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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Rachel Bunker, left, supports her son Damian Snavley, 11, as medical assistant Tamar Brewer preps Damian for his school immunizations.

300 new state laws taking effect

Motorists, ex-cons, others affected

– Hoosiers of all stripes will be affected by the almost 300 bills passed during the 2013 legislative session.

Drivers, voters, former criminals, parents and police officers are just a few.

Many of the laws go into effect Monday, and here is a breakdown of some key changes:

•Hoosier motorists can show proof of insurance coverage during a traffic stop more easily using their phones.

There are now at least 24 states allowing the maneuver, just like in the commercial with the pig getting pulled over.

“In just two years policymakers in nearly half the country have changed their laws to enable consumers to use their smart phone to show they have insurance instead of keeping that little piece of paper in the glove compartment,” said Alex Hageli, of the Property Casualty Insurance Association of America.”

The change was found in Senate Bill 620, which said proof of insurance may be provided in a paper or electronic format.

Some states have passed laws like Indiana, and others have simply issued directives or regulations allowing it.

•Tens of thousands of Indiana residents potentially could erase their criminal history under a new expungement law.

“The goal is to try to get them back into the workplace and eliminate this barrier,” said Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council. “It’s a stigma that needs to go away. Can you ever get a new start?”

Proponents have pushed for the measure for years. House Bill 1482 allows those convicted of misdemeanors and most felonies – who have not had new offenses in recent years – to petition for expungement.

This generally means the conviction will no longer show up in public records.

Depending on the seriousness of the crime, some expungements would be automatic, others would be up to a judge’s discretion and some would require approval from the prosecutor.

Landis expects a rush to file these petitions but he recommends people talk to a lawyer beforehand.

That’s because the law is a one-shot deal to clean your record, and petition errors could complicate the process.

•State health officials hope a new law on immunizations helps boost Indiana’s rates.

House Bill 1464 will allow pharmacists to offer more immunizations to customers.

Currently they are limited to flu and shingles vaccines under guidelines approved by a doctor.

Starting Monday, they can give immunizations for pneumonia, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, HPV infections, and meningitis.

“We have been looking at ways to expand access to immunizations in the state for several years,” said Dr. Joan Duwve, chief medical officer for the Indiana State Department of Health. “We worked with the pharmacists and testified in favor of the bill.”

The legislation also lowers the age limit of those receiving vaccines from a pharmacist to 11.

Duwve said the initial hesitancy revolved around the complexity of some vaccines, which require boosters and can have side effects. But lawmakers felt the training pharmacists receive on giving immunizations was adequate.

•Hoosiers will soon see a new alert system giving the public information when a police officer has been injured or killed.

The Blue Alert program is modeled after the Amber Alert, which is used when a child is abducted. A Silver Alert system for vulnerable seniors is also in place.

These alerts broadcast immediate information on television, radio and roadside signs, and ask the public for help if necessary.

“Anytime an officer is down or something happens we can use the network to get the information out quick to apprehend the offender,” said Tim Downs, president of the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police. “It will be a big asset.”

Florida was the first to adopt such an alert system. Now 17 states, including Indiana, have passed the alert into law and more are considering it.

Information that could be relayed includes details on an escaping vehicle or person.

•The state’s A-rated schools have some flexibility coming their way via another new law.

Senate Bill 189 allows schools that perform at the highest levels to disregard some criteria set for schools.

For instance, they could organize classroom time by minutes instead of days, therefore reducing the number of days children must go to school to less than the required 180 days.

Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, wrote the bill to reward schools.

Fort Wayne Community Schools Spokeswoman Krista Stockman said several district schools would meet the standards but there are no plans now to make any changes.

“The things that we have put in place we believe are important for all students,” she said. “Even if a school got an A, that doesn’t mean that every single student in that school is where they need to be.”

Stockman also said it’s difficult to change calendars for individual schools and not affect the whole district.

•A final law is one affecting the state administration of elections.

It would allow the Indiana Secretary of State to break any tie between the Republican and Democrat co-directors of the Indiana Election Division on budgeting or contract issues.

Currently the co-directors must find a compromise among themselves.

Rep. Kathy Richardson, R-Noblesville, said she offered House Bill 1391 because issues involving the statewide voter file were upcoming that could be problematic.

“One person shouldn’t be able to just say no and stop the process,” she said. “You win the marbles you should get to lead, Democrat or Republican.”

Richardson said county election offices have this set up with one party having two votes out of three.

“They need to be able to function,” she said. “I realize it has political ramifications but that’s not why I did it.”

Indiana’s current secretary of state is Republican.

Trent Deckard, Democratic co-director of the Indiana Election Division, said the change removes the incentive for either party to work together on thorny issues.

“It moves us toward a more partisan election system,” he said, noting this new provision will likely be used on sensitive issues such as when to remove names from the statewide voter registration system.

“This is a slippery slope toward everything being more one-party control,” Deckard said.

The change does not affect the Indiana Election Commission, which is still a bipartisan panel of two Republicans and two Democrats. The commission decides campaign finance penalties and ballot eligibility.

nkelly@jg.net

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