill raises it to $100,000.

Several Indiana Department of Transportation workers have been killed while on duty. Overall, Miller said the state loses an employee eligible under the provision about once a year.

Senate Bill 324 now moves to the Indiana House.