Statehouse update: Fenced hunting, phone privacy, barn preservation, more

Lawmakers in the Indiana General Assembly voted on several pieces of legislation Tuesday at the Statehouse. Here's a progress report on many of those bills.

Fenced hunting

A bill to legalize fenced hunting preserves – and subject them to state regulation – failed in the Senate when only 25 of the chamber’s 50 senators voted yes. The vote was 25-23. It takes 26 votes to pass a measure.

Because Tuesday was a deadline for Senate action, the bill is dead for the session.

Senate Bill 404, authored by Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, would have instituted licensing for the operation of hunting preserves and legalized the ones already in business.

“There are four new preserves or hunting preserves that exist in the state of Indiana, without any regulations of any real form,” which allows them to do whatever they want, Yoder said. “I am not a person who supports government involvement if at all possible, but in this case I think it’s time that we ask government to step in and regulate these organizations.”

The hunting of deer on fenced preserves has been a major issue in the General Assembly over the past few years.

Teacher prep programs

The Senate passed a measure unanimously that would create an evaluation system for Indiana’s colleges of education.

The bill would also require teacher preparation programs to file additional information about the programs and teaching candidates with the Indiana Department of Education. The DOE also would be required to complete an improvement plan for the programs that do not meet a minimum score.

Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, who authored the bill, said he wanted to create the rating system because “we can do a better job of training teachers before they ever get to the class.”

The measure heads to the House floor next week for consideration. A similar bill that passed out of the House, HB1388, will now be heard in the Senate.

Mobile phone privacy

The Senate passed a bill that would require a warrant before police could download information from cell phones.

Senate Bill 64 was authored by Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, who said he is concerned about technology that can help police easily obtain personal information. They can do so with devices including a Stingray, which can download information from a cell phone, including calls, texts, apps, and photos, without the phone owner ever knowing.

The bill is meant to protect those Hoosiers who may be stopped at a routine traffic stop when their personal information isn’t needed.

The bill headed to the House, which already approved similar legislation.

Seedling sales

The Indiana Senate passed a bill that would allow state-run plant nurseries to sell extra tree seedlings to private wholesalers.

The Department of Natural Resources could only sell the seedlings – which are young trees not much more than a few years old – at or below  cost.

That’s a change from the original bill, which was written to allow state nurseries to sell directly to out-of-state buyers. But private nurseries were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to compete with the DNR because the state’s low labor costs would allow state nurseries to sell the trees for cheaper prices.

DNR officials said they now mulch more than 200,000 tree seedlings every year because the agency doesn’t need them for its own properties. The DNR sought the ability to sell the extra trees to out-of-state customers in part to keep operations financially viable.

The bill passed 48-0. It heads to the House for further consideration.

Historic barns

Legislation intended to protect historical barns across the state passed the Senate.

The bill, authored by Sen. John Waterman, R- Shelburn, would allow the owners of heritage barns to receive a 100-percent deduction from property taxes.

In order to receive the deduction, the barns must have been built prior to 1950, be in poor condition, and no longer be used for the normal purposes of a barn.

The bill also contains a provision that allows the county auditor to tax barns receiving an exemption if they are brought back into use for agricultural purposes.

The legislation passed unanimously and heads to the House.

Veteran brain injuries

A measure is headed to the Indiana House that would have the Indiana State Department of Health complete a study on creating a program to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 180 unanimously. The bill would require the health department to focus on treatments for post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, as well as ways to improve the state’s access to those treatments

The bill’s co-author, Sen. Jim Banks R-Columbia City, said in a press release that PTSD and traumatic brain injuries can create other mental health concerns.

“Each year, as many as 5,000 U.S. veterans commit suicide, which is a statistic we cannot ignore,” Banks said. “It’s my hope this study will help our brave men and women secure financing and access to the treatment they need to lead a happy, healthy life.”

Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek,  co-authored the bill.

Gun penalties

People who knowingly give a felon a gun could face harsher penalties under a bill passed 43-5 by the Senate.

The measure also applies to those that give a gun to someone ineligible for ownership or to someone who they know is going to commit a crime. The bill would make it a Level 4 or 5 offense (which would be a Class C felony under the previous classification system). If the firearm is used in a murder, it increases the felony to a Level 2 offense (or Class B).

The bill’s author, Sen. Michael Young, R- Indianapolis, said the bill would help decrease crime and would put a standard in place to discourage a third-party supply of firearms.

The bill heads to the House for consideration.


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