INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers came roaring into their 2012 session
with a battle over right-to-work legislation. Now they are leaving quietly
with a new statewide smoking ban, more money for state fair victims, changes
to the state’s education system and rules giving homeowners the right to
forcibly keep police from entering their homes.
Lawmakers opened the session by working on their most controversial issue
this year: a ban on unions collecting mandatory fees from workers for
representation. And early Saturday morning, 10 weeks later, they closed by
approving a broad spending plan that included a series of changes to the
state’s education system added to the measure in the 11th hour.
The spending package approved early Saturday included $6 million for state
fair victims, $80 million for full-day kindergarten and an increase in the
amount the state must sock away in savings before its automatic taxpayer
refund is triggered.
“I know a lot of people will say that 50 bucks is not a lot to the average
person. My guess is they’ll be happy to have that money in their pocket,”
House Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, said of the new
refund trigger, which mandates the state hold an amount equal to 12.5
percent of state spending in reserves before money is automatically returned
Lawmakers also agreed to decrease the state’s inheritance tax in stages
beginning next year until it is eliminated after 2021. The plan also more
than doubles the current inheritance tax exemption for children and
grandchildren to $250,000 starting this year. The tax now brings in about
$160 million a year to the state.
“If you have a constituent whose family has passed, or passed recently, they
actually will start benefiting right away,” said Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero,
who wrote the original proposal.
The Senate voted 38-12 to approve the bill on resisting police. The House
later voted 67-26 in favor of the bill that is in response to a public
uproar over a state Supreme Court ruling last year that residents couldn’t
resist officers even during an illegal entry.
The measure specifies that people are protected by the state’s self-defense
law if they reasonably believe force is necessary to protect themselves from
unlawful actions by an officer.
Supporters say the proposal strengthens the legal rights of people against
government agents improperly entering their homes, but Sen. Thomas Wyss,
R-Fort Wayne, said he agreed with police groups that have said they worry
about the bill giving people justification for attacking officers. Wyss
argued that he didn’t want the state to have a law that could lead to more
violence against police.
“I just don’t want to go and put a rose on a casket because somebody didn’t
understand this and they killed a cop,” Wyss said.
Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, said the bill raises the legal bar for
someone to claim that they were acting in self-defense against a police
“If his life is not threatened by the unlawful entry, then he may not use
deadly force,” Young said.
And while representatives and senators planned to work late into the night
to wrap up their 2012 session, the spats over numbers and spending were
small potatoes compared to their battle through the start of the year over
From Jan. 4 through Feb. 1 work at the Indiana Statehouse was dominated by
chanting union protesters, boycotts by House Democrats and fines from House
Republicans, all fighting over whether Indiana would become the first state
in the Rust Belt to ban unions from collecting mandatory fees for
Right-to-work supporters claimed victory with a signature from Gov. Mitch
Daniels one day before breaking for the Super Bowl, which was played just a
few blocks from the Statehouse at the Lucas Oil Stadium.
Lawmakers later passed Indiana’s first statewide smoking ban, with
exemptions for the state’s gambling industry, tobacco stores, bars and
taverns and private clubs such as the VFW. Senators also tentatively
approved the first statewide regulations for temporary structures in
response to the stage collapse at the state fair last summer. They placed
new limits on how many credits colleges can require of a student before they
graduate and made it easier to transfer credits between the state’s
Most hot-button issues got pushed off this year by leaders who were weary
after the grueling right-to-work battle. Republican House Speaker Brian
Bosma killed a proposal to teach creationism in public schools. Senate
President Pro Tem David Long spiked a measure that would have allowed deer
hunting in fenced-in private reserves. Senators also voted down a proposal
that would have had welfare recipients and lawmakers taking the same drug
tests in order to receive money from the state.
A few hot button issues still quietly crept back to the fore. Conservatives
pushed to ban specialty license plates for a gay youth support group, but
Long said he expected to place a moratorium on approving new license plates
for groups around the state while lawmakers studied the issue over the