Daniels signs 80 bills into law, including budget

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Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed 80 bills into law Tuesday, including a new $28 billion state budget and redrawn political maps that will help shape elections for the next decade.

Daniels also signed two immigration bills: one denying in-state tuition rates at state-supported universities for illegal immigrants and another revoking some tax credits for businesses that hire illegal immigrants. The bills spurred protests this week that led to five young illegal immigrants being arrested on trespassing charges at Daniels' office.

Daniels also signed bills to cut the corporate income tax, ban texting while driving and mostly prohibit Indiana cities and counties from limiting gun possession.

Daniels praised the new state budget for including a taxpayer refund. If state reserves exceed 10 percent of budgeted spending, half the extra money would be used for pension funds and half would be given back to taxpayers. Daniels wanted all the money to go back to taxpayers, however, and said the state is no longer skipping payments to retirement funds. Directing more money toward those pensions is unnecessary, he said.

"I'm very pleased at the enactment of the automatic taxpayer refund, though I would have preferred a simpler, cleaner version that gave any refund entirely back to taxpayers," Daniels said in a statement announcing the bill signings.

The budget spends less than it takes in and leaves the state with $1 billion in reserves. It gives modest increases to public schools, though critics say the school funding formula included in the budget will hurt some districts, especially the smallest of Indiana's school districts.

Daniels vetoed one bill, which would have required the majority of the board of trustees at Indiana University and Ball State University to be Indiana residents and required all members of the IU board be United State citizens. Daniels says requiring that by law is too "narrow and provincial" given the schools' global scope.

"The day may well come when these world-class institutions will want to include illustrious alumni from around the globe on their boards," Daniels said. "The universities should not be denied such opportunities, nor future governors prohibited from making such appointments."

Daniels signed into law bills that will:

— Revamp political maps for the state's nine congressional and 150 legislative districts. The Republican-drawn maps are expected to give the GOP the upper hand in seven of the state's nine congressional districts. Republicans say the new districts are more compact and keep more counties together than the redistricting plan implemented in 2001 by Democrats, who then controlled the once-a-decade redistricting based on census figures.

— Prohibit reading or typing text messages and email messages while driving. Violators would face a maximum fine of $500. Supporters say the ban would increase awareness about the danger of distracted driving and save lives, while skeptics questioned whether it could properly be enforced.

— Cut Indiana's corporate income tax rate incrementally from the current 8.5 percent to 6.5 percent in 2015. The full tax cut is estimated to cost the state about $80 million a year, and the state will make up that money by starting to tax the interest on out-of-state bonds held by Indiana companies and residents.

— Only permit local governments to ban guns from buildings that house courtrooms, meaning local ordinances banning firearms from other buildings, such as libraries, wouldn't be allowed. Sponsors say the measure won't change laws banning guns from schools and university properties.

— Ban synthetic marijuana known as spice or K2. Possessing or dealing such substances will be treated as possessing and dealing real marijuana. Several Indiana counties have local ordinances banning the substance from stores, but supporters of the bill say a state law criminalizing it is needed.


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