Statehouse update: Abandoned houses, hemp, daycare, addicted moms and more

March 13, 2014

Numerous bills advanced Wednesday at the Indiana Statehouse, including several that were sent to the governor for approval. Here's a rundown:

Abandoned houses

The Indiana Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that will attempt to expedite the process of buying abandoned homes.

Senate Bill 422 would allow for an interest rate of only 5 percent, and buyers would take ownership of a home as soon as a tax sale is completed.

Under current law, buyers must wait a year before taking ownership, allowing for the previous owners to pay taxes and interest on the home.

The bill goes to Gov. Mike Pence for approval.

Industrial hemp

A bill to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp in Indiana passed the House of Representatives. The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation Thursday.

Senate Bill 357 would require farmers growing industrial hemp to obtain a license and be subject to inspections and audits to keep it.

Industrial hemp has numerous uses, including medicines, textiles, ropes, paper products, plastics, automotive factory material and building materials. Hemp and marijuana both come from the same species of plant, cannabis, but hemp lacks the intoxicating effects of marijuana.

Ten states have already passed legislation to legalize the production of industrial hemp but it remains against federal law. However, the farm bill recently passed by Congress allows some experimentation that could eventually lead to federal approval.

The bill passed the Indiana House 92-6 and still needs Senate approval before it can move to the governor.

Daycare centers

Indiana lawmakers have signed off on regulations for religious daycare centers following a series of child deaths at daycares throughout the state.

The Indiana House voted 75-21 Wednesday evening to send the measure to the governor for consideration.

Child care advocates had spent years seeking regulations for the many of the state's daycare operations, but supporters of religious daycares successfully blocked the measures year after year.

Nutritional snacks, time to play outside every day, and access to drinking water are among the proposed requirements.

A Legislative Services Agency report shows about 1,200 centers will be affected if the legislation takes effect, including about 500 associated with ministries.

DNR alcohol

The Department of Natural Resources could permit the sale of alcohol on its land under a bill that passed the Indiana House. House Bill 1116 would allow alcohol to be sold at inns located on DNR property if a permit is obtained.

The bill also includes provisions that would allow microbreweries with restaurants to also have distilleries.

A conference committee added provisions that allow bars and taverns to take down any "no smoking" signs if they allow smoking on their properties. Individuals who work at alcohol or cigar production facilities would also be allowed to eat inside the facility.

The bill passed the House 93-5. It moves to the Senate where it must pass before moving on to the governor.

Female vets

Female veterans could receive more help after the Senate unanimously passed a bill to create a gender-specific position at the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs.

Rep. Karlee Macer, D-Indianapolis, said female veterans will benefit by getting help in areas including cervical cancer and child care.

“The veterans in the state of Indiana who are women feel like they’ve been left behind because they have a very difficult time talking to men about their problems,” said the bill’s author, Rep. Richard Hamm, R-Richmond.

Senate Bill 347 goes the governor for approval.

Addicted mothers
A bill to study the problems associated with babies born from addicted mothers passed the Indiana House 98-0.

Senate Bill 408 defines Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome as the negative effects illegal or prescription drugs have on newborns who were exposed to the drugs before they were born. It also requires the Department of Health to meet with stakeholders to study the syndrome and make recommendations concerning it.

The bill allows the department to create pilot programs with cooperating hospitals before June 2, 2015.

A House-Senate conference committee removed a provision to establish an infant mortality grant fund before sending the bill to the chambers for a vote.

The bill must pass the Senate before moving to the governor.



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