Bill roundup: State fair alcohol, digital privacy and more

February 20, 2014

Alcohol sales at Indiana State Fair

Alcohol vendors could be allowed to sell their products at the Indiana State Fair under a Senate bill that passed the House Public Policy Committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 339 would repeal an existing provision that prohibits the sale of alcohol on the state fairgrounds during the annual fair.

The bill passed the Senate last month. On Wednesday, it passed the committee 12-1 and now moves to the full House.

Digital privacy

A Senate committee unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would expand privacy laws to accommodate the increased use of digital technology.

The bill’s author, Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, said the legislature’s challenge is “to define those conditions and circumstances under which the use of certain technologies should be allowed, prohibited or subject to court approval.”

House Bill 1009 requires police to obtain a search warrant before using a phone to track a person’s location or using an unmanned device—such as a drone—to gather information in most situations. It also requires police to get a warrant before they can demand that a person turns over his or her password for a computer, phone or other electronics device.

And it would set new rules for the way private citizens could use surveillance technology.

Steve Key, executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association said he supports the bill because of language that would protect media.

The bill “is a good kind of buffer to make sure that law enforcement is not able to do an end run around the reporter’s privilege that allows newspapers, and radio and TV to protect their sources of information,” Key said.

Key cited a case in Muncie in which law enforcement accessed The Star Press’ phone records in an effort to identify a newspaper source in the police department.

The paper only found out its records had been accessed when they were used as evidence during the meeting in which the officer was fired.

The bill says that if a media outlet’s records are subpoenaed, it must be notified so it can appear in court and fight to protect a source.

Steve Gerber, a licensed private investigator, said he supports the goals of the bill but questioned “language that has potential to turn everyday citizens into criminals as an unintended consequence.”

Gerber listed families of people in nursing homes and concerned parents as two groups that could be criminalized for surveillance activities under HB 1009.

“These people are trying to gain information to help keep somebody safe or to somehow prevent problems,” he said.

But Koch said the bill’s language addressed those concerns by specifying that, in order to be illegal, surveillance equipment must be unattended, on private property, without the consent of the owner or tenant.

Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, said he supported the bill because the idea of everyday citizens—in addition to law enforcement—being able to have massive surveillance capabilities seems “kind of Big Brother-ish.”

Charity gaming payouts

Charities would be able to host more lucrative gambling events to raise money for their organizations and communities under a Senate bill heard in the House on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 166 would raise caps on charity gambling events in Indiana.

Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, who authored the bill, said both Ohio and Kentucky have already eliminated their charity gambling caps. She said Indiana needs fewer restrictions on its prizes to stay competitive.

Current law allows charitable organizations to host two bingo events each year in which the total prizes do not exceed $10,000. But SB 166 would raise that cap to $30,000.

The committee did not vote on the bill.

Restrictions on youth tanning

The chairman of the House Public Health Committee said Wednesday that members need to take “time to think” about a bill that would ban commercial tanning for Hoosiers 16 years and younger before deciding whether to approve it.

Indiana’s current law allows minors to tan at commercial facilities with parental permission. But Senate Bill 50—already passed by the Senate—would ban tanning for minors under age 16, with or without consent.

Proponents of the bill say the legislation will help reduce the risk of skin cancer for minors.

After hearing testimony, committee Chairman Ed Clere, R-New Albany, said the committee needs time to think about the testimony and will review the legislation Monday.

Firearms buybacks

Local governments could lose the ability to buy firearms back from citizens under a Senate bill that was considered in the House Public Policy Committee on Wednesday.

Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, said he authored Senate Bill 229 because he’s “never understood the logic” behind firearm buyback programs.

He said rather than allowing local units of government to buy and destroy firearms, law enforcement should take the guns and sell them at public auctions, where prices are usually higher. They could then take the revenue from auctions to buy supplies, such as bulletproof vests, ammunition or new firearms.

SB 229 would also prohibit law enforcement agencies from destroying guns, unless the serial number has been obliterated.

But law enforcement officials expressed concerns about the bill’s regulations on destroying firearms.


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