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General Assembly

State schools to give veterans tuition break

The Indiana House and Senate unanimously passed a final version of legislation Tuesday that would make college more affordable for military veterans.

“With this legislation, Indiana has an opportunity to make significant strides in helping veterans earn their college degrees,” said Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, author of the bill.

He noted a recent Indiana University study showed that 18 percent of Hoosier veterans have at least a bachelor’s degree, which is below the national average of 26 percent.

Senate Bill 177 grants in-state tuition eligibility to honorably discharged veterans and active National Guard members who enroll in one of Indiana’s state colleges within a year of settling in Indiana. Currently, veterans serving in a different state or country may not qualify for in-state tuition upon returning home, increasing their college costs by thousands of dollars.

“Expanding in-state tuition eligibility could help bridge that gap by easing veterans’ financial burden and improving their access to higher education,” Banks said.

To be eligible, veterans are required to enroll in a state college or university no later than 12 months after their discharge or separation from the armed forces.

They will then have to take steps to establish Indiana residency within 12 months of enrollment.

The bill now heads to Gov. Mike Pence for approval.

Over-prescribing bill heads to Pence

Legislation to address “pill mills” unanimously passed both the House and Senate on Tuesday, sending the bill to Gov. Mike Pence’s desk.

Senate Bill 246 tries to further regulate doctors or clinics relying heavily on – and sometimes over-prescribing – strong narcotics, such as a pain clinic.

The bill gives the state Attorney General’s Office more powers in investigating and prosecuting medical workers in the field and requires the Indiana Medical Licensing Board to adopt standards and protocols for prescribing controlled substances, including pain management care.

A pain doctor in Fort Wayne recently was placed on probation by the board for questionable practices.

Lawmakers might not help casinos

Some top Indiana lawmakers seem prepared to accept anticipated big drops in business at the state’s casinos and to not provide much help as the gambling venues face growing competition from neighboring states.

Indiana’s budget planners are anticipating a 20 percent drop in casino tax revenues in the coming years even as they consider hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts.

Legislative negotiators are working to reach a compromise this week on tax changes for the casinos, along with the question of whether live table games should be allowed at two horse track casinos near Indianapolis.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma says he won’t support what he calls an expansion of gambling just to keep tax revenues up.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.