INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Beginning Tuesday, guns will be allowed in school parking lots, beer and
alcohol will be legal for sale at the Indiana State Fair and veterans will
have more support from the state as they seek new careers.
The start of the
state’s new fiscal year also will bring sweeping changes to how much time
convicted criminals spend in jail. That issue was so important that
lawmakers returned for a day earlier this month to correct the legislation
before it took effect.
The measures are
among dozens of laws approved during lawmakers’ short two-month legislative
session this year. Many will barely be noticed by the public, while others
are still months or more away from implementation.
Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said that, for a part-time legislature,
Indiana’s General Assembly is still able to accomplish a lot in a short
amount of time.
“I think this year
reflects a very typical, multi-faceted set of laws that affect every Hoosier
in one way or another,” Long said. “I don’t think we were excessive, I think
a large majority of the bills filed did not see the light of day in the end.
And that’s the way it should be.”
Many of the laws
taking effect now build on previous legislation. Sen. Jim Merritt,
R-Indianapolis, authored an expansion of the state’s “Lifeline Law,” which
grants protection to people under 21 who seek emergency aid for a friend if
that person has had too much to drink. The expanded law will protect anyone
who had been drinking underage if they report a crime or are a victim of
Other laws taking
effect next week will make it illegal for anyone under 16 to use tanning
beds, require new concussion training for high school football coaches and
make it illegal to provide a gun to a known felon.
Some of the biggest
measures approved this year, including tax cuts and a preschool expansion
program, won’t be felt for many months. New cuts to the state’s corporate
income tax and changes in the business property tax - priorities for the
state’s Republican leaders - won’t kick in until next year at the earliest.
A plan to award families vouchers to send their children to preschools takes
effect next July.
Democrats, a distinct minority in both the House and Senate, have repeatedly
said the state’s Republicans are ignoring issues important to the state’s
response to a tax summit called by Gov. Mike Pence last week, House Minority
Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said that the real wealth and earnings
for most residents have been declining in the past year. He pointed to a
study from the right-leaning Tax Foundation that found the average tax
burden for residents increased between 2001 and 2011, in large part because
earnings decreased for so many residents.
“In short, workers
and consumers paid a higher overall percentage of taxes on paltrier
earnings. I suspect these facts will not be parsed at the governor’s
soiree,” Pelath said.
Pelath and other
Democrats pushed a series of measures they said would help shore up the
middle class, but the bills were largely unsuccessful during the past
session. That isn’t to say Democrats have been entirely unsuccessful inside
the Statehouse. Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis, successfully pushed a
measure granting student loan aid for anyone who begins teaching science,
technology, engineering or math -- collectively called STEM -- in Indiana.
State lawmakers are
set to return for their 2015 session - a lengthier, budget-writing session -
in January. Before then, they will spend the summer and fall studying issues
for possible legislation next year.