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Governor makes decisions on numerous bills

March 24, 2016

It was Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's final day to take action on measures approved by the General Assembly during the session that ended two weeks ago.

Among measures that Pence signed into law Thursday were bills streamlining the fees charged by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, boosting a planned development at Indiana Dunes State Park, regulating fantasy sports and raising malpractice limits.

Here's a look at some of the governor's actions:

Fantasy sports

Pence signed a bill giving the Indiana Gaming Commission authority to regulate daily fantasy sports companies. The bill includes requirements that players be at least 18 years old, prohibits contests based on college or high school sports and sets an initial licensing fee of $50,000 for companies, along with an annual $5,000 fee. About 20 states are considering bills to regulate the industry, in which players pay to compete online for cash prizes by picking teams of real-life athletes and racking up "fantasy" points based on how they perform.

Supporters said the law is necessary to ensure fair contests for the estimated 1 million Indiana residents who play fantasy sports games. Opponents argued that the games amount to gambling on sporting events and shouldn't be legalized.

Medical malpractice

Medical malpractice victims will be eligible for more compensation as Pence signed into law a bill increasing the payment cap for the first time since the 1990s. The cap would increase from the current $1.25 million limit to $1.65 million next year and then to $1.8 million in 2019.

Supporters say the increase was needed to protect the cap from court challenges since it hasn't been raised for so long. Some medical groups opposed the size of the cap increase, saying doctors would not be able to absorb jumps in malpractice insurance premiums.

Indiana Dunes project

An embattled privatization deal that would bring restaurants, a rooftop bar and a banquet center to Indiana Dunes State Park will get a boost under a bill signed by Pence. The measure will allow politically connected developer Chuck Williams of Valparaiso to sell alcohol at the planned development along the Lake Michigan beachfront.

It circumvents county and state alcohol boards, which both denied Williams a permit. Opponents have argued that Williams received favorable lease terms from the state parks system.

Auto license fees

Pence signed into law a measure aimed at reducing the complexity of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles' fee structure, which came after an audit last year found the agency had overcharged motorists more than $60 million since 2013.

Steps included in the bill include paring down the BMV's current 191 classifications for registering vehicles to about two dozen. The bill also reduces or eliminates 163 fees. The changes will go into effect in January.

Abortion restrictions

Pence signed a bill into law Thursday making Indiana the second state to ban abortions because of fetal genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome.

Pence signed the measure just hours ahead of his deadline. It is due to take effect in July, but Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky said it will ask a court to block the measure before that can happen.

Pence called the bill "a comprehensive pro-life measure that affirms the value of all human life."

"I believe that a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable — the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn," he said in a statement.

In addition to banning abortions due to fetal genetic abnormalities, the law will prohibit abortions done because of a fetus's race, sex or ancestry and mandates that the only way to dispose of an aborted fetus is through burial or cremation.

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