New Indiana laws address crimes, guns, tanning and students

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – At the stroke of midnight, dozens of new laws will take effect in Indiana covering issues ranging from criminal law to the protection adults, students and retirees.

I-Team 8 has extensively covered many of the issues, and some of our reports have helped shine a light on the problem. Listed below are several of the laws that go into effect July 1:

INDIANA’S CRIMINAL CODE CHANGES

Referred to during the legislation session as HB 1006, the law marks the first time in four decades that lawmakers have agreed on a sweeping reform of the state’s criminal code. The push behind the bill was to create tougher, mandatory sentences for serious offenses while at the same time offering suspended sentences for lesser crimes. In doing so, the sales pitch throughout the statehouse was that it would save the state money, preventing it from having to build and operate a new prison.

But prosecutors like Terry Curry in Marion County worry that the effect of these changes could leave drug offenders and other lesser criminals with suspended sentences. Curry’s contention – one that is shared by other law enforcement entities – is that drug offensives often lead to other violent crimes.

“It’s kind of as you get below those (serious crimes) that we feel the legislature went in the wrong direction,” Curry said during a lengthy interview with I-Team 8 in May.

I-Team 8 discovered that among the changes to the code is a change in the definition of theft. Starting July 1, would-be shoplifters can steal up to $750 worth of items and only be charged with a misdemeanor. Theft won’t be considered a felony unless it involves items worth more than $750, a gun or a person with a previous theft conviction.

CONCUSSION TRAINING 

Another new law requires high school coaches to undergo training classes dealing with heat and concussion training as it relates to football. Students showing signs of concussion are now required to sit out at least 24 hours.

In May, an I-Team 8 report delved into the issue of concussions, helmet certifications and a lack of standards for youth athletes.

EXPANSION OF LIFELINE LAW 

A law that granted immunity to teens who call 911 during an alcohol-related emergency, the expanded version of the so-called Lifeline Law now extends to those who report sexual assaults, drug overdoses, or who may think they have witnessed a crime.

Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, said the change in law is to grow that protection to others in similar scenarios.

RISKY RETIREMENT 

It math problem inside the statehouse triggered action by lawmakers this spring, but it was an I-Team 8 report that shined a light on it for the public.

In late 2013, Indiana’s Public Retirement System (INPRS) announced plans to privatize its annuity system, after studies showed some public employees who elected to annuitize their Annunity Savings Accounts getting retirement benefits at nearly double private market rates, I-Team 8 reported earlier this year. That report exposed the risks involved with the legislative fix that would have cut Indiana’s guaranteed annuity rate payouts nearly in half.

Following that report, lawmakers hammered out and agreed to a series of changes. House Enrolled Act 1075 was reworked to cut rates gradually instead.

TANNING TEENS

Under a new law that takes effect July 1, no one under the age of 16 will be permitted to use a tanning bed in the state of Indiana. A previous law allowed some teens to use tanning salons with permission of a parent or guardian.

GUNS ON SCHOOL PROPERTY

Among the most highly controversial laws passed this session — firearms will soon be permitted on school property so long as they are locked away and out of plain sight. The legislation prompted criticism from concerned citizens and praise from constitutional enthusiasts who felt the presence of a firearm would help deter future school shootings or incidents of violence.

Additional resources highlighting other changes in the law can be found by clicking here.

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