State lawmakers pass bills on ISTEP, anti-meth plan, police videos

Indiana Statehouse, Indianapolis (File Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers took final votes Thursday on numerous bills as adjournment neared for the 2016 legislative session.

The Republican-dominated Legislature reached agreements on topics such as the rules covering the public release of police body camera video and restrictions on the sale of common cold medicines used in making methamphetamines.

Those bills will next go to GOP Gov. Mike Pence for consideration.

 

POLICE VIDEOS

Indiana law enforcement agencies will get the right to withhold all body and dash cam video recordings from the public under a bill that’s now headed to the governor’s desk.

The state Senate voted unanimously Thursday in favor of the bill, which allows a person to challenge an agency’s decision in court. The agency would then have to prove within 30 days that releasing the video would harm someone or hinder an investigation.

Law enforcement agencies say burdensome regulations would deter body cam use, but open-records advocates have pushed for greater police transparency. Bill sponsor Republican Sen. Rodric Bray of Martinsville says both sides have signed off on the final language as a compromise of their concerns.

“The passage of House Bill 1019 is an important step toward helping Indiana’s police forces keep pace with new technology,” he said in a statement. “The bill appropriately balances the interests of law enforcement, privacy rights and transparency.”

The bill previously required video to be released if a victim said it showed excessive force or civil rights violations. However, bill author Republican Rep. Kevin Mahan of Bedford stripped that provision.

Even so, the Hoosier State Press Association, which advocates for transparency and had originally opposed the bill, expressed its support for the revised measure Wednesday.

“We think the bill is a step forward from what current law is,” HSPA director Stephen Key said. “We are disappointed with the one change at the request of the law enforcement authorities, but we’re still better than where we were.”

 

ANTI-METH MEASURES

Pharmacists would be the gatekeepers for cold medicine that has pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in methamphetamine, under a bill that attempts to curb the drug.

After a long battle between law enforcement organizations and pharmaceutical manufacturers, the Senate voted 41-7 in favor of the measure Thursday.

Under the bill, customers pharmacy workers aren’t familiar with can buy only a limited dosage of pseudoephedrine or could obtain a prescription to get a larger dosage. But people who regularly visit pharmacies and have a relationship on record with the pharmacy would not be affected and can buy the full dosage.

“Eliminating meth production in Indiana has been one of my top priorities this session, and this bill is a strong step in that direction,” bill author Republican Sen. Randy Head of Logansport said in a statement. “It’s important to balance this priority by not punishing honest Hoosiers who need access to medicine for themselves or for their families.”

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a lobbying group representing pseudoephedrine manufacturers, has been a vocal critic of the bill and any barriers to the medicine.

“This final product is better than what was being discussed,” Carlos Gutierrez, director of state government affairs for CHPA, said. “We continue to maintain that this is unnecessary.”

The bill also requires the state to track pseudoephedrine sales that come from those prescriptions. A related bill bans people with meth or heroine convictions from buying pseudoepedrine without a prescription.

 

HEALTHY INDIANA PLAN

The Legislature approved a bill that would codify into law Pence’s statewide expansion of Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

The measure was approved on a 34-16 vote in the Senate hours after the House voted 65-35 for it Thursday. It now goes to Pence’s desk.

Indiana’s expansion of Medicaid is called the Health Indiana Plan, or HIP 2.0 for short. It has extended health insurance to thousands of people who didn’t previously have it. A waiver granted by the federal government allows the state to charge fees to low-income people for coverage.

 

ISTEP 1395

Indiana lawmakers plan on ditching the state’s ISTEP standardized test with a bill passed Thursday.

The measure would set up a 23-member panel to study alternatives to the test and give the state recommendations on other options.

The passage comes months after the dismal results of the 2015 test were unveiled. Last year’s test was based on hastily rolled-out state standards that came as a result of the Legislature’s departure form Common Core math and English standards.

Pence previously pushed to “take a step back” and look for other options of testing students.

Earlier this legislative session, lawmakers rushed through two bills blocking student performance on the 2015 ISTEP from being used to determine teacher merit pay or negatively affecting school A-F grades. Pence quickly signed that measure.

 

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