Statehouse update: Wine sales, cell-phone searches, historic tax credits, concussion safety, more

Numerous bills were discussed Thursday at the Indiana Statehouse. Here's a progress report:

Direct-to-retail wine sales
Wholesale retailers and legislators compromised on a bill that allows direct-to-retail wine sales.

House Bill 1387, authored by Rep. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, would allow wineries to sell 5,000 gallons of wine per year to retailers.

Thursday’s amendment restricts those sales to the county the winery is located in, or a contiguous county.

The bill is expected to be voted on in the House next week.

Historic tax credits

The Indiana House voted to gut a bill that would have shifted the state’s historic preservation tax credit into a grant program. On a voice vote, lawmakers decided instead to send the bill to a study committee for more work before the 2015 session.

House Bill 1215 – authored by Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany – would originally have expanded the tax credit from $450,000 to $10 million a year, an effort to boost its effectiveness and create move incentives for preservation projects.

But in the House Ways and Means Committee this week, lawmakers stripped the funding out of the bill and replaced the tax credit with a grant program.

The current program – administered by the Department of Natural Resources – is backlogged because the tax credit caps at $450,000 per year. That means some projects approved for the program have been completed but can’t claim the tax credit until 2023.

Indiana-grown products

A bill to promote Indiana-grown produce and meat was passed by the House.

House Bill 1039 passed 95-0 after also being passed unanimously by the House Agriculture and Rural Development committee last week. The bill would prioritize and promote the existing Indiana Grown program led by the Department of Agriculture.

The bill would also create an 11-member commission that would continue to promote the Indiana agricultural products.

Veteran hiring

Veterans would be given preference when being considered for full-time employment under a bill passed in the Senate.

Currently, veterans receive a 10-percent preference from local political subdivisions. But Senate Bill 300, authored by Sen. Richard Young, D-Milltown, would increase that to 15 percent.

The bill moves to the House for consideration.

Do-not-call tweaks

Individuals who continue to get pesky solicitation calls, despite being a part of Indiana’s “Do Not Call List,” would be able to receive help under a bill that passed the Indiana Senate.

Senate Bill 349, authored by Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, would apply the current Do Not Call laws to consumer transactions as well as callers in commercial telephone solicitations.

A person found guilty of breaking the Do Not Call laws must pay a fine up to $10,000 for the first violation and $25,000 for each violation after.

The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

Miscarriage remains

Parents who experience a miscarriage before 20 weeks would be able to determine what happens to their child’s remains under a bill passed in the House.

Rep. Harold Slager, R-Schereville, said the current state law does not allow parents to bury a fetus that dies less than 20 weeks into the pregnancy.

House Bill 1190 would also require a hospital or health care facility to provide counseling information to parents of a miscarried fetus.

The bill passed 92-3 and moves to the Senate.

Cell-phone searches

Police would need a warrant to look through a person’s cell phone under a bill passed by the House.

Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis, who authored House Bill 1384, said law enforcement would not be able to search through your phone unless there is probable cause you have committed a crime and that the phone is involved.

The bill passed 87-3 and moves to the Senate.

Farm trespassing

The shell of Indiana legislation known as the "Ag Gag" bill has lawmakers' support after a measure to protect farmers from financial loss was nixed. Senators passed the bill 45-5 on Thursday.

An earlier version of the bill would have banned videotaping or photography on farms without permission. Another version would allow farmers to ban any activities on their property that could cause financial loss. Animal rights and free speech advocates criticized the legislation as a crackdown on whistleblowers.

The revised bill increases penalties for property damage on a farm. Legislation also defines entering the production area of a farm without permission as trespassing.

The bill heads to the House. Support from the full House and governor is needed before the bill becomes law.

Concussion safety

The Indiana Senate approved a bill that would add protections for student athletes with concussions and require additional safety training for some coaches.

The Senate voted 45-1 to keep high school athletes with suspected concussions off the field for at least 24 hours. The legislation also would require high school football coaches and assistant coaches to receive training in player safety and head injuries.

The bill moves to the House for approval.

High school athletes and their parents currently must sign a waiver with information about the risk of injury before playing, and athletes pulled for suspected concussions cannot return to play without clearance from a health care provider.


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