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Bill requiring stage inspections heads to governor

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Indiana lawmakers approved new temporary regulations for outdoor stages in hopes of preventing another tragedy like the collapse that killed seven people last summer at the state fair.

The measure, which must be signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels to take effect, would give the state's Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission the power to inspect and approve stages and other temporary structures. It also would allow local officials to develop their own inspection routine if it is approved by the state. The Senate approved the bill 41-5.

The plan would sunset in 2014 unless lawmakers make it permanent. In the meantime, they plan to review a pair of independent investigations into the stage collapse. Engineers from Thornton Tomasetti and emergency preparation experts from Witt Associates have been conducting parallel investigations into what caused seven people to die and 58 others to be injured when the stage collapse.

"What we're doing is we're putting the framework together so that those who understand the engineering, the weight and all the particular mathematics can develop a plan to make these structures safe," said Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, who co-authored the measure with Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.

The state has no regulations for temporary structures like the state fair stage. Following the August collapse, other states were quick to beef up their inspections, but Indiana did not immediately establish regulations.

Among the few Republicans who opposed the measure was Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, who called it a "knee-jerk" response to the collapse. He said he is worried that operations like the Elkhart County Fair may have to cut back operations.

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