Statehouse update: Distance treatment, biological drugs, charter schools, and more

January 29, 2014

Numerous bills were weighed by lawmakers Tuesday at the Indiana Statehouse. Here's a look how they fared.

Distance treatments

The House unanimously passed a bill that would allow doctors to treat their patients – including writing prescriptions – without an in-person appointment.

House Bill 1258 would require the Indiana Medical Licensing Board to adopt emergency rules that would allow caregivers to administer “distance treatments.”

Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis, who authored the bill, said there are currently 30 states that provide some type of medical teleservices. Shackleford said the governor’s office, the Indiana State Medical Association and the Indiana Health Association all supported the bill.

Biological drug options

The Indiana Senate passed a bill 38-8 that would allow pharmacists to substitute generic-like biological drugs – called interchangables or biosimilars – for brand names. Those interchangables, which offer the same therapeutic outcomes as their brand-name counterparts, aren’t yet available but could be on the market soon.

The bill requires pharmacists to notify doctors within 10 days about whether a patient received the brand name or the interchangeable.

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, fought the bill in committee and was the only one to speak against it Tuesday on the Senate floor. Taylor called for a “sunset provision” and that would require lawmakers to take a second look at the provisions in three years.

Biologicals are used to treat a variety of diseases, including cancer, Lupus, and diabetes.

Charter schools for adults

More adults could have a chance to go to charter schools that allow for them to finish their high school degrees with the passing of a bill in the Senate.

The bill allows for the creation and funding of more charter schools adults. Senate Bill 159 is designed not to strip money away from funding for traditional K-12 schools, which was a concern with a similar bill.

The bill passed easily through its committee and through the Senate. It will next move to the House for consideration.

Bill author, Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, worked with The Excel Center when writing the bill. The Excel Center has nine adult charter schools across the state.

School skips for state fair

A bill that would allow students participating in the Indiana State Fair exempt absences from school passed in the Senate.

Senate Bill 114 – authored by Sen. Jean Lesising, R-Oldenburg – allows students three exempt absences to attend the fair. Last year more than 16,000 students participated in state fair projects.

The bill passed 28-21 and will now moves to the House.

A parallel house bill – authored by Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield – passed the House Education Committee unanimously and is also being considered in the House.

Charity gambling prizes

The Senate passed a bill that would raise the prize on charity gambling fundraising events from $10,000 to $30,000.

The bill garnered just eight no votes.

Representatives of charities testified in a committee meeting earlier this session that they need higher payouts because Ohio and Kentucky don’t have caps on winnings. They cited Indiana’s cap on payouts and a smoking ban for a decline in gambling revenue.

The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

Lifeline extension

A bill to expand Indiana’s Lifeline law passed the Senate 49-0. Senate Bill 227 – authored by Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis – would protect minors under the influence of alcohol or narcotics from criminal prosecution if they report a medical emergency or crime to authorities.

The bill is an expansion of the Lifeline law that passed in 2012, also authored by Merritt. Several lawmakers said they believe there was a misunderstanding on who was protected under the current law.

Military base help

The full Senate passed a bill that would authorize local governments to spend money to support military bases throughout Indiana.

Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, author of Senate Bill 260, said that the bill provides tools for working with federal representatives to keep the bases in Indiana open. The bill passed unanimously and will now move to the House for consideration.

Under the bill, local revenue could be used to give grants and loans to support any military base in Indiana.

As part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act, the federal government will decide which bases throughout the United States will remain open or closed. Banks said this act motivated him to introduce the bill.

Meth home disclosures

A House committee passed a bill that would require meth labs to be included on a disclosure lists for property sales.

The author of House Bill 1141, Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Mount Vernon, said the bill would also require police departments to adopt guidelines for receiving reports, from a certified inspector, indicating that property polluted by a methamphetamine has been decontaminated.

“There will be a master list of the decontaminated and contaminated properties, which will also be listed on the police website,” McNamara said. “There will also be a disclaimer statement on the website directing individuals to look for the certificate of decontamination.”

The bill will now moves to the House.

Private bus inspections

Tighter rules on private bus inspections inspired by a fatal Indianapolis church bus crash last summer have approval from some Indiana lawmakers.

The Senate voted 33-14 to pass a bill requiring Indiana State Police to create an inspection program for private buses. Inspections could be conducted by another agency.

A youth pastor, his pregnant wife and another member of Colonial Hills Baptist Church died on a private bus while returning from a Michigan summer camp last July. An inspection later found the bus had no mechanical problems.

The crash exposed loopholes in current law, which requires inspection of private buses but does not require proof of inspections to be submitted to the state.


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